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Parapro charged with child molestation

COVINGTON - Deputies on Tuesday arrested a Cousins Middle School paraprofessional on child molestation and related charges after the Newton County Sheriff's Office determined she had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a 13-year-old male student.

Brandi Bryan McMichael, 28, of 555 Edwards Road in Monticello, was taken into custody at the school without incident at 5 p.m. following an investigation.

Newton County Sheriff's Office Lt. Bill Watterson said a staff member at the school told a school administrator about a possible inappropriate relationship between the paraprofessional and the boy; the school administrator then notified the sheriff's department.

According to Watterson, evidence collected during the investigation revealed that the two had engaged in an inappropriate relationship both at the school and off school property.

Watterson could not comment Thursday on many details of the case, as it is still under investigation, but said NCSO officials have evidence of inappropriate text messages and pictures being transmitted between the two; he would not say how long the relationship had been going on and if it had been of a physical nature.

Initially, McMichael was charged with child molestation and electronic furnishing of obscene materials to a child under the age of 18, but after further investigation, Watterson said she also was charged with enticing a child for indecent purposes and interfering with child custody, a charge which involves a person who does not have legal custody of a child taking the child from one who does have custody.

Watterson said McMichael bonded out late Thursday afternoon on $7,000 bond.

According to the Newton County School System, McMichael was hired July 20, 2007, and is still an employee of the school system, but she is not serving in her paraprofessional role at this time; the Newton County Board of Education is expected to take "appropriate action" as early as its Tuesday board meeting based on the outcome of the NCSO investigation.

"We are obviously very concerned about the allegations," said Sherri Viniard, director of public relations for NCSS in a prepared statement. "The safety of our students is our primary concern."

She said the school system is cooperating with the NCSO investigation and feels obliged to protect the privacy of the student involved, so she could not release any other information.

Watterson said the investigation is continuing and other witnesses will be interviewed. He added that, at this time, the department does not believe any other students were involved in a similar relationship with McMichael.