The Clay County Sheriff’s Office in Florida said a Jacksonville first grade teacher was arrested Thursday on suspicion of attempting to buy methamphetamine while she was at school.
CCSO said Valerie Lee Prince contacted an undercover narcotics officer and tried to set up a deal to buy an "eight ball" of methamphetamine while she was at Jacksonville Heights Elementary School, where she teaches first grade.
"The situation is disturbing," Lt. Domenic Paniccia, with the narcotics unit said. "This is someone that was in charge of kids, first-grade kids, and it's something that was a priority to us."
Prince talked to undercover officers and confidential informants with CCSO in an attempt to set up the deal.
She requested that the meth be delivered to her at the school, according to Sgt. Vincent Hall.
“We did not deliver the drugs to that school, but that brought us great concern,” Hall said. “It was a pretty nonchalant request, and the indication was that it was no big deal to the suspect.”
Police instead waited for Prince to get off work at the school and meet up with her to sell her 3.5 grams of methamphetamine. After the sale, they arrested her.
She later admitted to using meth 10 times within the last six months.
CCSO worked with the Duval County Public School System during the investigation and officials with the school system accompanied deputies during Prince’s arrest. Her credentials were revoked and she was fired, according to CCSO.
"I cannot say she was positively using drugs at that school. I can say that during phone calls, her intentions were," Paniccia said.
Paniccia said Prince told an informant when her class started and that she would be willing to say she had an emergency phone call in order to leave the school grounds and use meth. She said she would have returned to school with the intent for the drug dealers to deliver the meth to her boyfriend.
“I was going to say, I could go out and meet you, but I can’t, I would just have to go out and run back in,” Prince said to an undercover informant on a recording released by CCSO. “Just call me when you’re -- because, you know, I work on 103rd. You call me, and I can just say I have to use the phone real quick. I can step out and come right back in. Or just come at 11 on my lunch break. But I would prefer it before then.”
“What was the name of your school again?” the informant asked Prince.
“It’s Jacksonville Heights Elementary, it’s on 103rd. Now, I don’t get my kids until 8:30, so I’m in my room by myself from 8 to 8:30,” Prince said.
Prince was charged with possession of methamphetamine.
The Duval County Public School System released a statement Friday evening regarding Prince’s arrest:
"We’ve become aware that one of our teachers, Valerie Lee Prince, was recently arrested by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.
"Prince has been a teacher at Jacksonville Heights Elementary School since the 2018-19 school year. She has not taught at any other school in the district.
"The school district’s office of professional standards will conduct an independent investigation. 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.
“It is always disappointing and disturbing whenever an educator is implicated in this type of activity. As a district, we have very high standards for teachers and all employees, and every day thousands of teachers are going beyond the call of duty to serve children and families. The alleged behavior falls well short of our standards. We will conduct our investigation, and take action as appropriate based on the conclusion of that investigation.”