WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The New Hanover County School Board has declined a request for an independent investigation into its handling of serious issues, including concerns about inaction that may have helped sexual predators prey on students.
The group came forward in December to formally request the investigation. Most of the concerns had to do with allegations of sexual misconduct, including the case of Michael Kelly, a former science teacher at Isaac Bear Early College High School. Kelly was arrested in February 2018 and is facing dozens of charges for sex crimes against students.
The mother of one of Kelly’s former students told WECT she filed a complaint about Kelly in 2004 with the school system’s central office, but a school spokesperson told WECT in reference to Kelly that no complaints were received prior to 2018.
The mother refutes the claim the board never received the complaint and said she has a copy of what she filed more than a decade ago on the formal Parent Concerns about School Personnel complaint forms New Hanover County Schools used at the time.
Newly elected school board member Judy Justice ran on a platform of transparency and accountability, and was disappointed with the board’s decision not to pursue the investigation. She was the only one who voted against sending a letter to the group of concerned citizens declining the request for an investigation.
Some residents suspect a cover-up, but despite campaigning for more transparency, many of the newly elected school board members dismissed the need for their own independent investigation.
Nelson Beaulieu voted with the majority of the school board. He explained there are investigations going on right now by qualified agencies like the FBI and the Office of Civil Rights into what went on at New Hanover County Schools. He is confident they will uncover any wrongdoing on the part of school administrators if school officials contributed to the problem.
Beaulieu said the school board does not have subpoena power to conduct its own investigation, and even if it did, it would be redundant to duplicate what other investigators are already doing. He said if ongoing criminal investigations find wrongdoing by officials with the New Hanover County Schools, he thinks they should be prosecuted.