Alleged Incident With Teacher of the Year 'Beyond Disturbing'

Caroline Lee arrested after being accused of hitting a student
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 1, 2021 12:24 PM CDT
Alleged Incident With Teacher of the Year 'Beyond Disturbing'
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/smolaw11)

(Newser) – Police say a discussion between a Florida student and her teacher about a social media post led to violence, and to the Friday arrest of the teacher, who just last week was announced as her school's teacher of the year. The Florida Times-Union reports that a since-deleted Instagram post by Duval County Public Schools on Wednesday offered congrats to Caroline "Melanie" Lee for her win, but some comments under the post wondered if she was the same teacher who'd allegedly committed microaggressions against students and used a racial slur during class, per the police report.

Lee, 60, told police she did indeed use the n-word in front of students, but only during readings of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. At any rate, she apparently didn't like one student's comments in particular and allegedly summoned that student, who's not in any of her classes this year, to her classroom on Friday, the police report notes. The student says that during their meeting, Lee hit her multiple times across the table, making the student's nose bleed.

Lee has denied hitting the student, but the police officer who interviewed her on the scene says surveillance footage shows Lee "walking at an aggressive pace" to her classroom right before the two met, as well as the student leaving the classroom afterward with a "low demeanor" and clutching her face. Lee also insisted she'd left the door open the entire time, but another student who was in the classroom before the meeting started says Lee closed the door behind him after asking him to leave. The student who says she was hit reported the incident immediately to a guidance counselor.

Principal Tyrus Lyles says he has notified parents about the "very disappointing" arrest of Lee, adding he's been in touch with the student's parents. Meanwhile, Duval Schools Superintendent Diana Greene calls the incident "beyond disturbing." The AP reports that Lee faces a count of felony child abuse, per the Jacksonville Sheriff's office. It's not clear if she has an attorney. (Read more child abuse stories.)

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