A New Hanover Public Schools Band teacher has been arrested and charged with 12 sex-related felonies.
Peter Michael Frank, age 47, is charged with six counts of indecent liberties with a child and six counts of indecent liberties with a student.
Indecent Liberties with a child are a Class F felony, carrying a 10-41 month sentence per instance. The Indecent Liberties with a student charges are a Class I felony which carries a 3-12 month sentence per instance.
The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office (NHSCO), the alleged incidents involved at least six students and took place between 2003 and 2019.
Frank was arrested on Monday, Jan. 27 after turning himself in to authorities. He was issued a $750,000 secured bond and taken to the New Hanover County Detention Center.
The first court date for Frank is Jan. 28. This case has been turned over to the Special Prosecutors office.
On the now removed bio page at Roland-Grise Middle School where he was a band teacher, he also offered “additional tutoring” outside of school.
District Attorney Ben David addresses media about the charges against Frank:
The District Knew
The district released the following statement to this website:
“New Hanover County Schools have been alerted to the recent arrest of Pete Frank by the New Hanover County Sherrif Office. The district is cooperating fully with the NHCSO as they continue their investigation. If NHCS can confirm the allegations against Pete Frank the district will take the appropriate actions including and up to dismissal and revocation of teaching licenses. We hold our educators to the highest standards, the greatest responsibility placed upon all NHCS employees is the safety and well being of our students. Mr. Frank is currently on suspension with pay and has been since Thursday, January 23, 2020.”
NHCPS also confirmed employment details for Frank, which show he began employment with NHCPS on Jul. 7, 1997. The district also confirmed that Frank is currently suspended with pay as of Jan. 23, 2020, while an investigation is completed.
Update (02/15/20): The New Hanover school board announced that Frank has been fired. According to multiple reports, the school board met the morning of Saturday, Feb. 15 and held a long closed session. When they emerged, the board voted unanimously to terminate Frank’s employment for cause.
According to the termination letter, the board claims no prior knowledge for the misconduct that led to the criminal charges against Frank. The letter to Frank says the board believes there is “sufficient evidence” to support his “immediate dismissal” based on the charges against him.
The letter also says the district will inform the Dept. of Public Instruction and have Frank’s teaching license revoked.
The district also said that Frank was suspended with pay Dec. 3, 2015, while an investigation was completed. NCHPS says Frank was suspended again, this time without pay, for 10 days starting Dec. 9, 2015, for an “incident not involving students.”
Yet, it is now being reported that Frank had been documented by the New Hanover school system for having “inappropriate relationships” with students during the majority of the time he was employed with the district.
According to a report by Star News, the district held a press conference late on Thursday, Jan. 30 at which “district officials confirmed that Frank had yet to be fired because of his tenure.”
Several outlets have reported on the search warrants executed in the case which found photos of the clothed buttocks of students and had multiple files on his home computer labeled with female names.
According to the warrant, one of Frank’s former students filed a complaint with the District Attorney’s office. The warrant says Frank had picked the girl up, took her for food and then back to his home where he kissed her.
There was another incident involving another female student in 2004, the warrant says. Allegedly, Frank kept a bottle for 17 years as a “memento” after a 13-year-old female student used it to simulate oral sex. The bottle was one of the items taken from a filing cabinet at Roland-Grise by law enforcement.
In an interview, Frank admitted to investigators that he was sexually attracted to middle-school aged girls and had made numerous inappropriate social media posts over the years.
Port City Daily reports that there were letters placed in Frank’s personnel file for at least two incidents of inappropriate contact or behavior:
“In Peter Frank’s personnel records from Roland Grise Middle School, a social media post was found where a student had posted a photograph in a bathing suit. Frank comments on the photograph saying, “‘I can’t say really what I want to say, but it might rhyme with lubes,’” according to the detective’s statement.
The warrant notes that a letter dated May 21, 2013, was placed in Frank’s file about the incident. Another letter in his file, dated November 9, 1999, indicated that Frank took a student to his residence and “played video games for several hours.” According to court records, Frank had separated from his wife several months earlier.
At a press conference held on Jan. 30, the New Hanover County School Board closed ranks, with the board chair reading a prepared statement.
During the press conference, the school board confirmed that Frank has not been fired and is now suspended without pay.
“We acknowledge that a third arrest for sexual abuse in less than two years is jarring and concerning to everyone. As a board, we are committed to confronting these issues with bravery and an ethical compass because the safety of your children is our first priority,” said NHCPS board chair Lisa Estep.
The board said they were considering releasing Frank’s personnel file, however, that action would violate both state and federal law.
When questioned about why Frank had not been fired, Estep said the board was following state law for tenured school employees.
One reporter asked how students and their parents were supposed safe in a district where this was now the third incident in as many years of a long-term predator operating in the district. Estep said they are “trying as hard as they can” to make sure students are safe.
Estep said the board would be meeting over the weekend to discuss the situation and what steps would next be taken. She urged anyone with information to reach out to the district and law enforcement.
At one point, a question was asked about a parent who knew about the issues with Frank “for a long time.” The board was asked why nothing was done sooner and board member Bill Rivenbark’s response came close to blaming the parent.
“If it was my daughter, or my son, and I called the administration and they didn’t do something about it, I would,” said Rivenbark.
“So you are blaming that parent?” asked the reporter.
“I’m not blaming that parent,” Rivenbark said.
The reporter pressed, saying this is the job of the board, not the parents.
“If there is a parent out there – and I don’t know who it is – but if there is a parent out there who says they knew something and reported it and then just dropped it? Then I have a problem with that,” Rivenbark replied.
Around the 16:30 minute mark of the conference, NHCPS school board member Judy Justice took over the podium, blasting her fellow board members.
Justice said she asked for an investigation several times last year and “wasn’t supported.”
“I found out about this news conference when I was walking my dog and a reporter called me,” said Justice, illustrating a lack of communication between board members.
She also said it is the board’s responsibility to protect their students.
“As a board, we all have to be responsible for our actions,” said Justice.
“We are responsible, ultimately,” said Justice. “We are the people elected by this community to run this school district. We may not have been involved when a lot of these things were going on, but immediately when we got in there we should have jumped in and started taking the bull by the horns.”
A state law passed in 2017 gives the district’s superintendent the ability to fire Frank with board approval and also requires the board to report any resignation to the State Board of Education which tied to an arrest or was tendered without 30 days notice.
There is no North Carolina teaching license on file with the state that is associated with Peter Frank. There is, however, a license for a “Pete Michael Frank” in the area of “Music K-12.” That license is set to expire in June of 2020.
The school sent a letter home to parents by the principal of Roland-Grise Middle on Jan. 29 which indicated Frank was “no longer working at our school” and that an investigation was underway.
Frank is the fifth educator arrest tracked by this website in 2020.
The investigation is still open. Anyone with additional information is asked to contact the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office at 910-798-4260.
New Hanover County’s Predator Problem
New Hanover County Public Schools (NHCPS) has had multiple teachers arrested over the last two to three years who had multiple victims and have racked up nearly 100 charges involving sexual misconduct with students.
The district has stayed in the news for the last two years following the arrest, trial, and conviction of former NHCPS teacher Michael Kelly.
In June of 2019, Kelly pleaded guilty to the majority of the 61 felony charges that were pending against him. Kelly surrendered his teaching license to the state in July 2019.
The history of the Kelly case and information involving other allegations against the New Hanover School Board can be found in my June 25 article.
While Kelly had 61 charges against him, NHCPS special education teacher Nicholas Oates was indicted on 24 felonies counts that included four counts each of Indecent liberties with a student, Sexual activity with a student and Second-degree kidnapping, five counts of Indecent liberties with a child and seven counts of Statutory Rape of a child under 15.
Oates will never be sentenced. He died while in custody awaiting trial in November 2019 of liver failure.
According to reports by Port City Daily, Oates had a significant criminal record yet the district hired him anyway. Oates is apparently the brother of the New Brunswick schools superintendent, Dr. Jerry Oates.
As of June 2019, NHCPS had refused to investigate the cases brought up by SCEPUL but later hired an outside investigator to look into the matter.
Based on the SCEPUL report the New Hanover Sheriff’s Department began looking into the allegations.
The 44-page Class-action complaint is filed by the Rhine and the Lea/Shultz law firms on behalf of 3 John Does and all others “similarly situated.”
The complaint alleges the school district is “vicariously liable” for the actions of Michael Kelly and demands $25,000 in damages for each plaintiff as well as punitive damages and legal and court fees.
The plaintiffs are also asking for a ”trial by jury on all issues so triable.” This seems to indicate the plaintiffs may be looking for school officials to stand trial.
Named as defendants are the New Hanover County School Board, Michael Kelly, James Rick “Rickie” Holliday and Holliday’s direct supervisor, New Hanover Superintendent Timothy Markley. In addition, at least ten other unnamed New Hanover Public School employees or contractors are also defendants and designated as “Roes 1-10.”
At the time Kelly was abusing students at Laney High School in the late 1980s, Rick Holliday was the Assistant Principal. Holliday rose through the administrative ranks over the years to Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services, which was the role he held until he resigned on July 1, 2019.
Shortly after Holliday resigned, the State Bureau of Investigation was called in by the New Hanover Sheriff Department to help investigate.
The complaint says that the district made it worse by reassigning Kelly to another school where he had “more private access to a more vulnerable student body.”
The reassignment referred to is Kelly’s move to Isaac Bear Early College High School (IBECHS).The class-action filing alleges that the school district was warned by multiple parents and had “ample notice” of Michael Kelly’s behavior but let him remain in the classroom anyway, violating their legal obligations to report Kelly to law enforcement.
“NHCBOE actively concealed from students and parents the information it had regarding Kelly and calculated and intended that its concealment would deceive minor students and their parents, including plaintiffs and the putative Class, about the safety of IBECHS,” the complaint states.
Read the full complaint.
A recent update to the Michael Kelly/NHCPS case indicates that a dedicated judge may be assigned:
“The lawsuit, filed in July, alleges that top administrators including Superintendent Dr. Tim Markley and former Deputy Superintendent Dr. Rick Holliday, repeatedly failed to act on information about potential wrongdoing by Kelly; further, the suit explicitly alleges that Holliday was aware for decades of Kelly’s inappropriate and criminal behavior and did not act to prevent that behavior from continuing. The suit also alleges Markley was negligent in supervising Holliday.” (Port City Daily)