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Cherokee County principal suspended during investigation into alleged misconduct

Murphy High School Principal Thomas Graham has been suspended after being accused of taking advantage of a student. (Images: Cherokee Co. Sheriff's Office, WTVC)

A man hired to steer children's education is now accused of taking advantage of one of his students.

Murphy High School Principal Thomas Graham is now suspended.

On Monday, NewsChannel 9 learned that the charges stem from incidents police say happened in 2016, when he was working at another school across town.

The opening of a letter to students from Cherokee County Schools superintendent Jeana Conley reads, "By now many of you have heard about some recent events that affect Murphy County High School."

She says, "We scripted a statement that teachers could read aloud to the individual classrooms and students were allowed to ask questions."

Sheriff Derrick Palmer says Graham is facing two counts of indecent liberties with a student.

"It's basically misconduct with a child of a sexual nature," Palmer said.

According to court records, the alleged incidents happened two years ago while Graham was the principal at Hiawassee Dam School.

In the letter to students, the school systems says Graham maintains his innocence.

We tried to track down the principal Monday. He wasn't home, but his father told us his son says he didn't do anything wrong.

Graham's arrest, however, remains a distraction across the county.

"The principal is the most important person in the building," Conley said. "Everything drives around them- their philosophies, their vision, the way they carry themselves, the way they treat their staff, the way they treat their students."

Conley says her principals are taught to be role models as take responsibility not for students, but also the adults working to teach them.

"It's a problem when there is a situation that puts strain on the community, because we are such a close knit town that it causes us to wonder about each other."

Graham has been working for the system for nearly 20 years.

Conley says the assistant principal is currently filling his position. She says Graham is on paid administrative leave while the system continues to investigate.

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