Attorney releases statement in defense of Lamar teacher accused of choking student

Hazel Ellerbe. Source: Darlington County Sheriff's Office
Hazel Ellerbe. Source: Darlington County Sheriff's Office

LAMAR, SC (WMBF) - A local teacher is out on bond after being held in jail for allegedly choking a student.

"I think he is being framed," said Jerilyn Allen, former student.

"If I had to send my kids there again today, I would," said Niki Knotts a parent.

"I don't believe it at all," said Donna Barnhill another former student.

Some Lamar residents said they believe the allegations surrounding Hazel Spaulding Jr. are false, but the Darlington County Sheriff's Office disagrees.

According to an incident report, 52-year-old Hazel Ellerbe Jr. grabbed one of his students by the neck and choked him.

The report added the alleged victim reported the incident to the school's principal and the principal immediately called law enforcement.

"I think the school district responded quickly and did what they had to do to make sure the students were safe," said Darlington County Sheriff Wayne Byrd.

Sheriff Byrd said interviews and witness statements were collected as part of the department's investigation.

"The case came down to the number of witnesses that were involved. Most of those students were witnesses in that classroom and the majority of the stories there were consistent with what the student said that was making the complaint," said Byrd.

Byrd added that Ellerbe is cooperating with investigators.

Ellerbe told deputies that he accidentally put his hand near the student's neck to walk him out of the classroom for being disruptive, but never pushed or choked him.

"I don't believe the allegations because I have two kids that attended that school, had that teacher and they loved him to death and never spoke any bad works of him," said Knotts.

The Darlington County School District would not comment on camera, but did release a statement acknowledging that Ellerbe is facing assault and battery charges after an incident at Spaulding Middle School.

That statement reads:

This afternoon a teacher at Spaulding Middle School was charged with assault and battery –third degree of a student. The student reported the incident to the school administrator and the school administrator immediately notified law enforcement. The teacher has been placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the investigation. 

The safety and well-being of our students is always our highest priority. 

All additional questions should be directed to the Darlington County Sheriff's Office. 

Right now Ellerbe is on leave and it's not clear when he will return to the classroom.

His attorney released the following statement on behalf of the incident Friday.

Chip Ellerbe's attorney, Rose Mary Parham:

Chip is completely innocent of the charge and eagerly awaits his day in court for the truth to come out. Chip is a family man who has never been arrested and who has served our community as a high school and middle school teacher for twenty-one years. The student involved has a lengthy record of problems and expulsions from school. It is a shame that such a hard-working teacher has to endure these baseless allegations.

Read the original report on Ellerbe's arrest here:

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