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Ex-teacher accused of sexual relationship with student

Ashley M. Pritchett

A former Catoosa County high school teacher was arrested last week following an investigation that alleges she had a sexual relationship with a student late last year.

According to the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department:

Ashley M. Pritchett of 269 Big Creek Lane in Ringgold was arrested Friday, Feb. 1, on a charge of sexual assault by persons with supervisory or disciplinary authority.

Pritchett has already been released from Catoosa County jail on bond, records show.

Approximately two weeks ago, the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department received information indicating an inappropriate relationship may have occurred late last year between Pritchett, a one-time math teacher and cheerleading coach at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School, and a student.

Prior to the police department's investigation, both Catoosa County Public Schools and the Division of Family and Children Services looked into the matter.

An open records request of Pritchett's personnel file revealed that she taught at LFO for three semesters, from August 2017 to December 2018.

The LFO administration and school system were both made aware of the allegations of inappropriate contact on Nov. 8, 2018.

That same day, DFACS was also notified of the situation. After a short investigation, DFACS officials determined there was not sufficient evidence to continue the investigation.

On Nov. 12, four days after the allegations surfaced, CCPS's human resources director sent a letter to Pritchett stating the claims against her were "considered unsubstantiated based on the information that was available," but also laid out the conduct and expectations that accompany being an educator.

A little more than a month later, on Dec. 18, Pritchett had a meeting with LFO Principal Chance Nix further discussing the issues.

The next day, Dec. 19, Nix sent Pritchett a letter following up on their meeting, which again highlighted a laundry list of things she was to avoid such as texting students, riding alone with them in her personal vehicle, allowing individual students behind her desk, being alone in her classroom with a student, having students in her classroom during lunch, and having students from other classes enter her room without a pass.

The letter specifically communicated to Pritchett that she could face termination if she failed to comply.

According to CCPS Communications Specialist Marissa Brower, Pritchett chose to quit on Dec. 19 after receiving the followup letter from her principal.

Fast-forward a month to Jan. 22, and that's when the police department initiated its investigation and subsequently obtained enough evidence to determine that Pritchett had engaged in sexual conduct with a student in her care while she was employed as a teacher.

The Fort Oglethorpe Police Department issued a press release after Pritchett's arrest stating that it conferred with the District Attorney's Office prior to an arrest warrant being issued.

Officers arrested Pritchett at her home on Friday, Feb. 1, without incident.

The criminal case remains an active investigation, and the CCPC has reported the allegations to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, which monitors the conduct of those employed in Georgia schools.


Brown named new Task Force commander

DeWayne Brown

DeWayne Brown has been promoted to the rank of commander with the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force, effective Feb. 1.

Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson, chairman of the Drug Task Force control board, made the announcement Tuesday, Feb. 5. The control met the previous week and voted to name Brown as the commander.

Brown has served as the deputy commander of the Drug Task Force for the past five and a half years and has been employed with the Walker County Sheriff's Office for more than 20 years.

"DeWayne Brown has the experience, ability and drive to direct and lead the drugs enforcement efforts in the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit," Wilson said.

The commander position became vacant upon the Dec. 30, 2018 death of longtime Cmdr. Patrick Doyle.


Ringgold asks for city court to handle ongoing donation box issue

Ringgold officials would like the issue of unauthorized donation boxes popping up in town to be handled in city court instead of in Catoosa County Superior Court.

In September, Ringgold's City Council had several public discussions about the ongoing issue of companies placing unauthorized donation boxes in town on commercial and private property.

During the most recent meeting on Jan. 28, the council again placed the item on the agenda and ultimately approved a resolution requesting local legislation delegation by way of amendments being made to Georgia House Bill 475.

House Bill 475 went into effect July 1, 2018 regarding charitable solicitations and the use of collection receptacles for donations.

The bill essentially created more requirements to be able to use collection receptacles for donations, and revised the penalties for violators.

Currently, governing authorities like the city of Ringgold can issue written notices for violations, but have to petition superior court for an order for the removal of receptacles.

The city's resolution is aimed at speeding up the process so the city court can order the removal and get the unauthorized collection boxes taken away quicker.

"The issue we have is having to go to Superior Court in order to get the legal authority to have these removed," said City Manager Dan Wright. "It's unfortunate that if I own a commercial parking lot, especially if I'm an absent owner in South Carolina or somewhere, and these things appear; for me to get rid of them is a pretty good chore."

Wright and the rest of the council agree that the issue isn't with legitimate charities like the Salvation Army or Christ Chapel, but rather with for-profit companies that setup their boxes without anyone's knowledge or consent.

"We're trying to get it where we can bring it to city court to have them removed and everybody be on their merry way," Wright explained. "I think that's what we need to do now is petition our local delegation to either get in contact with the people to maybe carry a bill if they have to; to try and change that from superior court to city court."

Councilman Larry Black was one of the officials who spearheaded discussion about the issue late last year. He says his main goal is to get the unauthorized boxes out of town as quickly as possible.

"If we have an issue with these boxes, we would like to address it in a more timely fashion," Black said. "That's the reason we want to have it in our city court."

Wright explained that the city drafting and approving the resolution is the first step on the matter.

"Normally when we do this, we put it in the form of a resolution and send it down so they know y'all (the Council) are in favor of it," Wright said.

The board unanimously approved the resolution, and


Dinner, concert set for Baby Di'Laine
Fundraiser will help infant fighting Gaucher Disease

When little Di'Laine Marie was just a month old, genetics specialists in Atlanta told her family, "Take her home, put her on hospice and let go."

Di'Laine was born in July 2018 with a rare form of Gaucher (pronounced Go-shay) Disease, a genetic disorder that results in dangerously low amounts of an enzyme that breaks down a fatty chemical that can damage organs in the body. Di'Laine has Type II Gaucher, the most serious form of the disease, and the one that is considered untreatable because it tends to cause rapid, irreversible brain damage.

Doctors told Di'Laine's mother, Kelsie Smith, that the newborn was blind and deaf. Both turned out to be false. Smith was unwilling to accept the advice that she let her baby go.

"A baby's life is not a lost cause," says Smith, a Catoosa County resident. "How can you tell a parent that?"

Thanks to a stranger on Facebook, Smith found a doctor — Ozlem Goker-Alpan — in Fairfax, Virginia, who specializes in exactly what her daughter has. She called and made an appointment.

Di'Laine was soon placed on enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) and a drug her family must purchase from Germany because it has not been approved by the USFDA. "Baby D," as many affectionately call Di'Laine, is on a feeding tube and has a central line in her chest for administering the ERT.

Smith has learned how to tend to some of Di'Laine's medical needs at home. She keeps her tubes clean and replaces them as necessary. She's had to amass a huge amount of knowledge, because it is often up to her to educate doctors about her baby's special needs.

Every two weeks, Smith takes Di'Laine to T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital in Chattanooga for an ERT treatment, something she will eventually be able to do herself. There are regular trips to see Dr. Alpan in Fairfax and also to visit the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, where doctors and researchers poke, prod, jab and study Di'Laine in order to learn more about a condition that affects only about 500 people worldwide.

Di'Laine undergoes regular EEGs, sleep and swallow studies and oxygen tests. She suffers from sleep apnea and often chokes due to swallowing issues that are common to her condition.

Each ERT treatment runs $10,000-$15,000. Smith had no insurance to cover that cost for the first six months of Di'Laine's life. "Her insurance will kick in soon," says Smith, "and she'll get the treatments every week like she's supposed to, instead of every two weeks like she does now."

The regular trips to Virginia and Maryland are up to the family to cover. "We usually have to rent a car and we have to have a place to stay up there," says Smith. "They always say it will only be a few days, but it always ends up being one or two weeks." Smith's husband was able to make one trip with her, because a cousin donated frequent flier miles so he could return early and go back to work.

One of Smith's big frustrations has been doctors too ready to write off little Di'Laine as a lost cause. "If she had cancer," says Smith, "they would do everything they could for her. They would give her every chance to live."

Because it's so rare, most doctors don't know a lot about Di'Laine's condition. Smith was fortunate to find an eye doctor in Crossville who specializes in pediatric eye problems, especially as related to rare disorders.

Smith had been describing certain symptoms to other doctors for some time and getting nowhere, but when she shared them recently with Di'Laine's eye doctor, he immediately recognized what the problem was and knew it could be corrected surgically.

He has four other patients with forms of Gaucher Disease.

Di'Laine is 6 months old now. She is a bubbly, happy little girl who giggles when her mother tickles her and loves to look at herself in a mirror and play games. "She likes what we call the scream game," says Smith. "She screams and she wants you to scream back."

The life expectancy for someone with Di'Laine's type of Gaucher Disease is two years at the most. But there's something new on the horizon that might make all the difference.

The family is awaiting word that the FDA has approved a type of genereplacement that will turn the tide for Di'Laine. "We hope to hear by the end of March," says Smith. "If it's approved, Di'Laine will be the first human being to receive it."

In the meantime, expenses pile up. Friends and family have conducted fundraisers and set up a Go Fund Me page. Smith says Tunnel Hill Pharmacy has been a big help and lets her run a tab when she doesn't have money to pay for medications.

Above all, says Smith, her mother has been a rock of support. "She's always there for me. She buys stuff for Di'Laine when we can't afford it. She lets me sleep when I need it. She's just always there."

The next fundraiser for Di'Laine will be a joint dinner, provided by Lew's Q BBQ, and concert, by Master Peace Quartet, at Mount Vernon United Methodist Church in Rocky Face on Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. The church is located at 597 Lafayette Road, Rocky Face.

Those who wish to donate to help with Di'Laine's medical care can do so at gofundme.com/teamdilaine-gaucher-disease. People can also follow Baby D's progress at facebook.com/groups/1797960956965965.

IF YOU GO

Dinner/concert fundraiser for 6-month-old Di'Laine Smith to help with medical expenses

Where: Mount Vernon United Methodist Church, 597 Lafayette Road, Rocky Face, Ga.

When: Feb. 23 at 6 p.m.

Cost: $15 for adults, $10 for children, under 3 free

Tickets: At church office, Absolute Heating and Air (3363 Chattanooga Road, Tunnel Hill) or call Connie Longmire at 706-280-1706.

Donate any time: gofundme.com/teamdilaine-gaucher-disease