A Florida first-grade teacher was arrested after trying to get an “eight ball” of methamphetamine delivered to her elementary school.
Valerie Lee Prince is now facing felony charges of purchase and possession of methamphetamine after she allegedly purchased the drugs from an undercover detective—although the deal did not occur on school grounds as she had originally wanted, according to a press conference held by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.
Lt. Domenic Paniccia said the investigation began when the department’s narcotics unit received some “disturbing information” that a teacher in the Duvall County school system had “engaged in the purchase of methamphetamine.”
The discovery sparked a joint investigation by the sheriff’s office, Duval County School Police Department and Homeland Security, which put Prince in touch with undercover detectives and a confidential informant.
During the taped conversations with undercover detectives, authorities said Prince tried to purchase an “eight ball” of methamphetamine for $85—requesting that the drugs be brought to the Jacksonville Heights Elementary school where she worked.
“I was going to say, I can go out and meet you, but I can’t, I would just have to run out and run back in,” Prince allegedly said in taped conversation released by authorities.
Prince went on to say the contact could bring the drugs over her lunch break at 11 a.m. but that she’d “prefer it before then.”
“It was a pretty nonchalant request and the indication was that it was no big deal to the suspect,” Sgt. Vincent Hall of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office said during the press conference.
He said the request brought investigators “great concern.”
Paniccia said although he could not say for certain whether Prince had ever done drugs while on the school property, it appeared in the taped conversations that she intended to that day.
“She indicated that she was willing to leave that classroom and state that she had an emergency phone call, leave the school, consume some of the narcotics and return to her classroom with the drugs dealer’s intent to bring the remaining drugs to a boyfriend,” he said.
Authorities did not deliver the drugs to the school as she had hoped, but arranged instead to meet with Prince after she was done with her school day.
Hall said she purchased “three and a half grams of methamphetamine” from an undercover detective.
After she was arrested, Hall said Prince admitted to using methamphetamine “on multiple occasions” within the last six months and also confessed to making the purchase that sparked the arrest.
During the investigation, the Duvall County school board worked with investigators to help identify the teacher, where she worked and her schedule; school officials were also present during the arrest to collect her keys and access to the school.
Paniccia said he was unable to comment on how the district would handle the situation going forward, but said he personally hoped the arrest meant the end of Prince’s contact with children as a teacher.
“I hope she’s striped of her credentials and never allowed to be in contact with kids again, but I can’t speak for them,” he said.
In a statement obtained by local station WTLV-WJXX, the Duvall County Public Schools released a statement saying Prince had taught at the elementary school since the 2018-2019 school year.
“The school district’s office of professional standards will conduct an independent investigation,” the district said. “During the course of the investigation, Prince will be removed from the school. If she is able to return to work, she will be assigned to duties that have no contact with children.”
Sheriff Darryl Daniels called the allegations against the first-grade teacher “unacceptable” and said his department made the decision to hold the press conference so that those in the community were aware that “these are the types of things that occasionally occur in society.”
To keep children safe, he suggested parents try to be engaged with their children’s teachers and also keep communication lines open with their own children.
“I would talk to my child, ask them about their day in school and see if there were any anomalies that may sound strange that I need to address,” he said.
Prince is being held at the Clay County Jail.
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