TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A high school fashion teacher arrested last month on a single video voyeurism charge now faces 353 more charges after investigators said they found images of students in various stages of undress on his digital cameras, cell phones and thumb drives.
Investigators said the videos and images of students were taken secretly in a changing area of Mark Ackett’s classroom at Bloomingdale High School in Tampa.
Ackett, 50, was arrested on Sept. 11 after a 17-year-old student discovered two hidden cell phones. Investigators then found more devices, and so many more images that many young women he taught and coached are wondering if they were secretly recorded as well.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that Ackett told investigators he began recording students in January 2017, when he began teaching fashion design and family consumer sciences. He also coached girls’ volleyball. He resigned from his job after the cameras were discovered, and turned himself in on the new charges on Monday.
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A forensic examination of Ackett’s cell phones, Google accounts and other digital devices turned up an additional 267 videos and images of girls ranging in age from 14 to 18, the Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Office announced on Monday. Investigators didn’t say how many additional victims were recorded.
Ackett has been charged with video voyeurism, production of material harmful to a minor, and possession of child pornography. Records don’t list a defense lawyer for the married father of two teenage boys.
Court records show the student who reported Ackett told school staff she was wearing only a bra and panties when she spotted two boxes in the changing room that had holes for camera lenses. A search warrant says at least one of the phones was actively recoding the students when it was discovered.
Later that day, officials found three digital cameras and two storage cards in Ackett’s desk, along with multiple thumb drives in the classroom.
The Times reports that it was not clear if any of the images predate Ackett’s return to Bloomingdale High in 2017. He had been hired there as an assistant principal in 2006 and left in 2009 when he was promoted to a job as the district’s supervisor of attendance. His career as an educator spanned 27 years, the paper said.
Some of Ackett’s former students expressed their shock to the newspaper last month.
“I wasn’t skeptical of him at all,” Emilee Runnels told the newspaper shortly after Ackett’s arrest. “I thought he was such a genuine guy and one of my favorite teachers.”
Runnels, a 2018 graduate, said a detective told her mother the records started in 2017. Now she’s among the students who worry that they are among the victims.
She told the Times that Ackett seemed to go out of his way to make students feel comfortable, having female students measure each other, and saying, “I’m not trying to be the creepy teacher who touches girls.”
Maria Penalver, whose daughter was in Ackett’s class, told WFLA she started shaking when she heard of Ackett’s arrest. She said her daughter had told her that the teacher was encouraging them to change clothes in fashion design class, and that she had been considering home-schooling her daughter to keep her safe.
This story has been corrected. The total bond is $250,000, not $2 million.
Information from: Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.), http://www.tampabay.com.