Public school teacher arrested on child cruelty charge: ‘You only need one taco’

Chanel Lemelle
Chanel Lemelle / Source: The Advocate

An elementary school teacher resigned and was arrested this week over an incident that occurred in late January in which she allegedly berated, kicked and slapped a first-grader because he didn’t walk “like he was supposed to.”

Later, when the same student returned from the lunch line, the teacher, identified as Chanel Lemelle, 31, reportedly snatched a food item from his lunch tray, saying, “You only need one taco,” according to The Advocate.

West Feliciana Parish sheriff’s deputies issued their arrest warrant on the basis of eyewitness testimony and security footage take at Bains Lower Elementary School cafeteria in Francisville, La.

She was arrested Monday on on charge of cruelty to juveniles, The Advocate reported.

The incident began when Lemelle was “yelling at one student in particular in a loud and degrading manner because he was not walking like he was supposed to,” according to the deputies’ report.

The teacher then forced the student to wait alone at a table until the other students received their lunch. When he finally went through and returned from the lunch line, she allegedly removed food from the student’s tray, telling him, “he only needed one taco,” a deputy investigating the incident wrote in the report.

The Advocate reported:

The witnesses told the deputy that Chanel Lemelle often brought an empty plate to lunch and filled it with food from her students. One of the witnesses also told a deputy that she saw Chanel Lemelle yelling at the same student as he was crying against a wall in a hallway about a week earlier.

The witness said she didn’t see Chanel Lemelle hit the student, but she did see the teacher “waving a stick at him,” the report says.

The student’s recollection of the incident corroborated that of the witnesses’ testimony as well as the security footage.

Lemelle’s defense counsel, Don Cazayoux, is a former colleague of her father when both men were federal prosecutors.

“She’s devastated,” Cazayoux told The Advocate. “She loves her students and she would never do anything intentionally to hurt any of them.”

“She has faith in the legal system,” he added.

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