Florida ‘Teacher of the Year’ arrested for beating pupil criticized for award

A Florida teacher has been arrested for child abuse two days after she was named Teacher of the Year — for allegedly hitting a student who criticized her for the award, according to police.

High School English teacher Carolyn Melanie Lee, 60, was proudly lauded for her achievement by Duval County Public Schools last Wednesday, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

The arrest report said she was arrested on Friday for hitting a student in the face and leaving her nose stained with blood.

Lee allegedly asked the pupil to come into her office after she read a comment thread on an Instagram post that challenged her new award, accusing her of using the N-word in the classroom.

The schoolgirl – who has not been identified because she is young – was too afraid to go into Lee’s office, she told investigators.

The police report said the teacher broke into her classroom and told her to leave with her, with the watch showing the teacher “walking forward…at an aggressive pace”.

Once in Lee’s class, the teacher closed the door – then “reached out her hand across the table and hit her in the face with the heel of her palm,” the girl told the investigators.

“Lee then began repeatedly calling her a ‘bitch’ because she landed several more hits on the head and ‘also kicked her in the lower leg,'” she told the officers.

Surveillance footage shows the girl holding her face as she heads straight to report the alleged attack to the school’s guidance counselor, the report said.

Portrait of a middle-aged woman with curly gray hair and glasses.
Lee has been removed from the class and will not return, pending judicial proceedings.
Duval Schools

Lee admitted he was in the class, but denied hitting the girl — and “couldn’t explain her bloody nose,” the officers said. She also admitted to using the N-word in rows, but only while reading it in John Steinbeck’s book Of Mice and Men, the arrest warrant says.

The high school principal, Tyros Lyles, wrote to parents Friday about the “extremely disappointing” arrest of a teacher “for child abuse.”

Most frustrating, Lyles wrote, “is that the arrested teacher is the final teacher of the year nominee.”

“The teacher has been removed from the class and will not return, pending judicial and internal procedures,” the principal wrote.

District Superintendent Dr. Diana Green described the allegation as “not worrisome”.

“What is claimed should never happen – ever – especially in a school setting,” Green said.

“I do not tolerate adults hurting children, especially adults in a position of trust.

“We will cooperate with all investigations and, pending these results, will take the necessary measures to defend and protect our students.”

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