North Alabama judge rules state's teacher-student sex law is unconstitutional

Cheryl Sanders
August 13, 2017

In an order that could have statewide ramifications, a Morgan County judge Thursday dismissed charges against two defendants charged with violating a law prohibiting school employees from having sex with students.

In a five-page decision, Judge Glenn E. Thompson dismissed the charges against former Decatur High School teacher Carrie Witt and an ex-aide at Falkville High, David Solomon.

Thompson explained in writing that because of how the law is written, it makes it hard for courts to determine if both parties were consenting adults, if the teacher or school employee were in positions of authority over the students and whether the teacher or school employee abused their power to coerce or groom students, or to obtain illegitimate consent.

Up until now, it has been against the law in Alabama for a school employee to have sexual relations with any student under the age of 19. It is one of two high schools in the Decatur City School District.

"In finding so, this court does not endeavor to absolve any wrongdoing or to excuse the defendants".

The law, first put on the books in 2010, says that if convicted of the offense, which is a felony, the person has to register as a sex offender and face up too 20 years in prison. Consent is not a defense to the law, reported.

According to Alabama State Law, it is illegal for any school employee to engage in sexual behavior with a student under the age of 19.

'If no such position of authority is alleged, the defendant must be permitted to show consent as a defense'.

While other courts can consider the decision in similar cases, Anderson said Thompson's ruling will not directly affect cases in other counties. The judge said there was no testimony or evidence presented at the hearing where the court heard arguments on the law's constitutionality.

Until the ruling goes up for appeal, it will not be binding for other cases in the state. Witt was a history, psychology and social studies teacher, who also coached girls' golf and junior varsity cheer.

Thompson cited student-teacher sex laws in other states that he believes are constitutional.

"This court acknowledges that a disparity of power may inherently exist in a teacher/student relationship, but it clearly does not exist in every school employee and every student regardless of where that student is enrolled", Thompson wrote.

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