WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Search warrants from the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office reveal Roland Grise band teacher Peter Frank was counseled by district officials for having “inappropriate relationships” with students during his tenure at the middle school.
The document details years of inappropriate conduct with female students noted in his personnel records and substantiated by searches of his phone and computer.
Frank has been suspended without pay from his role with New Hanover County Schools after being charged with a dozen felony sex crimes. He faces six charges of indecent liberties with a child and six charges of indecent liberties with a student by a teacher. An investigation revealed the alleged crimes stretch from 2003 to 2019 and involve six female victims.
While the charges stem from an incident in 2003, there is a note in his personnel file that dates alleged inappropriate conduct with students as far back as 1999.
Investigators located multiple images of middle school-aged girls when deputies took data from his phone on Jan. 24, search warrants confirm. The images showed the clothed backsides of female students.
“It is apparent that the students were not aware their photographs were being taken,” the search warrant says. “Frank was asked about these photographs to which he confessed to being sexually attracted to middle school-aged females.”
When deputies searched his home, they found files on his computer that contained more clothed photos labeled with female student’s names.
The search warrant details an incident where Frank picked up a student who was surfing at the time at Wrightsville Beach. The teacher took the female student to his home to show her around then drove her to eat at Carolina BBQ before taking her back to her house.
“The student states she showed Frank her residence, while nobody was home, and they walked to a common area area of the residence, and Frank kissed her. The student stated she began to feel weird about the incident and asked Frank to leave,” the search warrant says.
When the teacher was interviewed by deputies last week, he admits he took the student to his house, took her to eat, then took her back to her home but didn’t admit where he kissed her.
Detectives also learned of another student who was 13 years old when she was in Frank’s office at Roland Grise Middle School when she took a Diet Pepsi bottle and placed it in her mouth, “simulating a sexual act.” Frank kept the Diet Pepsi bottle in a drawer in his office for 17 years.
“Recent communication between the ex-student and Frank revealed Frank kept the bottle as a memento to the sexual act. When the prior student asked Frank why he still had the bottle, Frank messaged asking, ‘What man wouldn’t keep that?’” the search warrant said.
Deputies collected the bottle from a filing cabinet at the middle school last week.
Personnel records gathered by investigators for Frank also indicate he made an inappropriate comment on a photo posted on social media of one of his students wearing a bathing suit. Frank reportedly wrote “I cant say really what I want to say but it might rhyme with lubes.” A letter regarding the incident was placed in his file dated May 21, 2013.
Another letter dated 1999 alleges Frank took a student to his home and played video games for several hours.
The school board got their hands on the search warrants on Tuesday.
Two days later, following the publication of the search warrants, the New Hanover County Board of Education held a press conference to address the allegations against Frank.
The board says they are considering releasing parts of Frank’s personnel file. They also announced a weekend work session has been scheduled to discuss the case and “the best path forward for the school system.”
It is unclear if or when Frank’s personnel files will be released. So far, officials have been unable to release those details, citing FERPA and personnel laws.
Thursday night, the board also reiterated that Frank has not been terminated. He continues to be suspended from the district without pay.
According to the board members, Under North Carolina law, the superintendent would have to initiate the process of firing Frank; The board only has the option to approve or reject the decision to terminate the teacher.
“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 board chair Lisa Estep.
When WECT’s Alex Guarino asked about the existence of a “cover up culture” in New Hanover County schools, the board chair declined to answer the question, citing ongoing litigation.
“We are responsible ultimately, 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,” said board member Judy Justice. “It is a cultural situation and it has been going on. I’ve been in this district since ’89 and ’90, I left for 16 years to go to other districts. We’ve always had wonderful schools, amazing staff, our kids are great. Its not fair to those people… its not fair for our kids to have this go on. We’re the leaders, we need to be doing better by them.”
The sheriff’s office has set up a dedicated phone line for the Peter Frank investigation. People with information on the case should call 910-798-4399. A detective will be assigned the tips to call back for follow up.
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