SBI To Investigate Handling Of Sex Offense Claims In County Schools

SBI To Investigate Handling Of Sex Offense Claims In County Schools

SBI To Investigate Handling Of Sex Offense Claims In County Schools Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 03 July 2019 17:13

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

NEW HANOVER CTY - A man was arrested in February of 2018 for engaging in indecent liberties with a minor while working as a teacher at Isaac Bear Early College High School in New Hanover County.

According to District Attorney Ben David, "On June 25, 2019, former New Hanover County Schools teacher Michael Kelly pled guilty as charged, without a plea deal, to fifty-nine (59) separate sexual offenses involving nineteen (19) victims over a more than fifteen (15) year period while he was a teacher at Laney High School and Isaac Bear Early College."

Kelly - age 50 and a former teacher of the year - could face up to 31 years in prison and will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release.

David announced July 1st the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) will investigate the handling of sexual offense claims allegedly brought to the attention of New Hanover County Schools administration.

In a statement issued by David on July 1st, he explained, "The relationship between the New Hanover County Schools, Sheriff’s Office, and the District Attorney’s Office is long established and even celebrated statewide.  All three entities maintain an unwavering commitment to the health and safety of children.  All of us work with each other daily, and will continue to do so, in the performance of our respective duties."

David explained, "Last week, I, together with Sheriff Ed McMahon, jointly requested the assistance of the State Bureau of Investigation to determine if there was a violation of any law, including North Carolina General Statute §7B301(b) (Failure to Report Abuse or Neglect) and North Carolina General Statute §14-3 (Obstruction of Justice) in the handling of sexual offense claims allegedly brought to the attention of New Hanover County Schools administration."

David explained that on June 25, 2019, former New Hanover County Schools teacher Michael Kelly plead guilty as charged, without a plea deal, to fifty-nine separate sexual offenses involving nineteen  victims over a more than fifteen  year period while he was a teacher at Laney High School and Isaac Bear Early College. 

He explained, "During questioning by FBI agents immediately prior to his arrest, Kelly alluded to an internal investigation that the school administration had allegedly performed that Kelly claimed cleared him of any wrongdoing.  The Sheriff’s Office and my office have been eager to follow up with Kelly about this claim but, because of his right to remain silent, could not do so until his cases were resolved.  Detectives with the Sheriff’s Office interviewed Kelly the day after his guilty plea."

David explained, "In light of information learned, we requested for the State Bureau of Investigation to conduct an investigation of the school administration’s handling of the Kelly matter.  Additionally, the Sheriff's Office received information from members of the public detailing similar allegations unrelated to the Kelly case.  The
Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation into these allegations as well but now believes, as I do, that they should be reviewed by outside agents with the SBI.  Similarly, a formal request has also been made to Attorney General’s Office to serve in an advisory capacity as the SBI conducts its investigation and, if warranted, prosecute any violations of the law."

David explained that prosecutors in his office and Sheriff's deputies may be interviewed about the facts of the case which would create a conflict of interest for both offices to continue handling the current allegations.

He explained, "An examination of the facts by outside investigators and a review of the evidence by outside prosecutors will remove even the appearance of impropriety and should satisfy the concerns that any decision is based upon facts and law and not based upon long standing relationships of professionals whose very oaths of office put them in constant communication with each other.  Everyone in the community should welcome a thorough review of these troubling allegations by agencies with no local ties. It is my hope that the community will have confidence in the process and see a just conclusion to this matter.  Our children and those who care for them every day deserve nothing less."

On the same day David issued his statement regarding the Kelly case and the call to the SBI to investigate, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Rick Holiday announced that he is retiring from New Hanover County Schools effective August 1, 2019. He has been an educator for 41 years and has served the district for 37 years in various capacities.

In a statement released by the School System, Holiday stated, "I have enjoyed my time with New Hanover County Schools. I have always done my best. As I plan to retire, I wish the citizens of New Hanover County well."

Previously a parent of a student attending Laney High School said in 2003 they confronted Kelly about improper behavior and then reported it to the principal at the time - Dr. Rick Holiday. The same parent filed a complaint with the School System in January 2004.

The New Hanover County Board of Education issued the following statement after the Closed Session on July 1, 2019, "To reiterate prior statements from the district, the New Hanover County Board of Education strongly and completely condemns the actions of Michael Earl Kelly who pled guilty last week to numerous crimes. The Board expresses our sorrow to all the victims and their families affected by Kelly's heinous acts. In light of allegations made against New Hanover County Schools during the recent sentencing of Kelly, the NHC Board of Education has launched an internal investigation into incidents that allegedly occurred in 2006. We will continue to fully cooperate with any and all ongoing investigations. Once the investigations are complete, we will take appropriate action."

Board Chair Lisa Estep presented this statement to the representatives from the media who were present after the Closed Session.

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