schmidtt.jpgA Ross Police Department investigation of the strange disappearance of a Terra Linda High School teacher has expanded into San Francisco and beyond, with police putting out a nationwide missing-person bulletin for the missing woman.

San Rafael police spokeswoman Margo Rohrbacher told Bay City News that the school’s assistant principal Justin Mori informed San Rafael police at about 9:45 a.m. last Thursday that 53-year-old Debra Schmitt, of Ross, failed to show up for class.

The words “Thank you everyone” were written on a blackboard in Schmitt’s classroom, and Schmitt’s keys to the school were found in the classroom, Rohrbacher said.

According to Ross police Sgt. Gianfranco Campa, she left her Toyota, purse and identification papers at her home, but no cab drivers in the area reported picking up Schmitt. Someone spoke with Schmitt in Ross the previous day, on Jan. 19, Rohrbacher said.

San Rafael police initially handled the missing person’s report because the high school is in San Rafael, but turned the case over to Ross police because Schmitt lives in that town, Rohrbacher said.

Campa said police are searching trails in the Phoenix Lake area with dogs today for Schmitt, who enjoys hiking. According to the Chronicle, searchers are also combing Golden Gate Park, which police say she told a friend she wanted to explore.

Police do not suspect foul play and do not believe Schmitt is suicidal, Campa said.

Schmitt’s husband, Stephen Smith, had filed for divorce on Jaunary 11, the Chron reports. The two have a son, Wyatt, an eighth-grader.

She has also, says the Chron, lost three close relatives in the past year, but there’s no indication that either the divorce or these losses play a part in her disappearance.

“Terra Linda administrators are trying to be optimistic,” the Chron reports, quoting Terra Linda Principal Lars Christensen as saying “the thing that’s important for us on this end is that we speak on a purely factual basis…what we do know is that her whereabouts are unknown. I’ve been in regular contact with her husband, who obviously is very concerned.”

Schmitt is Caucasian, 5 feet 7 inches tall, 120 pounds and has hazel eyes and brown hair, police said. She may be in need of prescription medication.

Several people have posted messages on the Debra Schmitt Fan Club page on Facebook since Monday expressing concern about her welfare and asking the popular English teacher to return.

“If you don’t know, Ms. Schmitt is the coolest English teacher at Terra Linda and probably the whole world. Gaze upon her teaching skills in amazement!” reads the page’s description.

James Lanaras of Bay City News contributed to this report

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the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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