An Ohio kindergarten teacher used a tiny spy camera to secretly record his young students using a classroom bathroom, prosecutors said over the weekend.
The Associated Press reports 32-year-old Elliot Gornall was arrested and charged Friday with 23 counts of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance. He is also charged with two counts of attempting the same crime.
Ashland County Prosecutor Chris Tunnell said Gornall recorded 25 students between August and November of last year while he was still a teacher at R.F. McMullen Elementary School in Loudonville, Ohio.
Gornall resigned in December after having been charged with felony drug possession.
He was later charged with a misdemeanor count of receiving stolen property after investigators found a pair of children’s underwear in his home while conducting a search related to the drug charges. Authorities confiscated his home computer and contacted the school.
Tunnell said the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation later examined the teacher’s computer and found the videos of the students.
“While everyone is innocent until proven guilty, the evidence we've uncovered is both disturbing and shocking,” Tunnell said according to WOIO News. “Although these children were unaware they were being secretly filmed by a pinpoint spy camera, the thought that a previously trusted kindergarten teacher would take advantage of young children in this way is horrifying.”
Tunnell said the camera was hidden inside a white plastic utility hook on the bathroom wall.
School principal Annette Gorrell said she was shocked when she learned the well-liked teacher was facing drug charges. The feeling only grew after learning of the new charges.
“We had no indication that he had another side,” she told The Columbus Dispatch. “We are all hurting right along with our families.”
Gorrell said school administrators only recently found out about what investigators say they discovered on the teacher’s computer.
“We love these children as if they were our own and it breaks our heart that someone we all trusted appears to have taken advantage of them in this way,” she told WOIO.
Investigators told the AP that it does not appear that any of the videos were uploaded online or shared with anyone else.
Gorrell said school officials don’t plan on telling the students what happened.
“The kindergartners are innocent,” she said. “We are hoping that they don't have to hear about this.”
But, she told The Dispatch, she realizes it is possible they might. Should that happen, the school will have counselors available, Gorrell said.
Gornall had worked for the district for four years. All of his background checks, prior to employment, reportedly came back clean.
If convicted on all counts he could face up to 184 years in prison. He is scheduled to appear in court Monday.
Photo Credit: WOIO News courtesy of Ashland County Sheriff’s Office