NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The number of people suing the New Hanover County Board of Education over the handling of sex crime accusations now stands at six.
Three more former students of Michael Kelly have come forward to join the potential class action lawsuit.
Ranging in ages from 17 to 23, the victims allege Kelly engaged in sexually inappropriate discussions and conduct, including one with whom Kelly allegedly performed a sexual act while videotaping it.
They join other Kelly victims who filed suit on July 23 in New Hanover County Superior Court.
The suit alleges the New Hanover County Schools’ administration “failed to comply with its legal obligations to report Kelly’s behavior to law enforcement, failed to perform adequate
investigations, and failed to take action to remove this pedophile from our schools” and instead, ignored complaints from students, parents, and staff.
Kelly pleaded guilty on June 25 to dozens of sexual assaults and crimes against his students.
Both lawyers admit that the course of the litigation will determine the Board’s liability for Kelly’s past actions.
The day after the lawsuit was announced, New Hanover County Board of Education Chair Lisa Estep released a statement.
“While it is not appropriate to comment specifically on pending litigation, the Board takes all allegations of this nature seriously,” Estep said on behalf of the board. “The Board will file a response to the Complaint at the appropriate time. The Board expresses sympathy for any student who may have been harmed by Michael Kelly.”
“Make no mistake about it. Once again, the Board has missed the point,” said Joel Rhine of Rhine Law Firm, P.C., one of the attorneys filing the case. “Just like the students of Richard Priode and other instructors dating back to the late 1990s, these students were permanently harmed by Kelly’s actions and by the complicity of the Board and school officials. There is nothing imaginary or suspect about their injuries.”
“No child deserves to be treated as a sexual object by any of his or her teachers, not to mention any adult. Period,” adds Jim Lea of The Lea/Schultz Law Firm, P.C., who also represents victims. “We understand that the Board cannot comment on pending litigation, but it could have come forward with affirmative and proactive steps to prevent this from happening again and ensure that students at Isaac Bear and other schools understand how to report sexual assaults instead of the Board’s tepid response.”
All six plaintiffs have chosen to use a pseudonym to protect their identities, but all six were students of Kelly’s when he taught at Isaac Bear Early College High School.
The lawsuit also names Kelly as a defendant, as well as Superintendent Tim Markley and Deputy Superintendent Rick Holliday.