National Guard Involved in South Carolina High-School Cheerleading Controversy

Published January 25, 2007

| FoxNews.com

The South Carolina National Guard has entered the case of a high-school principal charged with hindering the police investigation of a cheerleading coach accused of providing students with beer, according to local news reports.

Principal Jane Blackwell tried to thwart the investigation of Ware Shoals High School cheerleading coach Jill Moore, who was arrested last week and resigned soon after, Police Chief Deputy Mike Frederick said.

Moore was charged with transfer of alcohol to an underage person and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Blackwell and Moore have both said they are innocent.

The FOX Carolina affiliate reported that sources said Moore was dating a National Guard recruiter and was recruiting cheerleaders to party. In at least one incident, a 16-year-old student had sex and drank alcohol with another National Guardsman.

"The kids are shocked about it," 10th-grader Jessica Applewhite told the news station. "Some were crying today. I was really shocked to hear about it."

The National Guard released a statement to FOX Carolina, saying it is working with the Greenwood County Sheriff's Department on the case, which includes any related misconduct by any National Guard soldier.

"The South Carolina National Guard takes our relationship with local communities and schools very seriously," the statement said.

"This is because not only are they the communities we serve, they are ultimately the source of our citizen soldiers. Because of this relationship with the schools and the communities and the recurring contact our Recruiting and Retention personnel have with local high schools they receive mandatory training on how to deal with situations such as these and given specific guidelines to follow both as professionals and as soldiers," the statement read.

"We do not condone actions such as the ones alleged and we have opened our own military equivalent investigation into the matter in conjunction with the ongoing civil investigation."

The Guardsmen allegedly involved in the incident have been placed on leave pending the outcome of the investigation, the statement said. If those soldiers are found guilty, "appropriate action" will be taken, the statement said, including up to and including court martial and removal from the Guard.

Guard spokesman Tripp Hutto later told The Associated Press that two South Carolina Guard soldiers have been placed on leave and are under investigation by civil and military officials, although he stressed that they are not being charged.

Hutto also would not comment on exactly what type of misconduct was being alleged.

As for the principal Blackwell, after investigators told her and others they planned to talk to each cheerleader, the principal called a squad meeting and told them not to discuss the case with anyone, Frederick said.

"It became quite clear to investigators who was attempting to keep this thing quiet," he said.

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Blackwell asked investigators if they knew whether any calls were made from the school to the media and disciplined at least one student who mentioned the Moore case at school, according to a sworn statement filed with an arrest warrant.

Blackwell, 59, was arrested Monday and charged with obstruction of justice. She was released from jail Monday evening on her own recognizance, Frederick said.

"I would just like to say that these charges are — I have not done anything wrong, and the evidence will prove that," Blackwell said after her release, according to FOX Carolina.

Raw Data: Jane Blackwell's Arrest Warrant (pdf)

Deputies believe Blackwell knew the coach was giving alcohol to students but did not report the information to authorities, Frederick said.

A telephone listing at her address was busy, and a district spokeswoman didn't immediately return a message. It was unclear whether she had hired an attorney.

In an ironic twist, Blackwell's husband works with the South Carolina Army National Guard and has spent time in Iraq.

Moore's attorney, Townes Jones, told FOX News on Wednesday that his client is staying with her parents and trying to comprehend everything that has happened.

"She's not the kind of person who would want to cause harm to anyone," much less compromise one's "morality," Jones said, adding that Moore is both a coach and a mother.

"This is just a devastating situation and of course our hearts go out to all in the community who are going through this," Jones added.

Jones said Moore is trying to find out exactly what happened that caused such a stir. He said he does not know what Blackwell told the cheerleaders, or whether she talked to them at all about the investigation.

"When the dust is settled, I'm confident the evidence will show that Jill is not responsible for causing harm to anyone," he said.

Ware Shoals is about 80 miles northwest of Columbia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/01/25/national-guard-involved-in-south-carolina-high-school-cheerleading-controversy