The New Hanover County Board of Education voted Tuesday night to fire Isaac Bear Early College teacher Michael Kelly, who has been accused of numerous sex crimes against students.
The board announced the termination of Kelly’s employment following a closed session during its regular meeting.
"We do not tolerate any kind of deviant behavior and without convicting him or anything such as that, I just felt it was important...that the people of New Hanover County knew how we felt about this event," said Edward Higgins, chairman of the New Hanover County Board of Education.
In a letter to Kelly signed by Higgins, the board said it is "shocked and appalled by (his) conduct."
The letter also states that Kelly will be prohibited from being on any school property if he is released from custody and any violation will be considered trespassing and law enforcement will be contacted.
Six reasons for Kelly's firing are detailed in the letter. One says that on Feb. 7, Superintendent Tim Markley and Deputy Superintendent Rick Holliday met with Kelly in jail and explained the charges against him.
"You did not deny any of the charges and offered no defense or explanation," the letter read. "Instead, you admitted to Drs. Markley and Holliday at least some of the felony allegations."
The letter also says the superintendent reported Kelly to the state Department of Public Instruction to determine if his teaching license will be revoked.
"We felt like we were doing a decent job of doing background checks on teachers, of monitoring, but apparently this had been going on for some period of time," said Higgins. "This gentleman was considered an outstanding teacher. He was teacher of the year at Laney, teacher of the year at Isaac Bear."
Kelly was initially arrested on several sex offenses on Feb. 6 after a parent reviewing their 15-year-old son’s phone found sexually explicit content in a text conversation with Kelly, according to court documents. The school district initially placed him on administrative leave with pay, but following his first court appearance announced it had suspended him without pay and had initiated dismissal proceedings.
"And we don't mind saying that we will take action and that we don't like or appreciate people who take advantage of our kids," said Higgins.
Several weeks later, he was charged with nearly 30 more sex crimes against 10 additional alleged victims, all of whom were students at Isaac Bear at the time of the alleged incidents.
As early as 2003, a parent filed a formal complaint alleging Kelly had behaved inappropriately in the classroom, but it appears nothing came of it.
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