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Teacher arrested for alleged abuse
Alcovy teacher, parapro charged with harming special-needs student

COVINGTON - An Alcovy High School teacher and paraprofessional were arrested Thursday afternoon following allegations of abuse of a special-needs student.

Newton County Sheriffs Office investigators took teacher Derrick Roberts, of Linwood Drive in Covington, and parapro Nanette Surber, of Ga. Highway 36 in Covington, into custody Thursday afternoon after a day-long investigation.

Investigators found sufficient evidence to make an arrest and charge them with simple battery and cruelty to children in the first degree, according to NCSO spokesman Lt. Bill Watterson.

According Watterson, the charges stem from two incidents of alleged abuse this week to a 17-year-old 11th-grader he described as a "severely handicapped, non-verbal student." He declined to specify the form of alleged abuse.

"(The abuse) could have been life-threatening, but it did not injure him," he said. "It was, however, abusive and cruel. This is a terrible thing and very improper and illegal, and we are holding them accountable for their actions."

After the school day Wednesday, an employee at Alcovy High School reported concerns about the teachers to school administrators, who in turn notified the Newton County Sheriffs Office on Thursday morning, according to Sherri Viniard, director of public relations for the Newton County School System.

"(The school system is) cooperating with (the sheriffs office) to find out what happened," Viniard said. "We're glad the employee felt comfortable enough with school administrators to report her concerns, because student safety is of utmost important to us."

Viniard said she could not comment specifically about what the school employee reported to administrators.

"Because this is a criminal investigation, we don't want to hinder the investigation by the sheriffs office in any way," she said. "We want to let them handle the investigation."

Viniard said Roberts is in his second year of teaching; she did not know how long Surber had been employed.

Watterson said no other incidents have been uncovered against any other students.

Viniard said late Thursday that the school is in the process of notifying every parent of other students in the classroom.

"We want them to hear it from us first that an incident possibly occurred," she said.

Viniard said until the investigation is complete, the employment status of the teacher and paraprofessional are undetermined.

"In the meantime, other personnel will cover that particular classroom until the investigation is resolved," she said.

News Editor Barbara Knowles contributed to this article.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@ newtoncitizen.com.