A Florida woman awarded “Teacher of the Year” didn’t get much time to celebrate her crown, as she would be arrested two days later for allegedly striking a student in the face.
Caroline Melanie Lee, 60, an English teacher at Darnell-Cookman Middle/High, received the award last week and was allegedly involved in the altercation two days later after the student posted a message on Instagram questioning her selection for the top honor, according to The Florida Times-Union.
According to a Duval County School Police Department report, the unidentified minor student said Lee called her into her classroom to speak privately and allegedly struck her, causing a bloody nose.
Named teacher of the year on Wednesday, Lee was arrested Friday and charged with one count of child abuse against a student at the school, the newspaper reported.
At issue was an apparent incident where the teacher used the ‘n’ word — more from the Times-Union:
On Wednesday, the Duval County Public Schools Instagram account posted a photo of Lee, congratulating her for being named the school’s Teacher of the Year. But several comments on the post questioned the win, asking if Lee was the same teacher who used the ‘n’ word during instruction and alleging other microaggressions committed against students, according to the police report. The original Instagram post and comments has since been deleted.
Lee responded to one of the comments and also explained to a police officer Friday that she used the ‘n’ word when reading the novel ‘Of Mice and Men’ in class. Teachings of the book have previously come under fire across the country, raising the question of how to ethically teach readings with terms and phrases that are no longer acceptable.
The officer said on the arrest report that Lee denied physically harming the student, but also stressed that it was the student’s word against her own. The teacher said she wanted to talk to the student after seeing the message on Instagram, which she said she saw as “a threat to kill her.” The officer added that Lee said she was “not afraid” and “did not feel the need” to report the threat.
School surveillance footage showed Lee “walking at an aggressive pace” to her classroom before the incident, according to the report. The student is seen leaving the classroom about four minutes later holding her face and walking with a “low demeanor” to a guidance counselor’s office, where she reported the incident.
Lee told police she left her door open when the student was inside, but another student disputed that saying he was in the classroom and Lee asked him to leave and close the door behind him, the Times-Union noted.
Principal Tyrus Lyles called parents with the following message: “It is very disappointing, but I am compelled to share with you that one of our teachers was arrested today on campus for child abuse. Even more disappointing, the teacher arrested is our recent teacher of the year nominee.”
Duval Schools Superintendent Diana Greene said in a statement that the allegation was “beyond disturbing” and that they will cooperate with all investigations.
“What is alleged should never occur — ever — especially in a school setting,” Greene said. “I have no tolerance for adults who harm children, especially adults in a position of trust.”
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