In a strongly worded defense of the actions they took in response to bullying complaints at Duveneck Elementary School, Palo Alto school district administrators have told the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights that allegations were "investigated fully and responded to in a timely and thorough manner."
The district's April 24 response to a "data request" from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), obtained by the Weekly through a Public Records Act request, rebuts claims by a Duveneck family that the district didn't respond to their repeated appeals for action to stop the bullying of their disabled child since last October. It also declines to acknowledge that any bullying even took place.
Just a week earlier, on April 15, Duveneck Principal Chris Grierson sent an email to all Duveneck families, approved by Superintendent Kevin Skelly, informing them of the complaint, urging them to "not be alarmed," and stating that "As I see it, the OCR is addressing a national rally cry about bullying behavior." (That comment brought a reprimand from the Office for Civil Rights on April 17.)
The seven-page letter, accompanied by documents that were withheld from the Weekly for privacy reasons, offers no apologies nor admits any mistakes. Signed by Holly Wade, the district's director of special education, and Brenda Carrillo, coordinator of student services, the letter said Grierson "worked with school personnel, district staff, student and parent to address issues in a timely manner, complete robust investigations and provide ongoing supervision and support to the student on a daily basis."
The Office for Civil Rights launched an investigation into the Duveneck complaint on April 4, and attorneys were reportedly on campus conducting interviews prior to the end of the school year. The federal agency does not comment on pending investigations, and it is unknown when the investigation will be completed.
In order to protect their child's privacy, the parents declined to provide the Weekly details of the child's bullying or their experiences with Duveneck or district administrators.
The district's response reveals that there was no "formal written documentation" prepared by the school about its investigation or findings in the case, as required by district policies. Without explaining why, it attributed this to the fact one bullying incident involving the child had been reported to the police and had not resulted in any report or action by them.
But the letter references emails to the family and notes of the principal, as well as chronologies of steps taken, contained in the withheld attachments, to demonstrate the school handled the complaints appropriately.
The response also said the school district uses the Uniform Complaint Procedure to address complaints of disability discrimination. The district's required log of all Uniform Complaint Procedure complaints, however, does not include the Duveneck case, nor any other discrimination complaints that have recently come to light. The log, obtained by the Weekly, lists only three complaints of any kind in the last seven years, and just one, relating to PE requirements, since 2007.