The day before her scheduled due process hearing with Decatur City Schools' Board of Education, Carrie Cabri Witt resigned as a teacher at Decatur High.
“She chose to resign (Monday) morning, which means our relationship with her is over,” Superintendent Michael Douglas said after the board accepted Witt’s resignation during a special-called meeting.
Witt, who was assigned to teach U.S. government, economics, International Baccalaureate psychology and 12th-grade International Baccalaureate history at Decatur High, is charged with two counts of a school employee having sex with a student.
Including salary and benefits, the district has paid Witt $142,292 since former Superintendent Ed Nichols placed her on paid leave on March 21, 2016, according to Chief Financial Officer Melanie Maples.
Douglas, who is the fourth DCS superintendent to deal with the matter, said Witt’s pay from the school system ended Monday. Her annual salary was $59,790.
Witt, in a letter she delivered to the Central Office on Monday morning, “vehemently” denied “having committed any crime or harm against a student” or ever being in “an inappropriate relationship with a student.”
Her attorneys, Robert Tuten and Nick Heatherly of Huntsville, were not available for comment, but in her resignation letter, Witt criticized the school board for scheduling her due process hearing while criminal charges are pending.
“It is unfortunate that an employment termination hearing is scheduled prior to my case being settled in a court of law,” she wrote. “Therefore, it is with much regret that I am forced to submit this request at this time.”
Witt, 45, wrote that she was “deeply saddened to resign from a school that I called my work home for twenty years. It is even more upsetting to not have had a voice to defend my character against many unsubstantiated rumors and false allegations.”
Board President Karen Duke, board Vice President Donnie Lane and board member Peggy Baggett attended the meeting and did not publicly comment. In a written statement, however, the board said it was “pleased to have been able to bring closure to personnel proceedings involving Carrie Cabri Witt by securing Ms. Witt’s resignation. The Board’s approval of Ms. Witt’s resignation does not in any way signify its acceptance of or agreement with her denial of culpability.”
The statement, which included all five board members' names, said the resignation “negates the necessity” for a termination hearing.
“Although legal complications beyond our control delayed resolution of the case, the determination to pursue it to conclusion confirms the board’s unwavering commitment to ensuring that our faculty and staff adhere to the highest standards of professionalism in their dealings with students,” the board wrote.
In November 2016, former DCS Superintendent Dan Brigman wanted to schedule a termination hearing for Witt, but her attorneys successfully argued that holding the hearing before the board would force Witt to choose between the “risk of self-incrimination if she testified” or “losing her teaching contract if she did not,” according to court documents.
Morgan County Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson stopped the board on Feb. 28, 2017, from taking any actions against Witt. Attorneys for the school district appealed his ruling, and the state Supreme Court on June 22 ordered Thompson to lift his preliminary injunction, which he did July 11.
Douglas said today was the earliest date he could schedule Witt’s due process hearing because the situation involving her status with the school district reverted back to the Students First Act.
The 2011 law replaced the state’s tenure law and requires the school system to give tenured employees a 30- to 60-day notice before holding termination hearings, a spokeswoman with the Alabama Association of School Boards said.
In August 2017, Thompson dismissed the charges against Witt and another defendant charged with violating a law prohibiting school employees from having sex with students. The state appealed and last month the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Thompson's ruling and ordered that the charges be reinstated. Witt's lawyer said at the time the appellate decision would be appealed.
Thompson had said the law was unconstitutional as applied to Witt and David Solomon, who was a contract teacher at Falkville High School.
"This Court acknowledges that a disparity of power may inherently exist in a teacher/student relationship, but it clearly does not exist between every school employee and every student regardless of where the student is enrolled," Thompson wrote. "By eliminating the requirement that the state show a position of authority, grooming, abuse, coercion, or lack of consent, the state criminalizes behaviors outside the state's legitimate purpose."
Witt’s attorneys have argued in court filings that the 2010 statute under which their client is charged — prohibiting a school employee from engaging in a sex act or deviant sexual intercourse with a student — is unconstitutional.
They said there are laws to protect people who are incapable of consent because of age, mental defect, physical incapacity and in cases of coercion or fraud. Under state law, Witt’s attorneys wrote, anyone without a specified infirmity who is at least 16 years old is capable of consenting to sex.
“In this case, consent was freely given, without defect, and the defendant is being prosecuted for a romantic relationship with a consenting young man, solely because of her employment with Decatur High School,” Witt’s attorneys wrote of the charges filed against their client.