’If you’re not being heard keep on talking’: NHC commissioner speaks out about school district culture

Updated: Jan. 29, 2020 at 5:07 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Elected leaders are acknowledging a problem with the culture within the New Hanover County School District.

Three New Hanover School employees have been charged with sex crimes against students in just two years.

This week, Roland Grise Middle School band instructor Peter Frank was charged with a dozen felony counts of sexual misconduct with his students.

At least six victims came forward with accusations dating back to 2003.

School board members have refused to talk to WECT on camera, but New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield is speaking out.

About $116 million from the county pays for part of the school system’s budget, so commissioners have some oversight over the district.

“As a father of four girls, it definitely concerns me. I have one daughter who was actually in band at Roland Grise. She’s studying abroad right now and we talked to her yesterday. She said ‘dad I had no problems when I was there but I can see things as well’,” said Barfield.

After sexual misconduct allegations and talks of a cover-up culture within the school system, Barfield said it is important to advocate for one another.

“It’s important when children see something, when adults see something that they speak but you also have to have a culture where people feel free enough to bring things to your attention, knowing that it will indeed be addressed. But when you bring stuff to people and they fluff you off, don’t really pay it much attention, the next person who comes along is more than likely not going to speak up,” he said.

Barfield, district attorney Ben David and the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office urge anyone who was a victim or has information regarding Frank or any other school employee to contact the sheriff’s office.

“If you’re not being heard keep on talking, keep on yelling, keep talking until someone listens. Knock on every door you can knock on until someone listens. The leadership’s role is to listen to the concerns those folks they are shepherding so to speak, and again it starts with creating a culture of open door to where you can tell me anything and know there won’t be any retribution, retaliation.”

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