JACKSONVILLE, Florida — A woman who recently had been nominated for “Teacher of the Year” in her school is now facing a criminal charge after she was accused of striking a student several times.
Caroline Lee, 60, made her first court appearance Saturday on a charge of child abuse, firstcoastnews.com reports. A judge released Lee without bail, but Lee is prohibited from making contact with the reported victim and also is not allowed to return to her school, the Darnell-Cookman School of the Medical Arts.
The assault reportedly occurred Friday morning at the school, WSET Channel 13 reports. After Lee was nominated for Teacher of the Year, a student commented on an Instagram post about the nomination, questioning Lee’s use of a racial slur in the classroom while discussing the book “Of Mice and Men.”
Lee responded on the post that she used the slur in the context of teaching about the book and that she doesn’t use it out of the classroom, actionnewsjax.com reports.
On Friday, Lee had the student who commented come to her classroom. After closing the door, Lee asked the student why she threatened her. The student denied making any threats.
Lee is accused of reaching across a table and striking the student with the palm of her hand, reports say. She is accused of striking the student several times, causing her nose to bleed, while also cursing at her. The student reportedly told police that when she tried to stop Lee from hitting her, Lee kicked in the leg.
The student went to the school’s guidance office to report the incident. Police say Lee denied physically harming the student, but said she could not explain why the student had a bloody nose, reports say.
“This allegation and the arrest are beyond disturbing. What is alleged should never occur — ever — especially in a school setting,” Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Diana Greene said in a statement, firstcoastnews.com reports. “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.”