Alright, this case just turned 18. I think we’ve all learned a lot. For example, I now know many of you are not Michael Jackson fans.
Allow me to explain myself: When you sit in a courtroom for 10 or so hours a day, things start to be funny to you that may not resonate with the general public. I apologize to those of you who felt my trial-induced delirium about a Thriller flash mob was inappropriate. However, to those precious few who understood it was a total joke, I give you a virtual fist bump.
It’s the first full day of ESD’s case. Board chair John Eagle testified yesterday, and you can see all the details on the Day 17 post as I’ve just finished updating it with his testimony. I have yet to add the quotes from Dr. David Thompson, ESD’s first expert witness. But he’ll be continuing testimony today, so you’ll get to hear from him as well in a bit.
UPDATE 9:45 a.m.
Word on the street is that one of Jane’s former classmates is going to testify this afternoon for the defense. I’ve heard it will be outside the presence of the jury, not sure why yet.
UPDATE 12:30 p.m.
On a 30 minute lunch break. Apparently, Judge D’Metria Benson found out this is my favorite part of the day and decided to slice in a thirds. Blast. I’ll give as many updates as I can before my food arrives.
And yes, I realize I haven’t updated yesterday’s post with the last witness, Dr. David Thompson. In due time, faithful reader, in due time. I’m just trying to keep my head above water.
Dr. David Thompson, educational expert witness for ESD, resumes his testimony.
“Additional classroom reviews would not have uncovered Mr. Campbell’s predilection for sexual misconduct,” Thompson says.
Thompson says Campbell’s comments on Jane’s report card were typical of the kinds of things he said to his other students.
However, all the examples Chrysta Castaneda referenced were about students who didn’t take Campbell’s advice to meet privately in his office to go over notes. Campbell expressed dismay over this.
The only positive report card comments made by Campbell (other than those to Jane) that Castaneda referenced were these, written to a female student.
“She tackled the quarter with utmost vigor, and did not disappoint at all.”
Thompson says Jane was “an outgoing, gregarious, engaging student” and her behavior with teachers was not alarming “for her,” and thus should not have been an indicator of boundary violations.
“Marc Salz, Tolly Salz, and Nathan Campbell wouldn’t have been put on notice by Jane’s behavior,” Thompson says, when asked about the alleged sports bra incident, the breast touching allegation in chapel, and late night emails.
Thompson says ESD couldn’t reasonably be expected to have knowledge of the sexual assault of one of its students because the sex was off campus and most communication took place outside of the school’s communication servers. Additionally, Campbell and Jane took steps to hide the relationship from the school.
Castaneda asks Thompson about “the standard of care” a student in an educational environment owes herself.
“For a student who is 15 years or older, there is a personal duty to execute reasonable care of oneself,” Thompson says.
“If one violates the standard of care one owes to oneself, is that negligence?” Castaneda asks.
“Yes, it is,” Thompson says.
“Did Jane violate the standard of care in keeping the relationship secret?” Castaneda asks.
“In my opinion, she did,” Thompson says.
Thompson says a reasonable educator is not expected to know the age of consent because all student-educator sexual relationships are illegal at the high school level in Texas.
Thompson says ESD’s response once it learned of the sexual relationship between Campbell and Jane “exceeded the standard of care.”
ESD acted within its discretion as a private school when it made the decision to separate with Jane, Thompson says.
“In my opinion, private schools who act within their discretion reasonably are not subject to liability,” he says.
Thompson says “a reasonable administrator has to weigh competing interests” in deciding what’s the best course of action.
“I believe the school made a decision that was in the best interest of Jane first, but also took into account other student needs,” he says.
Thompson says the manner of separation, meeting with the father to allow voluntary withdrawal, was also appropriate.
He has no problem with unconfirmed reports about the wedding ring incident being used as the basis for expulsion.
“Hearsay evidence is something that can be used as the basis for expulsion,” Thompson says, adding that he knows personally of many cases where a student denied the allegations but was still expelled.
Thompson says the “sense of urgency” to get Jane out of ESD was for her own best interest so she could have as close to a full semester at a new school as possible.
“The long term benefits of Jane’s separation from ESD far outweighed the transitory concerns,” he says.
Cyndy Goosen asks Thompson to clarify what he meant when he said Jane could be considered negligent.
“Are you telling the jury that Jane was contributorily negligent because she became a victim of a crime?” Goosen asks.
“That is not necessarily what I’m saying,” Thompson says.
“So you misspoke?” Goosen asks.
“I’m not telling you that either,” he says, adding that “a person 15 years or older owes a reasonable duty of care to himself.”
Goosen says the plaintiffs’ expert witness on education, Edward Dragan, has been officially qualified to testify in courts across the country, while this is Thompson’s first trial to serve in.
He confirms this.
“You understand that your opinions differ greatly with Dr. Dragan, don’t you?” Goosen asks.
“Yes, I understand that,” Thompson says.
“As an expert witness paid by ESD in this case, is it your opinion that it would be appropriate for a school employee to assist Nathan Campbell in his criminal case, in hopes that it might help ESD in the civil case?” Goosen asks.
“I don’t have a very well-developed factual basis surrounding the issues concerning Chris Burrow,” Thompson says. “Generally speaking, I would not look favorably on a person who is assisting a criminal, especially if they are employed by the school.”
Thompson says he would consider it inappropriate if as the CFO, Burrow called Campbell and passed along information about the civil trial.
“Have ESD attorneys not told you about Chris Burrow?” Goosen asks.
He says he’s heard some general discussion but was not briefed on the matter specifically.
“At some point in the process, I believe Jane had a duty to let someone know this was going on,” Thompson says, “So in that regard, I believe Jane could be partially legally responsible for what happened.”
He adds that Jane could have told the truth when the police report came out but chose to lie about the extent of the relationship.
“If she had been more forthcoming, I believe some of this could’ve been prevented,” Thompson says.
“Some of the sexual crime?” Goosen asks.
“Yes,” Thompson says.
Goosen asks him if he has any knowledge of sexual crimes.
He says he does not.
Goosen presents Campbell’s personnel file to Thompson. She shows that in his background check, there was a note made about how his Social Security number was “associated with another person’s name.”
Thompson says he’s not aware what, if anything, ESD did to investigate this. He adds that as a reasonable employer, he would investigate a concern of that nature if it came up in a background check.
Thompson says he doesn’t think that teacher gossip was “rampant” in the days following Mayo’s announcement that Campbell had resigned for personal reasons.
“Within a few days, we know of at least five teachers who gossiped, don’t we?” Goosen asks.
“I know of three,” Thompson says.
Goosen shows Thompson the deposition of Dr. Andy McGarrahan, ESD’s psychologist. In it, McGarrahan says that chaplain Oliver Butler asked him about Jane and Nathan Campbell.
Thompson says he wouldn’t call that gossip.
Goosen goes back to Campbell’s report card comments to Jane. She says that according to Rebecca Royall’s testimony, the comments should have been a “red flag.”
“I understand we’re in disagreement on that,” Thompson says.
Regarding the school’s vehicle policy, Thompson says he believes Campbell had to give a reason for checking out a vehicle, but he never saw any documentation of that.
Back on the confusing possible allegation that Tolly Salz heard Jane had been raped by another teacher (not Campbell) and didn’t immediately report it.
“If she failed to report that to ESD administrators, would it be proof that she wasn’t properly trained?” Goosen asks.
“That’s one possible explanation,” Thompson says.
Goosen brings up the Jan. 27 meeting where Jane was withdrawn from ESD. She asks Thompson if it was right for Royall and Erin Mayo to threaten Jane’s father.
“It’s my understanding that a threat was not made,” he says, adding that in his opinion the “option for withdrawal was presented in a positive way.”
Lunch recess until 1 p.m.
Goosen is having trouble pronouncing Castaneda, and it is amusing everyone.
Castaneda gives her a brief demo, which fails to help.
Goosen brings up Thompson’s comments about ESD having windows in its classrooms and offices.
“Those windows did not prevent Nathan Campbell from sending hundreds of texts to Jane from his classroom, did they?” she asks.
Thompson says no.
“It didn’t stop him from touching her in a sexual way in his office, did it?” Goosen asks.
“He did what he did,” Thompson says.
“You’d agree that if there’s any pattern of conduct at ESD of threatening to expel a student who reported sexual inappropriateness with a teacher, that’d be wrong?” Goosen asks.
“Hypothetically, that’d be wrong,” Thompson says.
“And if ESD tried to sweep any evidence of sexual misconduct under the rug, that would be wrong, correct?” Goosen asks.
Castaneda says it’s common to have a Social Security number that matches multiple individuals because numbers get transposed in property records.
Castaneda shows one of Campbell’s letters of reference for ESD. In it, the person writes that “Nathan is a mature and responsible individual who works steadily at whatever task is assigned to him.”
She shows Campbell’s resume, which states he was an adjunct history professor at multiple colleges before coming to ESD.
Lisa LeMaster walks in.
Diane Jennings from the Dallas Morning News walks in.
Thompson is excused as a witness, and ESD calls Dr. Laura McCracken by video deposition.
Not really sure why this is happening, considering she testified in person a couple weeks ago.
McCracken says ESD should’ve kept the Does informed about rumors and Jane’s progress.
Castaneda asks her if she’d been consulted before Jane was expelled, what would she have said.
“Handle it differently,” McCracken says on the video. “Don’t do it so abruptly because it sends a bad message to her.”
Eddie Eason, ESD administrator, is called by video deposition. He says he is the one who received the phone call from the Farmers Branch police on Nov. 30, 2009.
Eason says Jane “was not a troubled child,” and that she “had her good days and her bad days.” He added she could be “fussy” if she didn’t get her way.
Eason got an email from Susan Weil, Jane’s math and yearbook teacher, that said “frankly [Jane] scares me a little bit, like she might snap at anytime.”
Eason responded, “Join the club. She’s always had an attitude issue, being the baby of the family she’s spoiled, and it’s difficult to get her parents to see her in any negative light.”
Pass witness. The plaintiffs reserve the right to call Eason for cross-examination at a later date because ESD needs to do an offer of proof on another witness before the judge leaves at 3 p.m.
Cynthia Timms presents ESD’s offer of proof on why testimony for “Mary Smith,” a current ESD student and former friend of Jane Doe, should be allowed. Timms describes Smith as “the student at the heart of the wedding ring incident.”
Walker offers a response for the plaintiffs, saying ESD has designated around 20 teachers and 20 students (former and current) since the discovery deadline ended.
“They played a game here, and the rules don’t allow them to do it,” Walker says.
Benson has previously ruled that Smith’s testimony won’t be allowed. ESD is asking her to reconsider.
Benson says she will allow Smith to testify outside the presence of the jury tomorrow around 4:30 p.m. as part of ESD’s offer of proof.
Court is in recess until 9 a.m. tomorrow.
Side note: I’ve updated Day 17 post with testimony from all witnesses. Go crazy.