Howard Co. teacher charged with child porn

Howard County police have charged a long-term substitute teacher in Howard County with possession of child pornography (Provided by Howard County police / January 10, 2014)

A Columbia man and long-term substitute teacher at an Ellicott City middle school was charged Thursday night with possession of child pornography, Howard County police said Friday.

Jeremy Sykes, 43, of Hesperus Drive in Columbia, was charged after police traced child pornography to his personal computer at his home and a second computer belonging to the Howard County Public School System, police said.

Police said there is no indication the images were of students at Folly Quarter Middle School, where Sykes has been teaching since October 2013.  

According to charging documents, police were contacted on Dec. 19 by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that numerous uploads of suspected child pornography images were made to Photobucket by an account that was later found to be linked to Sykes.

The documents state the uploads came from two computers at two separate locations. The first upload occurred in August from Sykes' personal computer at his Columbia home, and the second upload occurred on Dec. 3 from the HCPSS network, according to the documents. 

The documents state 36 images were uploaded. Some of the images depicted a girl under the age of 16 committing sex acts, according to the documents. 

Sykes faces two counts of possession of child pornography. 

In an email to parents Friday afternoon, Folly Quarter Principal Rick Wilson said Sykes was a substitute in the technology education classroom.

Wilson echoed what police said: that "at this time, there is no reason to believe that any HCPSS students have been victimized in any way. However, the police investigation is ongoing."

Sykes has been removed from the school system’s list of approved substitutes and is banned from entering any HCPSS property, police said. That's in concert with existing school system policy and procedures, Wilson said.

Wilson said student services staff will be "readily available" to speak with students Monday.

"Rest assured that student safety remains our highest priority at Folly Quarter Middle School," he said.

Police said detectives spoke with Sykes' students Friday, and that the investigation is continuing.

Howard County schools spokeswoman Rebecca Amani-Dove said that during the hiring process, applicants for substitute teaching positions undergo background checks.

"This includes searches of Maryland judiciary cases and the sexual offenders registry, fingerprinting and a criminal background check with both the state of Maryland and the FBI," Amani-Dove said. "In rare instances such as this, we take immediate action to ensure student safety and well-being."

When an employee is arrested and goes through the booking and finger-printing process, Amani-Dove said, the school system is notified and immediate action is taken to suspend the employee pending a full investigation. Amani-Dove said Sykes "has been made ineligible for any employment with the school system."

Sykes, who was arrested at his home Thursday night, was released by the court on his own recognizance, police said.

Police are asking anyone with information, including students, parents or school employees, to call the HCPD Child Abuse Section at 410-313-2630. Callers can remain anonymous.