ST. FRANCISVILLE, La. – A Louisiana teacher is out of a job after police allege she kicked and slapped one of her first grade students last month.
Chanel Lemelle, 31, resigned from her position at Bains Lower Elementary School in St. Francisville last week as investigators looked into allegations she struck a student in the cafeteria during lunch Jan. 23, The Advocate reports.
“She’s very sad that this is going on,” Lemelle’s attorney, Don Cazayoux, told the news site. “She loves teaching, loves her students and would never do anything to hurt any of her children.”
Camera footage of the school’s cafeteria and witness reports, however, tell a different story.
“A sheriff’s deputy who reviewed camera footage of the incident wrote in an arrest report that as the student walked by Lemelle in the school’s cafeteria, she could be seen kicking him in the rear,” according to The Advocate.
“The video also showed her slapping the boy on the back of the head, the deputy wrote.”
Prior to the incident, witnesses said Lemelle yelled at the student “in a loud and degrading manner because he was not walking like he was supposed to,” and held the child back from the lunch line until his classmates received their food, according to the police report.
When the student returned with his lunch, Lemelle allegedly made the child sit by himself, then took some of his food, telling him “he only needed one taco,” the news site reports.
The student recounted the same story when interviewed by Child Advocacy Services, according to the West Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Lemelle was charged with one count of cruelty to juveniles Monday, immediately posted a $20,000 bail, and was released. She was replaced by a new teacher the same day, superintendent Hollis Milton told The Advocate.
Witnesses told a sheriff’s deputy that it wasn’t the first time Lemelle was inappropriate with students.
They said she often brought an empty plate to lunch and filled it with food from her students. One of the witnesses also allegedly found Lemelle in the hallway about a week ago with the same student she’s charged with abusing. The child was crying and Lemelle was yelling and “waiving a stick at him,” according to the police report.
Lemelle has taught in the district the last 10 years, and is the daughter of a retired federal prosecutor who now operates a private law firm with Cazayoux, The Advocate reports.
Many parents who commented on the story online were clearly not impressed with Lemelle’s alleged conduct.
“If I was that child’s mother, you’d have to hold me back. The camera doesn’t lie!” Dee Murphy posted to Facebook. “Let’s hope the child gets counseling and justice is rightfully served on her (without daddy’s wrongful intervention)! Makes me sick!!!”
“She’s lucky she wasn’t my child!” Stan Smith wrote.
Other parents in the district allege school officials have a history of tacitly condoning bullying behavior.
“I know what my child has experienced within this school district,” Michelle A. Gaines posted. “My child was belittled by a teacher in front of a whole classroom full of kids, he was verbally assaulted by a student, and knocked down all in the presence of a teacher. Nothing was done. I have gone to the school several times …”
“This school system is horrible and they cover up so much wrong doing. I feel sorry for other parents who have had the same issues and pulled their kids from this school district. I have recently pulled my child,” she wrote.
Superintendent Milton, meanwhile, contends Lemelle’s abuse allegations are in contrast to “the positive, warm culture that children experience every day” at the school, according to The Advocate.
“At the end of the day, it’s still a wonderful school,” he said.