Celebrated Florida Teacher of the Year Arrested for Child Abuse After Allegedly Slapping a Student

Photo: (Photo : Hans Kretzman/Pixabay)

A Florida Teacher of the Year awardee was arrested and charged with child abuse after she slapped a student who questioned why she was chosen for the top honor.

Caroline Melanie Lee, 60, who teaches at the Darnell-Cookman Middle and High School, allegedly struck a student that resulted in a bleeding nose. The incident happened days after Lee was named the Teacher of the Year at their school district, and the female student raised the fact that the teacher had questionable morals in a post on Instagram.

Feeling that the student's post was threatening, Lee then had a private conversation with her after classes. In the police report, the student claimed that Lee hit her multiple times during this one-on-one meeting, but the teacher told the police that it was the student's word against hers, given that there are no witnesses.

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Teacher Did Not Report the Incident

According to the police report, the Instagram message accused Lee of using the N-word in class. The teacher defended her actions to the police, saying she was reading verses of the classic literature "Of Mice and Men." Lee also told the investigators that despite feeling threatened by the student's Instagram post, she saw no need to report this to the school authorities as she was not afraid of the student.

Cameras after their one-on-one meeting showed that Lee went out of the classroom first at an "aggressive pace," and then the student followed four minutes later. The student went straight to the guidance counselor to report what happened. Thus the police arrived to investigate the alleged child abuse.

In her testimony, the student said that Lee also repeatedly exclaimed profanities at her as she struck the top of her head and kicked her lower leg. The teacher denied the accusations and did not explain the blood on the student's nose.

Principal Tyrus Lyles confirmed that their Teacher of the Year was arrested on campus for child abuse charges. Reports cited that she has been removed from the school amid "pending judicial and internal procedures."

Duval Schools Superintendent Diana Greene also issued a statement saying that the incident has been "beyond disturbing." Greene said that she does not have tolerance for adults, especially those in authority and trust, who hurt kids. School authorities have advised Lee to cooperate with the investigations.

After appearing in court, Lee was released pending her next court date in late November, but she will not be back at Darnell-Cookman. She has also been discouraged from trying to contact the student.

Teacher Kicks Special Needs Student

In related news, Holly Eicher, a 62-year-old teacher from Florida, was also charged with child abuse after kicking a 6-year-old special needs student. Terence Anthony, a primary school teacher, was suspended from his job after punishing a misbehaving student by letting him wear just underwear in class.

A PE teacher was also banned from pursuing the teaching profession for life after kicking a four-year-old student in the knee because he was throwing a tantrum. Ian Webber, the 56-year-old teacher, also threatened the toddler and was subject to an investigation and a trial before the Birmingham Magistrates' Court, where he was found guilty of child abuse.

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