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Hazlewood Elementary principal on leave after alleged abuse

DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) — A Lawrence County Schools principal is on administrative leave following allegations of abuse, according to AL.com.

Hazlewood Elementary School’s Datie Priest was hired as the principal in July of 2020. A report filed in March alleges she excessively paddled a student and made comments about an autistic student.

A written reprimand from Lawrence County Superintendant Jon Brent Smith detailed the paddling of a third-grader on March 4, which led to Priest being placed on “detached duty” on March 11.

The letter, in part, said, “You paddled a third-grader on two occasions. Ten licks or more were administered during the first paddling and five licks were administered during the second paddling.”

According to AL.com, Priest acknowledged the incident to her supervisors and to Smith. Smith also said the child never received a written disciplinary slip documenting the paddling.

Another incident Smith brought up in the reprimand was an incident where two employees of Hazlewood witnessed an autistic student bump into Priest. Smith stated Priest’s response was “very concerning.”

“At the time, you told the two employees you would ‘throat punch’ the student if he ran into you again,” Smith wrote.

Priest’s alleged tardiness and mishandling of school funds were also called into question.

During a regular school board meeting last week, Priest’s employment status was not addressed. Smith says her salary of $91,800 continues to be paid at this time. Her contract expires on June 30.

Assistant Principal Chris Lewis of R.A. Hubbard High School has been named interim principal of Hazlewood Elementary in Priest’s absence.

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