BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — A teacher and coach at Deane Bozeman School is accused of inappropriately touching a juvenile and soliciting them for sex.
Bay county deputies arrested William Mark Johnston, 57, of Panama City, on Monday.
According to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, they received a report from Florida’s Department of Children and Families on Monday regarding Johnston engaging in inappropriate interactions with one of his students.
The victim said Johnston touched her in a sexual manner and he solicited the victim for sex, as well as spoke about wanting to have sex with the victim after she graduated.
As the investigation continued, several other potential victims were identified. Investigators reached out to each potential victim and learned several of Johnston’s current and former students had experienced similar interactions with him.
Investigators said information was developed to suggest that Johnston had a pattern of grooming his victims, as each potential victim provided corroborating information.
According to Johnston’s arrest affidavit, he told investigators that numerous students have, “approached him with sexual intentions once they graduate high school, and denied seeking them out.”
Investigators added, “it should be noted that this is contrary to every witness interviewed thus far.”
Johnston is charged with the use of a computer or device to solicit a child for sex, but investigators said this is an ongoing investigation.
The Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information regarding Johnston to contact them at 747-4700.
Bay District Schools Superintendent Bill Husfelt said Johnston has been suspended with pay. He said he plans to make a recommendation to the School Board to suspend him without pay as soon as that is legally possible.
Here is his full statement:
“We are very disappointed to hear of last night’s arrest. All of us in education are held to the highest of standards and thousands of us have dedicated our lives to the academic successes of our students. I am extremely disgusted by any charges that involve inappropriate activities with students and I’m grateful to our law enforcement partners for their diligence and hard work ensuring the safety of all children. I am also heartbroken for any victims identified and am committed to doing all we can to support them. We have counselors at Deane Bozeman to provide services to any students in need and we will continue to provide that support for as long as it is needed. Per our contract, this employee is suspended with pay (the only option currently permissible under the contract) and I will be making a recommendation to the School Board to suspend the employee without pay as soon as that is legally possible. We will diligently work through the process to terminate anyone who harms children. Every day, and in every way imaginable, our educators and support employees pour their hearts and souls into doing the best job possible for our students and news of this nature is certainly disheartening and discouraging to all of us. I have total faith in the criminal investigation process and our judicial system and am sure the truth will be uncovered and justice will be served.”