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Parents upset after former substitute teacher accused of sending explicit pictures to children in Cleveland Co.

The 19-year-old was interviewed and admitted to sending the sexually explicit videos and pictures to the children, according to law enforcement.
Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 5:49 PM EST
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CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) – A 19-year-old former substitute teacher with the Cleveland County School System was arrested after authorities said she shared sexually explicit material with several children.

According to the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office, on Nov. 18, the school resource officer at Crest Middle School was notified by a parent that the substitute teacher, identified as 19-year-old Emily Jean Durden, of Shelby, has possibly been sending their child inappropriate images and videos.

Investigators said they quickly discovered that Durden had initiated conversations and shared sexually explicit materials with several 13- and 14-year-old children.

The suspect was interviewed and admitted to sending the sexually explicit videos and pictures to the children, according to law enforcement.

Durden was arrested on Nov. 18 and charged with two counts each of indecent liberties with a student and second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, as well as three counts of displaying material harmful to a minor, authorities said.

She was held in the Cleveland County Detention Center under a $50,000 secure bond, which was posted on Nov. 19, according to the CCSO.

Cleveland County resident Preston Messick told WBTV he attended Crest Middle School and Crest High School and recognized Emily Durden. He said he was very surprised to hear about the allegations.

“It’s really crazy to hear something like that, especially since I was coming out of elementary school,” said Messick. “Parents out there shouldn’t have to worry about their kids getting sent explicit pictures from a teacher to other students.”

Lakeija Miller’s son was in one of Durden’s classes. She says she talked with her son about Durden’s arrest and says her son did not receive any messages or communication from Durden; however she says she was not properly notified.

“It concerns and upsets me that I was never notified that one the teacher was under investigation, two what she is accused of doing, and three that she was arrested,” Miller said.

Miller and other parents reached out to WBTV saying they have called Crest Middle to speak to administrators but have not been able to get in touch with them. Parents also tell WBTV they did not receive an email or phone call about the investigation and arrest, and that they first learned of it on the news and the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office press release on February 22.

WBTV reached out to the district to confirm if school officials notified parents and asked for a copy of the communication, not receieved a definite answer at the time of this writing.

Assistant Deputy Chief Durwin Briscoe of the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office said he has been with the agency 29 years and this is the youngest person in education he’s charged for sending sexually explicit material.

“When it was brought to my attention, I questioned it, but I think this a result of our school system, not just our school system, but any employers having to find individuals that are willing to work. That’s part of the reason of her age and working in the school system and being so young,” said Briscoe.

Officials from Cleveland County Schools have not said they have had to hire younger employees to fill positions.

A spokesperson for the district did confirm to WBTV that Durden met the legal requirements to be a substitute because she was older than the age of 18 and had graduated high school.

A North Carolina Department of Public Instruction spokesperson shared the following substitute requirements in a statement:

“As substitute teachers are generally not licensed, there are no SBE provisions governing requirements to hold the position. The requirements vary from district to district. In general, all require the substitute be at least 18 years of age and hold a high school diploma. Some districts require the substitute to have the same credentials as a TA (Associate’s degree or comparable credit hours from a college or university, pass a general knowledge exam, like WorkKeys). Others have substitute training programs that are required to be on the “call” list.”

Miller says it may have been more appropriate for Durden to be teaching Pre-K or elementary school students considering she wasn’t much older than the middle school students she was teaching.

“With her being a teenager and subbing a teenager I do not think that was appropriate for her to be in that role,” Miller said.

To read the Cleveland County Public Schools policy 7430 on substitute teachers, click here.

Briscoe is urging parents to pay attention to who their kids are corresponding with on smartphones and on social media.

“Parents should always know what their kids are into, be always looking into their social media accounts, looking for individuals that they may be in contact with,” said Briscoe.

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