Polk County teacher facing child porn charges on his work computer.

Arrested this week, Lawrence Douglas Hughes now faces child pornography charges.

Arrested this week, Lawrence Douglas Hughes now faces child pornography charges.

BARTOW — Earlier this year, a student told Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives, he and several other teenage boys got invited on a field trip with one of his teachers, Lawrence Douglas Hughes. The boys wrestled with the teacher, and would hold hands together as they prayed.
This week, Hughes, a research teacher at Union Academy Magnet School in Bartow, was arrested after an investigation that started on May 28. He now faces 20 counts of possession of child pornography.
“We have outstanding and dedicated teachers in Polk County,” Sheriff Grady Judd said after the arrest. “This makes all of us angry that someone like this, with these kinds of deviant interests, has access to our children.”
The sheriff’s office conducted the investigation in coordination with the Polk County School Board, which Judd said “has been extremely cooperative in this investigation and they have been very proactive.”
The investigation is still open. Polk detectives are asking that any students or parents with knowledge of any inappropriate contact that Hughes may have had with school children should report it by calling 863-298-6200.
It was late last month when school board officials were told by a student using Hughes’ school board-issued classroom computer for research that he had discovered something very disturbing on it.
The student told school officials that while using the computer, he saw a “warning” pop up on the computer that said, “You have been viewing or distributing child pornography.”
As it happened, the student said, Hughes noticed, and reacted.
“The student told investigators that Hughes shut down the computer and that Hughes did not say anything about the pop-up message, and there was no discussion between the student and Mr. Hughes about the message,” noted Scott Wilder, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in his report on the arrest.
After the school board contacted the sheriff’s office, the student told detectives that Hughes had invited him on a canoeing trip earlier in the year, along with two other male students, ages 13 and 14.
The student who reported the pop-up warning to school officials did not go on the trip, but would later see photos of the other boys in bathing suits during the canoe trip.
“The student said Mr. Hughes ‘wrestled’ with one of the boys on the trip and that the two boys and Mr. Hughes were holding hands and ‘praying’ together while on the trip,” Wilder noted.
Deputies took two school board computers assigned to Hughes as evidence, and forensically examined them, and later found child pornographic images and pictures on both computers.
“The pictures were of nude prepubescent and pubescent boys between the ages of 12 and 16 years old, posing/exposing their genitalia in a lewd manner,” Wilder noted. “There were also images/pictures depicting children engaged in sexual acts with adults, and images of nude boys engaged in sexual acts with each other. At least 20 of the images have been determined to be child pornography.”
Detectives served a search warrant at Hughes’ home in Lakeland, where he was arrested. Wilder said the sheriff’s office will forensically examine any computers or electronic devices in Hughes’ home for additional evidence of child pornography.

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