Teacher and Youth Pastor Arrested on More than 400 Criminal Charges Related to Child Pornography
A man who is a high school teacher, soccer coach, and youth pastor has been arrested and charged with more than 400 counts of possession of child pornography. Now we call on church and school officials to ensure that parents, parishioners, and alumni are aware of the accusations and to encourage anyone who may have been hurt or witnessed wrongdoing to come forward.
We know that child abusers tend to seek out positions of authority that put them in close proximity to potential victims. The fact that Shawn Fitzgerald worked in so many roles that gave him direct access to children is a cause for serious concern. While Fitzgerald has not been accused of producing child pornography, church and school officials still must use all the resources at their disposal to ensure that no boys or girls were victimized.
Fitzgerald was a youth pastor at First United Methodist Church in Bartow, FL, and a teacher and coach at Lakeland High School. Parents at each location must be informed of these charges immediately. Fitzgerald was only able to be prosecuted in the first place thanks to a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which shows that when people who have suspicions come forward, it can make a difference. We hope anyone with knowledge or inklings of Fitzgerald’s crimes will be inspired to speak out now.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)