By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Cherokee Braves and Lady Braves varsity basketball teams traveled to Landrum, SC the last week of 2016 to play in the 17th Annual Battle at the Border tournament. Various allegations of school staff wrongdoings during the trip have now surfaced.
“We are and will continue to fully investigate these allegations,” said Scott Penland, Cherokee Central School superintendent. “We have found one incident of misconduct by a staff member and dealt with it swiftly and promptly. Everything past that point has been rumors and speculation! We investigate every lead. I got a lead last night (Jan. 19) at 11:30pm and got on it first thing this morning.”
Superintendent Penland said the Cherokee Indian Police Department and the school human resources office have both been involved in the investigation of allegations. “It really pains me that these rumors and accusations makes the school look bad. This school and these students have too many great things going for them on a daily basis to be tainted by this; however, I have never and will never make a knee-jerk decision without facts!”
Individual personnel issues are not discussed by the Cherokee School Board, but it was confirmed that the staff member was punished for admitted alcohol use during the trip.
One of the accusations was that staff provided alcohol to students, a claim Superintendent Penland says he heard for the first time while watching a WLOS-TV report. “We have not one shred of evidence of this. If any student tells us that this happened to them, the staff member will be suspended immediately until an investigation is completed and law enforcement will be notified!”
Birdtown School Board Rep. Gloria Griffin said, “It’s an ongoing investigation. We are going to make stricter policies and stricter ethics policies for staff and students.”
She said the allegations she has been privy to involve students being unsupervised and that there are allegations that some of the coaching staff were supposedly drinking, but these allegations have not been official or put into writing, something she is strongly advising parents and students to do. “If you have any information on this incident, please come forward and speak to Deb Toineeta or Craig Barker at the school. Follow the appropriate channels. If you could please put it into writing, it would give the administration what they need to take action. Until we get statements in writing, there is basically nothing that the administration can do. All that can be done is the investigation continues forward.”
Superintendent Penland echoed her sentiment, “If you hear of anyone with relevant information, please send them to us. My door is always open.”
In a statement released over the weekend, Principal Chief Patrick Lambert weighed in on the subject, “Students deserve a safe learning environment and secure facilities when participating in school-sanctioned activities. The alleged misconduct by school personnel and other staff is beneath the good name of our community and Tribe. That is why I have advocated for a quick and thorough investigation of all the reports and accusations surrounding this event. I have contacted the Tribe’s Department of Justice, Child Advocacy Team, and Cherokee Indian Police Department to provide necessary assistance to bring forth the truth and to provide a proper and full investigation.”
Chief Lambert continued, “Cherokee Central Schools is a wonderful school with bright, intelligent children, and a staff who cares for them wholeheartedly. Every parent has a reasonable expectation that their children’s school will provide a safe, appropriately chaperoned, and secure environment. The alleged actions of a few won’t change that, and I, along with the whole community, look forward to learning the results and encouraging the school and the School Board to take any and all appropriate discipline measures. And, if any crimes have been committed you can expect appropriate law enforcement action to be taken.”