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Teacher in child porn case dismissed

Gary C. Mochnick, the Lakeland high school teacher suspected of downloading sexually explicit images of children on his computer, was fired, according to a letter from the Polk County School Board.

The termination came after Mochnick of Wakefield Drive in the Hill n' Dale section of Hernando was arrested on Friday and charged with possession of child pornography, a third-degree felony.

In a letter dated Friday, Polk County school superintendent Jim Thornhill wrote that he was exercising his option to fire Mochnick, 52, before his probationary period ends.

The letter does not offer a reason for Mochnick's termination. But under his contract, Mochnick's first 97 days of employment were probationary, meaning that he could be fired without cause.

A computer repair store owner serviced the teacher's computer on Thursday and discovered sexually explicit images of children on the hard drive. He then reported the incident to authorities. Similar images were found on a second computer at Mochnick's home.

Upon questioning, Mochnick told investigators he downloaded the material from several Web sites and newsgroups, which included minors as young as 8 years old in sexually suggestive positions and others having sex with adults.

On Monday, Mochnick remained in custody at the Hernando County jail on $5,000 bail.

Mochnick had been hired at the beginning of the school year to teach science at George Jenkins High School in Lakeland.

According to state Department of Education records, he has a temporary certification to teach earth-space science, chemistry and biology for grades 6-12 . His certification expires in June 2007.

Duane Bourne can be reached at (352) 754-6114 or dbournesptimes.com.

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