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Principal found dead at Tenn. school; student held

By Adrian Sainz
Associated Press / August 11, 2011

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MEMPHIS - A school principal described as very caring and attentive to her students was killed yesterday in an apparent homicide at a private school, and a 17-year-old student was taken into custody, police said.

Officers said the body of Suzette York, 49, was discovered in a classroom by a teacher shortly after 11 a.m. at Memphis Junior Academy, a Seventh-day Adventist Church-affiliated school in east Memphis.

Police spokeswoman Karen Rudolph said a male student was taken into custody at the school.

A motive and cause of death were not immediately disclosed. Police said only that York was fatally wounded.

Marvin Lowman, executive secretary with the Kentucky-Tennessee conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, said York had been principal at the school since 2008.

Peter Hunter, who attended the school for seven years and now has a 6-year-old cousin in the school, said York was a caring, sweet woman who enjoyed teaching young people.

“She was a wonderful person who was very much involved with her students, a person who cared deeply about the development of her students,’’ he said. “This was not the way she was supposed to go.’’

Classes at the one-story, red brick school began Monday. A sign out front yesterday said, “Welcome back.’’ The school has a large back recreation area with a swing set and playground slide.

Tuition ranges from $223 to $840 a month. The school has about 100 students with classes for pre-kindergarten through high school.

“Our staff is committed to providing quality education in a Christian environment,’’ the school’s website says.

Hunter said York was a science and math teacher who had left the school, then returned to become an administrator.

“She came back here because she had a passion for the people,’’ he said.

Hunter said the school had a nurturing environment where the goal was to treat everyone as family.

Stephen Rogers and his wife have a son who graduated from the academy and a 14-year-old son who is a freshman there now. Rogers described York as personable and spiritual.

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