Published: Sun, August 13, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

Alabama teacher who 'slept with students' charges dropped

Alabama teacher who 'slept with students' charges dropped

An Alabama teacher accused of having sex with two of her students succeeded in having her charges thrown out on constitutional grounds, Morgan County Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson confirmed Thursday.

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". But this is where it gets sticky (for lack of a better word): Since the age of consent in the Yellowhammer State is 16 - which all three of the involved students were - Judge Thompson had to look at the letter of the law, which says that everyone involved was old enough to consent to sex, and all of them did. It is one of two high schools in the Decatur City School District.

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.

The Alabama law, instituted in 2010 in response to the high rate of teacher sex crimes in the State, requires persons convicted of the offense to register as a sex offender and spend up to 20 years behind bars. "Moreover, the court does not encourage any similarly situated party to engage with impunity in what may very well be criminal behavior".

Thompson dismissed the charges without prejudice, which means the state can refile them. Consent is not a defense to the law, al.com reported.

However, the law is harsher on teachers and school employees than other citizens, who do not face criminal prosecution for having sex with 16-year-olds. The judge said there was no testimony or evidence presented at the hearing where the court heard arguments on the law's constitutionality. At the time not only was she a teacher, she was also girls' golf and junior varsity cheer coach.

Thompson wrote that while the state has a legitimate goal in protecting certain classes of people, like students, prisoners and patients from being coerced by teachers, wardens or doctors, the law doesn't narrowly address that issue. Those include laws in Texas, Arkansas and Kansas.

Judge Thompson said that position of power 'clearly does not exist between every school employee and every student regardless of where that student is enrolled'.

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