WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The law firm handling an independent civil investigation into the Michael Kelly sex abuse case has announced an investigation into allegations of sex crimes committed by Roland Grise Middle School band teacher Peter Frank.
The investigation underway by the Lea/Schultz and Rhine law firms is separate from those by law enforcement or the school district. The aim is to learn whether or not anyone employing Frank knew of his behavior and bears any responsibility to his victims.
“This week our community was shaken once again by the predatory actions and what appears to be a subsequent cover up within New Hanover County Schools,” the statement from The Lea/Schultz Law Firm and Rhine Law Firm says. “Peter Frank has been a teacher with the district since 1997 and has been the subject of numerous complaints and investigations during his tenure with the school system. Those investigations of complaints were handled in such a manner that he was afforded the opportunity to continue to prey on the impressionable youth of our community for decades.”
The statement also makes mention of new sexual assault laws signed by the governor in December that extend the statute of limitations for victims of childhood sexual abuse and encourages victims to come forward.
“The protection of predators by the school system is a grave misjustice to our youth and must be stopped.” said Joel Rhine, one of the lawyers investigating the case. “Members of our school board have a duty and an obligation as a school system and community to protect our children, and to not allow them to be treated as a sexual object by teachers.”
One of the clients the attorneys are representing says her experience with Frank spanned two years.
“Its appalling what has happened. Actually, the parents found out and reported it to the school system and they didn’t do anything, so it just gets worse and worse each time we interview witnesses. The things these people have been through... its appalling,” Jim Lea said of speaking to victims in the case. “Students knew about it, principals knew about it, teachers knew about it and the administration did nothing about it. Either they knew about it and they’re guilty or they can pretend they didn’t know about it and they’re just as guilty. We have a problem here.”