AL Supreme Court rules Decatur teacher can be fired over student sex case

AL Supreme Court rules Decatur teacher can be fired over student sex case

DECATUR, AL (WAFF) - The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that Decatur City Schools can fire a teacher embattled over a student sex case.

Carrie Witt was charged with having sex with two students in March 2016. Those charges were later dropped. A Morgan County judge ruled the state's student-teacher sex laws were unconstitutional.

Witt has been on administrative since her arrest. She legally challenged the school board's ability to fire her, alleging that a disciplinary hearing violated her constitutional right against self-incrimination since criminal charges stemming from the conduct were pending at the time.

On Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the school board could proceed with a termination hearing. Specifically, the court ruled that the right against self-incrimination will not be threatened if a stay of the termination proceeding is lifted.

READ MORE

Passed in 2011, the Students First Act protects employees' testimony during a disciplinary proceeding from being used against them in a criminal proceeding. The law paved the way for school boards to discipline employees for inappropriate behavior under board policies while protecting the employee's constitutional rights in the criminal proceeding, thus eliminating the costly requirement for school boards to keep employees on paid leave throughout the duration of a criminal case, which could take years.

"Today's ruling is a victory for Alabama's local school boards," said Sally Smith, J.D., executive director of the Alabama Association of School Boards. "The court has affirmed the right of a school board to move forward with disciplinary proceedings when criminal charges against an employee are pending or threatened. This was a core reason for the Students First Act that has saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries and benefits being paid to employees waiting for the resolution of criminal cases."

The Alabama Association of School Boards represents all of the state's public local school boards.

Copyright 2018 WAFF. All rights reserved.