WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Months before former teacher Michael Kelly pleaded guilty to sex crimes against students, members of the community went to the New Hanover County school board to ask for an independent investigation into claims that administrators mishandled allegations of sexual misconduct against students.
Reverend Dante Murphy asked for an independent investigation during public comment during the December 2018 NHC Board of Education meeting.
“We began going back to the school board, making our case and plea that the mishandling of child sexual abuse and discrimination was so serious,” said Murphy. “We kept pleading to them for months to do an independent investigation.”
The school board took that step Tuesday night, weeks after former teacher Mike Kelly pleaded guilty to dozens of sex crimes against students.
Members voted unanimously to hire an outside law firm to investigate claims administrators were made aware of Kelly's behavior but did not report them to law enforcement.
Rev. Murphy calls it too little, too late.
“If they talk to anyone involved with the case at this point, then they will be interfering with an SBI investigation,” Murphy said. “So, this announcement of an independent investigation at this point is nothing but a shame. They have had seven months to do an independent investigation before the SBI got involved.”
Beyond the Kelly case, Murphy believes more state oversight is needed in the local school system, even saying that the state should take over New Hanover County Schools.
“They do it when there are budgetary problems,” Murphy said. “They do it when there are low grades. They have to do it now because we are dealing with children being molested by teachers. And those complaints being mishandled by school administrators. If this doesn’t warrant a state take over then they just need to wipe it off the law books.”