WEST JORDAN — A seventh-grade teacher has been arrested for investigation of possession of child pornography.
In addition, while being questioned by investigators from the Utah Attorney General's Office, Jeffrey Thomas Patterson, 31, admitted to "having sexual thoughts regarding 50 to 60 of his seventh-grade students" and pleasuring himself "one time in his classroom during a lunch break while sitting behind his desk," according to a Salt Lake County Jail report.
The science teacher at West Hills Middle School, 8270 Grizzly Way, also admitted that he had "thought about placing hidden cameras in the boys bathroom at school," the report states.
Patterson was arrested Thursday for investigation of two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.
"Teachers are in a position of trust. If these allegations are true, this is a violation of that trust. Every single day our employees go into work teaching them in a safe environment, their No. 1 goal. We are just really saddened beyond words to hear about this," said Jordan School District spokeswoman Sandy Riesgraf.
Patterson, who had been a teacher at West Hills for three years, was immediately suspended, she said. He is not allowed on any of the district's properties or school functions.
The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force began investigating Patterson in May, according to the report. Investigators served a search warrant at a home in West Jordan on Wednesday night where Patterson lived in the basement.
Patterson is accused of downloading child pornography videos at his home. He said he had 20 to 25 videos downloaded on his hard drive, the report states.
Investigators seized several computers from his residence. Because of his regular contact with school-age children, the Utah Attorney General's Office requested he be held on $500,000 bond.
A letter was sent home to all of the school's parents informing them of the teacher's arrest, Riesgraf said. The letter encourages parents to call the school principal if they have questions, or the task force at 801-281-1211 if they have more information regarding Patterson.
She said investigators did a thorough search and investigation of the school and did not find any evidence that the safety of the students or the integrity of the school had been compromised.
Crisis counselors were put on standby and were ready to address the needs of any student should anyone step forward with concerns, Riesgraf said.