Principal Accused of 'Paddling' Student Over 10 Times Backed by NAACP

An Alabama elementary school principal stands accused of excessively paddling a child on two occasions. While she faces scrutiny from the school district, she has her state's chapter of the NAACP in her corner.

Datie Priest, Ed.D., principal of Hazelwood Elementary School in Lawrence County, is accused of crossing a line while administering corporal punishment to a third-grade student, according to a letter obtained by local station WAFF from the district attorney. On two occasions, she allegedly struck the student with a wooden paddle, 10 times in a row and five times in a row, respectively.

Corporal punishment against students is legal in Alabama, but Lawrence County Schools Superintendent Jon Bret Smith wrote in the letter that Priest's actions went too far. Smith explained that no more than three strikes at a time are permitted, according to the Decatur Daily.

The letter also explained that Priest admitted her actions to the Lawrence County School Board on March 11. She has reportedly been on paid administrative leave ever since, with the possibility that her contract might not be renewed.

Smith claimed that the principal told him at a later date that she gave the student the option of "two licks by his teacher or 10 by me," under the "personal belief that he would not take a paddling from a white teacher."

alabama principal paddling
An Alabama principal is accused of excessively paddling a third-grader on two occasions. Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Priest also allegedly failed to provide the student with a written slip after administering the paddling, which is required under Alabama state law. The district's accusations against her include alleged instances of her leaving work too early and mismanaging school funds.

Despite the trouble she finds herself in from the district, Priest retains the support of the Alabama NAACP, which the chapter's vice president, Bobby Diggs, confirmed to WAFF. The Lawrence County NAACP also confirmed its support of Priest in a statement sent to Newsweek.

"We are 100% behind Dr. Priest, and she is a strong dedicated person and she cares about her students," chapter president Pastor J.E. Turnbore told Newsweek. "She wants the very best from every teacher at Hazelwood Elementary school. The students deserve the best."

The chapter previously recommended Priest for the principal position. In a statement to WAFF, Diggs accused Smith of discriminatory treatment against Priest.

"The NAACP remains perplexed that the accusations against Priest were in her personnel file but accusations against Ron Rikard [principal at East Lawrence High School] were not in his file at the central office," Diggs said, according to WAFF.

"It is in our opinion that the superintendent is being bias[ed] and discriminatory in the treatment of the two principals."

As of early 2021, instances of corporal punishment were on the decline in Alabama schools, according to the Alabama Political Reporter. However, the state still ranked third in the country for the practice, behind only Mississippi and Texas.

Update 4/12/22, 6:50 p.m. ET:This story was updated with a statement from the Lawrence County NAACP.