Dwyer-nominated teacher sought by FBI on child porn charges


manhunt is underway for a lauded Palm Beach County middle-school teacher who authorities say went on the run in the face of federal charges that he produced and received child pornography, FBI officials announced Wednesday.

The victims in the case are multiple, and at least a handful are confirmed to be students in the county’s public schools, Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa said, though he declined to say if any are students at Howell L. Watkins Middle in Palm Beach Gardens, where the teacher in question, Corey Perry, has worked since 2010.

The charges in the case are sealed, allowing few details to be shared, but the case has “national” implications, FBI spokesman Michael Leverock said.

Authorities are seeking the public’s help both to find Perry, 33, who was last seen Friday – the same day the FBI searched his West Palm Beach home — and to root out any other potential victims.

They asked parents who believe their children might have had contact with Perry through the Internet or social media to contact authorities and preserve any phones or computers so that investigators can examine them.

Until now, Perry’s star had been on the rise.

He was so regarded for his skills as a computer-science teacher at Watkins that he was nominated this year for the countywide Dwyer teaching award in the science, technology, engineering and math field.

In 2012, Perry received a letter of recognition from Gov. Rick Scott applauding his efforts in Watkins’ robotics and engineering lab. Avossa said Perry also was involved in the school’s basketball team. The school counts more than 900 students on its rolls. Because the details of the case are sealed, school officials couldn’t discuss whether Perry traveled with students as a coach or chaperone. 

Former principal Beverly Ann Barton said reports that Perry has been charged in a child pornography case came as a shock.

In 2005, she was principal at Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary in Riviera Beach when Perry came seeking a job. He began as a student teacher, under the direct supervision of a veteran classroom teacher.

Perry came with a degree in elementary education from Florida A&M University and experience working with youngsters in the Boys and Girls Club organization both in Nashville where he grew up and in Tallahassee where he attended college.

The Boys and Girls Club had even named him Tennessee Youth of the Year in 2001, according to The Tennessean newspaper. The reporter described the title as the “recognition of his achievements in counseling his peers and serving as a mentor of the younger kids who joined.”

“He was a stellar teacher, very involved with all facets of the school at the time,” said Barton, who has since retired. “He was very engaging with the students. All the students loved him.”

After Barton left the school, her successor hired him as a fifth-grade teacher. In 2010, he transferred to Howell Watkins Middle, where he continued to earn top ratings without record of complaint, according to his personnel file.

Neither school district officials nor the FBI would discuss what triggered the investigation that involved school police, federal authorities, West Palm Beach police, the State Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. But by Friday, school officials were alerted that Perry’s home was being searched. The district would not comment whether any search was conducted on campus.

Perry was told Friday that he was not to return to the school because of the investigation, district spokeswoman Amity Schuyler said. At the time of the search, his school keys and badge were confiscated, she said. “The District also took steps to turn off his District access to all electronic accounts after the search warrant was completed. By Friday afternoon, Mr. Perry could not access any district accounts, emails, platforms or facilities.”

By Wednesday morning, parents with children had received a phone call from the principal alerting them to the situation. Several parents wound up checking their children out of school to speak with them privately, district officials reported.

Meanwhile, before the first bell, Principal Donald Hoffman held a staff meeting where teachers and others were told of the investigation.

More than a dozen psychologists and counselors were brought to campus to field questions and speak with anyone who sought them out.

“It was heartbreaking to watch,” Schuyler said of the staff reaction. “They were clearly upset.”



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