State of Maine, Cumberland ss
Superior Court Civil Action Docket No. CV-04-98
On Behalf of the Plaintiffs: Ronald R. Coles, Esq.
On Behalf ot the Defendants: Melissa A. Hewey, Esq.
Transcript of Hearing, 27 August 2004 before Thomas E. Humphrey, Justice
13. TESTIMONY OF TAMMY PAUL
MS. HEWEY: Our next witness is Tammy Paul.
THE COURT: Would you please remain standing. Raise your right hand.
(The witness took the witness stand and was sworn in by the court.)
THE COURT: Would you please state your full name.
THE WITNESS: Teresa M. Paul.
THE COURT: Could you spell your first name.
THE WITNESS: T E R E S A.
THE COURT: Thank you very much. You may be seated.
TERESA M. PAUL, after having been first duly sworn, testified as follows:
BY MS. HEWEY:
Q. Well, now I know your name is Teresa. Are you usually called Tammy?
Q. How are you employed, Tammy
A. I am a special education teacher at Falmouth public schools.
Q. How long have you been a special education teacher at the Falmouth public schools?
A. Two years.
THE COURT: Excuse me. I apologize. Your voice is a little soft. Could you try to get a little closer to the microphone.
THE WITNESS: Sure.
THE COURT: Thank you.
BY MS. HEWEY:
Q. Okay. o you, in terms of special education do you have a specific sort of specialization?
A. I'm certified in special education K to 12. I have also taken a course through U.S.M. in autism, and I have attended several workshops and conferences related to autism, and I am also a parent of an autistic child.
Q. Okay, and you focus?
A. And my focus at Falmouth is in autism.
Q. Okay. Now let's talk specifically about last year and could you just generally describe for the court what your job entailed?
A. I supervise five ed-techs. I have six children on the autism spectrum. Five of the children have one-on-one ed-techs. I'm responsible for supervising their academic, social and communication goals and implementing those as well as training the ed-techs and doing one-on-one teaching myself with the children.
Q. And that's at Lunt and Plummer-Motz?
A. I am at Lunt and Plummer-Motz, yes.
Q. Okay. Now you were on the playground last year on November 7, is that right?
Q. And you were with a student?
A. Uhm, actually I was crossing the playground. One of my students was on the playground with an ed-tech, and I went to them so I wasn't with them to begin with but I went to.
Q. When you were going to them did you see Jan Rankowski?
A. Yes. I had been crossing the playground from the Lunt School to Plummer-Motz because I do both schools, and I had seen Mrs. Fitzpatrick and Mrs. Katz involved in a conversation that was body language was telling me was not necessarily a friendly conversation, and I went to the Plummer-Motz office to alert the secretary to let Barbara Powers know that this was occurring, and then I went back onto the playground to my student and ed-tech.
Q. Okay, and then after a time, and then you were with your student?
Q. Then after a time did Jan Rankowski approach you?
A. Yes. When he saw me approaching the playground where my student was he had left where he was originally with his moms and Mrs. Katz and come across to the kid's world section of the playground when he saw me approaching he said, oh, you again, piss off to me when I approached.
Q. So then what happened after that?
A. My student was there listening to this conversation. He was also there with a classmate. I asked my student to go play with his classmate and told him that I needed to speak to Jan's mother and the principal about Jan's language and behavior.
Q. what happened after that?
A. He would not leave. Jan kept following me around while I was trying to speak to my student. This student is also a child with autism. I spoke to Jan several times and said this is a private conversation between myself and this student, and I need to talk to him right now because he was upset about me directing him to go play with the other child and not Jan, and he persisted three times kept saying that he did not, my student did not have to listen to me, kept following me around and not allowing me to have a private conversation with my student.
Q. What happened after that?
A. Then mom approached.
Q. You mean Gayle Fitzpatrick?
Q. Not your mother?
A. No. My mom is not around. Mrs. Fitzpatrick approached, and Jan at that point was crying and she asked me what I had done to him, why was he crying, and she said that Jan said, I said he could never play with this particular student again. I said, no, that's not true. I said, he cannot play with him at this moment, and I am trying to talk to this child who was standing right with me at the time that Mrs. Fitzpatrick was speaking to me. She kept trying to engage me in a conversation, and I finally said I am not going to continue this conversation with you where I have my student here. I am going to go talk to him privately, and I walked off.
Q. Did that interchange cause concern for you with respect to your student?
MR. COLES: Objection, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Basis please.
MR. COLES: The question is did that interchange cause concern? There is no records to indicate that there was any concern. She is trying to find out what her state of mind was that particular instance, and I think it goes way beyond as to the events that occurred on that date. What she was thinking I don't think is relevant.
THE COURT: It's overruled. You may answer that question.
THE WITNESS: My student has in his educational plan one of his objectives is to follow playground rules, it's also to respond to people respectfully, and we try very hard to implement that and help him with that, and by having a child tell him he does not have to listen to his teacher this child and I have built up a lot of trust. It was very confusing for him to have Jan who I think he considers a friend, he knows him telling him you don't have to listen to your teacher, and yet he's pulled by me as well at the same time. He knows that, you know, these are things that we are working on, and he trusts me, and I think he was very confused.
BY MS. HEWEY:
Q. Okay. Other than the incident you have just described on November 7 were there other incidents that occurred with you and a student and Jan Rankowski during that fall?
Q. Could you tell us about them?
A. Several times there is another student that knows Jan, and several times Jan would come into the school and wait for this student when it was recess time after lunch and try to monopolize his time. This particular child his classmates had a sign-up sheet that they volunteered to play with him at recess time, and we were trying very hard to develop interactive skills. Jan was pulling him away from those children who had signed up to play with him during that time. He was telling him that they, he did not need to play with them. He didn't want him to play with his classmates, and this was again causing confusion for this particular child. He was very pulled again by Jan and by his classmates and by me. At one point he voiced to me, I don't like Jan, he's being mean to me, he won't let me play with my friend.
Q. Did you raise those concerns with the principal Barbara Powers?
Q. Any other incidents that you recall?
A. That particular scenario occurred quite frequently. At one point my student was playing soccer with his classmates, and Jan arrived and tried to get my student to leave and go play with him, and the ed-tech that was on duty with him said if you want to come play with us but this is his time to play with his classmates. Jan went and took the soccer ball and ran off with it to interrupt the game.
Q. Okay. And did you report that also to Mrs. Powers?
Q. Now let's switch gears a little bit and talk about the students you work with at the school. Are there times when they have behavioral issues?
Q. What is it that you do to teach the children that you work with to be successful in social settings?
A. Uhm, probably the most critical part of teaching social skills is preparation. We do a lot of role modeling, video modeling where we would actually videotape a scenario and practice it, may be good behavior, bad behavior, critique it with the students. We do a lot of going this is the rule, this is my expectation before we even enter a social setting or situation. Before he goes to the playground this is what I expect of you today and talk it over and make sure that we are on the same plan.
Q. And if behavioral issues arise how are they addressed?
A. It might depend on the child's particular plan. Generally if something occurs they were taken aside, this is what I saw, might get their side of what was occurring. We might have to go talk to, if it involved another student, talk about what happened, what my child's perception was, what the other student's perception was, what can we do next time this happens, and then they are allowed generally to go resume their play. If it happened again they would be pulled out and probably given a time-out.
Q. And does each child have their own plan specifically tailored to them?
Q. If there are behavioral issues?
A. Four out of the six have behavioral plans. Some are more specific than others.
Q. Okay, and from your perception as a teacher how successful are these behavior plans?
MR. COLES: Objection, Your Honor, this is irrelevant.
THE COURT: Miss Hewey.
MS. HEWEY: I don't see how it's irrelevant. The fact here is that what the Falmouth School Department was doing was trying to find a modification that would work for this child. There are other children that have similar disabilities that have had modifications and it seems to me that the testimony that those modifications are successful is highly relevant.
MR. COLES: To the contrary, Your Honor, there is no testimony that any of these other children four of six or six in terms of behavioral plan or not were suspended from playground use for seven months. That's the issue today.
THE COURT: I am not certain that's the sole issue with respect to the issue of the successfulness or not. You may answer that question. Do you want to repeat it?
THE WITNESS: Am I answering whether these plans have been successful?
BY MS. HEWEY:
THE COURT: Reask your question just so we are not confusing the witness.
BY MS. HEWEY:
Q The question is has, in your experience have these behavior plans been successful?
Q. I have no further questions.
THE COURT: Thank you. Attorney Coles.
BY MR. COLES:
Q. Miss Paul, you didn't start working at the Falmouth School Department until October of 2002, right?
A. No. It was November of 2002.
Q. 2002 that was five months after Jan Rankowski had left the school system, is that correct?
A. I wouldn't know that.
Q. Well, when you showed up in November of 2002 Jan Rankowski was not a student at either of the two elementary schools, was he?
A. That is true.
Q. In fact you had no contact with Jan until many many months later, right?
Q. And it would be fair to say you only met Jan Rankowski three times?
Q. How many times did you actually met Jan Rankowski?
A. I saw Jan several times on the playground probably between 10 and 20 times.
Q. How long have you been a special-ed teacher?
A. Since November of 2002, I have had my certification since 1979.
Q. Well, but you have been a special-ed teacher since November of 19, I'm sorry, 2002?
Q. And that was when you started at the Falmouth school system, right?
Q. The incident of November 7 at the playground you overheard some altercation between Mora Katz and Gayle Fitzpatrick?
A. No. I saw them engaged in a conversation. I was not privy to the conversation.
Q. Well, didn't you say that was a heated conversation?
A. I said their body language looked as if it were not a friendly conversation. They were very close to each other. They were not smiling.
Q. Had you had altercations with Miss Fitzpatrick before that date?
Q. You didn't like Miss Fitzpatrick, right?
A. No, I have no reason to like or dislike her.
Q. Well, she was the one who would show up with her home school autistic child and have an interchange with other people, is that correct?
Q. And did you have any conversations with Gayle Fitzpatrick on November 7 in regard to her son?
Q. You understood that Jan Rankowski was upset that date?
Q. You described the situation as very confusing?
A. I described the situation from my students as confusing.
Q. Your student had a behavioral plan?
Q. Did you ever see Jan Rankowski's behavior plan?
Q. So you had no idea what was written in his behavioral plan because you had never seen it?
A. I don't have a need to know Jan Rankowski's behavior plan.
Q. Because he's home schooled, right?
A. No, because I'm not his case manager.
Q. Well, you are an autistic, you are a teacher of autistic children in the Plummer School and you realize that Jan Rankowski was autistic?
A. His mother gave me that information on the playground.
Q. Right. You had no reason to doubt Gayle Fitzpatrick telling you that her son was autistic?
Q. But you made no effort to see Jan's behavioral plan?
A. I am not allowed to have that information. It's confidential.
Q. Well, you could have asked Miss Fitzpatrick for permission to look at Jan's behavioral plan, correct?
A. I suppose I could have asked her, yes.
Q. But you never asked her, did you?
Q. Be fair to say that the altercation, the situation in total November 7 it was not a direct physical safety threat to you or the child?
A. Could you repeat that.
Q. Yeah. The situation of November 7 when you were in the playground with Jan Rankowski and your child that it was not a direct physical safety threat or issue to you or your child?
Q. You talked about some other fall 2003 incidents involving Jan where he tried pulling a child away and he took a soccer ball?
Q. Did you write any incident reports of those events?
A. No, I did not.
Q. You remember following Jan around once in the playground and noting that Jan played well?
A. I was supervising my children. I wasn't following Jan, but yes, I did comment to him at one point that he was doing a nice job following the rules.
Q. Thank you very much. Nothing further.
THE COURT: Attorney Hewey.
MS. HEWEY: I have no further questions.
THE COURT: Thank you, Miss Paul, you may step down. Attorney Hewey.
MS. HEWEY: The defense rests.
THE COURT: Any rebuttal from the plaintiffs?
MR. COLES: I recall
Reported by: Diane L. McManus, Official Court Reporter
(This transcript was scanned from a certified copy of the original and converted to text using OmniPage Pro 14.)