Child sexual abuse lawsuit: Family sues Buncombe County Board of Education

Warning: This story contains descriptions of child sexual abuse.

ASHEVILLE – The family of a former Clyde Erwin A. High School student sued the Buncombe County Board of Education for their role presiding over a teacher who sexually abused their child.

The lawsuit, filed in Buncombe County Superior Court Jan. 30, accuses the board of negligently hiring, retaining and supervising Albert Pavon, an exceptional children’s teacher at Erwin. It also accuses the board of negligence for inflicting emotional distress against the child.

Pavon, 36, worked at Erwin during the 2021-22 academic year, serving as the child’s co-teacher for their English and math class. A schoolboard spokesperson previously told the Citizen Times that it hired Pavon in August 2020.

The complaint alleges that Pavon groomed the child, who was 15 at the time, so he could sexually abuse, manipulate and molest them. This included making sexual advances and sending lewd comments and pictures through Snapchat.

Clyde A. Erwin High School

Clyde A. Erwin High School

Pavon touched the student’s body parts, including their inner thigh and made comments “like once Plaintiff graduated, he was going to ‘slam (them) against the wall'” and would allow the student to perform a sex act on him, the complaint said.

As a result of Pavon’s abuse, the complaint claims that the child suffered “severe physical, mental, emotional and psychological injuries.”

“When they groom, they tend to look for the most vulnerable,” plaintiffs’ Greensboro-based attorney Bobby Jenkins told the Citizen Times Feb. 2. “Then they start the grooming process and it gets worse and worse as times goes on. That’s clearly what this guy did.”

Other school board employees raised concerns about Pavon’s actions, which were disregarded by school board administrators, according to the legal filing. The lawsuit accuses employees and administrators of the school board of failing to intervene. Tony Baldwin was the superintendent at the time.

Buncombe County Schools contested this assertion in a Feb. 2 statement to the Citizen Times.

“Buncombe County Schools does not condone Albert Pavon’s criminal conduct, and BCS never turns a blind eye when it comes to student safety,” Buncombe County Schools spokesperson Timothy Reaves said in a Feb. 2 statement. “As soon as BCS became aware of Pavon’s actions, we immediately removed Pavon from his teaching position and began an investigation.”

The plaintiffs have not yet served the lawsuit to the school board.

“Although the school system has not yet received the referenced complaint, this is a legal matter, and we will be unable to comment further,” Reaves said.

Reaves said Buncombe County Schools has implemented multiple protocols to keep students and staff safe, pointing to an anonymous reporting app, which first became available in 2020, before Pavon’s crimes. He said that the school system “conducts regular and ongoing training of students and staff on the use of reporting tools and on our safety procedures and protocols.”

Reaves did not answer a Citizen Times question about how the school board communicated the lawsuit to Erwin school students.

The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office charged Pavon in June 2022. He pleaded guilty May 31, 2023 to committing indecent liberties with a minor, indecent liberties with a student, dissemination of obscene material and third-degree exploitation of a minor.

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Pavon served three months at Central Prison in Raleigh. He was released Aug. 29, 2023. According to the North Carolina Department of Adult Correction, he is in the middle of a three-year probation sentence, which will end in May 2026 if he does not violate his parole. Pavon will have to register as a sex offender for 30 years but can petition Superior Court to shorten his registration period after 10 years.

According to the registry, Pavon lives in Asheville.

Buncombe County Schools administrative offices.

Buncombe County Schools administrative offices.

Pavon’s lawyer in the months following his arrest, Todd Lentz, declined to comment Feb. 2. Lentz is running for district court judge.

Jenkins said it was too early to speculate on damages but was interested in additional information people have on the situation.

“Folks who do this type of stuff tend to not just do it one time,” he said.

Need help?

If adults know or suspect a child has been sexually assaulted or physically abused state law requires them to report it to law enforcement. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted and needs help or resources, contact:

Our Voice: (For ages 13 and older) 828-255-7576, www.ourvoicenc.org.

Mountain Child Advocacy Center: (For ages 17 and younger), 828-213-9824, https://mtncac.org.

RAINN: (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) 800-656-4673, www.rainn.org.

Mitchell Black covers Buncombe County and health care for the Citizen Times. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MitchABlack. Please help support local journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Child sexual abuse lawsuit: Family sues Buncombe Board of Education

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