COAL TOWNSHIP - A former teacher's aide at Shamokin Area Middle-High School has been charged with having sex with an 18-year-old male student in the school three times earlier this year.

Amanda Dreher, 28, of 1761 Tioga St., Coal Township, turned herself into authorities and was arraigned at 11 a.m. Thursday by Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III on three felony counts of institutional sexual assault.

The charges filed by Coal Township Detective Jeff Brennan relate to incidents between the beginning of January and the end of February.

The maximum penalty for each offense is seven years and/or $15,000 fine.

Dreher, who was accompanied to the arraignment by a female friend, was released on $5,000 ROR bail. Brennan did not object to the unsecured bail imposed by Gembic because of the defendant's cooperation in the investigation.

Dreher, who resigned her teacher's aide position last month, declined comment when asked by a News-Item reporter about being charged. She had been a teacher's aide in the district for approximately one year.

Wearing a purple and white shirt and dress slacks, Dreher was calm and polite in responding to a few questions posed by Gembic and told the judge she understood her bail conditions and the charges. Prior to leaving the courtroom, Dreher thanked the judge for releasing her on her own recognizance and not making her post monetary bail or go to jail.

According to a criminal complaint, Dreher is accused of engaging in sexual intercourse with the student, who was not identified by police. The victim, who is a senior, told police two of the sexual encounters occurred in the boys' locker room at the swimming pool.

Brennan said the investigation began March 19 when he was contacted by Shamokin Area Middle-High School Principal Chris Venna about allegations of inappropriate contact between Dreher and the student.

Venna reserved comment Thursday when notified about the charges.

The student told Brennan he met Dreher at school and started communicating with her by cell phone and Facebook. The student said the conversations were initially about school and their personal lives before turning sexual.

The victim said he and Dreher later started to text in school before deciding to meet in school on several occasions. He said they had sexual contact inside the school on three occasions.

After one of their meetings, the student said Dreher was observed by two other students walking out of the boys' locker room. Those students were later interviewed by Brennan.

The detective said search warrants were obtained for the cell phone and Facebook accounts of the student and Dreher. Those records were examined and confirmed that a sexual relationship existed between them.

Dreher was ordered by Gembic to appear for a preliminary hearing at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.