OKEECHOBEE — A South Elementary School teacher has been arrested for allegedly threatening to hit a 7-year-old student with a chair.
Debra Lynn Lunt, 61, N.W. Sixth Street, Okeechobee, was arrested Thursday, Jan. 7, on one felony count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
She was booked into the Okeechobee County Jail on a bond of $5,000. Jail records indicate she has been released on bond.
A report by Deputy Tammy Serafini, of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), stated the incident apparently occurred Dec. 11 when Lunt picked up a chair and “… lunged at a student as if she was going to hit her with the chair or throw the chair at her.”
Deputy Serafini, a school resource officer at South Elementary, went on to state she met with assistant principal Bryan VanCamp who reportedly told her he had been receiving complaints about Lunt’s actions.
“Bryan said there have been complaints of verbal abuse. Debra has been calling the children dummies and other derogatory names. Debra has pushed students and possibly slapped them on the hands,” stated Deputy Serafini.
However, the deputy went on to state that the teacher who reported the slapping was not 100 percent sure of what happened.
The report also indicated SES principal Tracy Downing has talked to Lunt on several occasions for her behavior toward this particular student, as well as other students in the classroom.
According to the report Mrs. Downing and Mr. VanCamp went to classroom 306 and asked the little girl to come with them. The child reportedly took Mr. VanCamp’s hand and walked with them.
The deputy went on to state that she spoke with the child, who reportedly said Lunt yells at her and tells her to “shut up.” Deputy Serafini then asked the girl if the teacher had ever hit her, and the girl allegedly said yes.
When asked to demonstrate how and where she was hit, the girl reportedly balled up her fist and pointed to her left upper arm/shoulder area, added the deputy.
Deputy Serafini went on to state that she spoke with other adults in the classroom who detailed how the teacher raised the chair over her head and acted as if she was going to throw it at the child. The child then ran to the back of the room.
Lunt, stated one of the adults, allegedly said: “I can’t do this class any more.”
It should also be noted that the child had apparently caused some disturbances in class.
Another one of the girl’s teachers said the child had been “… misbehaving and throwing things at the teachers and around the room.”
When Lunt picked up the chair, said one of the adult witnesses to the deputy, Lunt yelled to the child: “How does it feel to be threatened?”
At that point, the child apparently screamed “No!”
The OCSO deputy went on to document her interview with a guidance counselor at the school who was called to room 306 to speak with the child.
The counselor said when she walked into the room the child was hitting the window. But, when the counselor sat down with the child, she became calm.
The child, continued Deputy Serafini, at one point gave the counselor a hug and a kiss.
Following her investigation, Deputy Serafini filed for a warrant. That application was approved by assistant state attorney Ashley Albright on Dec. 21, and Lunt was arrested by OCSO Deputy John Fisher, another school resource officer, on Jan. 7.
Phone calls seeking additional information were made to school district offices Friday afternoon, Jan. 8, but were not returned by newspaper deadline.
Lunt’s arraignment has been set for Feb. 4 at 10 a.m.
Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News