Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Afternoon of Day 3: Trial of MCPS Cloverly Elementary School Teacher John Vigna - Cloverly ES Principal Testifies: What She Knew, What She Told Vigna, Referral to Counseling in 2008, She Followed Protocol

The trial of MCPS Cloverly Elementary School teacher John Vigna was not covered by the media. The Parents' Coalition is providing the public with notes from the trial in Montgomery County Circuit Court.  
This is not a transcript.  
The trial was before Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge David Boynton. 

Here are notes from day three of the trial, June 8, 2017.

Trial resumes 1:15 PM  

Judge and parties discuss whether video from SnapChap can be entered into evidence.  This discussion took place with out the jury in the courtroom.

Jury returns at 1:32 PM

State calls Melissa Brunson
Principal, Cloverly Elementary School 


She has been the principal at Cloverly since January of 2007, 10 and 1/2 years.  She was a principal intern in 2006.  Mr. Vigna has been a teacher at the school more than 20 years.  When she arrived he was a 5th grade teacher. 
Brunson is asked if she knows witnesses #1, #2, #5, and #6. She says she does.
Brunson was asked if there was an incident where the defendant (Vigna) had a student in his lap. She said the incident was referred to her.  Most recent incident was in 2013.  Administrative action was taken against defendant based on that incident.  Letter of reprimand from Chief Operating Officer, Larry Bowers with Mr. Vigna's name on it was entered into evidence.  
2008 incident involving defendant Mr. Vigna and another student sitting on his lap. Brunson was involved in that investigation.  She wrote an official letter of reprimand to Mr. Vigna. The letter was signed by Mr. Vigna on June 2, 2008. 
June 2008 letter discusses two incidents.  Brunson is familiar with incidents.  Both involved students sitting on Mr. Vigna's lap.  Brunson gave Vigna a verbal warning and counseling after February 2008 incident.  She told him to "not do that anymore." 
Did Mr. Vigna clearly understand what Brunson was asking him not to do?  Brunson says yes. 
February 2008 letter says that incident was a male student.  Fire Marshall spoke to her about that incident.  It was after school hours and the Fire Marshall came to her office to report an incident of a student sitting on Mr. Vigna's lap.  
After 2013, Brunson does not recall speaking to Mr. Vigna about his interactions with students. 
After 2008, was Mr. Vigna referred to MCPS Employee Services for services to address interactions with students. 
Brunson was part of investigation of 2013 incident.  Information was presented to her.  Believes there was another recommendation for Employee Assistance.  Did not see final report from MCPS on that incident.


Defense Cross Examination of Melissa Brunson:
Brunson got to be a principal by being careful in her reporting of incidents.  2008 report says incident involved a male.  
Attorney:  Was any student ever removed from Mr. Vigna's class after any reprimands in 2008 and 2013? Brunson: no.
Attorney: Was Mr. Vigna's position changed after those two reprimands?  Brunson: Not necessarily. 
After 2008 reprimand, he moved from 5th grade class to 3rd grade class.
Attorney:  Would it be a fair statement that you didn't have any particular concerns about Mr. Vigna being around 3rd grade or 4th grade students or you wouldn't have moved him back to the 3rd grade, correct? Brunson: "Actually, I did have that concern."  Attorney: But you still moved him back there.Brunson: "Well, actually, he was outside and then he was moved in the building and that was one of the classrooms closest to the main office area."
Brunson, clarified that in 2008 letter also included an incident in May of a student sitting on his lap. 
Attorney there were two incidents in 2008.
Brunson:  "Yes, it was a progressive discipline a warning, counseling and then when the second incident occurred it became a letter of reprimand, which he confessed to that the lap sitting did occur.  There is no question about that."
Attorney:  As a result of these incidences did you contact the Department of Social Services?    
Brunson:  "As a result of those incidences I contacted the Office of Human Resources Department."
Attorney:  Right, my question was different though.  My question was did you contact the Department of Social Services?Brunson:  "I didn't, but that doesn't mean that OHRD did not."Attorney:  Did I ask you about that?Brunson:  "I am just adding." 
Attorney:  So you did not contact the Department of Social Services, is that correct?Brunson:  "I did not contact the Department of Social Services."
Attorney:  You did not, but as a principal you have a legal obligation if you believe there was an incidence of child abuse that had been reported, isn't that correct?   Brunson:  Well, if it was identified as such, yes.
Attorney:  Yes, but you did not identify it as such. Brunson:  I did not identify it as child abuse. 
Attorney:  Right and you did not report it to any of the respective agencies such as CPS, even though under the law, you understand as an administrator you are a mandatory reporter, isn't that true? Brunson:  Absolutely, if it was suspected child abuse or neglect. But our protocol at that time was to contact the Office of Human Resources and then they helped to direct our path and so if they made a contact, I am just not aware of it. 
Attorney:  But, in any event, Mr. Vigna we can agree, perhaps, was not removed from the school, was not removed from the classroom, and the students were not removed.Brunson:  He was not removed, however, are you referring to which incident? 
Attorney:  Any of the 3 incidents.Brunson:  Well in 2013, there was a space where we had to conduct an investigation and Mr. Vigna was out for approximately 3 weeks.   
Attorney:  Right, let's go over my question again. Are you finished what you wanted to tell the ladies and gentlemen?Brunson:  I am not exactly sure what you are referring to when you say that. 
Attorney:  He was not removed from the classroom, correct?  Brunson:  He had administrative leave.
Brunson:  He was not re-assigned to another school and that would not be my jurisdiction. 
Attorney:  I did not ask if it was your jurisdiction.  Were any of the students reassigned to another classroom or another school? Brunson: Not that I recall for those incidents you are naming, because there...there are for the recent one...Attorney:  We are not talking about the recent ones, I am talking about 2008, 2013, can we stick on that?

State's Re-Direct:


State's attorney asked if she was concerned about defendant's behavior. Why were you concerned?  Brunson:  I was. Yes, because just by virtue of lap sitting,...it just... I am concerned because it was inappropriate in my eyes to have that level of closeness with students you know as a professional that level of distance wasn't practical to have children sitting on your lap. So, yes I was concerned. 
State's attorney asked about removal from class, about firing defendant.Brunson:  Not within my jurisdiction... 
State's attorney asked if she can suspend a teacher.  Brunson:  Not fully.  I can recommend it. I'll have to work with... OHRD ...but it has to be a collective decision... I can only do things that I think would be in what I believe would be the right ... at the time.   So move to another classroom... might be one of the ways we would do it, or have the teacher keep the door open, just kinda keep alert and keep an eye.
State's attorney in 2008 did you follow the appropriate protocol when those incidents occurred?Brunson:  YesState's attorney:  In 2013 did you follow the proper protocol when that incident occurred?Brunson:  Yes

...

The State ended their case at this time.

12 comments:

  1. Pat O'Neill was on the Board of Education this entire time. Will she run for re-election? Will any voters notice her policy not to remove these abusers but to instead direct that they be moved to other classrooms?

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  2. OMG. Melissa Brunson is still the principal at Cloverly, after leaving a pedophile in place at that school. Oh wait, she moved him from the 5th grade to the 3rd grade. How is the PTA handling this? Anyone know?

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  3. She followed proper MCPS procedure. The principal cannot fire a teacher.

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    Replies
    1. Nothing stopped her from following the law as a mandatory reporter. Her duty was to call Child Protectve Services.

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    2. No one said she should fire a teacher. If she was concerned about a child's welfare, as a principal she had other options. She needs to call Child Protective Services. Again, this is the Board of Education policy as she said she followed. This is Pat O'Neill's policy and every single member of the Board of Education.

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    3. It is the Board of Education that sets procedure. So, it is really the voters who are responsible here. They choose the Board of Education and this is what they have chosen.

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    4. Did the fire marshal and custodian observe any abuse? No, they only saw kids sitting on Vigna's lap. (Which is unusual.) Santa Claus has lots of children sit on his lap. Do you call CPS on him?

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    5. Yes, they did. They reported what they saw and the custodian and Vigna had a confrontation over the incident. If you read the trial notes you would know the testimony was that the girls sat on only one leg and Vigna had his hands on their thighs.

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    6. Do you moonlight as Santa Claus?

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    7. Your comparing him to Santa Claus? What kind of person are you? Do you have kids sit on your lap and rub them? You have a problem

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  4. The principal and teachers are why this continues, the teachers that are still supporting him should be fired if they think this behavior is acceptable!If someone pulled these supporters on their lap and was grinding on them and rubbing their thighs would that be ok? They are making every child that has had this happen to them afraid to come forward. Something has to be done in Montgomery county. Forget policy and all that someone needs to be fired for letting this continue!

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    Replies
    1. Something is rotten in MontGomorrah county.

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