Three more victims accuse former New Hanover County teacher of sex crimes

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — More victims are coming forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against a former New Hanover County Schools teacher.

Three former students have joined the lawsuit against former Laney High School and Isaac Bear Early College High School teacher Michael Kelly. The lawsuit also names the Board of Education, former deputy superintendent and Title IX coordinator Rick Holliday, and former superintendent Tim Markley as defendants.

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Attorneys filed the amended complaint in court on Tuesday morning. This brings the total number of plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit to 13. All alleged victims are referred to as John Does in order to protect their identities.

In the case of John Doe 13, attorney Martin Ramey says Kelly groomed him by tutoring him and giving him rides when he had no other form of transportation. The complaint states this eventually led to Kelly inviting John Doe 13 to his home to watch pornography, where Kelly would masturbate in front of him. According to the complaint, John Doe 13 estimates this happened more than 100 times between 2009 and 2011.

“Kelly said ‘you let me tutor you and I’ll perform a sex act on you,’ that is not the type of school or education that our students deserve,” Ramey said. “That’s what Mr. Kelly did, and then from there it escalated, it escalated to Kelly drugging and raping the kid.”

According to school documents, Kelly was investigated twice during his tenure at New Hanover County Schools. The first investigation was in 2006 and the second in 2010, but Ramey says the findings of those investigations were not turned over to law enforcement.

The complaint states that some of the incidents took place while Michael Kelly taught at Laney High School, and were reported to then-assistant principal Rick Holliday.

Holliday later served as deputy superintendent and Title IX coordinator, and Ramey alleges that he was not fit for the role. He says during that time, Holliday opened just four investigations into sexual misconduct.

“There were plenty of cases to investigate, and those did not get investigated,” Ramey said. “There were four in a span of 2004 to 2018, but there were 13 that should have been investigated. There’s a disconnect somewhere in the school system.

Ramey is referring to 13 employees that allegedly resigned or were fired or dismissed for sexual assault incidents involving students between 1999 and 2018.

On Tuesday afternoon, New Hanover County School released a statement, saying:

“New Hanover County Schools understood since this lawsuit was filed that there may be additional students who come forward with claims, being a class action lawsuit. We are continuing to exchange and gather information with the previous plaintiffs and will now do so with the newest plaintiffs.

The district will have an opportunity to file an answer on behalf of the board and Dr. Markley and anticipate doing that in the next month or so.”

You can view the amended complaint here.