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Charges dismissed against Marianna High School administrator

Published: Dec. 2, 2020 at 9:29 PM CST
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MARIANNA, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -

Last September, Marianna High School Assistant Principal Sybil Rivers allegedly grabbed a student by her ponytail and led her into an office.

The victim’s mother pursued battery charges and Rivers was suspended without pay and was recommended for termination.

Now according to court documents, those charges were dismissed.

Rivers’ attorneys say under Florida law she was acting “in loco parentis” or in place of a parent and was within her right as an educator to hand out corporal punishment.

“While they’re in their care and custody they are the parents. They’re vested with the same rights, responsibilities, and privileges as a parent would be,” said defense attorney Stephen Webster. “Just as you could not have charged a parent with battery for disciplining their child, you cannot charge an assistant principal with battery for disciplining a child.”

According to court records Rivers was not accused of child abuse or aggravated battery which her attorneys say would have made a difference in the final ruling.

“While a parent can administer corporal punishment to their child, they can’t abuse their child,” said Webster. “That’s normally a question of physical injury. That’s normally how the law evaluates abuse versus legitimate corporal punishment.”

Now the matter goes back to the Jackson County School Board where they will decide whether Rivers’ actions violated the district’s policy and if they will uphold the recommendation for termination.

“She’ll get as much due process as they’ll permit there. If they do the right thing by Ms. Rivers then we’ll evaluate where we are at that point. I just want Ms. Rivers made whole and her reputation clear,” said Webster.

The administrative hearing for Rivers is scheduled for December 16th.

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