Emotional testimony continued Friday in city schools bullying trial
In the second day of the jury trial for a $1.3 million bullying lawsuit against Baltimore city schools, the grandmother of two students, one who suffers from a brain injury, who were allegedly tortured and ignored at Hazelwood and Glenmount elementary schools took the stand, affirming claims by Shawna and Eddy Sullivan that the principals at the two schools did nothing to help their children.
In a story Thursday, we outlined the lawsuit, which alleges several counts of negligence and state law violations on the part of the school system and the principals of the two schools individually.
In opening statements Thursday, Donna King told jurors that her clients, the Sullivan family, suffered financially and emotionally as a result of the negligence. The boy, now 10 years old, allegedly was choked unconscious at Hazelwood where he attended first grade, and beaten by a group of students at Glenmount in the second grade before he was committed to a mental institution.
The school system's lawyer, Quinton Herbert, refuted the claims, telling the jury that the incidents never happened--as evidenced by a lack of witnesses to the alleged attacks, and the boy's history of violence and fabricating stories, which he attributed to his special needs. He also defended the two principals as experienced educators with more than 75 years between them, who followed proper protocols.
On Friday, the student's grandmother took the stand, supporting the Sullivans claims. She said that while the children were in her care, she was called about 2 to 3 times a week to come and pick her grandson up from both schools, because his teachers couldn't handle him.
The grandmother, Ann Marie Pollotta, was a career pediatric nurse before retirement--including at two Baltimore city schools.
She said in her brief exchanges with Hazelwood's principal Sidney Twiggs, who she said addressed her as "Grandma" upon meeting her, there was no help offered to the student, except a reference to a counselor at the school. She said she asked if she should record the exchange with school officials and was told recording devices weren't allowed in school facilities.
On several occasions, Pollotta said, she retrieved her grandson from the school, and on two occasions he had physical evidence of abuse. In one of the last retrievals, she described, the boy was apprehensive, angry, and concluded that: "The school hates me. They don't want me here."
In a cross-examination, Herbert, the school system's lawyer zeroed in on the recording device, asking why, if the Pollotta had one with her, she didn't record her grandson's bruises and behavior. He also asked her again to describe the phone calls from the school--where administrators called for the student to be picked up. He also questioned her motives since Pollotta acknowledged that she did not appreciate being addressed as "Grandma," by Hazelwood principal.
At Glenmount, where the student transferred after severe bullying at Hazelwood, Pollota described similar situations. She said that the student was "happy to be back at school, and it seemed like he was making progress."
Until a week later, when she received her first phone call from another distraught teacher. The second-grade teacher, Pollotta said, indicated that she couldn't find the student after lunch--and later found him out on the playground unconscious. She said at Glenmount, she also picked the student up and he had suffered cuts on the mouth, and puncture wounds on his legs.
In cross examination, Herbert only sought to test her credibility by repeating her testimony. One particular point that was stressed by Herbert, was that she was, ultimately, called by the school.Expert witnesses in state reporting protocols for bullying and harassment will take the stand on Monday, beginning at 9 a.m. The principals of Hazelwood and Glenmount will also take the stand next week.