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Accused Drunk Conestoga Teacher Strikes Deal

Defense attorney says she is "taking all of the right steps"

 

Prosecutors and the defense in the case of a Conestoga High School chemistry teacher found collapsed and allegedly drunk in the school have struck a deal. Under the arrangement the misdemeanor charges against Carol Wittschieben would eventually be removed from her record.

Defense Attorney Robert J. Donatoni of West Chester says his client is seeking medical treatment in the wake of being found on the floor of a Conestoga High School lab prep room in December. Police say she had a blood alcohol level of 0.32 when she was transported to Paoli Hospital for treatment.

Under the deal the charge of Endangering the Welfare of Children would be reduced to Reckless Endangering. Then if Wittschieben completes court order steps under a first offender program the charges will be withdrawn and her record expunged.

Tredyffrin Township Police had charged a 42-year-old Conestoga High School Chemistry teacher with one misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of children after she collapsed in an adjacent lab prep room while her AP Chemistry students took a test in a classroom. The incident happened at noon on December 10 inside the high school.

According to court documents filed in the case, Carol Wittschieben was found on the floor of a lab prep room next to a chemistry classroom. According to allegations made in court documents she was "mostly unresponsive" when EMS and police first arrived.

According to court documents, 42-year-old Carol Wittschieben, told EMT's that "she is an alcoholic who had been consuming alcohol throughout the day via a water bottle in her purse."

According to an affidavit of probable cause filed in Devon District Court a medic "detected an odor of alcoholic beverage eminating from Wittschieben."  Before the teacher was loaded into an ambulance for the ride to Paoli Hospital another teacher who had discovered Wittschieben on the flood gave the Witschieben's purse to the ambulance crew so that she would have it at the hospital.

Police say the purse contained an 8 ounce Deer Park water bottle. The investigating officer told the court that both he and the Berwyn medic "detected an odor of an alcoholic beverage inside the bottle.

Details of the Plea Arrangement

Under the arrangement described by Donatoni the most serious charge, which is a class one misdemeanor will be withdrawn and replaced by a less serious, class two misdemeanor charge of reckless endangering. If Wittschieben meets all the requirements of a first offenders program (ARD) the charges will be dropped and her record expunged. If she fails to meet the requirements for the first offenders program the orginal charges would be re-instated. This is a common way for many first time misdemeanor case to be resolved.

Defense Attorney Says the Teacher is Seeking Help

In the meantime, Defense Attorney Donatoni says Wittschieben "is taking all the right steps to be sure this unfortunate event does not re-occur.

Donatoni added that she has received "dozens of unsolicited letters and emails" of support from students, former students and teachers "attesting to the character of this woman."

her attorney says Wittschieben has been on medical leave since the incident in December.

MD2013 January 24, 2013 at 02:10 PM
Why are the courts involved? 17 year old students in a building with more than 2000 others were not "endangered."
Kate January 24, 2013 at 03:16 PM
These days they want to criminalize everything. The school administration are the only ones who should be involved and determining her fate.
Alice Riley January 24, 2013 at 03:57 PM
She also needs professional help. Lets be understanding.
Bumble Bee January 24, 2013 at 06:17 PM
Agree with all comments. Alcoholism is a disease. She not only took responsibility by telling the medic she is an alcoholic, she directed him to her purse so he could find the alcohol filled water bottle. She did not try to cover it up and she is seeking help. She deserves compassion and understanding. I don't think alcoholism is a fireable offense. I hope she doesn't lose her job. My child was in her class. She is a good teacher.
Bob Byrne (Editor) January 24, 2013 at 10:58 PM
The sense that I got from speaking with all the parties involved in the hearing yesterday is there are two interests here: Making sure the teacher in question gets any help that she needs and making sure the students are protected. Yes, they are old teens and while they may not have been in any apparent danger, the allegations are that this was a teacher who was seriously intoxicated in a science lab. Science labs filled with chemicals and open flames etc and "safety first" is always the guiding principle. If she gets the treatment she needs-and her lawyer says she is-and follows the conditions of ARD (first offenders program) it will be, from a legal standpoint, as if the incident never occurred. That is good for her on a personal level and keeps the safety of students in mind too. Remember when police go into any situation they are there to protect. It's up to the legal system to sort it out. In this case it appears that this what has happened.
Laura January 25, 2013 at 12:54 AM
Let's be clear. She was at work drunk. If I went to my job drunk (and I do not work with kids), I would be fired. If she needed help, she should have reached out before passing out at school around kids. I have family members who are alcoholics. It is not a nice disease. But ultimately as an adult you make choices. When you make bad ones, you should face the consequences.
Bumble Bee January 25, 2013 at 03:24 AM
I understand and respect your opinion. It's a tough call. Both sides of this argument have merit. Isn't the goal to have a healthy, productive, independent member of the community back at work and contributing positively to society. It will be much harder to rehabilitate knowing she has little to no prospects when she is well enough to come back. To be fair, the "kids" she was with were 17 to 18 years old and suffered no ill consequence. I have only heard words of kindness and compassion from each and every one of them who know her and have studied under her. You're right, as adults we make choices, but as humans we're not perfect and as such need support and help along the way. She made a very bad choice and in my opinion already faced some very harsh consequences, all in public view. Let's help her get up, dust her off and get her on her way so she can rebuild her life and develop the skills and have the resources to care for herself and her family. *I have never met her or spoken with her. She was my childs' teacher.
Sharon January 26, 2013 at 02:00 AM
To me what is even worse than "being at work drunk" is the fact that she made a conscious decision to fill up that Deer Park bottle with booze, and drink it while there. Aye.
Bumble Bee January 27, 2013 at 04:15 PM
Alcohol consumption contributes to loss of inhibition and it's effect on the pre frontal cortex portion of the brain, which controls decision making, makes it impossible for a person to maintain rational thought processes thereby rendering it impossible for the person to make a conscious choice. What I find remarkable is that not person who worked with her or studied under her had the first inkling she was hiding such a devastating disease.

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