NEW HANOVER COUNTY –– Warrants for the arrest of Ronnie Lynn Strickland allege the former volleyball coach of Hoggard High engaged “in vaginal intercourse and a sexual act” with one teenager in 1980. About three years later, Strickland allegedly engaged in another sexual act with a different minor.
The retired teacher, now 67, was charged Monday with two counts of sexual activity by a custodian. He received a $20,000 unsecured bond.
Strickland was scheduled to show in court Tuesday but waived his appearance. His next day in court is Apr. 29.
According to arrest warrants, Strickland’s first charge stems from an allegation of intercourse with a 16-year-old on May 1, 1980, the accuser’s birthday. Strickland, 26 at the time, was acting in a parental role in the home of the victim, the warrant states.
Between August 1983 and May 1984, Strickland is accused of engaging in another sexual act with a different 16-year-old while “assuming” the parental position, according to the warrant. Though the date range of the offense spans 10 months, starting when Strickland was 30, the warrant refers to a singular act; it’s not yet clear whether multiple acts occurred.
According to the Wilmington Police Department, two people came forward Mar. 11, 2021, and disclosed details of inappropriate relationships with Strickland.
WWAY reported earlier this month that Strickland would no longer coach for New Hanover County Schools. The announcement came Apr. 2, the same day Noble Middle School’s vice principal David Bostian was arrested for sex crimes against a minor in the early ‘90s.
Strickland turned himself in Monday afternoon at the New Hanover County Courthouse.
NHCS stated it received a tip on social media regarding Strickland and “acted immediately.” The district has not responded to Port City Daily’s questions about when the tip came in.
In a press release, the district described relieving Strickland of his coaching duties earlier this year. It is not clear on what date Strickland was dismissed. Strickland retired from his teaching job in 2009 and continued to coach for 10 years through the conclusion of the 2020 volleyball season on Jan. 31, 2021.
Tuesday evening, the New Hanover County Board of Education is meeting in a closed session, until no later than 6:30 p.m. According to the agenda, the members will listen to “reports concerning investigations of alleged criminal misconduct” and consult with the board attorney on several ongoing lawsuits against the school board involving past cases of sexual abuse by different perpetrators.
NHCS has encountered an unusually large volume of employees accused of sex crimes against minors in recent years. Cases include but are not limited to: Michael Kelly of Isaac Bear Early College; Peter Frank of Roland Grise Middle School; Nicholas Oates of Myrtle Grove Middle School; and David Bostian of Noble Middle School.
With the exception of Bostian, administrators are accused in each case of having foreknowledge of the employees’ criminal behavior and failing to report incidents or concerns to law enforcement. Deputy Superintendent Rick Holliday resigned in August 2019. Hours after Holliday’s announcement, the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney requested a State Bureau of Investigation inquiry into failure to report claims against NHCS administrators. Superintendent Tim Markley resigned in February 2020, receiving a $226,000 severance package upon his departure.
Following Strickland’s arrest, new Superintendent Charles Foust, who started in September, released a statement, saying he is “committed to doing everything we can to keep children safe.”
The release continued with a list of several actions NHCS has taken in recent years to prevent the sexual abuse of students. The district hired a new Title IX investigator in November 2019 and launched the anonymous reporting system Ethix 360 in December 2019. A spokesperson for NHCS stated Strickland’s case did not go through the portal, nor was it handled by the Title IX office. Instead, human resources addressed the situation.
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