Fla. Educator Was Named 'Teacher of the Year' — Then Got Accused of Child Abuse Days Later 

Caroline Lee, 60, was arrested Friday on accusations she hit a student in her classroom

Darnell-Cookman School of the Medical Arts
Photo: Google Maps

A Florida high school teacher who had recently been named "Teacher of the Year" by her school district is now accused of child abuse against a student.

Caroline Lee, 60, a teacher at Darnell-Cookman School of the Medical Arts in Jacksonville, was arrested Friday on accusations she hit a student in the face in her classroom.

Police say the incident occurred after an Instagram post earlier that week by the Duval County Public Schools congratulated Lee for winning its Teacher of the Year award.

The post had a comment that "questioned if Lee was the same teacher that used the 'n' word in class last year," according to a Duval school board police report obtained by PEOPLE.

"The post also showed a response from Lee where she explained the use of the word was in the context of the book Of Mice and Men, the report states.

Video footage showed Lee leaving her class that morning to go to the student's class. A minute later, Lee is seen walking ahead of the student "at an aggressive pace," back to her classroom, the report states.

A few minutes later, the student is seen leaving the classroom "holding her facial area around the front of her face," the report states.

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The student later told police that while the two were inside Lee's classroom, Lee accused the student of threatening her. When the student said she hadn't, Lee "reached across the table and struck her on her face with the heel of her palm," according to the report.

The student "stated she grabbed her nose because it started bleeding after she was struck," the report states.

The student said "Lee then began repeatedly calling her a 'f****** b****' as she landed several more strikes on the top of head." The student "stated she began trying to hold both of Lee's arms to keep from being struck and Lee kicked her on her lower leg."

According to the report, Lee "then opened the rear door of the classroom and demanded she 'get out.'"

The student told police she immediately went to the guidance office.

Lee told police that she "interpreted" the Instagram comment "as a threat to kill her" and felt she "needed to speak with [the student]," the report states.

According to the report, she said she was not afraid of the student and didn't think it was necessary to report the threat.

Lee denied that she harmed the student and "could not explain the bloody nose that [the student] sustained," the report states.

In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene said, "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."

Lee's attorney, David Robbins, tells PEOPLE Lee has not officially been charged yet. He says Lee did not strike the child, and, citing the ongoing investigation, says he is "very hopeful and confident that ... there will be no charge filed against Caroline Lee."

"Caroline Lee is an amazingly dedicated teacher," says Robbins. "The students refer to her as Mama Lee. The comments and the emails we are getting from students, former students, everybody that knows Caroline know that this is something that could not have happened."

A court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 22, News4Jax reports.

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