Law firm expanding investigation into sexual assaults of students in Guilford County Schools

The law firm representing a student who was sexually assaulted by a Guilford County public school teacher is expanding their investigations into the district in light of discovering additional teacher arrests, including “five of whom have been arrested just within the past year.”

“The investigation broadened last week with the arrest of former Page High School teacher Matthew Jonathan Rickard, 37, of Greensboro, who is charged with three counts of sex acts with a student going back as far as 2015. He is being held under a $75,000 bond,” said the Rhine Law Firm release.

“On behalf of our clients and the Guilford community, we are bound to conduct our own
investigation into these other cases. We need to speak to witnesses who have knowledge of the facts in not just the Holland case, but all of the others,” says Jim Lea, of The Lea Schultz Law Firm, P.C. in the release.

The scope of their investigation will now include:

  • Carly Shea Smith, a Northern Guilford Middle School teacher accused of statutory rape of a child, among other charges, who was arrested in December 2019.
  • Daniel Webster Smith Jr., a Ben L. Smith High School teacher charged with sex offense
    with a student and second-degree rape in November 2019.
  • Dustin Graham Branch, an Eastern Guilford math teacher, who was arrested in June 2015, and charged with several sex offenses involving a student who was 17 at the time.
  • James Brandon Mullis, 36, of High Point, and a Southwest Guilford coach, was charged
    with indecent liberties with a student and attempted third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor in July 2019.

Our website reported on three of the four cases: Carly Shea Smith, Daniel Webster Smith, and James Mullis.

At the time Mullis was arrested, he was working as a coach at North Davidson High School in Davidson County. It was noted in the report on Mullins that Guilford County School officials seem surprised to learn of Mullins’ arrest, which implies that both that Guilford County did not run a background check on Mullins, nor did they apparently tell Guilford County Schools. It also implies that Davidson County officials did not report Mullins’ resignation to the State Board of Education, which they are required to do by law.

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“Even more appalling is the fact that three other Guilford County teachers, David Frank Pace, David Brian Seus and Kevin Devahl Samuel, were charged in a child sex sting operation in July of 2008,” said Joel R. Rhine of the Rhine Law Firm, P.C., one of the attorneys handling the Holland case.

“One would think the arrests of not one, but three teachers, would be concerning to
Guilford County Schools, who should have conducted its own investigation and worked to make sure it strengthen its hiring procedures and supervision,” said Rhine.

More details on these cases are available in the full press release included at the end of this article.

In April, the Rhine Law Firm first announced that they would be representing a student who alleged they were sexually assaulted by Guilford County school teacher Christopher Arnell Holland. At the time, the firm said it was focusing on whether or not the district knew about Holland’s activities.

The month prior, in March, Christopher Arnell Holland, age 37, was charged with nine counts of sex acts with a student.

By May, the Lea/Schultz Law Firm, P.C., and the Rhine Law Firm, P.C. Both firms had filed a complaint against the district after additional victims in the Holland case had come forward. On  Monday, May 4, new charges were added to Holland that included three counts of statutory rape of a child by an adult, two counts of statutory sex offense with a child by an adult and one count of indecent liberties with a child.

Holland was a teaching assistant and assistant basketball coach at Dudley High School starting in Aug. 2014 through March 11, 2020. The district apparently allowed Holland to resign. It is unclear if Guilford school officials have reported that resignation to the State Board of Education as dictated by state law per § 115C-325. section (O)(2).

At the time of his arrest, he was being held under two secured bonds totaling $350,000. Those bonds were reduced to $200,000, but with the new charges added have been increased to $3.7 million.

Read the latest Rhine Law Firm release, announcing an expansion of their investigation:

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a freelance journalist and is currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_
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