Alleged victim: ‘You don’t go sit naked in a sauna with a teenage student’

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) –

A new batch of warrants, and another round of victims are now linked to a former New Hanover County High School science teacher fired in February for sex crimes against students.

The latest warrants indicate Mike Kelly’s alleged criminal behavior with students dates back as far as 2003, during his days as a science teacher at Laney High School. Kelly has worked for NHCS for 25 years, most recently at Isaac Bear Early College High School where he won the Teacher of the Year award during the 2016-2017 school year.

WECT spoke to one of the alleged victims listed in the warrants taken out against Kelly on April 6. We are not publishing his name because of the sensitive nature of what he says happened to him, and because he was a juvenile at the time. He is now an adult and gave us an inside glance at how Kelly worked to get close to his students.

This student remembers Kelly showing pornography in school with an overhead projector. He said it was during science class in 2003, and Kelly used the obscene image as a way to explain a concept in molecular chemistry. This former student said kids did not know how to react, and some of them even laughed, since sex was still a fairly taboo topic for people their age.

This victim also says that Kelly would invite him to play racquet ball after school at the YMCA. He said at the time, he was an awkward teenager without a lot of friends, and he welcomed the invitation.

But after they were finished playing racquet ball, the former student said Kelly would suggest they go sit together in the sauna. He says he was too naive at the time to say no, but the memory now disgusts him.

“I realize now how inappropriate that was. You don’t go sit naked in a sauna with a teenage student,” the former student explained of his time with Kelly.

This former student says he specifically remembers being called into Dr. Rick Holliday’s office when he was principal at Laney in 2003, to discuss pornography that was found on Mr. Kelly’s computer.

Holliday insisted to WECT he does not remember this. After Kelly was first arrested in February, NHCS indicated there had never been any complaints filed about Kelly in his many years as a teacher with the school system.

But the parent of another student at the time says that’s an “outright lie.”

Shortly after news of Kelly’s arrest broke, Caroline Kuebler reached out to WECT to say that she’d complained about Kelly’s behavior with students 15 years ago. She’d kept a copy of the formal complaint she filed with Central Office.

Kuebler heard from her own child and another parent that Kelly was showing porn in class in 2003. Kuebler said she went to Mike Kelly and Holliday, then-principal of Laney High School, to express her concerns. Not only did they do nothing to stop the behavior, she says Kelly retaliated against her son by docking his grade in his class.

She says she has been heartbroken to learn over the last two months of at least a dozen victims who claim Kelly abused them. She says this was preventable and wishes someone had listened to her when she tried to warn them of his inappropriate behavior with students years ago.

“They don’t have my complaint, how many other complaints were made? How do we know? That’s just it. If you complain to an organization that supposedly polices itself, there could have been hundreds of complaints made. And we would never know,” Kuebler lamented.

She wanted to make clear her own child was never a victim of any kind of sexual assault, but Kelly’s behavior worried her enough to file a formal complaint.

After Caroline Kuebler showed us the written complaint she filed 15 years ago, the school system said they actually have no records of any personnel complaints filed prior to 2004.

Dr. Rick Holliday, who is now deputy superintendent of the school system, says he does not recall Caroline Kuebler’s complaints when he was principal of Laney, or any complaints about Mike Kelly.

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