North Carolina

NC teacher pleaded guilty to sex crimes. Now administrator is out as SBI investigates

A longtime teacher in Wilmington, North Carolina pleaded guilty to dozens of sex crimes involving students and told investigators that school officials knew of accusations from 2006, local media report.

Now the State Bureau of Investigations is looking into what the county school district knew and when about allegations against the former science teacher, The Wilmington Star-News reports.

Just days after a judge sentenced Michael Kelly to at least 17 years in prison, Rick Holliday, a deputy superintendent for the school system, announced his retirement and the district launched an internal investigation, the district’s board of education said after a closed-door meeting Monday.

“In light of allegations made against New Hanover County Schools during the recent sentencing of Kelly, the NHC Board of Education has launched an internal investigation into incidents that allegedly occurred in 2006. We will continue to fully cooperate with any and all ongoing investigations. Once the investigations are complete, we will take appropriate action,” board chair Lisa Estep said in a prepared statement after Monday’s meeting.

Michael Kelly pleaded guilty to almost 60 counts of child sex crimes. New Hanover County Sheriff's Office

The New Hanover County Sheriff and the district attorney asked the SBI to investigate how the school district handled earlier accusations of sexual misconduct against the teacher, according to the Star News. The district attorney said Kelly told FBI agents after his arrest last year that the school district cleared him of earlier allegations, the newspaper reports.

Kelly pleaded guilty to almost 60 sex crimes, the Port City Daily reports. He admitted to exchanging explicit images with students and exposing himself to a student in a school bathroom, according to the newspaper.

“In one case, Kelly arranged to meet with a student – who was 15 at the time – and engaged in a sexual act on him while filming the incident,” the newspaper said.

Kelly was a science teacher with New Hanover schools for more than 25 years, most recently at Isaac Bear Early College where he taught since 2006, according to WECT. Before that he worked at Laney High School, where Holliday was the principal at the time, the station reports.

During Kelly’s sentencing hearing last week for dozens of sex crimes with students, a prosecutor said Kelly told investigators that administrators at Laney High investigated a complaint against him from a parent, WECT reports.

School officials said earlier that they never received a complaint about the science teacher, according to multiple reports. But one parent said she made a formal complaint about Kelly showing students pornography in 2003, WECT reports.

Holliday did not give a reason for his retirement after 37 years with the district, but state investigators will be looking into what happened with sexual misconduct accusations at Laney while he was the principal.

“I have enjoyed my time with New Hanover County Schools. I have always done my best. As I plan to retire, I wish the citizens of New Hanover County well,” Holliday said in a statement released by the district.

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.