SPRING HILL - A Florida Department of Children and Families investigator interviewed Notre Dame Interparochial School sixth-graders Friday as part of an inquiry into an allegation that the school's principal threatened to physically harm students.

Officials from the school, the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg and DCF were tight-lipped about the nature of the complaint against Sister Elaine Marie Woodbury, who has led the school on U.S. 19 for almost three years.

"Since it is under investigation, we cannot comment on it," diocese spokeswoman Mary Jo Murphy said. "We are cooperating."

DCF investigator Richard Manuel, who visited the campus Friday, said simply that the case was "all confidential."

A report filed with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, however, offered some details.

According to the report, Manuel and Deputy Troy Groves went to the school May 3 to look into a complaint that Woodbury had threatened to use a "whip or a rope" to whip the sixth-graders and make them "black and blue" because they did not know the songs for a recital that evening.

Woodbury denied the allegation. When Manuel and Groves asked to speak with the students, Woodbury refused, the report said.

The diocese has a policy that requires parents to be notified whenever nonschool personnel ask to speak to their children, Murphy explained.

Groves wrote in his report that a threat to strike a child is not a crime, and so he ended his investigation. DCF, however, is empowered to investigate abuse, neglect and threatened harm, and Manuel continued to press for access to the children.

He again was refused.

In a letter to parents Thursday, Brother John Cummings, superintendent of Catholic schools and centers, explained that the diocese had sent home a letter May 3 detailing DCF's request and offering the necessary information to contact the investigator "if you wished your child to speak with him."

Earlier this week, Cummings continued, DCF had notified lawyers for the diocese that it would seek a court order allowing its investigators to interview all the sixth-graders at the school. The letter also said that on Thursday, Circuit Judge Curtis Neal ordered that the interviews move ahead, with the parents present.