A middle school teacher from Jacksonville, Florida, who was awarded "Teacher of the Year" at Darnell-Cookman Middle/High, allegedly slapped a student in the face for questioning whether she was deserving of her new title.
According to a police report obtained by News 4 Jax, Caroline Melanie Lee, 60, was arrested with a third-degree felony of child abuse.
You can watch a news report, here.
The Duval County Public Schools shared Lee's photo in a now-deleted congratulatory Instagram post, to which some people reportedly questioned if Lee was the same teacher who used the n-word and engaged in other micro-aggressions in class.
In response to the comment, Lee claimed she only used the racial slur while reading John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.
Officers stated Lee acknowledged it was her word against the unnamed female student's, but Lee maintained she did not cause any physical harm to the girl.
Regarding the Instagram message, Lee told officers she thought it was "a threat to kill her," and she didn't report the message to the staff because she "did not feel the need."
News reports of the incident failed to reverse Florida's reputation.
On October 29, police said Lee went to the girl's first-period classroom and asked the teacher there if she could speak to the girl. However, Lee was told the student—who did not have any classes with Lee—did not want to comply.
The police report said Lee later went back to the classroom and managed to get the girl to leave with her.
A school security officer-reviewed footage showed Lee walking ahead of the student "at an aggressive pace," back to her classroom where they both entered through the backdoor.
Minutes later, the girl was seen leaving Lee's classroom. The report noted her demeanor "seems low and she is holding her facial area..."
The report stated while inside the classroom, Lee asked why the student threatened her, to which she responded she didn't.
The student told police Lee "reached across the table and struck her on her face with the heel of her palm," and the girl "grabbed her nose because it started bleeding after she was struck."
The student also said Lee "then began repeatedly calling her a 'f'king b*tch' as she landed several more strikes on the top of head," and the student "began trying to hold both of Lee's arms to keep from being struck and Lee kicked her on her lower leg."
The confrontation ended with Lee ordering the student to "get out."
According to the report, Lee had a different recollection of the incident. She denied closing the doors to her classroom and merely described her interaction with the student as having a "range of emotions."
Dr. Diana Greene, the Duval County Public Schools Superintendent, issued the following statement:
"This allegation and the arrest are beyond disturbing. What is alleged should never occur—ever—especially in a school setting. 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."
The news outlet also shared a voicemail from Principal Tyrus Lyles, who alerted families to the arrest.
"Hello Darnell-Cookman families,"
"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."
"This arrest stems from an incident that allegedly occurred today involving one of our students, and I have been in contact personally with that student's family."
"While our processes assume innocence, these allegations and the resulting arrest are obviously far below the standards and expectations we have for our school."
"We pride ourselves on providing all students with exceptional instruction preparing them for the best colleges and rewarding careers. This type of behavior is not tolerated here or anywhere in our district."
"The teacher has been removed from the classroom and will not return, pending the judicial and internal procedures."
"My team will continue to cooperate with all investigations into the matter, and as these investigations conclude, we will take appropriate action."
"Thanks for your attention to this and despite the nature of this news, I hope you and your children have a great weekend, and I look forward to seeing everyone on Monday. Good bye."
Lee appeared before a judge on Saturday morning on the child abuse charge and was released on her own recognizance.
She was told not to have any contact with the student.
She was additionally ordered not to return to Darnell-Cookman Middle/High.