Police Filed Charges Against Florida Pastor They Say Whipped 16 Kids With a Belt. The State Did Not Prosecute.

Pastor Terence Gray
Police charged Pastor Terence Gray (above) with 16 counts of battery.Facebook

"As stated above, Gray intentionally struck sixteen children without parental consent. Therefore, there is probable cause to charge Terence Gray with 16 counts of Battery. These charges will be filed with the State's Attorney's Office, " said police.

There are new details emerging about the Florida pastor who police say whipped at least 16 children with his belt after being told the students had been disrespectful and misbehaving in class.

Pastor Terence Gray allegedly told students at Alpha Learning Academy in Orlando that he was doing this "so they don't go down this path and end up on the streets," as he belted them each three times in front of their classmates, according to a case report filed by the Orlando Police Department obtained by Inside Edition Digital.

When the parents of those students learned about their children being hit later that day, they immediately reached out to the Orlando Police Department.

On that first day, police met with 12 families whose children had all been "whooped" by Gray, two of whom suffered minor injuries, according to the report.

In the days that followed, police spoke to more students and school personnel before submitting their 33-page report to the State Attorney’s Office for the Ninth Judicial Circuit.

The report includes detailed descriptions of what allegedly happened that day from all parties involved in the incident.

Police say that Gray's assistant Kendra March told them that she tried to stop Gray at one point:

March said Gray entered the class and asked, 'who was acting up come here.' March said one of the teachers directed the kids who were acting out to Gray. Gray said "come here son" and the kid held the chair. March said she heard two pops. March said she turned around and noticed Gray hit a little boy. March said she walked over to Gray and told him to stop. March said she turned her back and started crying. March left the room to notify the principal ... of what's going on.

One of the young children spoke about being hit by Gray:

Gray took off his brown belt and folded it. He was holding the metal piece of the belt when he whooped [redacted] on his right thigh. [Redacted] said he fell to the ground and started crying ... [Redacted] stated that other students were crying and [redacted] was watching and laughing.

One very concerned parent said she wanted to press charges:

In her statement, she stated she was contacted by the staff of the Smith Center that her daughter was crying due to being hit three times with the belt by Pastor Gray. [Redacted] stated she did not receive or sign anything giving Gray permission to hit any of her children attending Alpha Learning Academy. [Redacted] wishes to press charges. During our phone conversation [redacted] stated this was her daughter's [redacted] year at school, and she makes straight A’s and B’s. I asked if her daughter has received any referrals or suspensions. She stated she has not, and her daughter has no behavior issues. [Redacted] stated her daughter told her a student wrote something on the desk, [redacted] asked who did it and either the students did not know, or did not want to tell on the other student.

Police also spoke with Gray. According to the crime report and a signed statement:

Gray said he addressed the class and told him he would give them a spanking if their behavior continues. Gray said this is a practice which has been used by himself, principals, and counselors in the past. Gray said he walked in the second time and expressed his disappointment in their behavior. He told him to be quiet and sit down. Gray requested those to stand who were using profanity, rudeness, fighting and writing bad stuff on the tables. Gray said he lined up the kids, proceeded to give each child three licks on their bottom. Gray said he was only spanking them to prevent them from ending up on the streets. He said, "we will beat you not out of love, but out of correction."

After completing all interviews, police summarized their findings.

It should be noted, after speaking with all the victims parents, family members, and the some current, and past, school staff, there was not a consistent answer on Gray's role within the school. The only consistent answer was that he does not have a day-to-day role within the school or with the students. Therefore, not standing in loco parentis to the students.

It should also be noted, Gray hit sixteen children a minimum of three times each, with his belt on the day of the incident. These children were hit anywhere from their backs to their legs. Gray did not know what offense each child was being punished for, or if they had been previously punished for such offense. Therefore, being unable to determine if the punishment fit the offense of each child individually.

The report concluded:

"As stated above, Gray intentionally struck sixteen children without parental consent. Therefore, there is probable cause to charge Terence Gray with 16 counts of Battery. These charges with be filed with the State's Attorney's Office."

Then, the State Attorney’s Office for the Ninth Judicial Circuit decided not to prosecute Gray, saying in a statement that Florida law "grants teachers and school personnel the authority to maintain discipline within the scope of parental expectations and practices and exempts them from potential criminal charges."

Andrew Bain, the state attorney for that district, defended this decision in a statement.

"The senior leader admitted to police that he administered the spankings, stating he had warned students about the potential for it if they continued misbehaving which was consistent with the prior handbook’s requirement," wrote Bain. "He told officers [that] the school’s principals and counselors had previously used corporal punishment in prior years. The official said he was unaware of the change to the handbook."

Police said they spoke with a former principal at the school, however, who said she removed the corporal punishment clause from the handbook years before this incident, and the handbooks given to parents made no mention of corporal punishment, according to the report.

Florida law does give teachers and other school personnel the "authority to maintain discipline within the scope of parental expectations and practices and exempts them from potential criminal charges," Bain said in his statement.

Gray is a church employee and did not have a day-to-day position at the school, according to the report.

There are also no grounds for child abuse, Bain said, because "it is not reasonable to expect three lashes over clothing would cause an injury."

Police interviewed 12 students the day of the incident and found that two had sustained minor injuries and all were left with red marks hours after Gray beat them with his belt, says the report.

Bain said that his office "does not believe it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and our ethical standards prohibit us from filing charges."

Inside Edition Digital reached out to the parents of some of the children, but they have yet to respond to requests for comment.

"We are currently working with our district leadership to determine next steps regarding the pastor’s tenure, as well as how the school will operate moving forward. The pastor’s voluntary sabbatical will continue while we work through this internal process," Alpha Learning Academy said in a statement. "Our commitment is to ensure the school continues to be a place where every scholar is 'cared for, loved and supported in their desire to be the best they can be' and that the church remains a place of compassion, hope, and reconciliation."

The school provided no further comment, citing an ongoing internal investigation.

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