JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A former Duval County Public Schools teacher is giving First Coast News her side of the story after her arrest on a child abuse charge stemming from an allegation in October 2021 by a student at Darnell-Cookman School of the Medical Arts.
Caroline Lee, according to a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office arrest report, allegedly struck a student after the student posted a reply on Instagram which had congratulated Lee for being named Teacher of the Year.
Details of Lee's arrest can be found here.
Last month, Lee's case was dropped because the State Attorney's Office cited a lack of evidence. Lee is maintaining her innocence and says she asked for a polygraph, which she passed.
"It's not in my persona. It's just not something that I do," she said.
Despite the case being dropped, Lee has not returned to Darnell-Cookman.
"I want all teachers to be able to go into a classroom and be able to teach and not have to worry that a student is going to make a false claim and they are going to end up, as I did, in shackles," Lee told First Coast News.
She says she lost her teaching license and was never given a hearing to discuss her case. She says the student who made the claim is back in the classroom. Lee says she received backlash for hitting the student, which is not a person of color, despite what others have claimed, according to Lee.
She is calling for a fairer process. "Look at me. Look at my background. Look at my personality. Now do the same for the student before you make the teacher the guilty party and throw that party in jail," she said.
She says her principal at the time of the incident is no longer at the school.
We sent the district some questions, including the reason behind the principal's departure – because of the Labor Day holiday, we have not heard back.
Lee is now hoping to be re-instated and return to teaching.
"At the end of the day, the majority of us are in the classroom because we want to be in the classroom. We have a passion for teaching, for learning. On the whole, we love our students," she explained.