Polk County teacher arrested for possession of child pornography described as "popular and respected"

1:03 PM, Jun 18, 2013   |    comments
Lawrence Hughes, a Union Academy Magnet School research teacher, was arrested Thursday on 20 counts of child pornography from pictures found on two, computers in his classroom.
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Bartow, Florida -- A popular Polk County teacher arrested on child pornography has many still shaking their heads asking why and are there more charges possible?

A Polk County judge set Lawrence Douglas Hughes' bond Friday afternoon at 100,000 -- $5,000 for each one of 20 counts of child pornography.

SEE ALSO: Charged teacher admits: "I was addicted to porn"

Hughes has been a Polk County School teacher for 30 years, long enough to have had contact with thousands of students.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says during a press conference as he holds a picture of Hughes. 

"We know this is a bad, bad teacher. What we also know is we have the duty, the responsibility, if there are any child victims, we want to help them," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd during a press conference as he held a picture of Hughes. 

"It's eerie. He was always on his computer," said 19-year-old Madison Schleicher, a former student. 

Schleicher said she took Hughes' Mentoring Apprentice Class at Union Academy Magnet School in Bartow as an 8th grader in 2008 where deputies said he's taught since 1992.

"He was very pro-active, involved with students' lives. He always wanted to do more," recalled Schleicher.

Judd said deputies found nude pictures of teenage boys -- some engaging in sex acts on two school computers. 

"He said, 'I'm addicted to child pornography. I don't download them but, if they download, I put them on a thumb drive. I take it to school and put it on the school computer,'" explained Judd.

Schleicher is stunned by Hughes' arrest. 

"Why? You are a prominent member of the community people looked up to you."

Former students and parents are leaving comments on the Sheriff's Facebook page. 

One student wrote, "disgusting". 

One parent commented, "I am sick to my stomach," and another said, "So sad we can't trust anyone with our children."

No one with the Hughes' family was available to comment nor were any of his neighbors on Messina Avenue in Lakeland.

Hughes' access to children goes beyond the classroom. 

Until May, Hughes served as president of the Central Florida Soccer Ridge Officials Association, an organization that serves Polk, East Hillsborough and Highlands counties. 

In an email to 10 News, the current President Mike Bean told us, "The Association is both shocked and saddened by this news." 

Bean also said Hughes has been with the CFSROA for several years.

Sheriff Judd said Hughes would take students on field trips including camping trips and canoe trips. He asks anyone with any information in this case to call the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

Isabel Mascarenas

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