West Feliciana teacher accused of slapping, taking food from first-grader arrested Monday, posts bail _lowres

Chanel Lemelle

A first-grade teacher accused of striking a student during lunch one day in late January at Bains Lower Elementary School in St. Francisville surrendered to sheriff’s deputies on Monday morning.

The West Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office issued an arrest warrant for the teacher, Chanel Lemelle, 31, on Thursday after witnesses reported seeing Lemelle berate, kick and slap a first-grade student on Jan. 23 at the school.

Lemelle, of Baton Rouge, was booked into the West Feliciana Parish Detention Center about 10 a.m. Monday on a count of cruelty to juveniles. She immediately posted $20,000 bail and was released, said Erin Foster, a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.

“She’s very sad that this is going on,” Don Cazayoux, Lemelle’s attorney, said Monday. “She loves teaching, loves her students and would never do anything to hurt any of her children.”

Lemelle, who worked for the West Feliciana school district for about 10 years, resigned last week amid an investigation into the allegations that she struck one of her students.

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. The video also showed her slapping the boy on the back of the head, the deputy wrote.

Lemelle also is accused of taking some of the boy’s lunch food, allegedly telling the first-grader that “he only needed one taco,” the report says.

Witnesses told the deputy that Lemelle often brought an empty plate to lunch and filled it with food from her students. The witnesses also recounted the incident as it appeared to the deputy via video footage, the report says.

A new teacher was hired to replace Lemelle soon after she resigned. The new teacher began Monday, said Hollis Milton, superintendent of the West Feliciana Parish school district.

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