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Teacher at Hillsborough's King High held on child porn charges

TAMPA — Aaron Brian Sands taught geometry and information technology at arguably the most rigorous public high school program in Hillsborough County.

Outside school, federal authorities say he collected pornographic pictures of young girls. He was booked into Pinellas County Jail on Thursday and resigned his teaching job Friday.

"It was really shocking to everybody," said King freshman Troy Young, who was in Sands' study hall group.

Officials will not say what led them to Sands, 41, but his arrest was part of a nationwide anti-exploitation effort called Operation Predator. Armed with a search warrant, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents visited Sands at his Brandon home on Thursday, according to an arrest affidavit.

Sands met them outside, the document said, and admitted to having pornography on his laptop computer. He offered the agents the location of the pornography, and gave up his password.

"I don't know what the ---- my problem is," he reportedly told them. "I don't know what is wrong with me."

Inside, they found 36 images on the computer, many of prepubescent girls, one about two years old. Some pictures showed the girls in sex acts with adult men. One suggested bestiality.

Sands told the agents he was the only person who used the laptop, and that his wife was not aware of the pornography.

He was taken to the Pinellas County jail, where he remained Friday night, according to jail records.

The Hillsborough County School District crafted a letter, saying Sands could not teach while facing such serious charges. He resigned Friday morning, said school district superintendent MaryEllen Elia.

Sands joined King in 2006, said school district spokesman Stephen Hegarty.

He taught math and information technology in the International Baccalaureate program, one of four such programs in the school district.

While all four are highly regarded, King consistently wins accolades, and placed more graduates in Ivy League universities last year than any other.

Troy said he spends two to three hours on home work each night. "It's definitely worth it," he said. "This is much better than any traditional high school program."

Sands, he said, seemed to be a good teacher who got along with people at the school.

"You have to be very sharp to teach in this program," said Hegarty, adding, "this is a tough thing for any school to go through."

School officials sent a letter to parents, saying Sands had resigned "after being arrested on serious criminal charges." The letter also assured them that there was no reason to believe King students had been involved.

Irwin Heichen, whose daughter is a freshman in a program, was relieved to hear about the resignation.

"When you hear about something like this, and it is somebody who is in the hall with your child, it's scary," he said.

"I hope he gets the help he needs."

Times staff writer Jessica Vander Velde contributed to this article. Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 909-4602 or sokol@sptimes.

ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement urges the public to report suspected child predators and suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. It is staffed around the clock by investigators.

Teacher at Hillsborough's King High held on child porn charges 12/04/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 5, 2009 12:14am]

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