Portal Elementary School Principal Paul David Hudson was arrested Thursday night in Effingham County, charged with criminal attempt to commit child molestation. The Effingham County Sheriff’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children Division made the arrest, said Inv. Joe Heath, who leads the investigation.
Hudson, 49, Allenwood Circle, Statesboro, was allegedly trying to solicit sex from a 15-year-old, who was actually an undercover officer, he said. He reportedly drove to Effingham County to meet the “teen” after having been involved in an “open house” event at Portal Elementary School earlier Thursday evening, where he met with parents and students in preparation for the upcoming school year, which begins Monday.
“Hudson was communicating with what he believed to be a minor child, at which time he made plans to meet the child for the purpose of sex,” Heath said Friday. “When Hudson arrived in Effingham County he was approached by deputies and placed under arrest. He is currently in the Effingham County Jail with no bond.”
He would not specify whether the undercover was portraying a male or female juvenile during the reported online interaction, citing protection of the ongoing sting.
Bulloch County School Superintendent Charles Wilson said Hudson was immediately suspended after he learned of the arrest.
“The Effingham County Sheriff’s Department notified me Thursday, evening, after 9 p.m., that they had arrested Paul Hudson,” he said. “I am deeply saddened and disturbed by this information. His alleged actions are not in keeping with the core values we expect all of adults and students in our district.”
Heath said the case remains under investigation.
"Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie created the Internet Crimes Against Children Division, which is now a part of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations Task Force, to send a clear message that individuals who would exploit our children will not be tolerated in Effingham County," he said.
Hudson has been employed by the Bulloch County Board of Education since 1999. He served as Portal Elementary’s assistant principal from 1999-2001, and became principal in 2001, Wilson said.
“Our school district has never received any complaints of this nature about Mr. Hudson from the public, parents or students,” Wilsons aid. “He has never been reprimand by our school system for this type of behavior. Mr. Hudson and all of our employees submit to full state and federal criminal background checks prior to employment and then every five years thereafter. Mr. Hudson’s background checks have never revealed criminal behavior. His last background check was in February 2012.”
Wilson said Hudson was “immediately suspended from all of his duties pending completion of legal proceedings.”
Wilson met with the Portal Elementary School faculty and staff Friday morning and appointed the school’s assistant principal, Laurie Mascolo, as the acting principal to lead the school.
“Our district personnel will offer counseling and support to the students, faculty and staff at the school,” he said. “I will reach out to parents and the Portal Elementary family and work with them to ensure we are ready to meet and prepare their children for success from day one and beyond.”
If anyone has any information pertinent to this investigation, they are encouraged to contact the Effingham County Sheriff’s Department a (912) 754-3449, he said. “We always encourage anyone to report any suspicious behavior to law enforcement.”
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.