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Florida school's teacher of the year arrested on child abuse charge

Caroline Lee is accused of striking a student who had accused her of using a racial slur in class. She was was named teacher of the year at Darnell-Cookman School of the Medical Arts in October.

A woman recently named teacher of the year at a Florida school was charged Friday with child abuse.

A heavily redacted report from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said Caroline Lee, a teacher at Darnell-Cookman School of the Medical Arts, was arrested by the Duval County School Police.

Lee, 60, was named teacher of the year at Darnell-Cookman in October, and would have competed with about 175 other teachers for Duval County Teacher of the Year.

When the district announced Lee's nomination on their Instagram page Wednesday, a student commented, wondering if she was the teacher who had used a racial slur in class last year, a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office arrest report said.

Lee wrote that she used the slur during a lesson about “Of Mice and Men." She then summoned the student to speak with her Friday.

The police report said when Lee was alone with the student in her classroom, she closed the door and asked the student why she had threatened her in an online post. After the student denied making any threats, Lee hit her in the face with her palm, according to the report. The student brought her hand to her nose, which started bleeding. That is when Lee called her an expletive and started hitting her on her head, the report said.

The teacher also kicked the student in the leg, according to police.

The student reported the alleged assault to guidance counselors, who noticed visible injuries, according to police.

Lee denied closing the door and physically harming the student, the police report said. She told deputies that she felt threatened by the student because of the Instagram comment, but did not feel the need to report the alleged threat. She said she was trying to show the student that she was not a racist, and she was a "nice person," the report said.

Lee was arrested due to video evidence and the visible injuries to the student, police said.

As of Monday, jail records show Lee was no longer in the custody of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

"I am in shock. I never saw this coming," Lee told NBC News Tuesday. "The truth will prevail."

Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Diana Greene called the allegations "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," she said. "We will cooperate with all investigations, and pending those results, we will take the actions necessary to stand up for and protect our students.”

Tyrus Lyles, the school’s principal, wrote in a message to parents after the incident that Lee had been removed from the classroom.

"It is very disappointing, but I am compelled to share with you that one of our teachers was arrested today on campus for child abuse," Lyles wrote. "Even more disappointing, the teacher arrested is our recent teacher of the year nominee."