According to the NY Post, a Lakeland High School teacher, soccer coach, and church youth leader has been charged with child pornography possession.
Shawn Fitzgerald, 46-years-old, is a teacher for special needs students at the high school, coaches boys soccer, and is the youth director at First United Methodist Church in Bartow. The school and the church released statements claiming they were unaware and are shocked.
Fitzgerald faces 408 counts for possession. He allegedly had hundred of illegal images on his phone of children involved in sexual activity. The photos show children and infants as young as ten months old being sexually abused by adults and engaging in acts with other kids. It is not assumed that Fitzgerald produced the images himself.
Fitzgerald is being held on 2 million dollar bail in Polk County Jail.
Attorney contributor Michael Haggard represents victims sexually abused by a teacher. Below, Michael provides insight into the legal rights of victims sexually abused by a teacher.
“Schools are obligated to provide a safe environment for their students and surround them with trustworthy staff. Unfortunately, sometimes teachers are unknown predators of enrolled students or other children. These predators use their positions of power to exploit students. Schools must do everything in their power to prevent predators from being employed at their schools and protect students from sexual abuse.”
“If a victim has been sexually assaulted at school, they should acquire the services of an experienced sexual assault attorney. They must ask if the school did their best to prevent the abuse; if not, they may be considered negligent. Security measures include security cameras and background checks, but there are many more. If a school doesn’t implement preventative measures for its students, it may be considered negligent. In cases of negligence, victims and their families may have grounds for a lawsuit.”