NHCS responds to request to remove Holliday’s name from Laney stadium

Updated: Feb. 27, 2020 at 5:15 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The school board has responded to an effort to remove Dr. Rick Holliday’s name from the Laney High School football stadium weeks after thousands signed a petition in favor of the change.

Board chair Lisa Estep emailed the organizer of the petition Wednesday, citing a school policy that governs how facilities are named. Under policy 5400, New Hanover County Schools would have to wait a year after Holliday’s separation with the district before the motion to change the name could be considered, Estep wrote in the email. Once that one year waiting period is over, a six month public notice period would begin before officials could change the stadium’s name.

You can find Policy 5400 here.

“That’s what a board does is, you know, you’ve got this policy in place and you have to look at the policy and say okay within the policy what can we do,” Estep said after a special Board of Education meeting Thursday.

“So, that’s going to be a discussion -- I’ve placed that on the agenda, is to talk about the policy and what that looks like and make sure everyone’s clear about okay what does that policy say -- because I think there’s some confusion about that so we’ll be talking about that on Tuesday,” she said.

The Board of Education holds its regular meeting on Tuesday, March 3.

Holliday retired from the school district in August of 2019. According to Port City Daily, the stadium was named for Holliday back in 2005.

“Any attempt to name a facility without following this Policy is void and will not be honored unless approved by the Board after waiving the requirements of this Policy,” the current policy notes.

Policy 5400 was adopted in 1987, but has been revised five times since it was adopted. It is not clear what specific changes have been made to the policy since it was first put in place.

When former teacher Michael Kelly was arrested in 2018 for sex crimes against his students, people quickly started pointing fingers at Kelly’s former supervisor, Holliday. Parents and students told WECT they reported concerns to then-principal Holliday decades ago about Kelly and another teacher’s inappropriate relationships with students.

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 abruptly announced his retirement.

Holliday is also named in a civil lawsuit against the school district alleging top administrators repeatedly failed to act on information about potential wrongdoing by Kelly.

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