JASPER COUNTY, Ga. - It is a video that has been shared to the FOX 5 Atlanta Facebook page several dozen times and has drawn sharp criticism. The video appears to show school officials about to paddle a young Georgia boy. FOX 5 News reached out to the child's mother as well as school officials and law enforcement on Thursday regarding the incident.
The social media post has been shared across the country this week and posters are buzzing in outrage. In the video, 5-year-old Thomas Perez is wailing, apparently trying to escape his upcoming paddling. FOX 5's George Franco got in touch with Thomas' mother who said he was being punished for misbehaving.
"He tried to hit another child and they said he, I guess, he missed, but he tried to run around the school lot and they were all trying to stop him, and he spit on somebody," said Shana Perez.
Thomas' mother said she consented to the paddling because she felt pressured since she had previously been arrested for truancy after Thomas had missed 18 days. She said he was absent because he was being checked after symptoms which falsely pointed to cancer surfaced. She showed FOX 5 News a school calendar with the missed days, but did not have medical papers.
She said for this offense, the principal gave her two options: Have Thomas suspended or have him paddled. She said she believed she could go back to jail for another day for truancy if Thomas was out of school.
"She [the principal] never said 'Well, you won't go to jail if he's suspended.' She said 'There's nothing else, no other way possible that they could do or could be done for him, but to be paddled,'" said Perez.
The Jasper County School District released a statement: "The Jasper County School District is aware of the video released by Ms. Perez. Unfortunately, the District is barred by State and Federal law from commenting about the specifics of this incident. The District respects every student's right to privacy. However, we can speak generally about the District's code of conduct which allows corporal punishment as one of the consequences for behavior. That code of conduct is provided to all parents. When corporal punishment is used, it is with parental consent. The District is investigating the incident and looking into its' discipline policies at this time."
Jasper County Sheriff Donnie Pope confirmed Perez had been previously arrested for truancy, but was not under a threat of being rearrested.
"She said she was under the assumption that if she had another unexcused absence she would go back to jail, but she could not corroborate that the school told her that," said Pope.
Sheriff Pope said Perez, like other parents, are subject to review from a truancy review board which examines the circumstances of the unexcused absences before a person is arrested. Pope said arrest is saved as a last resort. He also said deputies conducted a preliminary criminal investigation into the paddling of Thomas.
"We were not able to determine any crime had been committed. It is not a crime in Georgia to have corporal punishment; the school has a policy for corporal punishment," said Pope.
Shana Perez said she is considering legal action and will seek the advice of an attorney. She also said she is taking her son to a doctor to see if there's something that is undiagnosed.