By Ashley Cox

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10)– A Hillsborough County School District principal has been arrested on multiple charges after he sent sexually explicit texts to an undercover detective he assumed was a juvenile.

From January 19 to January 27, 2022, undercover detectives were portraying themselves as a 15-year-old boy during a chat operation to identify individuals attempting to exploit children. Derrick McLaughlin, 41, initiated a text conversation on a social media app with the undercover detectives during this time. Over the course of the investigation, McLaughlin attempted to entice the undercover detectives he believed was a teenager to engage in sexual acts. McLaughlin is the principal at Dawson Elementary School in Riverview, FL.

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On January 27, 2022, McLaughlin was taken into custody. He faces charges of Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor, Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communications Device, and Use of Computer Services or Devices to Solicit Certain Illegal Acts. McLaughlin made suicidal comments at the time of his arrest and has been placed under a Baker Act.

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“It’s sickening that a trusted member of our community, a school principal, would take advantage of a child for his own self-gratification,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “Thankfully, it was not a child, but one of our detectives, who was on the receiving end of his obscene messages. No child should be subjected to the disturbing behavior put on display by McLaughlin.”

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There is no indication that there are any additional victims at this time. The investigation remains active. Any further updates will be released by the Public Affairs Office.