WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Thousands of people have signed a petition requesting Rick Holliday’s name be removed from the Laney High School Football Stadium. The former Laney High School principal abruptly retired from his job with New Hanover County Schools last summer in the midst of a teacher sex abuse scandal.
When former high school science teacher Michael Kelly was arrested in 2018 for sex crimes against his students, people quickly started pointing fingers at Kelly’s former supervisor, Rick Holliday. Parents and students told us they reported concerns to then-principal Holliday decades ago about Kelly and another teacher’s inappropriate relationships with students. They say Holliday did nothing to stop it.
Holliday has staunchly denied having any knowledge of sex crimes against students prior to the teachers’ arrests. But after Kelly pleaded guilty to dozens of crimes last summer, and according to prosecutors, told investigators school administrators knew about allegations against him, Holliday quickly retired from the school system.
Laney High School graduate Chris Sutton started the petition to have Holliday’s name removed from Laney’s Buccaneer Stadium. He says he’s friends with some of the victims, and thinks allowing Holliday to simply retire does not go far enough.
“This petition here, it is about the Laney Stadium, changing the name. However, I hope this is a catalyst for something bigger. Because I feel at this point Dr. Holliday is being able to sort of go off into the sunset, he got his nice little retirement, and he’s sort of rolling. Unfortunately it shouldn’t be that way, so at this point I’m hoping this sort of drums up that investigation again and I truly hope he gets charged by the SBI,” Sutton said.
We were unable to reach Dr. Holliday for comment about the petition. At last check, it had gotten nearly 2,900 signatures in three days.
We did speak to three school board members to get their thoughts on the petition. Lisa Estep, Judy Justice and Nelson Beaulier all said they’d be willing to consider the request for a name change.
“I know the community has a concern or that many wouldn’t have signed it so quickly,” Justice told WECT. “We should take a look at it.”