Dessa Curb was the lone Atlanta Public Schools trial defendant not to leave the Fulton County Courthouse Wednesday afternoon in handcuffs.
Curb could barely speak for a long while after a jury acquitted her of having any role in cheating at Atlanta Public Schools.
She sobbed in her joy. And she sobbed for her co-defendants who were convicted and are looking at many years in prison.
Her lawyer, Sanford Wallack, walked with her to the end of a hallway so she could compose herself.
Then she said: “I’m happy. It’s justice.
“I just thank God that I’m out. I’m going to continue to pray for …” she said, unable to finish the sentence. She waved in the direction of her former co-defendants and friends.
Curb taught special-education children for more than 20 years.
It was because of one of those years at Dobbs Elementary School that she was charged with racketeering and two counts of false statements and writings.
One witness, a paraprofessional, testified that Curb told her to erase answers on a stack of Criterion-Referenced Competency Test answer sheets that Curb left on a table while she took the children out to play.
If she did tamper with her students’ tests, she did an abysmal job of it. According to testimony, Curb gave the 2009 Criterion Referenced Competency Test to 13 students, each of whom took tests for three subjects: reading, English/language arts and math. Of those combined 39 test subjects, students met expectations on only four of them; the rest failed.
Curb is a slight, quiet woman, much unlike the screaming teacher that former paraprofessional Naomi Williams described when she testified against Curb in January.
Curb said Wednesday she never doubted she would be acquitted.
The jury said she was not guilty of conspiring to cheat on the 2009 CRCT and two counts of false statements and writings — one count that said she corrected students’ answers on the CRCT and another that accused her of falsely telling a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent that she had no part in the cheating.
“I knew I was innocent, and I knew God had my back, ” Curb said.
Curb said she was going to spend her first hours free of criminal charges relaxing with her husband and attending church Wednesday night.