Carrie Witt, a 44-year-old Alabama high school teacher who accused of having sex with two students, has had her charges dropped after a judge ruled it as unconstitutional.
Witt, 44, had been charged in March 2016 with having sex with the students aged between 16 and 19 years old while teaching at Decatur High School in Decatur, Alabama.
Morgan County Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson dismissed both charges without prejudice on constitutional grounds, saying that the court found the statute “unconstitutional.” Furthermore, Thompson said that there was no proof Witt used her position of authority to force the two students to have sex.
According to the judge, the state of Alabama allows students to legally have sex at age 16, as long as someone doesn’t use their position of authority to obtain consent.
The judge found that while there may be a gap in power between teacher and student, it “clearly does not exist between every school employee and every student regardless of where that student is enrolled.” The court held that prosecutors must prove a school employee “was actually in a position of authority over the victim/student and that the position of authority was abused to obtain consent.”
The court noted that the State has an abiding interest in protecting people from being preyed on by someone in authority over them, such as teachers, wardens, clergy members and psychologists. But, the court found, the law goes too far in denying any possibility of consent.
“The statute at hand embeds an irrebuttable presumption that any sexual encounter between an employee of any school and any student (without qualification as to class, school, or school system) is conclusively the result of misuse of authority,” the judge wrote.
Decatur High School is a public high school in Decatur, Alabama, United States. It is one of two high schools in the Decatur City School District. Decatur High offers technical, academic, and International Baccalaureate programs, as well as dual enrollment with the John C. Calhoun Community College System.
Decatur High, along with southwestern Decatur’s Austin High School, were the first International Baccalaureate schools in Alabama north of Birmingham, Alabama.