A Weaver Middle School teacher charged with possession and distribution of child pornography has resigned from the Hilliard City School District.

A Weaver Middle School teacher charged with possession and distribution of child pornography has resigned from the Hilliard City School District.

Michael S. Highman, 43, a resident of Johnston Road, Columbus, submitted a letter to the school district on Oct. 22 with an effective resignation date of Oct. 26, according to schools spokeswoman Carrie Bartunek. He also wrote a letter to the Ohio Department of Education submitting a permanent voluntary surrender of his teaching license.

Highman was placed on administrative leave from the district last week, after he appeared before a U.S. Magistrate Judge for an initial hearing of the charges of possession and distribution of child pornography.

Bartunek said the school board would have pursued a separation with Highman if he had not resigned.

"Obviously he had the choice, but we were pursuing separation," she said. "If he had not resigned we would have started the termination process."

Highman, a middle school teacher in the district since 1992, underwent a background check by the district as recently as 2008, with nothing pointing toward last week's charges, Bartunek said.

"A teacher has to have a background check when they are hired, and every time their license expires or they have to renew their license," Bartunek said. "If they have a permanent license such as Mr. Highman, a background check is performed every five years. The laws on background checks changed last year, and (Highman) underwent a background check in 2008."

Members of the FBI Columbus Cybercrimes Task Force searched Highman's home on Oct. 15, finding thousands of images and movies of prepubescent teenage boys engaged in sexual acts, according to a release from the FBI. According to the release, agents who were identifying known child pornography sites on the Internet identified Highman as a user of a site in June 2009 sharing almost 200,000 files. Agents seized computer storage media containing images of child pornography when they executed a search warrant at his residence earlier this month.

"There is no information at this time that any Hilliard student is involved in the investigation," Bartunek said. "As far as what happened with the students last week, the day after all of this came out, the school counselor and nurse were available to all of the students from his classes, and the principal went and spoke to those students personally, and that will be ongoing in the building."

Fred Alverson, spokesman for the U.S attorney's office for the Southern District of Ohio, said the case will go to a federal grand jury in the next 30 to 60 days. Distribution of child pornography is punishable by at least five and up to 20 years imprisonment; possession of child pornography is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, according to the FBI. Conviction also requires a defendant to register as a sex offender.