Fayetteville private school headmaster takes leave of absence amid investigation
Posted May 22, 2015
Fayetteville, N.C. — The headmaster at Fayetteville's Freedom Christian Academy has taken a voluntary leave of absence amid an investigation into claims that a registered sex offender worked at the school and that administrators changed student grades.
Joan Dayton submitted her leave of absence to school officials Friday, according to a news release.
The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office began looking into the school in March after an unidentified parent withdrew her children after discovering Dayton knowingly allowed Paul Conner, a convicted sex offender, to work there during the 2011-12 academic year, the department said. Conner’s wife was a teacher at the school during that time, deputies said
Conner, 50, of Mosswood Lane in Fayetteville, received five years on probation after being convicted of indecent liberties with a minor and sexual offense with certain victims in Robeson County in 2001. The offenses occurred in 1994, and the victim was 8 years old at the time, according to the state sex offender registry.
Under state law, a convicted sex offender cannot live within 1,000 feet of a K-12 school or child care center or “work at any place where a minor is present and the person’s responsibilities or activities would include instruction, supervision or care of a minor or minors.”
Deputies served a search warrant at the school on Wednesday. Along with collecting items in relation to Conner, investigators also sought “documentary and computer evidence” related to allegations of academic fraud where athletes and other favored students had their grades changed “to increase the reported level of performance” while students not favored by administrators had their grades reduced.
"The steps taken by the boards demonstrate our commitment to address this allegation and ensures the school’s day to day operations are unhindered,” said Albert Norton, a director of the board.
School officials named Natalie Munoz as the interim head of school.