A Florida teacher who was recently named Teacher of the Year was arrested and charged with one count of child abuse after she allegedly struck a student during a confrontation over her using the N-word.
According to News4Jax, the confrontation between Darnell-Cookman School of the Medical Arts teacher Caroline Lee, 60, and the student, stemmed from the latter passing comments about Lee in an Instagram post the school had shared to announce her as Teacher of the Year.
The subsequent confrontation occurred on Friday, and Lee was arrested afterwards. She appeared in court on Friday before she was released on her own recognizance. The school’s principal, Tyrus Lyles, also informed parents Lee has since been “removed from the classroom and will not return, pending the judicial and internal procedures.”
Per the police report on the incident, a school safety officer was called to the school’s guidance office after a report was made about Lee injuring a student. The teacher was said to have gone to the unnamed student’s classroom in the morning, and footage showed Lee taking the student back to her classroom. And while heading back to the classroom with the student, the footage also showed Lee walking “at an aggressive pace.”
The student was later seen leaving the classroom and “walking directly to the guidance office.” She was, however, “holding her facial area” at the time, and she seemed to look “low.”
The student told investigators her first period teacher had informed her Lee wanted her to come over to her classroom for a conversation. The student, however, told the teacher she did not feel comfortable going to see Lee. And though she made her way to the restroom instead of meeting Lee, the student said she saw Lee in her classroom when she returned. Lee then asked the student to follow her.
During their conversation in Lee’s classroom, the student said the accused teacher asked her why she had threatened her. But after she responded saying she hadn’t threatened the teacher, the student said Lee “reached across the table and struck her on her face with the heel of her palm.” The student added that she then “grabbed her nose because it started bleeding after she was struck.” She also stated that “Lee then began repeatedly calling her a ‘f****** b****’ as she landed several more strikes on the top of head.” The student continued saying she “began trying to hold both of Lee’s arms to keep from being struck and Lee kicked her on her lower leg.”
In the aftermath of the incident, the school safety officer said he was informed that the confrontation was as a result of the student commenting on an Instagram post the Duval County Public Schools had shared to congratulate Lee for winning the Teacher of the Year award, News4Jax reported.
The report stated that the student had asked if the award was being given to the same teacher who had used the N-word during a lesson last year. Lee was said to have responded to the student’s post, saying she used the racially derogatory word while she was reading the “Of Mice and Men” novel.
Lee, who told an officer she had seen the posts about her on the social media platform, claimed the student had shared a message she “interpreted as a threat to kill her.” The accused teacher said a different student showed her that message, and she decided to have a conversation with the student she confronted.
Lee, however, did not report the alleged threat to the police or authorities in the school. She also denied striking the student.
Meanwhile, Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene released a statement condemning the incident. “This allegation and the arrest are beyond disturbing. 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. We will cooperate with all investigations, and pending those results, we will take the actions necessary to stand up for and protect our students.”