Superintendent, parents respond following arrest of retired Hoggard volleyball coach charged with sex crimes against students

Updated: Apr. 12, 2021 at 11:08 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Retired Hoggard High School volleyball coach Ronnie Lynn Strickland was arrested on Monday after he was accused of decades-old sex crimes against two students.

A news release from New Hanover County Schools states that Strickland was relieved of his duties earlier this year after the district received a tip through social media about the alleged conduct.

The Wilmington Police Department investigated and charged Strickland, 67, with two counts of sexual activity by a custodian. He surrendered to authorities Monday afternoon. Bond information was not immediately available.

A WPD spokesperson said the alleged incidents occurred in 1982-1983 while Strickland was Hoggard’s volleyball coach.

“The victims came forward, saying the two had an inappropriate relationship starting around 1982, while the victims were 16 years old,” a WPD news release stated.

Coastal Preps reported on April 2 that Strickland, who coached 37 seasons at Hoggard and won more than 775 matches, would not be back on the sidelines later this year.

Strickland not only coached at Hoggard High School, but also at Roland Grise Middle School. He was also the director at Cape Fear Volleyball, a local travel volleyball club that has since changed hands and changed names.

Since the news broke, WECT News has spoken with several parents, former players, and local coaches, all of whom said they are shocked and could not believe the news.

“With everything I know about Ron, and the years I have spent with him, nothing about this story is believable to me,” said Joe Stephenson, parent of former player Cassidy Stephenson. “With Ron’s professionalism, from knowing him with my daughter playing with him for over six years and also not just high school but in travel ball, and going on these trips and playing in these volleyball tournaments, he’s been total professional from all the way. And to hear this story I just, I don’t, I can’t believe it.”

In response to the allegations, New Hanover County Schools says it plans to have a crisis response team in place at Hoggard for students and staff beginning Tuesday.

WECT News also reached out to Superintendent Dr. Charles Foust for comment Monday night.

“I honestly believe, and our district believes, that every child deserves a safe environment, and we are going to hold all educators accountable to ensure that every child is safe,” Dr. Foust said in an interview. “All parents should be able to drop their children off, whether they ride in the bus, ride in the car, walk to school, ride a bike — however they get to school — and the way that they drop them off is the way that we should be able to send them back to them.”

In an earlier email, Foust responded to questions about the allegations with the following statement:

“I am committed to doing everything we can to keep children safe. New Hanover County Schools is cooperating fully with law enforcement. Identification of abuse is the first step to strengthening our prevention efforts. We will report and investigate all allegations. Each student should feel that they are safe when they come to school and we hold all of our educators accountable to upholding that standard. The district will not tolerate inappropriate conduct with a student.”

To submit a report to New Hanover County Schools, click here to use their Ethix 360 portal.

This is a developing story and WECT will be following up with the NHC School Board on Tuesday.

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