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Staff photo by Tim Barber / Bethany White

CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated at 6:50 p.m. on Friday, May 22, 2020, from its original posting to remove a reference to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office not responding to a records request, since the agency did respond with information about the document request process.

A charge of aggravated statutory rape against Bethany White, a former Hixson High School teacher, was dropped this month.

"The charge of aggravated statutory rape was dismissed on May 7. The assistant district attorney assigned to the case said the evidence was not sufficient to sustain a conviction in criminal court," Bruce Garner, spokesman for the District Attorney's Office, said by email.

White, former director of sports medicine at Hixson High, was suspended without pay on March 27, 2019, while under investigation by the Chattanooga Police Department's Special Victims Unit.

Attorneys from the firm Houston & Alexander, which is representing White according to an email to the Times Free Press, did not respond to a request for comment.

In July 2019, White officially resigned, just days before she was arrested on a charge of aggravated statutory rape on July 12, 2019. White was indicted by a grand jury last July for allegedly having sex with a minor between the ages of 13 and 18, according to news reports at the time.

Records from the Chattanooga Police Department and Hamilton County Sheriff's Office were not immediately available, so it is not clear on what evidence the charge was originally based. Garner also did not provide further information about the case.

Before her resignation, Hamilton County Schools was also investigating allegations that White "[was] guilty of unprofessional conduct."

Under Tennessee Code 49-5-501, teachers can be fired for incompetence, inefficiency, neglect of duty, unprofessional conduct and insubordination.

Conduct considered "unbecoming of a teacher" includes immorality; conviction of a felony; "dishonesty, unreliability, continued willful failure or refusal to pay one's just and honest debts"; disregard of the Tennessee Education Association's code of ethics or improper use of narcotics or intoxicants, according to the code.

In an email dated July 1, 2019, White wrote that she had "made the decision to leave [her] position at Hixson."

She said the last 10 years had "fulfilled a dream" and she was proud of the accomplishments and students she has impacted.

White started working for Hamilton County Schools in 2009. She taught sports medicine and exercise science classes and was one of the faculty members of Hixson High's Future Ready Institute — the Institute of Health Careers and Medical Advancement.

In the email, she hinted that she knew district officials were going to suggest she resign.

"This may be the same outcome that you would have suggested or wanted, and therefore the purpose of the meeting," she wrote ahead of a planned meeting on July 2 with staff members from the district's human resources department. "Knowing your time is valuable, I wanted to go ahead and be transparent and use this email as my official resignation."

Internal documents show White's reason for termination as "resigned in lieu of discharge-mutual consent" and notes that she is not eligible for rehire by the district.

White still holds an active teaching license through August 2023, according to a Tennessee Department of Education database. The license has not ever been suspended or revoked.

Contact Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.

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