Updated: Feb 24
House Republicans introduced a bill that would increase the penalties for school staff and volunteers guilty of sexually abusing children in K-12 public and charter schools. Principals and superintendents will also be charged with a felony for failing to report teachers for physically abusing children when the law takes effect.
by: Sloan Rachmuth
During his guilty plea to 59 charges of sex crimes against students, former New Hannover teacher-of-the-year Michael Kelly said the district knew about his crimes, but administrators allowed him to continue teaching anyway. Kelly's former supervisors admit they knew of the abuse but were not properly trained to report it.
After 25 years of teaching in the district, Kelly was finally arrested in 2018.
The teacher-predator was found guilty of filming himself having sex with a 15-year-old student, exposing himself to students in the school bathroom, exchanging nude pictures with male students via Snapchat, and showing pornography to his science class.
The mother of one of Kelly’s victims said she reported the abuse to principal Rick Holiday who then failed to take action.
“God I don’t know how I’m going to live with this,” the mother says in her videotaped deposition to attorneys, before beginning to sob.
Two weeks, the mother killed herself.
HB142 was introduced last week that would stiffen the penalties for predators like Michael Kelly who situate themselves inside North Carolina's public and charter schools.
Bill sponsor Representative John Torbett, chair of the House K-12 education committee, told EFA, “With cases on the rise we must put an end to this type of assault on our young people, especially when it happens in a state-mandated educational setting.”
The bill increases the penalties for sexual activity with a student and taking indecent liberties with students from a Class I felony with three to twelve in prison, to a Class G felony with eight to thirty-one months in prison. These penalties would be in addition to other felony charges like rape and indecent liberties with a child which carry penalties ranging from 10 months to life in prison.
The law will allow all school staff and volunteers to be charged, as well as coaches and school resource officers.
Principals, superintendents, and human resource officers would also face felony charges for failing to notify the state teachers if they break the law.
When a teacher is sanctioned for things such as showing porn in the classroom, inappropriate touching, sexual assault, or child abuse, school administrators must file a report with the State Board of Education within five days.
Teachers who quit before they are terminated due to accusations would also need to be reported, according to the bill text.
Having a timely reporting clause will prevent teachers charged with sex crimes from relocating to different districts or states before the state has a chance to revoke their license and list them on the state’s database.
This summer, EFA reported that thirty-five teachers had been arrested for sexually abusing children in North Carolina’s public schools since 2020. Given that most school campuses were closed for a year during that time, this is truly remarkable.
A cursory review of news reports reveals that more than twenty teachers have been arrested since May including:
A teacher working in Wake County for twenty years was accused of indecent liberties with a student and indecent liberties with a child after dozens of parents say that complaints went unanswered for years.
An Iredell County teacher was accused of felony statutory rape, felony indecent liberties with a minor, and felony sexual activity with a student. Then, after the teacher was released on bail, investigators filed an additional twenty-seven charges against her for allegedly having the victim over to her home for sex nine more times.
A Lee County middle-school teacher was accused of committing multiple crimes against children over a ten-year period including statutory sex offense with a child by an adult, indecent liberties with a child, and sexual activity with a student.
A former Guilford County substitute teacher was arrested for statutory sex offense with a minor, indecent liberties with a student, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and felony possession of marijuana
A 20-year-old substitute teacher in Wake County was accused of taking indecent liberties with two students at two different high schools.
A Brevard teacher and football coach accused of second-degree forcible rape and indecent liberties with a student
An Edgecombe County teacher was accused of three counts of statutory sex offense with a child.
A Chralotte-Mecklenburg teacher was accused of taking indecent liberties with a student by a school administrator, and first-degree kidnapping.