NC Gov. Cooper signed law extending the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual assault. Read our press release for more details.
NEW HANOVER COUNTY SCHOOLS
SEXUAL ABUSE CASE
On July 23, 2019 the Rhine and Lea/Schultz Law Firms filed a civil class-action lawsuit against the New Hanover County School District on behalf of several unnamed defendants who were sexually abused by former teacher and convicted sex offender Michael Earl Kelly.
There has been considerable interest in the case from concerned parents, public and media. This site will provide information and resources relevant to the case.
DOE V. NHC BOARD OF EDUCATION
On July 23rd, 2019 the Rhine Law Firm and Lea/Schultz Law Firm filed a civil class action lawsuit against New Hanover County School Board. The suit was filed on behalf of several sexual abuse victims of former teacher Michael Kelly. The suit alleges that the school board and administration were negligent and knew about the abuse for years.
Despite New Hanover County Schools officials having ample notice that high school science teacher Michael Earl Kelly was acting in a sexually inappropriate manner, Kelly sexually abused students in our local high schools for over two decades. On July 25, 2019, Kelly pleaded guilty to dozens of sexual assaults and crimes he perpetrated on young boys who were his students. During this hearing, the community was shocked to learn that the New Hanover County Schools system - managed by its administrators and controlled by the New Hanover County Board of Education - had been made well aware of and was well acquainted with Kelly's deviant sexual habits.
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, Instead, the administration ignored multiple complaints brought by students, parents and even staff and ignored evidence that they had been provided with or otherwise had access to -doing nothing to prevent Kelly from preying on future victims.
Astoundingly, as they had done previously when confronted with band director Richard Priode's sexual abuse allegations, administrators within the New Hanover County Schools did nothing to stop Kelly. Instead, they made the situation worse -by assigning Kelly to a smaller high school where he had more private access to a more vulnerable student body. Kelly repeatedly was given awards, enhancing his stature, and in the small Isaac Bear environment, he was bequeathed extraordinary prestige and authority.
Of course, Kelly took advantage of his position and exploited groups of young male children, year after year. These current and former students are suffering severely. Many have debilitating psychological injuries, such as depression, along with suicidal thoughts and tendencies. Many self-mutilate, and nearly all report severe relationship issues, anxiety, and trouble in school or work.
The New Hanover County Board of Education has failed to rectify this tragedy and school officials have issued public statements denying they were notified about Kelly's destructive sexual behavior. The denials are directly contradicted by parents and students involved in those interactions. After more information has emerged and the school board's story began to unravel, one school official has "resigned" and an SBI criminal investigation has commenced.
The Plaintiffs in this action have been forced to file this lawsuit to pursue justice for themselves and other students who were assaulted and abused by a sexual predator who was coddled by those whose duty it was to protect our most precious resource, our children.
1612 Military Cutoff Road
Wilmington, NC 28403
Tel: (910) 772-9960