GRPS teacher charged with child porn; on leave

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids Public Schools teacher faces child porn charges after a sting by Kent County authorities.

Philip Paauwe, 32, of Grandville, was charged with possession of child pornography and using a computer to commit a crime.

Kent County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Joel Roon told 24 Hour News 8 that an undercover officer first made contact with Paauwe on an app in November and then spent time building the case.

“There’s an element of sort of relationship building that sort of goes into a case like this,” Roon explained.

He said Paauwe eventually told the undercover officer that he wanted to have sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl.

Investigators then worked out where Paauwe was and learned he was in metro Grand Rapids. They ultimately discovered he had child porn.

“The work that this detective did on this case to bring someone into the light so that his actions can be dealt with without actually involving a real victim is work that we’re very proud of,” Roon said.

Paauwe was arrested Tuesday and his electronics were seized. He was arraigned Wednesday, then posted a $5,000 bond and was released.

Both of the charges against him carry maximum four-year sentence, but there is a potential for additional charges.

“Things could escalate rather quickly depending on what’s found on the electronics,” Roon said.

Roon said Paauwe worked at K.E.C. Oakleigh in northwest Grand Rapids. GRPS’ website says that’s a special education school serving students from kindergarten to eighth grade.

GRPS says it found out about the case Wednesday and is cooperating with the investigation. It says it doesn’t believe any students were involved in the case.

Paauwe, who has been with the district for less than a year, has been placed on unpaid administrative leave.

His neighbors who spoke with 24 Hour News 8 said they were shocked. Some said they’re having a difficult time believing the allegations, describing Paauwe as a loving husband and helpful neighbor.

The sheriff’s department detective handling the case is part of the West Michigan Based Child Exploitation Task Force, which launched in late 2013. The Michigan State Police Sixth District Computer Crimes Unit is aiding in the investigation.

Roon said the case demonstrates the importance of having a team dedicated to finding predators and that it should also serve as a reminder for parents to talk with their children about online safety.

Mike McDaniel, who lives across the street from Paauwe, said he’s grateful for the work law enforcement is doing to keep kids safe on the internet.

“It’s reassuring to me that they’re out there keeping our kids safe,” McDaniel said. “I appreciate all the effort that goes in and the time that is spent trying to catch people that are out there doing these things.”

Anyone with more information about the case is asked to contact sheriff’s department Detective Joel Siemens at 616.233.0234.

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