Ellis placed on leave

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 18, 2003

KENANSVILLE – Duplin County Public School officials have responded to the swirl of controversy surrounding Larry Ellis Jr., hired as a principal at a middle school in this southeastern North Carolina county after resigning as principal of Hertford County High School.

Ellis was arrested last week following sexual misconduct accusations made by four HCHS students.

He was charged with five felony counts of indecent liberties with students and five misdemeanor counts of soliciting crimes against nature. His $140,000 bond was posted and he was released on Monday night, Aug. 11. After returning the next day for his first court appearance, Ellis is not scheduled to come back to Hertford County until Sept. 2, the date of his probable cause hearing.

According to information supplied by The Warsaw/Faison News and The Wallace Enterprise – newspapers based in Duplin County – Ellis has been suspended with pay from his position as principal at EE Smith Middle School in Kenansville pending the outcome of the charges.

&uot;I was disappointed to learn of the arrest of Mr. Ellis,&uot; stated Dr. Tommy Benson, Superintendent of Duplin County Schools. &uot;I can only hope these charges will prove to be baseless and without any merit.&uot;

Dr. Benson went on to say that the background check conducted on Ellis by Duplin County officials revealed, &uot;nothing of this nature.&uot;

&uot;These allegations arose after he was approved for employment by the Duplin County Board of Education,&uot; he noted. &uot;We are very upset that this has happened and want everyone to know that school will proceed as usual so students can continue with their established routines.&uot;

Amos &uot;Doc&uot; Brinson, Chairman of the Duplin County Board of Education, also expressed remorse over the allegations.

&uot;I was surprised and disappointed to learn of the charges against Mr. Ellis,&uot; said Brinson. &uot;We, of course, immediately put him on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the charges. Obviously, we hope things turn out for the best for him and everyone involved.&uot;

Fueling the controversy is an apparent claim made by Duplin County school officials that they were never contacted by Hertford County Schools in regards to Ellis’ arrest.

Hertford County Superintendent Dennis Deloatch responded to that by saying, &uot;No one from the Duplin County system contacted anyone here at Hertford County Public Schools to obtain a reference on Mr. Larry Ellis before he was hired in Duplin County. As a matter of fact, when they found out there were some questions concerning allegations against Mr. Ellis, Mr. Benson called me. This came after the fact that Mr. Ellis was approved for employment by the Duplin County Board of Education.&uot;

Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan reported that four students filed the sexual allegations against Ellis. Vaughan said it was to his understanding, based upon the information gained through an investigation, that the alleged sexual activity between Ellis and the students dated back as far as September of last year. The latest accusation, according to Vaughan, occurred on June 24 of this year.

The Sheriff also reported that all the accusations were for on-campus (sexual) activity and involved males between the ages of 16-18.

Ellis resigned as HCHS principal effective June 30 after submitting his letter of resignation on May 8 to the Hertford County Board of Education. He had served as principal at HCHS since May 24, 2001.

Hertford County Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Deloatch revealed the Central Office (Board of Education) was notified of the allegations by Carson Watford, acting head administrator of HCHS.

Deloatch confirmed that at the time of the allegations, Ellis had already resigned from the Hertford County Public School system. He also confirmed that professional counseling services had been arranged by the school system for the students involved in the alleged crime.

&uot;I want to assure our parents, students and staff that the Hertford County Public School system takes such allegations very seriously,&uot; said Deloatch in an interview last week. &uot;In all situations, we will investigate and take appropriate action to protect our students and staff. Our children, regardless of age, are our responsibility and we will do whatever is necessary to protect them.&uot;

Captain Tim Lassiter, Lt. Raymond Eure and Lt. Mike Stephenson are handling the ongoing investigation for the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office.