Officers said the body Suzette York, 48, was discovered 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 the student was taken into custody at the school.
A motive and cause of death were not immediately disclosed.
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 Wednesday 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 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, but returned to become an administrator.
“She came back here because she had a passion for the people,” he said.
Linda Taylor told The Commercial Appeal she received a call from her husband who said the school called and told them to pick up their 14-year-old son, Josiah, because there was an emergency. The school didn’t say that someone had been killed.
“I’m just wondering what’s going on,” she said at the scene.