Monday, June 24, 2024

Former Pender County Schools bus driver arrested for sexual battery

Austin Kelly (Courtesy PCSO)

PENDER COUNTY — A Burgaw man has been arrested for alleged sexual battery of two students while employed for Pender County Schools, according to the sheriff’s office.

Austin Lee Kelly, 32, has been charged with two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery. PCSO said the incidents took place while Kelly was a bus driver for the school district.

“These charges stemmed from an initial investigation by administration staff members of a Pender County high school of school employment policy violations,” a release noted.

The administrators turned over the findings to the school resource officer, with a criminal complaint filed for further investigation.

According to the district, Kelly drove for Heide Trask High School, though was not employed at the time of his arrest. Kelly began his career with the schools in March 2023 and was dismissed May 9, 2024.

“We understand that this news may cause concern within our community, and we want to assure parents, students, and staff that the safety and well-being of our students is our highest priority,” spokesperson Bob Fankboner wrote in a release to media Friday afternoon. “Pender County Schools is committed to maintaining a secure and supportive environment for all our students.”

The sheriff’s office is asking members of the public to report information related to the investigation by calling 910-259-1212 or 910-259-1515.

“The Pender County Sheriff’s Office strives to remind parents and guardians of minors to strictly monitor their children’s access to online activities, including online social media apps and gaming systems,” a statement read. “Parents should encourage their children to report any suspicious behavior when using social media and gaming systems.”

The school district said it continues to work with officers in the case.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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