With last week’s surprise ending, today’s proceedings seem ripe for more drama than usual. Father Stephen Swann will resume testimony, presumably with questions about a Former Student (motion blocking the use of the girl’s name was filed and approved Friday) who allegedly was sexually abused by an ESD staff member in 1992-1993 (I previously incorrectly stated the year was 2000. She didn’t tell Swann about it until 2000). Despite Swann beginning his testimony back in July, ESD still hasn’t had a chance to cross-examine him. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll also get to that today, too. Updates after the jump as soon as available.
UPDATE 12:40 p.m.
It’s been slow going today. Judge D’Metria Benson ruled that the plaintiffs couldn’t question Swann about the Former Student incident until rebuttal, so the questions are basically dressed-up versions of previous testimony. There’s been more talk on the Outline of Boundaries document, the “sad story” email, and the conditions of Jane Doe II’s forced withdrawal. But, there were a few new quotes from Swann that were worthy of writing down. Swann, who’s sporting a clerical collar for the first time in court, seems more polished in thought, word, and deed than in previous appearances. Those are my two cents. Here’s the rundown.
After two hours of off-the-record proceedings inside Benson’s chambers, State Sen. Royce West argues that Charla Aldous’ questions about the Former Student were improper and should not be allowed. Benson agrees in part and says the Former Student incident (and her deposition) can only be used in the plaintiffs’ rebuttal.
The jury is called in and Swann takes the stand. Aldous asks him about protocol for faculty training on the prevention and detection of sexual abuse. Swann says that faculty training on a variety of issues is decided on annually before school starts. He offers that, for example, the top issue for faculty training this year is bullying. After some more prodding from Aldous on the frequency of sexual abuse training, Swann says:
“I’m convinced that the sexual abusers will do the abuse regardless of the number of times we do those courses,” he says, adding, “We have historically trained people at a pace we thought was appropriate for us.”
11: 40 a.m.
Aldous asks Swann if he knew Jane Doe II was “a fragile child” when he expelled her.
“Yes, and she remained in my prayers,” Swann says.
“A poor decision can occur even when people have been instructed not to do so,” Swann says in response to a question about the prevalence of teacher gossip after J. Nathan Campbell resigned.
Aldous asks Swann why he never met with any member of the Doe family before Jane Doe II was expelled.
“I thought it was inappropriate,” he says.
When Aldous questions him further, he offers the explanation, “because of the intimate nature of what happened.”
Swann bangs his hand on the witness box as he answers a question about Jane Doe II’s expulsion.
“I made the decision,” he says emphatically. “That is my job.”
Swann describes his reasoning for expelling Jane Doe II thusly:
“It was like walking by a pool and seeing a child floundering in water,” he says. “It was time to lift that child up and let her stand on safe ground.”
Aldous asks if Swann would be willing to consider evidence that Erin Mayo, head of the upper school, did not have Jane Doe II’s best interest at heart 100 percent of the time.
“I can’t believe that,” he says.
Aldous asks Swann if he had it to do all over again, would he do everything the same.
He says he would.
“As tragic as the situation was, the decision was made that ESD was not the best place for Jane Doe II,” Swann says.
Swann says he would have given the Does a tuition reimbursement even if they hadn’t withdrawn their daughter that day. This is contrary to the options given to the Does by Mayo and Rebecca Royall on the day Mr. Doe withdrew Jane Doe II.
“If Mr. Doe hadn’t signed, and he came to me and said, ‘Steve, I need that money,’ I would’ve given it to him,” Swann says.
Lunch recess until 1:45 p.m.
Aldous asks if the school’s psychologist signed off on Jane Doe II’s expulsion.
“He was not part of that decision,” Swann says.
Swann says other students under emotional trauma have been given similiar options to leave ESD as Jane Doe II was given.
“We always act in the best interest of the student,” he says, adding, “Separation is hard.”
A Jan. 27, 2010 memo written by Royall explains ESD’s reasoning for expelling Jane Doe II:
“Mrs. Mayo and I explained to Mr. Doe that while we had hoped Jane Doe II would have been able to remain at ESD, events of the past couple weeks had convinced us without reservation that she could not. We told Mr. Doe the entire school community–faculty, students, and parents–were associating Jane Doe II’s name with the incident.”
Aldous asks, “Do you know that the ‘entire school community’ was associating the incident with Jane Doe II?”
“I do not,” Swann says, adding that he doesn’t think Mayo or Royall “would make that representation in a reckless manner.”
Aldous says in Mayo’s deposition, she could name only four people outside those immediately involved who knew about Jane Doe II’s involvement in Campbell’s departure. She asks Swann if he can name one person in the “entire school community” who was aware of the situation.
“I don’t know,” he says.
Recess from 3:15 to 3:30 p.m.
UPDATE 6 p.m.
Court adjourned for the day in a timely fashion at 5 p.m. on the dot. I’m plugging in my time-stamped notes now for your reading pleasure. A teaser: ESD’s cross examination of Swann took a whopping 20 minutes. This is surprising, considering they questioned Dr. Edward Dragan for hours on end
Aldous asks Swann if he “tried to sweep situation under the rug.”
“I never thought of sweeping anything under the rug,” he says. “Never.”
“Never in your career?” Aldous asks.
“Never,” Swann answers.
Swann says he can understand how having to withdraw a child from school she has attended since kindergarten could cause “mental anguish” for the father, mother, and child involved.
“Is it reasonable for Jane Doe II to feel like the school was blaming her?” Aldous asks.
“It’s possible,” Swann says. “I think reasonably, once the initial pain of separation is over, she would begin to see the rationale.” Adding, “I’m sure it was a very confusing time for her.”
After yet another Shonn Brown object, Aldous “objects to all the objections.”
“I’d really tried to hold my tongue on this, but it is interrupting the flow of my examination,” Aldous says.
Benson tells both counselors to approach the bench.
Aldous says that according to Jane Doe II’s deposition, the first thing she told her father when he said she had to leave ESD was, “Give them more money, and they’ll let me stay.” She then asks Swann if the Does had offered money if their daughter could have stayed.
“No,” he says.
Aldous says students who have repeatedly violated ESD’s honor code have been shown more care, love, and understanding than Jane Doe II, a victim of sexual assault, was.
Swann refutes this and tries to give a background on the honor code but Aldous objects and Benson won’t allow him to until cross-examination.
Aldous then shows a May 27, 2010 email explaining that a student accused of plagiarism would have a panel, including the school psychologist, discuss her possible expulsion. Aldous also shows a letter that Swann wrote on June 4, 2010 to the girl’s family explaining a withdrawal option and giving them four days to consider it, as well as offering to meet with the girl and her family in person to discuss it.
Aldous shows a letter of recommendation that Swann wrote for the girl, who was forced to withdraw because of plagiarism incidents, to another local private school stating the reason she needed to leave ESD was that she had problems “with her peer group.”
“You never offered to write a letter of recommendation for Jane Doe II, did you?” Aldous asks.
Swann says no.
“You never even wrote the Does a letter at all about the situation, did you?” Aldous asks.
Swann says no.
“You believe you appropriately ministered to this family, by providing a safe school environment for their child?” Aldous asks.
“We were no longer safe,” Swann says.
Plaintiffs pass witness to ESD for cross-examination, led by Brown. She opens with a question about the student who was asked to withdraw after an honor code violation.
Swann says that situation was way out of the ordinary and he normally isn’t so involved in the process, but he was helping out Mayo and Royall, who he said had already had a long, rough year.
Brown asks Swann about his age and if he takes any medication that could affect his memory. Swann says he’s almost 67 and takes prescription medicine for a heart condition. Swann also says he takes an anti-anxiety pill before public speaking that can affect his memory. While he didn’t take it today, he says he believes he took it before his first day of testimony. Brown frames these questions in statements about why his deposition testimony may have differed from what he said on the stand.
Swann says he called Mr. Doe in January (of this year) at his office and Doe said, “It’s too late.” Brown asks Swann what he wanted to tell Mr. Doe.
“I am so sorry that Jane Doe II and your family had to go through what you went through at the hands of Nathan Campbell,” Swann says. “He committed a sin, and I ‘m so sorry for you.”
Brown passes the witness for rebuttal. Court is adjourned until tomorrow.