Deputies say a 30-year veteran of Polk County schools was caught with child porn on school computers

PCSO detectives have arrested Lawrence Hughes, 59

BARTOW, Fla. - "This is a bad, bad schoolteacher," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said while holding a photo of Lawrence Hughes. 

Before Thursday, Hughes, 59, was a well-regarded 30-year veteran in the Polk County school system. He was working as a research teacher at Union Academy Magnet School.
 
But now Hughes, a husband and father of four children, sits behind bars after deputies seized more than 20 images of child pornography on his two school-issued computers. 
 
In a news conference, Judd said what Hughes gave as his explanation to detectives, "He said I'm addicted to pornography, but I don't download child pornography.  But if it downloads, I put it on a thumb-drive and I take it to school and put it on the school's computers."
 
PCSO detectives began investigating Hughes after a student who was using one of his computers for research saw a warning pop up on the computer that said, "You have been viewing or distributing child pornography."
 
The student told investigators that Hughes then shut down the computer immediately and there was no discussion about the message. But Judd said the student told his mom, who then reported it to a member of the PCSO who happened to be at her doctor's office for an appointment. 
 
Hughes longtime neighbor, Mike Riley, couldn't believe it.
 
"You don't ever think about it being across the cul-de-sac from you," Riley said. "I'm speechless. "
 
Riley said Hughes was always a great neighbor. 
 
According to the sheriff's office, for the last 22 years Hughes has mentored young boys in the community. The student who reported the warning told investigators that he was invited by Hughes to a canoeing trip earlier in the year. He did not go, but said two other male students did. He said Hughes "wrestled" with one of the boys on the trip. He also told investigators Hughes would hold the boys' hands and pray.
 
On Thursday, detectives served a search warrant at his home in Lakeland. They will forensically examine any computers or electronic devices in the residence for the presence of child pornography. 
 
Detectives are also asking any students or parents with knowledge of any inappropriate contact Hughes may have had with children to contact the Polk County Sheriff's Office at 863-298-6200.
 
Hughes is being held in the Polk County jail on 20 counts of possession of child pornography. 
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