Child pornography charges against the principal of Pleasantville High School have been upgraded to first degree following his arrest Wednesday, when police say they found more than 1,000 images and videos on his school-issued computer.

Edward James Bonek, 48, of Absecon, made his initial appearance Thursday via video before Judge Michael Mosca in Atlantic County Superior Court. He will remain in jail until a detention hearing Tuesday, the judge said.

If convicted on the first-degree charges, Bonek faces 10 to 20 years in state prison for each count.

Bonek, who sometimes went by his middle name, “Jim,” is no longer listed as principal on the school’s website.

“School district officials are fully cooperating with law enforcement agencies as they investigate the matter,” Superintendent Clarence Alston said in a statement on the district’s website. “The district is following all appropriate requirements set forth by the Department of Education and the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Board of Education remains fully committed to the well-being and safety of our students.”

Pleasantville school officials did not return requests for further comment, nor did teachers’ union representatives.

According to charging documents in the case, Bonek used a school-issued computer to share more than 1,000 images and videos of sexual exploitation or abuse of children over the peer-to-peer file-sharing network BitTorrent.

According to state records, Bonek made an annual salary of $130,964 and has been part of the state pension system since 1995. He served as assistant principal in Pleasantville before being named interim principal during the 2016-17 school year and appointed the full-time principal in the 2017-18 school year.

Pleasantville Mayor Jesse Tweedle said everyone was in “total shock” when they heard about the arrest Wednesday.

“I’ve seen the enthusiasm that (Bonek) had for the kids, and then you see something like this and it’s baffling,” Tweedle said Thursday. “I have no tolerance for something like this. … It just leaves you speechless.”

Tweedle added he did not receive any prior notice that an arrest was coming Wednesday. He got a call that the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office was at the school, and his phone “exploded” shortly after the story was put online, he said.

“Everyone I talked to is just in total disbelief,” he said.

Bonek is charged with possession of child pornography, distribution of child pornography, possession of child pornography with intent to distribute, maintaining a file-sharing program making child pornography available for distribution, and official misconduct.

Assistant Prosecutor Dave Ruffenach said the prosecution had filed a motion for detention. Bonek was represented by Deputy Public Defender Scott Sherwood. Sherwood said he was unsure whether Bonek would seek to obtain a private defense counsel.

Contact: 609-272-7260 JDeRosier@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressDeRosier

Staff Writer

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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