NC middle school teacher accused of growing marijuana in backyard

LELAND, N.C. — A North Carolina middle school teacher resigned Wednesday after she was accused of growing nearly 25 pounds of marijuana in her backyard, authorities said.

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Catherine Neely, 47, was arrested and charged with manufacturing and trafficking marijuana, WECT reported. Bail was set at $110,500, and Neely, who also goes by the name of Catherine Teague, was being held at the Brunswick County Jail.

Neely is a sixth-grade teacher at Leland Middle School who has worked in the school district since 1996. She had been on an approved leave of absence since Jan. 19, the Wilmington Star-News reported, citing a message from Brunswick County Schools.

According to an arrest warrant, Neely is accused of growing marijuana “hydroponically in a greenhouse under artificial light and in pots in the backyard with natural light” at her home, WECT reported.

Arrest warrants state that deputies seized approximately 24.6 pounds of marijuana and various drug paraphernalia, including a plastic bong, grinder, and rolling papers, WECT reported.

Leaves of absence are requested by employees, typically for personal or medical reasons, Daniel Seamans, the district’s chief communications officer, told the Star-News. Seamans said he was unable to state why Neely requested the absence, noting that such requests are confidential.

According to the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, deputies discovered the marijuana after they and members of the Northwest Fire Department responded to a call about a possible structure fire at Neely’s home, WECT reported.

Neely has worked at Leland Middle School since 2015, the Star-News reported. Previously, she taught second grade at Lincoln Primary School, and taught second-, third- and fourth-grade students at Belville Elementary School.

“I am like shocked,” a neighbor, Cara Pinto, told WECT. “Especially I knew that she was a teacher but I didn’t know that she was a middle school teacher. Not that it matters but 25 pounds of pot from a teacher, that’s pretty concerning to me.”