New information is now coming out about a former teacher charged with electronic solicitation of a child, a former student of his. Since his arrest Friday, April 30, 2021, Washington County Sheriff’s investigators said several other potential victims have come forward. William “Billy” Gardner worked for several school systems over a nearly 20-year period and this has investigators very concerned.
Citronelle Police Chief, Tyler Norris held a joint press conference the Monday after Gardner’s arrest, expressing concern over potential victims in north Mobile County as well. Since then, he said others have called and his department along with Washington County are each investigating more accusations against Gardner.
William Gardner is charged with electronic solicitation of a child and transmitting obscene material to a child. Washington County investigators said in the last two months Gardner sent inappropriate text messages to a 15-year-old girl who he once had at a student at Leroy High School. Deputies said the girl’s father found the messages and reported it.
Gardner has taught and coached at seven schools in four area counties from 1999 to 2018. Most of his time was spent at schools in Mobile and Washington counties but he also spent time at Baldwin County High School and Jackson High School in Clarke County.
Investigators said it’s concerning how much he’s moved around, but the superintendent for Washington County Schools said it’s not unusual for coaches to move around more than classroom teachers. Fox 10 News reached out to the State Board of Education to learn more about Gardner’s background and learned his teaching certificates were revoked in 2018.
Associate General Counsel to the Alabama Department of Education, Susan Tudor Crowther responded in part, “Mr. Gardner was served with a notice letter in August of 2018. The allegations against him included sending inappropriate text messages to a minor and searching for videos of a provocative nature using his school-issued laptop.”
Crowther said Gardner was given a choice to surrender his certificate, request a hearing, or waive the right to a hearing and submit a written response.
“He chose the last option,” Crowther said. After reviewing his response and the evidence against him, the decision was made to revoke his certificate. He was served with a letter informing him of that in September of 2018.”
When Fox 10 News showed the statement to Washington County investigators, they were shocked. It was new information to them and concerning because it looks like an incident just like the one Gardner’s charged with now may have taken place years ago. It’s unclear if it was ever reported to law enforcement.
“We’re definitely going to be looking into that,” said Chief Investigator, Blake Richardson. “It definitely heightens our concern with it that it looks like this could very well be a pattern and I don’t want to speculate too much but I’d like to think that if law enforcement had been notified of possible criminal activity, it could have been something we could have addressed and possibly prevented some of this activity and possibly prevented some children from being victimized.”
Washington County Schools superintendent, Lisa Connell is new to the position and wasn’t there during the 2018 timeframe. She did confirm that William Gardner was terminated from his position at Leroy High School after a School Board action in the fall of 2018.
Investigators are asking that anyone who feels they may have also been victims of Gardner’s, to please contact your local law enforcement.