A second Rowan County Schools teacher has been arrested in connection with sexually explicit messages to a student via social media apps. Additional charges have also been added to the first teacher, who was arrested in late 2019, and a third man is sought by authorities.
On Sunday, Jan. 12, Police arrested and charged Justin Andrew Avery, age 29, with third-degree exploitation of minor and indecent liberty with a child.
Third-degree exploitation of a minor is a Class H felony that carries a sentence of 4-15 months in jail. Indecent liberties with a minor is a Class F felony carrying a 10-41 month sentence.
It is not known how much Avery’s bail was set at, but he did post bond and was released.
Avery had been sending sexually explicit images to a female minor student. It is unclear if it is the same student involved in the arrest of Avery’s colleague, Ethan Grose.
Last year on Dec 23., the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office arrested and charged Ethan Andrew Grose, age 29, with taking indecent liberties with a minor.
Grose was jailed at the Rowan County Detention Center under a $25,000 secured bond which he posted the bond and was released.
On the same day as Avery’s arrest, Grose was arrested a second time by Iredell County deputies for a new charge of child exploitation. Grose posted another bond and was released again.
Grose had been exchanging sexual images with a West Rowan middle school student over social media apps and “confessed to having the inappropriate conversations with the student, and exchanging pornographic images.”
Both Grose and Avery are teachers at West Rowan Middle School.
The Rowan-Salisbury Public School District has been contacted but has not yet responded to our request for comment. The district, however, did reply to the News and Observer.
Excerpts of the Rowan County Schools statement:
“We join our families in being appalled and angry over this situation. This is not acceptable and we hold our staff accountable to high standards and expectations. We encourage families to talk with their children about safety, including the importance of relying on trusted adults, such as parents, teachers, ministers, school resource officers, and others.”
“We are fortunate to have SROs who are responsive to the needs of our students and who work closely with school administration to create a team atmosphere and enriching place for our children to learn and grow.”
Grose started working at the school in August 2015 but it was reported by McClatchy and the News and Observer that he resigned in December.
By resigning and without an open investigation by the State Board of Education, it is possible Grose may be able to keep his NC teaching license in the areas of Language Arts 6-9 and Science 6-9. That license will remain active until Jun. 30, 2022 unless revoked by the state board.
According to media sources, Avery was hired in Sept. 2017 and on Monday, Jan. 13 the district put him on “disciplinary suspension without pay.”
Avery is the second teacher arrest tracked by this website in 2020. Grose was the 65th teacher or education-related employee arrest tracked by this website during 2019.
The district responded to our inquiry and released this statement:
It is heartbreaking any time we receive a report that involves inappropriate behavior. We have protocol in place to immediately handle difficult situations should they occur assuring the continued safety of our students and staff. We conduct internal investigations, review our processes, and continue to work cooperatively with law enforcement on their investigations.
We join our families in being appalled and angry over this situation. This is not acceptable and we hold our staff accountable to high standards and expectations. We encourage families to talk with their children about safety, including the importance of relying on trusted adults, such as parents, teachers, ministers, school resource officers, and others. Parents are also encouraged to contact the Sheriff’s Department if they have any information that they think law enforcement should know. RSS also operates an anonymous tip line, that is available on our district’s website.
We are very grateful for the excellent relationships with our local law enforcement agencies. We are fortunate to have SROs who are responsive to the needs of our students and who work closely with school administration to create a team atmosphere and enriching place for our children to learn and grow.
A third suspect is still being sought by law enforcement. Donovan Perez Hernandez, age 24, is wanted on indecent liberties and child exploitation charges. Hernandez is not an employee of Rowan-Salisbury Schools.
Anyone with information on the case or the whereabouts of Hernandez is asked to call 911 or contact Salisbury/Rowan Crime Stoppers at (866) 639-5245.