Just before midnight, after nearly six hours of testimony, the Chickasha Board of Education made a motion to reconvene Pam Huggins’ due process hearing on Thursday.
Huggins, Special Education Director with Chickasha Public Schools, was suspended in December on allegations of failure to report child abuse of a special needs child. Three witnesses were called to testify on behalf of the administration. Huggins and one of about a dozen witnesses testified on Huggins behalf before the meeting was reconvened.
At 5 p.m. on Feb. 1, the meeting will reconvene at the Chickasha Middle School Auditorium where more witnesses may testify on Huggins' behalf and the Chickasha Board of Education will go into executive session to deliberate on the evidence presented.
The administration’s witnesses testified that a paraeducator, identified as J.F. and later Jason, had allegedly mistreated a special needs student identified as M.K. According to the administration’s testimony, J.F. had bent the student’s fingers back, stepped on his foot to force the student to throw away trash and hit the student with a medicine ball. There were also allegations that J.F. had made inappropriate jokes in the classroom.
Huggins said a teacher reported some of these incident to her. Huggins contacted Kimberly Nelson, assistant principal at Chickasha High School.
Huggins said she was told by a teacher that the child’s foot had been stepped on and that the incident with the medicine ball may have been an accident rather than malicious. Huggins said she had not heard the other allegations and the affidavits presented by teachers did not include these incidents.Huggins said after she reported the event to administration, she later followed up with the teacher who had brought forth the concerns and was assured the situation was under control. Woody Glass, an attorney representing Huggins, said Huggins did not suspect actual child abuse, therefore the allegations against her were unfounded.
Michelle Pontikos, Chickasha High School Principal later testified that M.K. has autism, is mostly nonverbal and would not be able to give an account of the alleged incidents.
Glass and Brett Burns, representing Huggins, said the allegations were retaliations against Huggins for expressing concerns regarding the Specialized Student Learning Campus.
Glass said Huggins was exploring the SPLC program when she discovered Pontikos had allegedly changed attendance records and grades and removed assignments and tests. Huggins and Yohance Brown approached Cindy Schmidt and David Cash, presenting inconsistencies on the Odyssey software used in the SPLC program. These inconsistencies allegedly showed time not matching the tests, tests taken from home. Huggins followed up with the State Department of Education, Glass said.
Burns said no one contacted the Chickasha Chief of Police about the incident and the Department of Human Services did not have a case number for the incident between J.F. and M.K.
Chickasha Public School’s attorney, Richard O’Carroll, alleged that Huggins’ concerns for the SPLC program had distracted Huggins from her primary duties to M.K. Huggins said her concern with the SPLC program was the implementation and not the program itself. Huggins said she was checking the grades of IEP students when she found the aforementioned concerns.
According to the suspended faculty’s attorney, Pete Bush, who resigned last week, had expressed concern about the attendance problem at Chickasha High School related to the SPLC program.
More on this story as it develops.