Florida “Teacher of the Year” charged with child abuse

Caroline Melanie Lee, 60, allegedly assaulted a student upset by her use of the N-word two days after securing school district honor.


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Smiling woman with curly hair and glasses
Caroline Melanie Lee is accused of hitting a student who thought her an undeserving “Teacher of the Year”
(Duval Schools)

Awards are double-edged, bringing their winners both acclaim and scrutiny.

Yet rarely do they unravel as swiftly as the “Teacher of the Year” accolade bestowed last week on a Florida educator who would be charged days later with child abuse against a student.

Caroline Melanie Lee, 60, was arrested Friday at Darnell-Cookman School of the Medical Arts in Jacksonville after allegedly striking a female student in the face, causing her nose to bleed.

The incident came just two days after an Instagram post on Wednesday by the school district congratulating Lee for securing “Teacher of the Year,” according to a Duval Schools Police report cited by The Florida Times-Union.

The student commented on the since-deleted post, asking if the recipient of the honor was the same teacher who had used the N-word in class last year, the report states.

Lee, an English teacher, responded to the remark, explaining that she had only uttered the racial slur while reading from and discussing the John Steinbeck novel Of Mice and Men.

However, the student – a minor and thus not named in police documents ­– refused to let the virtual exchange rest, insisting that even using the word in a specific literary and historical context was unacceptable.

The student said that when she arrived at school on Friday, she was told that Lee wished to speak with her privately in her classroom – despite not being in any of the teacher’s classes this year.

The student told police that once she was seated inside the classroom Lee reached across the table and struck her several times with the palm of her hand, causing her nose to bleed.

Lee allegedly swore and continued to strike the student as blood streamed from her nose, according to police.

In her arrest report, Lee denied hitting anyone and acknowledged that the matter would be her word against the student’s, The Florida Times-Union reported.

The teacher said she had asked to speak to the student after interpreting an Instagram message as “a threat to kill her.”

But Lee added that she was “not afraid” and “did not feel the need” to report the message to staff.

School surveillance footage shows Lee walking to the classroom “at an aggressive pace” before the alleged assault, police said.

The student is then seen on camera leaving the classroom some four minutes later clutching her face.

The student reported the incident immediately to a school guidance counselor.

Lee was taken into police custody that morning and made her first court appearance on Saturday.

In a message to parents, the school’s principal, Tyrus Lyles, described the child abuse charge as “very disappointing.”

“Even more disappointing, the teacher arrested is our recent teacher of the year nominee,” Lyles said.

In a statement to The Florida Times-Union, Duval Schools Superintendent Diana Greene called the incident “beyond disturbing.”

“What is alleged should never occur­ – ever – especially in a school setting,” she said. “I have no tolerance for adults who harm children, especially adults in a position of trust.”

Lee has been removed from the school while criminal and internal investigations take place.

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25 days ago

A investigation will determine if the teacher did indeed strike the student, but also to determine if the student is lying, because nobody seen the actual assault.

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