A Cherokee County Public Schools Principal has been charged with multiple counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor.
Thomas Edward Graham, age 45, has been charged with two counts of Felony Indecent Liberties with a Child.
According to Cherokee County Sheriff Derrick Palmer, the investigation is “ongoing” and is led by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
SBI spokeswoman Patty McQuillan said in statement that Graham “had an inappropriate relationship with a student.”
McQuillan also said that the SBI joined the probe on January 9th of this year after allegations were reported. The alleged events took place two years ago in February of 2016.
According to WRCB, a spokesperson for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office indicated Graham had been indicted by a grand jury on two charges of indecent liberties with a student.
Bail of only $2,500 was set in the form of a secured bond. He posted the money and was released. Graham’s next court appearance will be March 5, at 9 a.m. in the Superior Court in Murphy, North Carolina.
Graham is the Principal at Murphy High School (2010-2016). He has been suspended with pay, according to the school district.
He had previously served as Principal at Hiwasse Dam High School and has been employed as an educator since 1999. Hiwasse is allegedly where the incidents took place.
According to WRCB, Graham has been suspended with pay and includes remarks from the Superintendent:
Although Graham was suspended at the end of January, he is still considered a paid employee with the school system.
“North Carolina Employment Law is very restrictive on the due process,” Superintendent Conley said. “We have to demonstrate evidence before we can make a recommendation to terminate.”
Teachers were given a letter to share with their class about Graham’s suspension. It says in part, “by law in this country, anyone is innocent until proven guilty. We all need to remember the difference between speculation or gossip and facts.”
Superintendent Conley said her students and their privacy is her top priority while this investigation continues.
“The folks on either side are damaged anytime accusations like this occur,” Superintendent Conley added. “The family of the accuser, and the family of accused and everyone in between feels emotional and damaged. It is really a terrible circumstance.”
The WRCB article continues to say that law requires Graham be suspended with pay. That’s incorrect. Under state law passed last year, the Superintendent has the discretion to suspend without pay.
The school district posted a statement to Facebook which reads:
“Cherokee County Schools has been working with local and state law enforcement agencies and has fully cooperated with their investigation.” a school system spokesperson said. “Because personnel matters are considered confidential under state law, CCS cannot make any further comment regarding Mr. Graham. Further, it is imperative that CCS strive alongside law enforcement agencies to seek the truth and impart fairness to all parties involved.”