WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – A teacher at Isaac Bear Early College High School is in jail under a $1 million bond after he was arrested for sex crimes involving at least five students.
Michael Kelly, 48, was arrested at his home Tuesday night as part of a joint investigation by the FBI and the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.
Kelly has been charged with third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and three counts of indecent liberties with a student.
He was initially booked into the New Hanover County Jail under a $100,000 bond.
During Kelly’s first court appearance Wednesday afternoon, prosecutors said he had been messaging pornographic images to at least five children at Isaac Bear. Prosecutors said Kelly admitted to at least one felony charge involving a 15-year-old student, who alerted law enforcement.
Prosecutors said additional charges are likely and asked for Kelly’s bond to be raised to $2 million.
Before the judge made his decision, he offered Kelly an opportunity to address the court regarding the charges.
“I’ve done a lot of good work in the school system and I made some bad choices,” Kelly said.
The judge opted to set Kelly’s bond at $1 million.
If he should make bond, Kelly can’t have any contact with the victims or their families, he can’t communicate with or be in the presence of any minors, and he is not allowed on any school property.
Kelly’s next court appearance is Feb. 22.WARNING: the following contains graphic detail from an arrest warrant
Arrest warrants allege that Kelly possessed images of a 15-year-old student “engaging in sexual activity consisting of holding his erect penis in his hand.” The alleged offenses happened between Aug. 9, 2017, and Feb. 6.
According to the Isaac Bear website, Kelly is a science teacher at the school. In 2016, he was named Isaac Bear’s teacher of the year.
A spokesperson for New Hanover County Schools said Kelly, who was hired by the school system on Aug. 17, 1992, has been suspended without pay and proceedings to dismiss him have been initiated.
Officials said the school system is cooperating with all law enforcement agencies involved in the case.
“While we can’t discuss the specifics of this case at this time, we take these allegations very seriously,” Superintendent Tim Markley said. “Our primary concern is the safety and protection of the students. We will take all steps necessary to ensure this.”
Principal MaryPaul Beall sent the following letter to parents of students at Isaac Bear:
There are times when it is necessary to communicate news that is painful to us all and this is one of those times. I regret to inform you that today, we have been notified by the New Hanover County Sheriffs Office about some serious charges resulting in the arrest of Mr. Michael Kelly, a science teacher here at Isaac Bear. We are shocked and deeply saddened by these allegations.
At this time, the school is fully cooperating with the law enforcement agencies that are investigating this matter. Mr. Kelly is currently suspended from his duties at IBECHS. We are committed to the safety of our students and expect all staff to adhere to the highest ethical practices and conduct. Should you be contacted by any law enforcement agencies, I encourage you to also cooperate with them in this investigation.
To provide support for our students and staff, we have asked the district’s Crisis Response Team of counselors to be available to help us cope with this situation. Please feel free to call my office if you have any questions. Thank you.”