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Alabama judge calls teacher sex charges unconstitutional

11 August 2017

A Morgan County judge has ruled Alabama's teacher-student sex law unconstitutional. The judge has used this conclusion to dismiss two cases that were brought to court against two high school staffs that were engaging in sexual activities with students.

So it was a surprise to many when charges were dismissed against former Decatur High School teacher Carrie Witt and David Solomon, an ex-aide at Falkville High. However, the Judge ruled that the crux of the law actually rested on three areas: whether the parties were consenting adults, whether the school employees were in positions of authority over the students, and whether the employees abused their power to coerce or groom the students or to obtain illegitimate consent. "If no such position of authority is alleged, the defendant must be permitted to show consent as a defense".

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In Alabama, the age of consent is 16, though the law prohibits teachers from having sex with students under the age of 19. The judge also stated that "the defendant was being accused because of his employment status at the high school and that the relationship was between people of consent age and that consent was given freely without defects". The teacher was arrested back in November 2014.

Thompson in his ruling noted the "Court does not endeavor to absolve any wrongdoing", but said it's an overstep to immediately deny all possibilities of a consensual relationship. "Moreover, the court does not encourage any similarly situated party to engage with impunity in what may very well be criminal behavior".

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Teachers or school employees violating the law can be charged with a felony that is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Morgan County District Attorney Scott Anderson says that he disagrees with the ruling and that Attorney General Steve Marshall will appeal. "Until the appellate courts address the issue, each circuit judge will have to make their own decision on whether it's constitutional or not".

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Prior to the sex allegations, Witt taught history, psychology and social studies, as well as coaching the varsity girls' golf team and and junior varsity cheerleading. Thompson said the law is problematic because it doesn't consider whether the school employee and student are in the same class, school or school system. Solomon, 27, was arrested for similar charges in Huntsville.

Alabama judge calls teacher sex charges unconstitutional