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Surveillance image

Lionel C. Stukes III of Summerton, right, is seen Monday in this frame grab from surveillance video taken at Holly Hill-Roberts Middle School. He has been charged in connection with the incident.

This story was updated March 12 to include surveillance video from Holly Hill-Roberts Middle School.

HOLLY HILL —The Holly Hill-Roberts Middle School teacher charged with punching a 12-year-old female student in the face has been placed on “administrative leave with pay,” according to an Orangeburg Consolidated School District Three official.

Lionel C. Stukes III, 62, of Summerton, a special needs teacher, was released on a personal recognized bond by an Orangeburg County magistrate following a hearing last Tuesday.

Gerald Wright, District Three executive director, said the district immediately placed Stukes on paid administrative leave after the incident. According to the Holly Hill Police Department incident report, a HH-RMS administrator reported a “teacher/student altercation” Monday. The incident occurred around 12:45 p.m.

The responding officer reviewed the school surveillance video and noted in the report, “The video showed Stukes extending his arm out as (the student) was walking away, still trying to hit her. It appeared (the student) may have been hit more than once in the face by Stukes.”

When police questioned Stukes about the incident, he told them he accidentally struck the student, the report said.

Police charged Stukes with “assault and battery third degree.”

Shaun Kent, the Manning attorney who is representing Stukes, said Thursday afternoon his client “was not trying to hurt or strike anyone.”

Kent said Stukes is a “career teacher who just loves teaching kids.”

“The allegation that he would ever intentionally strike a child is absolutely ridiculous,” Kent said.

Kent said Stukes has requested a jury trial. “He wants to be tried by his peers,” he said.

“This is an accident, at best,” the attorney added.

Kent said the narrative in the Holly Hill incident report doesn’t match up with what he’s seen in the video captured by school cameras.

“The incident report makes it sound like he just hauled off and punched her in the face,” the attorney said.

He said the video of the incident, “doesn’t look like there’s any intent to injure.”

Kent described Stukes as a “happy-go-lucky and jovial teacher.” At the time of the alleged incident, Stukes was standing in the hall speaking with students as they headed to class, the attorney said.

The 12-year-old girl who was allegedly punched in the face is not one of his client’s students, Kent said.

“I’m a big believer in the justice system, and this is going to work out,” he said.

Stukes was hired by OCSD 3 at the start of the 2010-2011 school year, Wright said. He has also worked at Lake Marion High School, the district official said.

Wright said the school district is conducting its own investigation into the incident.

A Holly Hill municipal judge is scheduled to hear the case at 3 p.m. on April 2 at the Holly Hill Depot, Wunderlich said.

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