The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant Wednesday on Freedom Christian Academy in relation to allegations of the sex offender registration act violation and academic fraud.
A parent withdrew her children from the school after she learned a sex offender was allowed to work at the school during the 2011-2012 academic year, the sheriff’s office said.
The parent said Joan Ellen Dayton, head of Freedom Christian Academy, allowed registered sex offender Paul Leroy Conner to work at the school while Conner’s wife, Stephanie Lee Connor, was employed as a teacher until she was let go at the end of the 2012-13 school year.
Search warrants show Dayton knowingly allowed Paul Conner to work on campus as a janitor or handyman from 2010 to 2012.
?In a statement issued by the school on Facebook, ??Freedom Christian Academy said they “take protection of the children entrusted to the school very seriously.”
The parent refused to a pay a withdrawal fee to Freedom Christian Academy because they felt the school had willingly allowed Paul Conner to work at the school.
Dayton told the parent even though Paul Conner was still registered as a sex offender, and had entered a guilty plea to a sexual offense against a minor, she felt Conner had changed and was “wrongly convicted,” the sheriff’s office said in a release.
“In regards to the allegations of the violation of the sex offender registration act, the registered sex offender was not an employee of the school,” the statement reads. “The registered sex offender was a spouse of a former teacher. The violations are alleged to have occurred in 2011-2012 and not in 2015.
In 2001, Paul Conner was convicted of sexual activity by a substitute parent and indecent liberties with a child in Robeson County.
According to the North Carolina Department of Justice sex offender registry, Paul Conner was 30 at the time of the offenses and the victim was 8 years old.
On March 31, the parent alerted the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff’s office conducted an investigation where evidence was gathered from that parent and a former staff member that showed Paul Conner was allowed on campus. Neither Paul Conner nor the school reported the violation of the sex offender registration law.
During the investigation, evidence of academic fraud was found, the sheriff’s office said.
Athletes and other “favored students” had their grades enhanced while students who were not favored by the administration had their grades diminished, the sheriff’s office said.
Dayton and her daughter Kimberly Joy McManus, who worked as a teacher at the school, would change the grades of athletes to help them graduate, according to search warrants.
“The School Board has previously investigated the allegation of grade changing and it was determined that these allegations were unfounded,” a statement from Freedom Christian Academy on Facebook read. “A subcommittee of the board conducted a detailed investigation and review, and results were provided to the entire school board the next week.”
Dayton and McManus would also worsen the grades of students who gave them a hard time.
Detectives of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant Wednesday seeking evidence to prove the allegations of the violation of the sex offender registration law and academic fraud.
School officials were cooperative with law enforcement and provided information, including computer files and oral statements, that corroborated allegations of the sex offender registration act violation and academic fraud, the sheriff’s office said.
Evidence was provided by several former school employees including Dr. Lin Wheeler, an assistant head of Christian Freedom Academy, and Tammy Wallace, the school’s technology director.
No charges have been filed yet in the case.
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