Ex-Fayetteville principal who allowed sex offender on campus speaks out


FAYETTEVILLLE, N.C. (WNCN) – A former principal of a Fayetteville private school spoke out Thursday for the first time since being accused in 2015 of aiding and abetting a registered sex offender.

Joan Dayton spoke with CBS North Carolina’s Nate Rodgers and shared what she said was “the real truth.”

RELATED: NC private school will not rehire principal in wake of sex offender scandal

At least five times between 2010 and 2012, Dayton hired registered sex offender Paul Connor to work at Freedom Christian Academy.

Connor was hired for various handyman jobs around the school.

Dayton said he was mostly on campus after school hours but she said that decision cost Dayton her job and was sentenced to 11 months probation.

In November, Freedom Academy Christian Academy decided to not rehire Dayton following the incident.

In September, Dayton was sentenced to 11 months probation as part of a deal after she allowed a Connor to work at Freedom Academy Christian Academy.

Paul Connor
Paul Connor

Dayton told Cumberland County Superior Court Judge James Ammons she was unaware of the law and thought Connor could work at the school as long as children weren’t on the premises.

She was facing a felony charge of violating the state’s Sex Offender Registration Act.

The terms of Dayton’s probation included 50 hours community service and no dealings whatsoever with the school.

“I recognize what my error was, I just didn’t understand or know the law,” Dayton said.

Dayton said she made a big mistake and did not rely on wisdom.

Connor served two years in prison after he was convicted of indecent liberties with a child in 1994.

Conner, 50, of Mosswood Lane in Fayetteville, was arrested in May 2015 and charged with three counts of violating the state sex offender registration act by being on school property at Freedom Christian Academy, according to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office. His wife was a teacher at the school but was fired once his status became known.

Dayton said Connor was transparent early on about his situation.

“My grandkids were on Freedom’s campus. There was no way I believe he was a danger to anybody because he wasn’t,” she said.

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s office said there were no reported incidents involving Connor at Freedom Christian Academy.

In 2012 a teacher discovered Connor’s sex offender status.

Dayton said she was then forced by colleagues to ensure Connor never stepped foot on campus again.

Then three years later, a parent notified the Sheriff’s Office that Connor worked at the school under Dayton’s direction, court documents show.

Dayton said that move was a “revengeful tactic.”

“They didn’t go to the sheriff, based off the subpoena that I saw, until after they were under discipline and they both resigned.”

Dayton would not say why those employees were disciplined.

But court documents show various allegations of grade changing.

RELATED: Fayetteville school allowed sex offender on campus, sheriff’s office says

Lin Wheeler, the former assistant principal, said he was “burdened by God” to quit due to grade changing.

Wheeler was unavailable when CBS North Carolina stopped by the school he now leads but 10 minutes later, Wheeler contacted Rodgers.

CBS North Carolina asked Dayton if grades were falsified at Freedom.

“It didn’t happen with me. It sure didn’t happen with me cause I couldn’t’ get access to the system,” Dayton said.

Freedom’s co-founder Hall Powers would only say the grade changing incident has “been dealt with.”

To date, no one is charged with falsifying grades at Freedom.

Dayton hopes authorities will dig deeper.

According to Dayton, “anyone in control of Freedom Christian Academy” could have been held responsible for allowing a convicted sex offender to work at the school. But she said it was for the best and takes responsibility.

“We’d only been around seven years. We felt it would be irreparably harmed and we’d never gain the footing we need,” she said.

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