‘Tormented and traumatized’: Mother of Michael Kelly victim shares impact of former teacher’s abuse

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Four years after the victims of Michael Kelly filed a civil lawsuit against the New Hanover County Board of Education, advocates are pleading to the board to finally settle.

One month after former New Hanover County Schools teacher Michael Kelly pleaded guilty to multiple counts of indecent liberties with a child, indecent liberties with a student, and second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor in June of 2019, some of Kelly’s victims filed a civil lawsuit against the Board of Education. It claims the school system failed to disclose the allegations and hid Kelly’s abuse of students.

Four years have passed and the civil suit remains unresolved. Advocates gathered before Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting to call on the board to settle. With her son’s permission, one mother described the abuse she says her son endured from Kelly.

“Our kids, MY kid, was tormented and traumatized by Michael Kelly during the school day. In the classroom, lunchroom, bathroom, in a freakin’ double-wide trailer. And nobody stopped it from happening,” she said.

In her remarks, she shared how her son had perfect attendance from pre-k to 9th grade. Before the application window even opened, she says he had written his essay to attend Isaac Bear Early College High School.

“Sitting at the coffee shop with me one day, [he] showed me the essay and said ‘Mom, I’m full speed ahead. Ph.D. before I’m 30!'” she said. “At the end of 9th grade, he was 12th out of 61 in his class with zero absences. By the end of 10th grade, he had dropped to 48th out of 58. By 11th grade, he had 43 absences.”

As a mother, she feels she did not keep her child safe from harm. It’s something she thinks about when she tries to sleep.

“I walk up the stairs of Isaac Bear. I walk into the doors.  I look at both front offices. I go into the hallway. I go into the lunchroom. I go into the bathroom. I go into the classrooms. I scan over and over and over in my memory, ‘What did I miss? What did I miss? How did I not stop this?'” she said.

Though she’s been reassured by multiple people that it was not her fault, she says that is not that easy to swallow. She later added that she hopes the victims know to their core that this was never their fault.

Despite the trauma, her son remains committed to preventing other children from facing abuse.

“When he learned of the past reports, he looked at me and he said, ‘We cannot let this happen to anybody else. We can’t,'” she said.

In addition to monetary damages to cover mental health services, advocates say, maybe most importantly, the victims want policy change to ensure this never happens again.

March 2022 was the last time the lawsuit was discussed in a courtroom.

A spokesman for New Hanover County Schools says they cannot comment on ongoing litigation.

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