JACKSON COUNTY, Ala. - Jackson County School District substitute teacher Wayland Hester is charged with four felony counts of possession of child pornography.
“The response is everybody’s disappointed because this is a well-liked individual,” said Jackson County Schools Superintendent Kevin Dukes.
Hester was also a volunteer assistant coach for the Section High School Girls Varsity Basketball Team. In Hester’s position, he could interact with students at any and all Jackson County schools.
"Different grade levels and different teachers would use him quite a bit. He was used pretty regular at Section High School, where he subbed most of the time, and he subbed at other schools in the past,” said Dukes.
Dukes told WHNT News 19 that he was shocked when the sheriff’s office told him about the ongoing investigation. He said as of Thursday, investigators had not identified any Jackson County School District students as being involved.
“It didn’t involve any of our children, but it did involve somebody’s children. That’s the sad part about it, and it’s very sickening,” added Dukes.
If convicted, the penalty for each charge is up to 10 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
Dukes said the school district already does extensive background checks to get a person’s criminal history and fingerprints before hiring them.
“We can check the past, but we can’t predict the future,” explained Dukes.
But Dukes said this experience, which is a first for him, is pushing them to try to be even more proactive.
He told WHNT News 19 he is planning to speak with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and State Department of Education to see if there is any way to step up their background checks.
"They’re with our schools as much as they are at home, most of them, so we treat them like our own and so, they mean a lot to us, and we try to protect them in every way possible,” added Dukes.
Mental health employees and counselors are now available at Section High School for students and basketball players who may need them.
Dukes said Hester is now banned from Jackson County school property. He also encourages parents to monitor what their children are sending through social media and through personal text messages or emails.