NHCS release statement on lawsuit filed in handling of teacher sex crimes case

Joel Rhine and James Lea discussing the announcement of a civil lawsuit against New Hanover Co. Schools and Michael Kelly (Andrew James/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Two days after attorneys filed a lawsuit against New Hanover County Schools, the school board has released a statement on the pending litigation.

The suit, which encompasses more than 40 pages, details the allegations against the New Hanover County Board of Education, Superintendent Tim Markley and Deputy Superintendent Rick Holliday. They’re accused of turning a blind eye and even clearing former teacher Michael Kelly of some abuse complaints that were allegedly made more than a decade ago.

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Michael Kelly pleaded guilty last month to dozens of child sex crime charges and will spend between 17 and 31 years behind bars. Some of his crimes stretched as far back as 2003, while Kelly taught at Laney High School. He was teaching at Isaac Bear Early College High School when he was arrested in 2018.

Attorneys representing some of Kelly’s victims say school leaders ignored their cries for help.

On the day the suit was filed the school district said they could not comment until they reviewed the lawsuit.

Late Thursday afternoon, New Hanover County Schools released the following statement:

“While it is not appropriate to comment specifically on pending litigation, the Board takes all allegations of this nature seriously. The Board will file a response to the Complaint at the appropriate time,” said Board Chair Lisa Estep in a news release. “The Board expresses sympathy for any student who may have been harmed by Michael Kelly.”