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14 former students sue school over sex abuse by teacher

$5.75 million settlement

14 former students sue school over sex abuse by teacher

$5.75 million settlement

Action: Institutional sex abuse

Injuries alleged: Sexual abuse and/or exploitation by teacher

Case name: John Does 1-14 v. New Hanover County Board of Education, et al.

Court/case no.: New Hanover Superior Court; No. 19-CVS-2745

Name of mediator: René Trehy

Amount: $5.75 million

Demand: $8 million (limits of insurance)

Highest offer: $5.75 million

Special damages: Pain and suffering included mental anguish, anxiety, major depression, PTSD, schizophrenia and attempted suicides in some victims

Date: June 9, 2023

Most helpful expert: Charol Shakeshaft, Ph.D., professor, educational leadership (Title IX), Richmond, Va.

Attorneys: Martin Ramey and Joel Rhine of the Rhine Law Firm, Wilmington and Jim Lea and Mary Charles Amerson of the Lea/Schultz Law Firm, Wilmington (for the plaintiffs); Deborah Stagner and Stephen Rawson of Tharrington Smith, Raleigh, N.C. (for the defense)

Plaintiffs are 14 men who were former students of high school chemistry teacher Michael Kelly, who abused his students over the span of two decades in Wilmington.

The plaintiffs contended that the school district had failed to properly investigate Kelly despite multiple complaints by students and parents during his employment. In addition, Kelly reported to law enforcement that he had been cleared of two investigations in 2006 and 2010.

The defendants argued that 10 of the plaintiffs were barred by the statute of limitations, which was revived by the SAFE Child Act, which is being challenged in several appellate cases pending before the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

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