Three more alleged victims of Michael Kelly join case against the school board and staff.
Former New Hanover County Schools teacher Michael Kelly was previously convicted of sex crimes against students and is behind bars. Investigators found Kelly had exchanged over 250 explicit text messages with one victim alone, and at least 1,000 text messages with students at Isaac Bear Early College High School. Now, three more alleged victims have been added to a pending lawsuit against staff and the school board, accusing each of turning a blind eye.
New Hanover County Assistant District Attorney Connie Jordan said at the time of Kelly’s sentencing hearing, “He pled guilty straight up. He pled guilty to everything that he’s charged with. Sentencing was obviously up to the judge and the judge sentenced him to a little over 17 and a half to 31 and a half years in prison.”
The court granted the request to amend the complaint, added the three and upped the plaintiff count to 13. One anonymous plaintiff reported Kelly “gave him alcohol and even drugged him, before raping him,” according to the suit.
The investigation showed Kelly had a private Snapchat group he asked some of his students to join and exchange pictures of their private parts even though it is against the school’s policy to even communicate with students via text message or social media.
One victim who is now an adult previously said in court, “I can talk for hours about the effect Mr. Kelly had on my education but the one thing I want to make sure the court is abundantly aware of, this pedestal his character is placed on, is a major reason in this being kept silent. This has protected him countless times and I think it should not anymore. It affected me for many years. With the support of my wife, I was able to decide, yes, I wanted to get involved. Early on it drew anxiety attacks, even issues of self-harm.”
Martin Ramey, one of the attorneys representing the added plaintiffs in the lawsuit said of the amended filing, “We’ve learned some facts and details about investigations that were conducted, or allegedly conducted by the school board.”
The school board itself contends two separate investigations were done in 2006 and 2010, and yet, Kelly remained employed within the district until 2018. This issue is included in the amended filing. The suit also states Title IX Compliance Officer and Deputy Superintendent Dr. Rick Holliday “was not qualified to serve as the district’s Title IX compliance officer and, during his tenure, there were just four Title IX investigations.”
“Interestingly, between 1999 and 2018, there were at least 13 New Hanover County school employees that either resigned were terminated, or were dismissed, for sexual assault incidents affecting students at New Hanover County Schools. There were at least an additional seven individuals who were reported to NHCBOE during that same time frame for allegations of sexual misconduct,” according to the amended complaint.