School volunteer charged with sending porn to student – Police search for more victims

UNION, Mo. – The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said a school volunteer sent pornographic images and comments to a student. The child’s mother found the images on a cellphone belonging to the minor and called police. Thomas W. Abbott was charged with furnishing pornography to a minor with a bond of $20,000.

People who know Abbott said he volunteered a lot with kids in the community, but now he’s not allowed on any Union school campus.

According to the probable cause statement, Abbott volunteered at Union’s high school and middle school with the wrestling team and other organizations. It said he knew the victim was underage and still engaged with the minor in sexually explicit conversation that included potential sexual acts Abbott and the victim could engage in.

Meanwhile, police and school administrators are asking parents to have a conversation with children about internet safety and social media. They said Abbott knew the victim through his volunteering at a local school, through other local organizations, and social media.

“A mother was going through her child’s phone and found a pornographic picture and some explicit language going back and forth,” Franklin County Sheriff Steve Pelton said.

Abbott lives in rural Labadie. No one answered at his home. A person who knows him said he couldn’t believe the charges and that Abbott was a good guy.

Court documents indicated Abbott admitted to the sending the photo and knowing the victim through school the internet and social organizations.

“Currently, we have the devices, so we’ll be doing forensic analysis on his devices to ensure there’s no other victims,” Pelton said.

In a statement, the superintendent said the district immediately contacted police when they learned of the accusations.

On Thursday, the school district said Abbott did not have a background check. However, school officials said Friday that they double-checked and learned Abbott had a background check and passed.

Superintendent Dr. Steve Weinhold said the district would reexamine its background check policy.

The Union R-XI School District posted this message for its Facebook fans:

“In an effort to provide accurate information, I want to take a moment to try and provide some clarity about a recent situation that was brought to our attention.

On February 20, 2018 the Union R-XI School District received information about a non-employee who has volunteered within the district. The information we received detailed allegations that involved pornographic photographs and sexually explicit comments. Upon learning this information, we immediately contacted the Union Police Department.

At this time, we unfortunately don’t know the full extent of these allegations. As a result, in consultation with our School Resource Officers and our local and county law enforcement officials, we have been asked to share the individual’s name.

Mr. Thomas Abbott, has most recently volunteered on a limited basis as a scorekeeper at both our middle school and high school wrestling matches. He has also volunteered at some of our after school FFA activities as an FFA alumni member.

OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE: If anyone believes their child (or another child) has had any contact with Mr. Abbott in an inappropriate manner, please immediately contact the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office at 636-583-2560.

As a grandparent, father of two, and the Superintendent of our school district with 3,100 students, please know that I, as well as the entire Union staff, take the safety and well-being of all our students as a top priority.

Dr. Steve Weinhold, Superintendent of Schools”