NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — New Hanover County Commissioners are ready to get help in solving the school district’s problems with alleged sexual misconduct.
Commissioners made it clear in a statement Monday that they are focused on making the school system safe for every student. This is not the first time they have offered to help the district, but they’re hoping the school board accepts their help.
“One is too many,” Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said. “Two is definitely too many. Three is definitely, definitely too many.”
Three teachers in the district have been accused of sexual misconduct in less than two years.
“When help is offered and you know that you need help, put your pride on the shelf, so to speak, and accept the help that’s being offered,” Barfield said.
Barfield and his fellow commissioners proposed to help the school board investigate allegations, and provide resources to students to help them through the situations. The announcement comes just a week after Roland Grise Middle School Band teacher Peter Frank was charged with sex crimes.
“I think we’re seeing the results of many years of issues,” Commissioner Rob Zapple said. “Different school board members, different administrators. It’s all combined to get to this point now.”
Zapple and Barfield say they will do whatever the school board lets them, including investigating personnel files and bringing in investigators and crisis teams to talk with students and teachers.
“The public’s trust has been broken, so we stand ready to help in any way we can to rebuild that,” Zapple said.
But has that trust been broken with the county as well?
“I trust them to make the right decision at this point, if they engage our board,” Barfield said.
If they do that, Barfield says that trust will start to be rebuilt with the community.
“I’m hoping with this new culture, this new school board, and knowing there’s an election around the corner as well, we can change the culture within our school system, and let folks know that these things just won’t be tolerated,” Barfield said.
At a special meeting Tuesday night, the school board said they are looking forward to working with commissioners.