Substitute teacher charged with possessing child porn

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) —  The arrest of a man in Battle Creek for molesting a young boy has led to a second arrest of a substitute teacher.

Stephen Bridges, 56, was formally charged Wednesday with possessing child pornography after evidence was found on electronic devices allegedly belonging to Bridges.

It’s not clear how many schools Bridges temporarily taught for or where.

Police are trying to calm the fears of parents.

“We don’t believe … that any of the child pornography that were found on the devices had anything to do with his status as a substitute teacher, nor do we believe it had anything to do with local children,” said Battle Creek Police Sgt. Jeff Case.

Lakeview School officials confirmed he did sub at the district’s Prairieview Elementary.

Police say Bridges has no criminal record, so a criminal background check on him by the substitute teaching service Lakeview uses turned up clean.

 Superintendent Blake Prewitt sent the following letter home to parents Tuesday:

“Lakeview staff are committed to communicating with our parents regarding matters of student welfare.  As such, I want to inform you of a recent event and our actions to protect student safety.

Monday afternoon, a substitute teacher who has worked at Prairieview Elementary School was arrested for possessing child pornography at home.  There is no evidence that any Lakeview students were harmed or otherwise involved in connection with this arrest.  We will stay in close communication with the Battle Creek Police Department through the investigation.

As a district, we continue to increase measures to help ensure a safe school environment for all students. Our substitute teachers are employees of EduStaff and undergo comprehensive background checks including fingerprinting and a full criminal history record check. This fall, we added an additional layer of security with the Raptor system that screens all visitors against the national sex offender registry.  

Our first and foremost concern is for the well-being of our students. We will continue to take all available actions to provide for their safety.  Please do not hesitate to contact us with concerns.”

Bridges’ arrest came after investigators searched a home on G Avenue North in Battle Creek, looking for evidence against Donald Johnston, who is charged with molesting a 5-year-old boy.

In the home, they found child porn connected to Bridges.

“We originally had no knowledge of Bridges. We went the G Drive address based on information related to Donald Johnson,” said Case.

Investigators describe Johnston as Bridges’ friend who sometimes stayed at the G Avenue house, but stopped short of connecting Bridges to a larger child sex ring Johnston allegedly belongs to.

Detectives worked out of the Battle Creek Police Department’s expanded Fusion Center, which allows BCPD, state and federal law enforcement agencies to compare notes with other agencies, like Child Protective Services.

That led to additional search warrant for a home also connected to Bridges on Case Road in Bellevue.

“A number of cellphones, computers were seized,” said Case.

He says there may be more evidence out there, so detectives are reaching out to the public.

“If you know where a computer is at, know where a cellphone is at, know of connections that we are unaware of, we really want that information,” Case elaborated.

Bridges, who was arraigned from a hospital bed because of a medical condition unrelated to his arrest, will be back in court for his preliminary hearing on Nov. 11.

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