High school principal suspended amid 'indecent liberties' allegations in Murphy, N.C.

High school principal suspended amid 'indecent liberties' allegations in Murphy, N.C.

February 12th, 2018 by Ben Benton in Breaking News

Thomas Graham

Thomas Graham

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

The principal at Murphy High School in Cherokee County, N.C., has been suspended with pay after being booked on charges of misconduct with a minor.

Thomas Graham was charged on a grand jury indictment issued Feb. 5 with two counts of indecent liberties with a child. Graham is free on a $2,500 secured bond. The charges stem from incidents alleged to have happened while Graham was principal of Hiawassee Dam High School a couple of years ago, officials said.

Cherokee County Sheriff Derrick Palmer said Monday that the investigation is ongoing and being led by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

"Even though he's been charged, there are still interviews going on and more investigation to do," Palmer said.

SBI spokeswoman Patty McQuillan said Monday in a statement that the state agency joined the sex offense probe on Jan. 9 on allegations that Graham "had an inappropriate relationship with a student."

"The allegations referred to incidents which occurred approximately two years ago," McQuillan said. "Graham was currently the principal of Murphy High School at the time the report was made to the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office."

Hiawassee Dam High School is between Murphy and Turtletown, Tenn., about five miles from the Tennessee state line.

"Several interviews have been conducted in the investigation and more are anticipated," McQuillan said. "At the time of the indictment, Graham had been placed on administrative leave from Murphy High School."

School system officials posted a statement about the arrest and suspension on the system's Facebook page saying that Graham was suspended from his duties "on Jan. 26 in response to allegations of misconduct. As required by law, any suspension during an investigation is with pay."

Jason Forrister "has been acting principal during this time and will continue in that role as long as necessary," the statement reads.

"Cherokee County Schools has been working with local and state law enforcement agencies and has fully cooperated with their investigation," school officials said in the statement. "Because personnel matters are considered confidential under state law, CCS cannot make any further comment regarding Mr. Graham."

School officials said safety is a priority for the system and all potential employees undergo a thorough background check before employment.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.