A teacher accused of assaulting a student has resigned, the Cape Girardeau School District announced Thursday.
Roman Smith, a science teacher at Central High School, turned in a letter of resignation over the weekend to the school's principal, Dr. Mike Cowan. The letter was passed from Cowan to superintendent Dr. Jim Welker and the school board. The board held an emergency closed session at noon Monday and approved the resignation.
Board secretary Beth Poyner said the district has attempted to notify Smith but has been unable to reach him by phone. Welker declined to comment through his secretary.
According to a probable-cause statement, the incident between Smith and the student began after Smith, the student and two of the student's female friends engaged in conversation in downtown Cape Girardeau on Jan. 21. The "play fight" escalated when Smith allegedly wrapped his feet around the student's waist and applied a choke hold, causing the student to lose consciousness, according to the statement.
Smith was issued a summons Jan. 31 and pleaded not guilty to the charge.
His original court appearance date was moved back two days after his attorney, Bryan Greaser, filed last week for a change of judge. Judge Gary Kamp had originally been assigned to the case, but Judge Benjamin Lewis handed it to Judge Michael Bullerdieck on Wednesday. Bullerdieck is the same judge who ordered two years' probation for Smith after he pleaded guilty in November to a DWI charge. Smith will appear before Bullerdieck at 8:30 a.m. March 7 at the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse in Jackson.
Greaser emailed a statement regarding Smith's resignation to the Southeast Missourian on Thursday.
"I have no comment at this time on the resignation of Mr. Smith other than to say that it is in no way any admission of guilt whatsoever from Roman Smith. Our intention remains to be that we will plead not guilty in this matter," the statement read.
According to the Cape Girardeau Police Department, the only evidence in the case is the accounts of witnesses and there was no new evidence in the case as of Thursday. Police spokesman Darin Hickey said no new witnesses have been interviewed.
The student's mother, Penny Coleman, said she was happy to hear of Smith's resignation.
"I think that's best for the children," she said, "and I don't have to worry about my son going back to school."
Coleman said she pulled her son out of school for several days immediately following the incident, and said last week she was considering withdrawing him permanently because he was being taunted by other students about the incident. She said she has changed her mind now that she knows Smith resigned.
Greaser wrote in a statement last week that Smith regrets the incident and evidence will prove that he was "within the bounds of the law on that night."
301 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO