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Former Durham teacher charged with having sexual relationship with teen student

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A former Durham high school teacher was arrested last week on charges that she had a sexual relationship with a female student.

The Durham County Sheriff's Office arrested Michelle Smith White, 37, on July 2 on charges of taking indecent liberties and engaging in a sex offense with a student.

The sheriff's office said the teen's parents tipped off deputies about the relationship, which investigators said began in 2012 when the student was 15 years old.

"We determined that -- at the very minimum -- a friendship developed in 2012," said sheriff's office spokesman Paul Sherwin. "Between when it started and now, it evolved into a romantic relationship."

White was a teacher at Jordan High School at the time of the alleged offenses. She was employed there from March 1997 until she resigned in April. The school system said she taught dance for grades nine through 12.

"The allegations against this teacher are very serious, and all of us from the school leadership to district administration will continue to do everything we can to support the Durham Sheriff's Office in their investigation," said Durham Public Schools spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson. "The physical and emotional safety of our students is our No. 1 priority."

White was booked on Wednesday in the Durham County Jail and released after posting a $6,000 bond. She is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 6.

Sherwin said the case remains under investigation and sheriff’s detectives expect additional charges to be filed as the investigation progresses.

"We uncovered some additional evidence during a search of Ms. White's home last week, and that evidence is probably going to lead to some additional charges," Sherwin said.

Neighbor Sarah Peveler said she also works for the Durham Public Schools system and was disturbed to hear her neighbor is being accused of having sex with a student.

"We all have to hold ourselves to a pretty high standard working with children," Peveler said. "And having a child myself, it's a little bit more concerning teaching him to respect himself and hold himself in high esteem."

Neighbors said it appeared that White was married and has a child.

Experts offer a number of tips for students to help identify if an educator is trying to have an inappropriate relationship:

  • Does your teacher ask you about your personal life?
  • Does your teacher's conversation make you uncomfortable?
  • Does your teacher ever use any embarrassing or inappropriate language?
  • Does your teacher use your mobile number for anything other than arranging lessons?
  • Does your teacher ask you to meet socially or alone?
  • Does your teacher tell you about personal matters?
  • Does your teacher allude to playing your instrument or sport in sexual terms?
  • Has your teacher touched you inappropriately?

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the sheriff's criminal investigations division at (919) 560-0880.

  • Click Here for information on identifying warning signs

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Eileen Park

Eileen joined WNCN after years of working as a foreign correspondent. During her time off, she enjoys relaxing with her dogs, reading, and exploring the Triangle.