CASSELBERRY, Fla. – Charges will not be filed against a Lyman High School social studies teacher accused of putting a student in a headlock and dragging him down a flight of stairs.
The State Attorney's Ooffice said Monday that no charges will be filed against Wilbert DelaCruz, 38, who was arrested in January.
"This act on this teacher may have been inappropriate but it's not illegal," Seminole County Assistant State Attorney Gino Feliciani said.
A Longwood police officer said he observed red marks on the student's neck, but the State Attorney's Office said the student was not injured.
It's not known if DelaCruz, who was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation, will face discipline from the school district.
"Our own school district investigation is still ongoing," Seminole County Public Schools said in a statement. "His status remains the same."
The State Attorney's Office said a 15-year-old boy was running through the halls and when Delacruz told him to stop, the boy replied with a profanity. DelaCruz chased the teen to a nearby stairwell and told him he was going to take him to the principal's office, to which the boy once again replied with a profanity.
Feliciani reviewed the case last week with other attorneys and law enforcement officials. He said there's a misconception about the legality of adults putting their hands on children. While it may not be the right action to take, it is not always illegal, he said.
"Essentially, what needs to occur is an injury must be sustained by the child -- either a physical or mental injury --and it's got to be something more than a bruise," Feliciani said.
Surveillance video showed DelaCruz putting his arms around the boy's shoulder, but the boy went limp as a way to resist the teacher. DelaCruz then placed the boy in a headlock and pulled him down the stairs, officials said. DelaCruz placed his arm around the teen's waist once they were at the bottom of the stairs.
The State Attorney's Office said the behavior in the video qualifies as corporal punishment and not child abuse, which is why DelaCruz is not being charged. Corporal punishment is legal in Florida, but many counties across the state, including Seminole County, have voted to ban the practice.
"There is this misconception that under no circumstances can a parent, teacher, guardian, you know, lay hands on a child. That's just not the case. I mean, you know, it's always best to try to use other options before you resort to corporal punishment, because that's what laying hands would be, but sometimes there's situations where the only thing that works is if you have to put your hands on a child," Feliciani said.
DelaCruz was hired at Lyman High School in 2007.
DelaCruz has no previous discipline issues in his personnel file, school officials said.
There's no timeline on when the school investigation will be complete.