Madison County math teacher faces 47 felony counts

A Madison County Public Schools high school math teacher has been arrested and charged with dozens of felonies involving photographing or recording students. Law enforcement also made a discovery of child pornography on his phone.

Robert Dennis Burnette III, age 30, is currently facing felony 47 charges:



  • 3 counts of secretly using a photographic imaging device to view another’s body or undergarments
  • 6 counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor
  • 16 counts of secretly using or installing a photographic imaging device to arouse or gratify sexual desire
  • 22 counts of possessing a photographic image obtained in violation of the NC peeping statute

He is being held in the Yancey County Detention Center on a $325,000 secured bond.

Madison County Sheriff Buddy Harwood posted the following statement on Facebook:

On Tuesday, May 24th my office was notified of a complaint regarding a teacher at Madison High School. The School Administration and my School Resource Officer received a report that math teacher Robert Burnette was secretly photographing or recording students. Based on that report my Detectives and the Madison County School Administration began an immediate investigation.

Based on the investigation Madison County Schools suspended Robert Burnette. My office assisted by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation discovered that Robert was secretly recording and photographing students. Upon further investigation child pornography was discovered during a forensic examination of Roberts cell phone. The child pornography was not related to any Madison County students.

Based on those images my office issued Six Felony warrants for Third Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor. My office and the Madison County School Administration worked together to identify every one of the kids that Robert had photographed. My office issued additional charges for 3 Felony counts of Secretly Using a Photographic Imaging Device to View Another’s Body or Undergarments, 22 Felony counts of Possessing a Photographic Image obtained in Violation of the Peeping Statue, and 16 Felony counts of Secretly using or Installing a photographic Imaging Device to Arouse or Gratify Sexual Desire. My office worked closely with the Madison County School Administration and the North Carolina Bureau of Investigation.

This type of behavior will NOT be Tolerated in any of our schools or county. Robert Burnette who is now a former Madison County teacher will not be allowed on any Madison County School Property.

My office has contacted federal agents with the Department of Homeland Security for further assistance in this ongoing investigation. Robert is currently being held in the Yancey County Sheriffs Office Detention Facility under a $325,000 Secured Bond.

Burnette is due in court in Madison County on June 7.

According to Harwood’s press statement and a statement by Madison County Schools, the district immediately suspended Burnette on May 24. It is unclear if the suspension is with or without pay.

“We immediately turned the allegation over to our Sheriff’s Department for investigation. In addition, Mr. Burnette was immediately suspended and has been restricted from all unsupervised access to Madison County Schools’ campuses in order for the school district to investigate the matter,” Superintendent Will Hoffman said in a statement.

Hoffman also said the district is “continuing to cooperate with the law enforcement investigation, as well as conducting our own internal investigation.”

The district said Burnette was in his second year of teaching at Madison High School and that his current one-year contract expires at the end of this school year.

Burnette’s North Carolina teaching license also expires on June 30 of this year:

Current Date: 05/27/2022 10:11 AM
License Number: 1230102
Name: Burnette, Robert D III
License Type: Educator
License Status: Current
Expiration Date: 06/30/2022
Effective Date: 01/22/2019
License Area(s): Science 9-12

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips:
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