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Man at center of Fayetteville private school investigation says he was 'trying to do a good thing'

Paul Conner, a convicted sex offender at the center of an investigation into a Fayetteville private school, said Thursday he was never an employee and was never at the campus during school hours.

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Paul Conner, the convicted sex offender at the center of an investigation into a Fayetteville private school, said Thursday he was never employed by the school and was not on campus during school hours.

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office began looking into the school in March after an unidentified parent withdrew her children from Freedom Christian Academy after discovering that the head of school, Joan Dayton, knowingly allowed Conner 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.

"I never brought any harm to anybody at that school," Connor said. "I never hurt anyone. I was just trying to do a good thing."

Conner, 50, of Mosswood Lane in Fayetteville, received five years 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.”

No charges have been filed as of Thursday.

Christopher Norris, who has a daughter in the eighth grade at the school, said it was widely known among parents that Conner had done work at the school.

"It's ok with me," he said. "As far as the fact that I place a lot of trust in the school and in Ms. Dayton herself. I know her. I know her to be very caring and would never take a chance with a child."

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.

School officials said they will discuss the allegations with parents Thursday night.

"The school board has previously investigated the allegation of grade changing and it was determined that these allegations were unfounded," the school said in a statement. "The board of directors and the school board take precaution of children entrusted to the school very seriously. In regard to the allegations of the sex offender registration act, the offender was not an employee of the school."


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