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Public silenced at football controversy meeting

By WCTI Staff
Published On: Nov 01 2012 10:07:34 AM CDT
Updated On: Nov 06 2012 12:40:52 AM CST
GREENVILLE -

Pitt County Board of Education members threatened to remove anyone who spoke about the Maleek Gorham controversy Monday night, summoning Sheriffs deputies to keep the peace at a public comment forum.

A crowd overflowed the Board of Education meeting room for the two hour event, with coaches and parents hoping to address the one year sports suspension of D.H. Conley High School's star running back.

When the session opened for public comment, the Board instructed attendees not to identify any specific people or incidents in their remarks because of privacy convents.

The first speaker took the podium for about ten seconds, before he mentioned the Gorham suspension and was asked to return to his seat immediately.

"I don't know how we can talk about this issue without saying anything," Pitt County resident Pat Tyson said. "I apologize if I broke any rule, but I don't know how to speak here."

Members of the audience began to vocally protest the constraints, but the Board pushed back. A tense exchange between the Board and a woman sitting in the front row led to a deputy being summoned.

"I've done nothing wrong, you don't need to remove me," said the woman, a parent from the Pitt County School District. "I'm not leaving."

The four deputies in the room refused to remove the individual.

Although members of the public could not discuss Gorham's suspension, Pitt County Superintendent Dr. Beverly Emory addressed the controversy directly at the beginning of the meeting.

Emory said while she could not disclose all the findings of a preliminary investigation due to privacy concerns, she could say the school district did not appear to be at fault.

"There are no findings about adults, coaches or teams that would relate to the cause of athletic ineligibility" Emory said. "We are bound by laws that protect privacy. This can be frustrating for public who wants answers."

PREVIOUS STORY: D.H. Conley's Maleek Gorham denied chance to play Friday

A federal judge ruled that D.H. Conley Running Back Maleek Gorham could not play Friday night, in the Vikings' first-round playoff game against Triton High School.

NewsChannel 12 was at the federal courthouse in Raleigh when the decision came down Friday afternoon.

In early October, Gorham was deemed ineligible to play sports for one year, because the North Carolina High School Athletic Association accused his family of falsifying documents about his residence.

D.H. Conley had to forfeit three games, including two wins, as a result.

The Gorham family hired a lawyer to file an injunction against Maleek's ineligibility. But at Friday's hearing in Raleigh, the federal judge said the attorney did not present a strong enough argument to warrant an injunction. As a result, Gorham was forbidden to play Friday night.

The D.H. Conley head coach said had Gorham been allowed to play Friday, he would have been inserted into the Vikings' starting lineup.

PREVIOUS STORY: Conley football player ruled ineligible

The mother of Maleek Gorham, the D. H. Conley High School student ruled ineligible to play football, has hired an attorney to file a motion to allow her son to play.  Gorham, who recently transferred from J.H. Rose High School, was not allowed to play football due to an investigation with the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.  The NCHSAA says the star running back and his family falsified documents about his residence.

David Sutton will represent the family; Sutton says he is filing a motion in federal court asking to allow Gorham to play.  Sutton says they are asking for an injunction against his punishment until there is a hearing.  Sutton adds they want him to play this Friday night so he can play in playoffs for Conley.

"Nobody is telling me why he can't play. You're just telling me that my son has to sit out for 365 days...I just want what's right for Maleek. I think that Maleek deserves a fair hearing," Maleek's mother, Cassandra Haddock said.

"I want to be able to play football and play college football," Maleek added.

Up until this point, the family says they have not been able to tell their story.

According to the family, this ineligibility situation all came about after Gorham's sister, who is an 8th grader at E.B. Aycock Middle School in Greenville, filled out a form stating her current address in Greenville. However, the family had actually moved in with Cassandra's parents in Grimesland, while her father undergoes cancer treatments. 

The sister apparently wanted to stay the last year with her friends at E.B. Aycock before continuing onto high school.  According to Sutton, she put down the Greenville address to ensure that would happen.

Sutton says the family did not realize that Gorham's sister could have stayed at E.B. Aycock regardless of their living arrangements because guidelines allow a child to remain at the school if it's their final year.

Haddock says both Maleek and his sister live with her and her parents in Grimesland. She says school officials used the Greenville address in their argument against them with the NCHSAA and that eventually lead to their ruling that makes Maleek ineligible to play sports until October 2, 2013. D. H. Conley attempted to appeal the ruling but it was denied.

This motion comes just after a suspension of the Pitt County Athletic Director, Ron Butler, and the head football coach at J. H. Rose High School, Todd Lipe.  Both Butler and Lipe are suspended with pay pending an investigation.