Teacher of autistic children in Randolph under fire
Parents of six autistic children are pushing for criminal charges against a teacher who they say abused students in her classroom.
The parents and three teacher aides say the instructor, Ann Gibbons of Middleboro, allegedly engaged in finger-bending and forceful pushing and shoving that caused bruises, cuts, a bleeding lip and limping.
Both the state Department of Children and Families and the Hingham-based South Shore Educational Collaborative, which provides alternative programs for special education students, conducted investigations and found no evidence to support the allegations against Gibbons.
But the parents – who learned of the alleged abuse from three whistle-blower teacher aides assigned to Gibbons’ classroom at Lyons Elementary School in Randolph – say they’re absolutely convinced the allegations are true and believe Gibbons should face assault charges.
The six children in her classroom are all nonverbal.
A hearing was held Monday in Quincy District Court before Assistant Clerk Robert Bloom to determine if Gibbons will face criminal charges. To date, no charges have been filed.
Gibbons’ attorney, Todd Bennett, declined to comment except to say, “Ann maintains her absolute innocence relative to these allegations, and she has confidence in the judicial process.”
Michael Savage, executive director of the South Shore Educational Collaborative, referred calls to the school’s attorney, Regina Williams Tate, who declined to comment on the allegations or the school’s response to those allegations, which six parents interviewed described as “unprofessional” and “disappointing.”
Tate would not say whether Gibbons is still teaching for the collaborative or is on paid administrative leave, saying “personnel matters are strictly confidential.”
Two of the aides who say they witnessed the alleged abuse – AnneMarie Grant and Erin Royer – are no longer with South Shore Collaborative. The third, Mary Ericson, who has worked there for almost 21 years, said she is pursuing a relation claim against the school. She has been transferred to an adult program.
The aides informed school officials and parents of alleged abuse in February to March of this year, including:
Gibbons allegedly using “finger bending” on several students, a move the aides said is very painful but leaves no marks.
Gibbons allegedly pushing one student, Ethan Goloskie, against a bookcase and holding her forearm against his neck.
Gibbons allegedly trying to “bait” Ethan by purposely telling him “quiet,” a word known to evoke tantrums. When he responded, Gibbons allegedly put her hand to his throat. His mother, Nancy Wallace of Hull, said he came home one day with marks on his collarbone and a 3-inch facial scratch.
One student was allegedly on a time-out chair for 20 minutes, and Ericson said Gibbons forcefully pushed him down when he tried to get up.
Another student was allegedly lifted off the floor by his head by Gibbons. The student, Carmen Maggiore, came home with unexplained bruises and marks around that time, said his parents, Linda Auger of Braintree and Tony Maggiore of Hingham.
After an incident when a student bit Gibbons, she allegedly pushed him, causing him to fall on the floor. The student, Sean Quill, was sent home that day because his lip would not stop bleeding. His parents, John and Julie Quill of Norwell, say their son was limping that night. They were told he was injured while kicking his chair.
The South Shore Collaborative operates through 10 local school districts and offers alternative programs for special education students that their hometown schools do not provide. It is based in Hingham, but operates in classrooms in public schools from Randolph to Marshfield.
Gibbons is licensed to teach in grades 1-6 and is not licensed to teach in special education classrooms, said Jonathan Considine, a spokesman for the state Department of Education. A teacher in a special education class is required to be certified, unless he or she has a waiver, Considine said. The Patriot Ledger was unable to confirm whether Gibbons has a waiver.
Gibbons taught in a classroom at Lyons Elementary School in Randolph.
The Department of Children and Families, formerly called the Department of Social Services, investigated the allegations against Gibbons and said in April that there was no basis for action against her. Since then, parents said they have been combing over all documents related to the allegations and working with police in Randolph, where Gibbons taught in a classroom at Lyons.
Randolph Police Chief Paul Porter did not return calls for comment.
Parents said they notified police of behavior logs they obtained from the school. It took weeks for the school to respond to their requests, they said. The logs record any time a student is restrained during a tantrum.
Auger, the Braintree mother whose son, Carmen, came home with unexplained bruises, said the logs were a “red flag” for her because they said Carmen was restrained on the same days that his daily teacher-parent communication book said he had a good day at school.
Either the logs or the teacher was lying, Auger said.
Parents said they are still furious that the school did not immediately report the allegations, and that Gibbons may teach special needs students again.
“We feel the need to protect other autistic children, and the only way to have her not teach again is to bring these charges,” Wallace said.
John and Julie Quill said by pursuing assault charges, they are giving the children, all of whom are nonverbal, a voice.
“It’s not easy to work with our kids,” John Quill said. “But I’d have more respect for someone who walked away instead of taking their frustrations out on these kids. They didn’t choose autism.”
The Patriot Ledger
How the allegations came to light
- February – March 2008: Alleged abuse by teacher Ann Gibbons is witnessed by three classroom aides
- March 18: Classroom aide AnnMarie Grant reports alleged abuse to program director Mary Scott at South Shore Educational Collaborative
- March 24: Gibbons placed on paid leave; does not return for rest of school year
- Executive Director Michael Savage meets with every staff member who worked in Gibbons’ classroom
- State Department of Children and Families notified of allegations
- March 24-27: Aides disclose allegations to parents
- March 26: Department of Children and Families screens out investigation to the school
- March 28: School officials meet with parents for first time. Parents request further investigation from Department of Children and Families
- April 10: State concludes there is not sufficient evidence to support the allegations
- April: Parents of all six students pull them out of Gibbons’ classroom; two aides resign in protest and third is transferred
- Oct. 20: Clerk magistrate hearing held at Quincy District Court with Assistant Clerk Robert Bloom. No charges against Gibbons have been filed.