BURKE COUNTY, N.C. -- A Burke County Public School teacher has been arrested and charged with exploitation of a minor.
Michael Lowman, 31, was charged with two counts of second-degree exploitation of a minor and one count of indecent liberties with a child.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children contacted the SBI on Friday regarding explicit images sent between what was believed to be a minor and an adult.
Investigators interviewed Lowman and later took his phone. Evidence was obtained, including images of child pornography.
Parents say they got a phone call from the principal Monday alerting them to the arrest.
“It’s bad, it's sickening,” says Tyson Brice, whose daughter attends the elementary school. “You send your kids to school thinking they're going to be safe and come to find out a teacher in their school is involved in things like that.”
"You can't trust even your teacher with your child, that's bad," Brice added.
During a polygraph examination with the NCSBI and a local taskforce, Lowman admitted to investigators that he had downloaded and uploaded child pornography using his phone and taken improper and indecent liberties with minor children.
Marina Collins has a daughter in his fourth-grade class. She says he was the teacher every student wanted.
“It’s just shocking, very shocking,” Collins says. “He was a good teacher. I mean, he was involved with the kids, doing plays... In this small community, you would never dream that this would happen and I'm just shocked.”
Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Putnam issued the following statement:
“I am deeply saddened about the news of this arrest and these charges. Our primary goal is always the safety and wellbeing of our students. The George Hildebrand community is a strong community and they have our full support. Burke County Public Schools is working closely with local and state law enforcement agencies as this investigation continues. Anyone with information related to the investigation should contact the Burke County Sheriff’s Department. Burke County Public Schools conducts a thorough background investigation into potential employees during the pre-employment process. If criminal allegations arise during employment we work directly with law enforcement to ensure a thorough investigation. We encourage anyone with suspicions that if they see something, they should say something and report it to administration or those in authority.”
The school released Lowman's employment history. He started at George Hildebrand as a daycare worker on Sept. 30, 2009. Lowman was a teacher assistant at George Hildebrand from Oct. 10, 2009 to Aug. 19, 2012. He then worked as a teacher at George Hildebrand from Aug. 20, 2012 to Sept. 15, 2017. Lowman also was a bus driver from May 1, 2015 to Sept. 15, 2017.
Lowman is no longer a teacher at Burke County Public Schools and surrendered his teaching license.
He appeared in court Monday and was issued a secured bond of $250,000.
The Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce is still investigating this case, and additional charges are pending.