LETHBRIDGE — A Lethbridge school teacher has been arrested and charged with child exploitation offences following an investigation from the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team.
Dwayne Schnell, 37, was arrested on Wednesday by ALERT’s Internet Child Exploitation team and the Lethbridge Police Service. Schnell is facing charges of possessing, accessing and distributing child pornography. Multiple computers and devices were seized from Schnell’s home and will be the subject of forensic examination.
The investigation began in January 2017 when ICE received a referral from the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children concerning a social media user uploading child sexual exploitation materials. ICE conducted an investigation to identify the user, and only recently learned the suspect was a teacher.
Schnell was teaching grades 7-12 at École La Vérendrye, a French language school in Lethbridge. Schnell has been a teacher at the school since 2014.
During a news conference on Thursday, Const. Jason Richmond with the Lethbridge Police Service noted that police will be searching electronics at the school. However, he says other staff were unaware that anything was happening.
"At this time in the investigation, we're so early on... Right now, I don't know of any students that were offended against at all," Richmond said.
"If something arises, the second it happens we'll be on the phone to [school superintendent] Daniel Therrien, and we'll be talking to parents and kids immediately."
Therrien also spoke with local media, noting that the school board only found out about this matter on the day of the arrest. He made it clear that they are fully cooperating with police, and Schnell will no longer be teaching at Ecole La Verendrye.
Therrien says a memo went out to all parents as soon as police released information, and the school board also met with staff to develop strategies to help any students that might be dealing with difficult emotions. A team of specialists will be on hand when students return to class on Monday.
"In a situation like this, it's always a good thing to welcome the kids back to the school, and to make sure that we reassure the students that they're in a safe environment," Therrien added.
Additional charges are being considered. Schnell is scheduled to appear in court for a bail hearing on Friday.