According to the court documents, the 60-year-old educator who was named Teacher of the Year at her school last week was arrested for allegedly striking a student in the face after the girl claimed on social media that the teacher had used the ‘N-word’ in class. Prosecutors say the 60-year-teacher was booked on a child abuse charge on Friday. The English teacher made her initial court appearance on Saturday.
Prosecutors say this unfortunate incident happened at the prestigious Darnell-Cookman School of the Medical Arts in Florida. The 60-year-old woman, Caroline ‘Melanie’ Lee, was arrested after calling a student into her classroom to speak privately and allegedly striking the female student on the face, leaving the minor with a bloody nose. On Friday, the 60-year-old teacher asked to speak to the student who made the comment about her use of the racial epithet.
The confrontation was instigated by an Instagram post of Lee being named Teacher of the Year. Several comments on the post questioned the win, with one user writing: ‘isn’t this the teacher who thought it was ok to say the n-word while reading something for educational purposes…..’ Lee replied that she had only used the slur in the context of discussing John Steinbeck’s book Of Mice and Men. The student retorted that saying the word ‘in anyway doesn’t make it any better.’
When the girl got into her classroom, Lee closed the door behind her and asked the girl why the student had sought to threaten her online. The student said she didn’t. The teacher then reached across the table and struck the child with the heel of her palm in the face, causing her nose to bleed. She then allegedly continued hitting the girl on the head while calling her a ‘f***ing b****.
The girl then tried to stop the teacher from hitting her by grabbing her hands. The 60-year-old teacher then kicked the student in her lower leg and ordered the child to get out. But, the 60-year-old teacher denied physically harming the student, telling a police officer that she only wanted to talk to the student whose Instagram message she perceived as a threat to kill her.
School surveillance video showed the teacher walking at an aggressive pace to her classroom before the incident and the student, about four minutes later, leaving the classroom holding her face and walking with a low demeanor to a guidance counselor’s office, where she reported the incident.
During an interview with the investigators, the teacher said she had interpreted the student’s online comments as a threat against her life. The 60-year-old woman was released from jail on Saturday without bond. She is due back in court on November 22. This incident remains under investigation. This is a developing story and it will be updated as new information become available.