A sordid story has emerged from Alabama about a teacher with a host of problems who never should’ve been in a classroom with young, impressionable children. Phillip Smith III was a history teacher at Huffman High School in Birmingham, Alabama, who took advantage of struggling female students by offering them A’s in exchange for sexual favors. The travesty of the case is that Smith’s personal history should have disqualified him from ever having been hired for the job at Huffman High in the first place, but school officials failed to uncover the fact that in 2002 he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor domestic abuse charge, and in 2004 he was convicted on federal gun charges while teaching at another school. He served seven months in prison for his role in illegal black market gun sales.
Due to the school district’s inability to conduct a proper background check, Smith ended up in a classroom again and the outcome was far worse. He ended up being accused of sodomy and sexual contact after police learned of inappropriate interactions with students. Smith was able to strike a plea deal under which he was convicted only of endangering the welfare of a child. He forfeited his teaching license, but wasn’t required to register as a sex offender. He even dodged going to jail — his 12-month sentence was suspended and the person who had repeatedly demonstrated that he shouldn’t be left unsupervised was instead given two years of unsupervised probation.
Smith, now 43, may have benefitted from the weaknesses and failings of the legal system, but he’s now at the center of a civil lawsuit brought by the family of another student who was 14 when Smith tried to abuse her. However, the quick-thinking student didn’t fall for Smith’s wiles and it was her testimony that led authorities to blow the lid off Smith’s crimes against other students. That outcome was possible because a struggling freshman student was able to resist the chilling words in a creepy note he passed to her in class one day.
Read the full story at The Daily Beast.