“You have been viewing or distributing child pornography.” That is the pop-up warning that a Polk County student saw when he was using Lawrence Douglas Hughes's computer for research. Hughes is a research teacher at Union Academy Magnet School.
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.
The student also told investigators that he (the student) was invited by Mr. Hughes to a canoeing trip earlier in the year. The student stated two other male students (both were either 13 or 14 years old) went with Mr. Hughes, but the reporting student did not go on the trip.
The student told investigators that he later saw pictures of the 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.
Deputies began an investigation on Hughes on may 28, and obtained two school board computers assigned to Mr. Hughes and forensically examined them. Detectives found child pornographic images/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.
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 today at Hughes’ home in Lakeland and will forensically examine any computers or electronic devices in the residence for the presence of child pornography.
“We have outstanding and dedicated teachers in Polk County. This makes all of us angry that someone like this, with these kinds of deviant interests, has access to our children. The School Board has been extremely cooperative in this investigation and they have been very proactive,” said Sheriff Grady Judd.
Detectives ask that students or parents who have any knowledge of any inappropriate contact that Lawrence Douglas Hughes may have had with children to contact the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 863-298-6200.
Hughes has been arrested and charged with 20 counts (F2) of possession of child pornography. A picture of Hughes has not yet been released.