Teacher says classroom helped him alleviate guilt for looking at child pornography

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PHOENIX -- As a parent, the last thing you want to hear is your child's school on the news, tied to the words "child pornography."

"My ears perked up and they said it was North Ranch Elementary, and my daughter goes to school here," said parent Heather Chapple. "She's in fifth grade."

Police said fourth-grade teacher Thomas Warner had thousands of pictures and videos of boys ages 8 to 12 on his computer hard drive and several thumb drives at his home.

"I asked her if she knew him," Chapple said. "She said no, but that many of the other kids talked about him and they really liked him."

"There are no negatives in the record, we have not heard negative comments, he seems to have been a popular teacher," said Paradise Valley Unified School District spokeswoman Marty Macurak.

The district says its Care Team of counselors is available to students and staff as they react to Warner's arrest.

In court documents, Warner admits to downloading the images over at least the last 10 years.

He told police his job as a teacher helped him compensate for the guilt from looking at the photos.

"I don't know how teaching children really alleviates wrecking the rest of their life," Chapple said.

The district said the children in his class have had questions that they've tried to answer honestly and appropriately.

"What we're telling children today is that their teacher was placed under arrest for some choices that he made and that a process will ensue at which point he'll go to court," Macurak said.

Phoenix police continue to investigate, but said as of Tuesday evening they have not found any victims of physical contact with Warner.

He is being held in the Lower Buckeye Jail with a $100,000 bond.