RIVERVIEW, Fla. — A Florida elementary school principal is accused of sending sexually explicit texts to an undercover detective in the belief it was a teenager, authorities said.
Derrick Neil McLaughlin, 41, of Lithia, was arrested Thursday and charged with transmission of harmful material to a minor, unlawful use of a two-way communications device, and use of computer services or devices to solicit certain illegal acts, according to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office online booking records.
According to deputies, McLaughlin, who is the principal at Dawson Elementary School in Riverview, attempted to entice who he was believed was a 15-year-old boy to engage in sexual acts, WFLA-TV reported. Deputies said McLaughlin sent texts on a social media app this month between Jan. 19 and Jan. 27, WTSP-TV reported.
“It’s sickening that a trusted member of our community, a school principal, would take advantage of a child for his own self-gratification,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a statement. “Thankfully, it was not a child, but one of our detectives, who was on the receiving end of his obscene messages. No child should be subjected to the disturbing behavior put on display by McLaughlin.”
Deputies said McLaughlin was being held under the Baker Act after making statements of self-harm at the time of his arrest, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
There is no indication of any other victims, WFLA reported.
A spokesperson with Hillsborough County Public Schools said McLaughlin was an employee with the school district since Dec. 16, 2002.
“We are shocked and deeply troubled by the charges filed against Derrick McLaughlin. Our top priority is the safety and well-being of students and staff,” Erin Maloney said in a statement. “Mr. McLaughlin is currently on administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.”
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