News


School panel backs limited bullying policies

Only students in 'protected' classes will be covered, but action will satisfy federal resolution agreement

A Palo Alto school board committee gave a tentative go-ahead Friday to new policies and procedures aimed at resolving the district's violation of federal civil-rights laws in connection with its mishandling of a bullying case involving a disabled student.

If the policies are approved by the full board, Superintendent Kevin Skelly said they should satisfy a December 2012 resolution agreement signed with the U.S. Office for Civil Rights in which the district agreed to revamp its policies and procedures for dealing with complaints of discrimination based on gender, race, disability, sexual preference, etc.

But the board's Policy Review Committee decided not to adopt any district-wide policies for students who are not in these so-called "protected" classes. Instead, every school site would determine how to handle those bullying complaints.

Without an additional clear process for bullying victims who aren't in "protected classes," the district will invite more complaints and lawsuits, Stanford Law School Professor Michele Dauber said. Dauber's concern was echoed by parent Christina Schmidt, chair of the district's Community Advisory Committee for Special Education, who said that a year's worth of work to develop a new bullying policy would be lost if the district does not adopt a uniform grievance procedure for all bullying victims, whether or not they're in a protected class.

Oakland lawyer Dora Dome, who is advising the school district on federal civil-rights compliance, disagreed.

"There is a process (for 'non-protected students')," Dome said. "It's not laid out like it is for protected classes, but it does have a structure."

The process would be for bullying targets or their parents to appeal to a teacher or principal, Skelly said. If they're not satisfied with a principal's resolution of the case, they can file a complaint against the principal or other district personnel with the district office and the district is required to investigate.

Once the board approves policies to bring the district into compliance with federal law regarding "protected" students, he said, the district can continue working on specific policies governing other students, which are not required by law.

Committee member Melissa Baten Caswell -- who last month advocated a single bullying complaint process for all students -- said she had changed her mind after speaking with teachers and the head of the teachers' union.

Caswell said she originally believed a consistent process for all students would be simpler for parents to understand and for teachers to implement, but was persuaded otherwise.

"I realized it wouldn't be more simple," she said. "Teachers would be required within 24 hours to report that, 'Yeah, I pushed you.' I was told it would become such a heavy process it would be the primary process in the classroom. I changed my mind as a result of that.

"We obviously have to obey the law and protect kids, but we shouldn't be creating incidents that aren't incidents," Caswell said.

But she said she wanted to be sure to include language in the new policy clarifying the school's responsibility to investigate any school repercussions of harassment or bullying events, even if the events themselves take place off campus.

Citing cyber-bullying, off-campus fights or "egg wars," Caswell said there's been confusion among some in the past as to whether the school has responsibility.

"I think we're doing training, but I know there's been confusion, and I don't want people to say, 'I don't know whether we're responsible or not.'"

Caswell and fellow committee member Camille Townsend told Skelly to return with clarification on posting procedures on the district's website for all types of bullying complaints, updating student manuals that will be distributed next fall, a system for tracking site-based bullying complaints, including oral complaints, and a timetable for rolling out new reporting forms on bullying.

"Parents just want rules they can refer to," Townsend told Skelly.

"When you present this to the board I want reference to the conduct policy that it's inappropriate to bully other students, and that if you're in a protected class there's a clear Uniform Complaint Procedure and if you are not in a protect class our staff knows what to do as well," she said.

See related Editorial.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Turtle Speed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2014 at 6:53 pm

Skelly works at the speed of a turtle. Sorry turtles if I am ofending you.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by What me, worry?
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 10, 2014 at 7:08 pm

How did Alfred E. Skelly get through a year of working on this policy without vetting it with teachers and principals? What in the heck was he doing? And why did he give teachers a veto? What about parents? It just seems like Terry Baldwin is running the show not him. He opens our wallets for the union. They get a fat raise we get a fat zero.

And the board...maybe site based control is just another way of saying "I'm lazy."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Go PAEA!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2014 at 7:38 pm

"Committee member Melissa Baten Caswell -- who last month advocated a single bullying complaint process for all students -- said she had changed her mind after speaking with teachers and the head of the teachers' union."

And now you see who really runs the show! First Triona Gogarty, and now Teri Baldwin. They are the worst! They know nothing about bullying policies, but they know a lot about threatening to block policy implementation. This is power out of control. Bring Gogarty, Baldwin, and PAEA out of the shadows.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by It's soo hard
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Jan 10, 2014 at 7:53 pm

I now understand that it's very, very hard to do this. All of those other districts throughout the state that have managed to navigate these issues just don't understand how very, very hard it is.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tutle Speed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Well at least we got something for the protected groups because parents from the protected class raise spoke up on behalf of special ed. students and sexual harrassment. It is time for the NONPROTECTED CLASS to speak up for their students, if they want policies that protect their children from bullyin. Remember Skelly give them a raise to keep teachers quiet.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lawyers lawyers everywhere
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 10, 2014 at 10:16 pm

"There is a process (for 'non-protected students')," [yet another district lawyer Dora] Dome said. "It's not laid out like it is for protected classes, but it does have a structure."

I talked to someone who went to the meeting about what Dome meant. She was talking about the district's expulsion and suspension policy, which is not about how to report bullying, how to handle bullying short of severe discipline, or anything about any complaint process.

I really wonder how it is that we end up paying top dollar for lawyers who don't seem to know what they are doing, or are willing to say anything to serve their client's interest (anybody remember Laurie Reynolds?).

Why is Dora Dome even working on this policy, rather than a lawyer from Fagen, Friedman and Fulfrost (Reynold's) firm? They seemed to know what they were talking about, even if they were engaged in "misleading obfuscation" and "spin" to quote the Weekly. Dome was originally hired to provide training on disability harassment, when Skelly and Wade were trying to comply with the OCR resolution agreement without telling anybody about the finding against the district. Having OCR lawyers providing free training would have made that a little tough, so we wound up paying for Dora Dome.

Now we seem to be on the hook for paying for Dora Dome's mortgage, even though she is doing more harm than good.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a year?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2014 at 10:50 pm



Why did it need to take a year to ask PAEA, teacher's union to make the decision about what to do?

In the future, couldn't it start with PAEA, get their wish, and save everyone the trouble?

Even if there was a mistake in handling a bullying incident, it's not like anyone will get fired - it took one year to figure this one out?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by late penalty
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 10, 2014 at 11:19 pm

Kevin Skelly: "My homework is so late, I decided not to turn it in and just take the zero."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by late penalty
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 11, 2014 at 8:29 am

School Board: "no late penalty for you, little Kevin. It's OK that you didn't do your work, we will give you an A anyway. And a bonus. And a car. You don't have to turn in your work. You're our special boy."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2014 at 8:30 am

The thought process that went into this new policy has to be "let's do the minimum possible for the OCR." A lot of consultants and meetings later, this new convoluted two tier bullying policy is the result.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2014 at 8:52 am

@Anonymous

A point of clarification. The district is not adopting the two-tier policy. You are correct that the district has decided, in a stunning turnaround, to adopt the legally required minimum. But that minimum is NOT the previously proposed two-tier policy. That is something far worse.

The district leadership, with the approval of the school board members on the BPRC, has decided to adopt NO complaint procedure at all for complaints of bullying where that bullying is not based on a factor such as race or sexual orientation. It is doing that on the very dubious advice of district lawyer/training consultant Dora Dome.

Dome repeatedly (and incorrectly) reassured the board that the district policy on suspension and expulsion would somehow provide a complaint procedure for bullying. It does not. It never even mentions complaints. That is because it is not about complaints, provides no mechanism for complaints, and has nothing to do with complaints. It provides a system of fair hearings for accused bullies. It is very infrequently even used for that purpose in PAUSD due to the district's laudably low rate of suspension and expulsion.

Dora Dome was clearly advising the district not to adopt any complaint procedure for non-protected status complaints. She repeatedly stated that such a process is not legally required and seemed to have great difficulty imagining why PAUSD would want to adopt a procedure that is not legally required.

At this time, based on the recommendation of Oakland training consultant/lawyer Dora Dome, the board and Dr. Skelly have decided to proceed by allowing each principal to improvise a bullying complaint procedure for each site. Or not. This is a step backward from what is currently in place, which is a prescribed site based investigation procedure that the board is scheduled to repeal and delete.

This means, in practical terms, that if your third grade daughter comes home in tears day after day and tells you that a group of girls was being persistently mean to her, calling her bad names, not letting her play at recess, to the point that now she does not want to go to school and has stomachaches and cries all the time, you have one remedy. That is to talk to the principal. If you are lucky enough to have a principal at your school who handles things according to some kind of procedure, then lucky you. If not, then you have no recourse. There will be no record of your complaint. There will be no documentation of your complaint. There will be no written report of the investigation. There will be no process guaranteeing that you and your daughter will even be interviewed. And, if the outcome is unsatisfactory, your only recourse is possibly to file a complaint for some unspecified misconduct against that principal -- the same person who has ultimate and arbitrary power over your child.

The family at Terman faced a principal who clearly had no idea what she was doing with respect to bullying at the time of the OCR investigation. She refused any training on disability harassment because her staff, she said was "very sophisticated." This same "sophisticated" staff has now vetoed the comprehensive bullying policy that the district spent 18 months developing.

If the action proposed by Dr. Skelly is accepted by the Board (and it certainly seems headed that way) there will be no district wide, consistent, policy for sites to follow in handling bullying complaints. That defies common sense.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by It's soo hard
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Jan 11, 2014 at 9:23 am

I re-read the article and I now have a much better understanding of the PAUSD governing process. Previously, it appeared that it was the role of the superintendent to set policy and the role of the school board, after long disjointed discussion, to approve whatever policy had been determined by the superintendent.
It now appears that the superintendent only appears to set policies and the board only appears to approve his policies. The teacher's union has the final say so on policies, its veto power. And the guiding principle for the union is not student well being, but as much autonomy for school sites as possible. Unfortunately, the union priorities do not align with the priorities of the many teachers that we have who deeply care about student well being.
I feel so much more enlightened now that we have been allowed to glimpse behind the curtain.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ken Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 11, 2014 at 9:34 am

I agree with Mr. Burke on the merits of this proposal. This is a missed opportunity for the school board to exercise leadership on behalf of all of the stakeholders in the district, including parents and students. I gather that a key reason for this reversal, and for moving from a one-tier to a zero-tier process, was the objection of some staff members to having a clear district-level process. I think that's a shortsighted objection, but more to the point it doesn't actually represent the opinion of the majority of stakeholders. The 2013 strategic plan survey commissioned by the school board found that a majority of respondents (including parents, teachers, administrators, and classified staff) think that there should be a district-level policy for response to bullying. Out of 11 areas, bullying response was tied for second place among topics that should be handled at the district level. Another piece of evidence: parent satisfaction with the current site-level response has plummeted 20 percentage points in the last three years.

A big part of the problem is that the school board's handling of bullying and the response to the OCR investigations and findings has happened largely in closed meetings and private conversations, rather than in public discussions. This lack of transparency has left us with an outcome that has largely excluded the community from participation, and that reflects instead the opinion of a small group of lawyers and a few insiders rather than the broad spectrum of parents, teachers and staff members.

Common sense dictates that everyone will be better off with a single, well-articulated process that applies to all schools and all students. That's also the strong recommendation of the California School Boards Association.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hopeful
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jan 11, 2014 at 9:42 am

I am just hoping that the OCR gets wind of all this and throws the book at Kevin Skelly. Surprised they did not recommend his removal. Or maybe they did.....we just haven't heard the truth?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a year?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2014 at 9:56 am

Edmund Burke,

"There will be no record of your complaint. There will be no documentation of your complaint. There will be no written report of the investigation. There will be no process guaranteeing that you and your daughter will even be interviewed. And, if the outcome is unsatisfactory, your only recourse is possibly to file a complaint for some unspecified misconduct against that principal -- the same person who has ultimate and arbitrary power over your child."

Is this no record at all, or just no record at the district level?

The message sounds more to be that each school will have their own complaint procedure. If that is the case, we should see the complaint procedures for each school published?




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2014 at 10:37 am

@"a year"

In the new "zero tier" approach (thank you Mr. Dauber) that the board and Dr. Skelly are advocating there is no process or procedure of any kind for managing complaints of so called "ordinary" bullying. There is no requirement that sites adopt any process at all. Sites are free to have no process, to improvise a process on an ad hoc basis, or to do anything else that each principal wants. When a principal changes, a process can change, be dropped, or whatever. There is no requirement for any documentation or anything else. There is no reason to think that sites will develop documentation or other procedural requirements in the absence of a requirement that they do so -- they are busy doing other things and as the past 18 months shows, it can be quite time consuming to develop such procedures.

We are well on the way now to having 18 different processes, most of which will likely be ad hoc, informal, or no process at all.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 11, 2014 at 10:49 am

Does anyone know if any of the districts that are similar to ours have a single complaint procedure for bullying of protected and non-protected individuals?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a year?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2014 at 11:30 am

parent,

"Does anyone know if any of the districts that are similar to ours have a single complaint procedure for bullying of protected and non-protected individuals?"

Something that many schools may not have is a policy about cyber bullying.

Edmund Burke,

In the absence of a district or school policy, and with no definitions of bullying, could you comment on what legal recourse are available under regular laws? For example, if a student is hit, can you get a restraining order against a studetn? are these valid in schools? Is it like a workplace?

What will the policies look like for the protected classes. Is there a procedure to handle cyber bullying of protected classes? I would imagine that push come to shove, many bullying incidents can fall under a protected class since it includes a bunch of things.

Many middle school fights are about boys and girls, could a bullied girl or boy complain on the basis of sexual harassment?

PAEA seems to be saying that they are going to be perfect at protecting everyone, or that they do not want to be responsible or accountable for protecting anyone unless forced to by the OCR laws. If they are already going to be accountable for protected classes, is it such a big deal to extend the system to the rest?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2014 at 12:53 pm

@year

In extreme cases of physical violence, domestic violence, relationship abuse, or stalking it would be possible to involve law enforcement however this is more hypothetical than actual as most parents and students would be very reluctant to contact the police or go to court. The family in the Terman disability bullying case eventually, after quite a long period of school inaction, did contact law enforcement as recounted in the OCR Letter of Finding.

Your question as to whether or to what extent targeted students would have other civil or criminal remedies -- perhaps against the alleged bully -- is important because it serves to highlight the fact that families will search for a remedy when they feel that their children are threatened. This is why procedures are important.

Another poster on another thread makes this argument less subtly, saying that targets should just "beat the living crap out of the bully. Violence will increase if we don't have a workable system."

I don't know if that is true (and certainly it is ill-advised), but it again highlights the question, raised by both you and the other poster: "what recourse will we have"? In the absence of fair, predictable, and uniform policies in which people feel that their concerns are heard by a neutral factfinder, they will begin to look for alternative remedies.

Clear policies prevent incidents from becoming serious problems that can involve law enforcement, government complaints, more legal troubles, and so forth. Clear policies that are uniform and consistently enforced are in everyone's interests.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lucy
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 11, 2014 at 1:21 pm

@parent
The Sequoia Union HS Distric (Menlo Park,Atherton,Redwood City, Woodside and San Carlos) employs a one tier policy that includes bullying, cyber bullying and harassment per the California School Board Association's recommendation.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Go PAEA!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2014 at 3:02 pm

This was never as complicated as some wanted you to believe. Adopting an anti-bullying policy or a complaint policy was always as easy as adopting a anti-lice policy or any other policy, using the sample policies from the CSBA. PAUSD just released a whole bunch of policies based on the CSBA samples for the previously secret meeting they held yesterday. It was easy. Kevin Skelly and Charles Young only made this look like a circus to distort reality so that you would blame the OCR, the Weekly for reporting, or to the Daubers for calling out Skelly's leadership almost two years ago. Of course virtually all the neighboring districts and all the districts in California have approved or revised the same policies without fanfare because they had a basic level of leadership in their superintendent and associate superintendent and board. Skelly and Young have damaged the PAUSD brand, doing nothing for kids, focusing on keeping the principals and teachers happy, and you can't blame him for that. That was his job when he was hired in 2007: keep them happy. It had nothing to do with kids then, nothing to do with kids now. The principals threw their spat in 2006 and 2007 against Callan. It wasn't pretty, but fortunately for them, their behavior, which included prominent parent collaborators and leaving a note on a bench, has been forgotten. As for the teachers, PAEA specifically, they are not about kids, either. PAEA exists to protect all teachers from work they consider extra and to protect the low-performing teachers from a shred of accountability. PAEA leadership, from president Teri Baldwin and past president Triona Gogarty to the school representatives, are not represented by the star teachers of PAUSD, quite the opposite, these are our least effective teachers, and often our most disgruntled. Our star teachers focus on kids and parents and other teachers can easily identify them at each school, just as everyone can identify the dead-weight or lemons. I have only lived (that's for those of you who treat residency as a contest) in Palo Alto for 30 years, and this current superintendent, associate superintendent, and this board combine to make up the lowest-performing, ineffective group of leaders I have ever witnessed. I am reading fewer and fewer posts in this public forum that defend Skelly, Young, or the board, nor should I. 2013 was a horrible year for these folks, but many of us saw the signs a year or two earlier. 2014 is off to an start that I cannot imagine getting worse. Either way, as the Weekly has written, there is failure. I urge the board to make substantive, real change in leadership. This district is no longer working with Skelly and Young at the helm. The board has been unable to lead as they were elected to do. Nine OCR complaints in a little more than a year is not an indication of a well-oiled machine. Payouts, deals, and settlements highlight the board meeting agenda, the hidden agenda, not the public one, which is all about keeping it positive. Tabitha Hurley is not making you feel better about the district, but again, it is hard to fault her, considering what she has to work with. PAUSD is clearly currently rudderless, and all the lawyers in the world, or just in Palo Alto (Lozano, Fagen, Reynolds, Dome, how many more have been paid several hundred dollars per hour to distract your attention off of Skelly, Young, and the board), are not going to be able to make you ignore how bad it is today. This is no longer about the local electoral power structure, about who can spread rumors or withhold information from the voters right before an election, this is about a town of smart people, people like you, who cannot find enough energy to cloud your view of the stink at 25 Churchill.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 11, 2014 at 3:25 pm

@ Lucy I just looked at the CSBA board policy on bullying.

Web Link

There is nothing in there that suggests complaints of bullying of non-protected classes be elevated to a Uniform Complaint Procedure. What it does say is that the superintendent/designee (principal in most cases) handle the complaint. It does not outline one particular way to handle the complaint. It fact it gives latitude for schools to change the policy to meet their particular needs. This is the policy that PAUSD has always had and it came up for review. Do you really want every complaint handled in the same way? That would go down the slippery slope of zer tolerance laws. This has resulted in a five year old being identified as a sex offender because he kissed a girl on the cheek and a five year old who was expelled for creating a gun shaped pop tart. If we can't trust the principals to make these decisions, than why do we have them? Clearly most of the cases have been handled well by principals since we do have the national average incidence of bullying (> 30%) and there is only one case before OCR. I won't make assumptions about what went on at Terman because I don't know both sides of the story.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a year?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2014 at 3:36 pm

@parent,

WHy should this take one year?

Either there is A LOT of thinking out loud, too much debate about nothing, and even after all that the district cannot issue a concise conclusion with why they are choosing this path, what it means to parents and students, and how it compares to other schools, private included.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by PAUSD parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 11, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Parent,

You are completely mistaken. In the model policy you have linked to, Web Link, it states clearly CSBA's "strong recommendation" that the UCP process be used:

"Though some bullying incidents may not fall within the provisions of Education Code 234.1, CSBA strongly recommends that districts use their uniform complaint procedures when investigating all bullying incidents to ensure consistent implementation by district staff."

Here's the complete text of that section:

"Complaints and Investigation

Note: Pursuant to Education Code 234.1, as amended by AB 9 (Ch. 723, Statutes of 2011), districts are required to adopt a process for receiving and investigating student complaints involving discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying based on race or ethnicity, nationality, gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or any other characteristic contained in the definition of hate crimes in Penal Code 422.55. To ensure compliance with this requirement, the California Department of Education has
determined that the uniform complaint procedures must be used for this purpose. Though some bullying incidents may not fall within the provisions of Education Code 234.1, CSBA strongly recommends that districts use their uniform complaint procedures when investigating all bullying incidents to ensure consistent implementation by district staff. The following optional paragraph provides that all complaints
regarding bullying will be investigated using the district's uniform complaint procedures pursuant to AR 1312.3 - Uniform Complaint Procedures. Districts that choose to use another complaint procedure for bullying incidents that are not covered within Education Code 234.1 should modify the following paragraph accordingly.

Students may submit to a teacher or administrator a verbal or written complaint of conduct they consider to be bullying. Complaints of bullying shall be investigated and resolved in accordance with the district's uniform complaint procedures specified in AR 1312.3 - Uniform Complaint Procedures. BP 5131.2(d)"

Although you missed it, thanks for providing the link to it so others can see for themselves that this is the recommended approach, as opposed to the approach Kevin Skelly, Melissa Baten Caswell and Camille Townsend want to take.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Shed some light please
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 11, 2014 at 8:03 pm

I am very puzzled by Caswell's reason for dropping the one tier policy (copied below). On what basis would teachers be required to report a pushing incident within 24 hours? I don't see this requirement in the CSBA template or the draft bullying policy Web Link that was vetoed by the BPRC.

"Caswell said she originally believed a consistent process for all students would be simpler for parents to understand and for teachers to implement, but was persuaded otherwise.

"I realized it wouldn't be more simple," she said. "Teachers would be required within 24 hours to report that, 'Yeah, I pushed you.' I was told it would become such a heavy process it would be the primary process in the classroom. I changed my mind as a result of that.

"We obviously have to obey the law and protect kids, but we shouldn't be creating incidents that aren't incidents," Caswell said."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Some light
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 11, 2014 at 10:00 pm

@Shed some light please, read the rest of her statement. Caswell changed her mind because the head of the teachers' union told her to. The rationale doesn't make any sense because it doesn't need to. Read the post above about how a majority of people want a bullying policy that covers all kids. Doesn't matter.

The city and the school district have the same problem. Politicians beholden to a small group of insiders (developers for the City Council, teachers union for the school board). See measure D. Caswell and the other board members just finished handing out millions of dollars in raises and bonuses to the same teachers who are telling them how to vote. Payback time is the school board election, when teachers will provide the manpower to re-elect the incumbents who voted them raises.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Big Picture
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2014 at 12:10 pm

The only rotten thing I see here is our legal advice. Can we please get a law firm that behaves less like it's working for an insurance company to screw the policyholders? This is a school district whose primary goal is to educate students. This firm's advice seems to create a divide between parents and administrators and preclude the kind of environment in which they work together. Just my 2 cents.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PAEA abuse
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Jan 12, 2014 at 3:33 pm

I've seen enough abuse by disgruntled, overzealous union folks. They should focus on our kids. That they have special access to our board members is eye-opening. If the Weekly (and Post!) had not reported these latest details, we would not have known. We've given too much power to PAEA and they have abused it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 12, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Caswell's comments are so astonishingly nonsensical and laughably absurd that one realizes that this Board is absolutely beyond hope. They deserve a calamitous Superintended like Skelly and he deserves them. Unfortunately we don't deserve them, but here they are, and we are all the poorer for it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jan 12, 2014 at 10:11 pm

@PAEA abuse - the following two commenters, among many others, may be of interest:

1. "Never been more disgusted": seems to be a teacher (I responded as well), in the thread that let us know about PAUSD board secret meetings set to check the feasibility of challenging the OCR Jurisdiction Web Link

2. "Dwight fan": noted "hush money for teachers". There were many others who noted the quick agreement this year, and the ongoing teachers' silence. I do wonder. Web Link

Thank you "PAEA abuse". I doubt any board change discussed in parallel threads can impact without seriously looking into this issue as well.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Turtle Speed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2014 at 6:54 am

I want to propose to raise the parcel tax because our district official will be running out of $$ soon. We have to support our Superintendent so there is plenty of $$ for him to get more lawyers if he needs to get more when the "non protected parents and students react to this policy" it will be a shame if we can no longer keep out superintendent just because we run out of $$.He is very smart, he always know what to do to protect our district even if it means not protecting our kids.
He just gave us another spin, but this timein the opposite direction and we did not even noticed it. Smart Guy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a year?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2014 at 9:04 am

boscoli

"Caswell's comments are so astonishingly nonsensical and laughably absurd that one realizes that this Board is absolutely beyond hope. They deserve a calamitous Superintended like Skelly and he deserves them. Unfortunately we don't deserve them, but here they are, and we are all the poorer for it."

I agree but Caswell also said a few things that could help.

The nonsensical:

"Caswell said she originally believed a consistent process for all students would be simpler for parents to understand and for teachers to implement, but was persuaded otherwise.'

Hmmm - Now the policy will be impossible for parents to understand and teachers will have nothing to implement.

"Teachers would be required within 24 hours to report that, 'Yeah, I pushed you.'

Why? - Adapt the policy to read whatever else makes more sense. Don't eliminate the policy!

"I was told it would become such a heavy process it would be the primary process in the classroom. I changed my mind as a result of that."

Told? How do you get to "tell" a board member something as stupid as what was told, and override everything without a shred of explanation?

"We obviously have to obey the law and protect kids, but we shouldn't be creating incidents that aren't incidents," Caswell said."

Who would disagree with that, a policy can reflect that. One year ago PAEA should have been given the job to write the policy, or PAEA should sit at these policy meetings and "tell" board members what to do every step of the way, save a full year.

Silver lining:

"But she (Caswell) said she wanted to be sure to include language in the new policy clarifying the school's responsibility to investigate any school repercussions of harassment or bullying events, even if the events themselves take place off campus."

GREAT! and wouldn't it make sense to also make sure the policy insures "the school's responsibility to investigate any school repercussions of harassment or bullying events" ON CAMPUS?!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by options
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2014 at 9:09 am

I am having a hard time tracking this.

Many of the people posting here think that the school district's administrators are doing a horrible job but, despite that, want all student bullying to skip over teachers and principals and be dealt with by the administrators whom they dislike so much.

That doesn't make any sense, unless they think that everyone who works in our district is inept and, relatively speaking, those who work in the district office are better.

If this is a blanket criticism of all district personnel and a belief that bullying is such a big problem that all 12,000 students need comprehensive policies so that they can be protected from harm, why do you still have your children enrolled in the Palo Alto schools?

This is not meant to be mean or dismissive. But it is much easier and quicker to find school districts that are a better fit for your family than change large systems. Lots of very good public school districts near here welcome extra students. Some apparently, from these posts, have bullying policies that you prefer. Their schools may even be closer to your home.

You only get to parent your child once.

Plenty of people switch schools if they don't like something about it. It could be how they teach reading. It could be the size of the classes. It could be because of how your child gets along (or doesn't) with classmates.

If you had moved to a different school or district after you recognized this problem, you'd have spared yourself 2 years of fighting and had a happier child sooner.

There are many constituents in our district. Some believe that the current system has worked fine for their children and prefer the status quo. They are not insensitive. They just have a different view on what is the right way to handle things.

That is not to say that policies shouldn't be changed if the law requires it. But here, if I understand this right, the district is updating its policies to comply with the law and that law only relates to certain groups - minorities, disabled, etc. It even hired lawyers to make sure that it does that right.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a year?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2014 at 9:23 am

options,

"Many of the people posting here think that the school district's administrators are doing a horrible job but, despite that, want all student bullying to skip over teachers and principals and be dealt with by the administrators whom they dislike so much."

This is completely incorrect and misleading. So the rest of your garble was pointless.

I can't speak for all, but this is what I feel.

-There is a policy for protected classes which there is NO CHOICE to have.

- There was a plan to have a one system policy for bullying and then a two-system. Caswell agreed with a one-system. Now Caswell does not agree with the one-system, and the district is proposing ZERO system for students who are not in a protected class.

- As a parent, I believe the schools should have a policy about ho to handle bullying.

To be blunt, not all teachers or administrators are perfect. Even if they were, mistakes are made. A policy assures a process which a victim can rely on in case there is a problem. I would not want to be told that zero can be done about an incident because there is zero policy.

I think those who cannot write a policy, or cannot even fathom one should be the ones going to a different school or district.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by options
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2014 at 10:05 am

Help me here.

Is your objection that the district is about to take the current board policy on student behavior off of the books (it isn't, is it?) or that it is not adopting a more detailed policy on bullying?

The current board policy, adopted in 2010, seems specific. It makes clear that bullying is wrong and sets out how it will be dealt with:

"The Superintendent or designee shall ensure that each school site develops standards of conduct and discipline consistent with district policies and administrative regulations. Students and parents/guardians shall be notified of district and school rules related to conduct. Prohibited student conduct includes....Harassment of students or staff, such as bullying." There is even a subsection called "Bullying/Cyberbullying" with its own procedures and provisions. Web Link

I don't have time to see what each school is doing but I just looked at Gunn and the first page of its webpage has links for people who want to "report bullying/harassment" and to an anti-bullying lesson plan.

If other schools aren't doing what Gunn has done then the administrative office can crib from Gunn's site and share those materials with them to make it easy for them to do the same. It just doesn't follow that because a school hasn't written its procedures down that there should be more detailed bullying policies and problems are to be dealt with at the district office.

Heck, one year my child's teacher did not fully follow the curriculum. Under your logic, I should have demanded that 1. the board policy on instruction include each lesson plan, and 2. my child be bused to the administrative offices so the superintendent and his employees could teach her what the teacher missed. With what time? With what expertise? I wouldn't have wanted that.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2014 at 10:23 am

"options" asks:

Is your objection that the district is about to take the current board policy on student behavior off of the books (it isn't, is it?) or that it is not adopting a more detailed policy on bullying?

Yes, "options" the district is, indeed, about to delete the current administrative regulation that relates to the board policy on student behavior (Conduct, BP5131) off the books. In fact, the board and district staff were not even aware that the Conduct policy existed, and engaged in a lengthy and curious discussion at the BPRC meeting about whether or not that policy actually exists or not even though it is on their own website, states clearly that it was adopted in 2010, and both of the members present were on the board at the time.

Sadly, even worse than "taking the policy off the books", the board members and staff members denied that it even was ever on the the books -- giving an indication of how frequently it is followed. They did not even believe that they had a board policy on the subject of bullying until members of the audience and press who were present were forced to produce it for them.

That BP 5131 states that:

"Students may submit a verbal or written complaint of conduct they consider to be bullying
to a teacher or administrator and may also request that their name be kept in confidence.
The Superintendent or designee may establish other processes for students to submit
anonymous reports of bullying. Complaints of bullying or harassment shall be investigated
and resolved in accordance with site-level grievance procedures specified in AR 5145.7 -
Sexual Harassment."

The AR5145.7 provides the process for a principal at a site to investigate a bullying complaint including timelines, appeal to district staff, interviews of the parties and witnesses, and so forth. The process is fairly light compared with the legally required process for discrimination and sexual harassment (and, that itself is a sad comment given that it is currently still our process in cases of sexual harassment, but be that as it may). It is a site-level investigation and decision process for bullying complaints.

The BPRC, following the recommendation of Oakland school discipline lawyer Dora Dome, recommended deleting this AR. That step leaves the school sites with no guidance to follow in conducting investigations of bullying complaints from this point forward.

Your post seems to indicate that each site should improvise its own procedures or, if it can't figure that out, to borrow from Gunn's website.

The political consensus of the board and the public has been up to this point that bullying is too important an issue, with psychological and social ramifications that are too profound to merely leave the matter of how to handle it up to each site to manage in the moment. I believe your view is not only a minority view -- you may in fact be the only person who holds it.

Nevertheless, the horse is out of the barn and unless the board acts to get it back in and shut the door PAUSD will have deleted its process for handling bullying complaints and will have moved to a profoundly worse system of no process at all.

This means that PAUSD will not only be deviating from the CSBA "strong recommendation" to use the Uniform Complaint Procedure it will, inexplicably and with no explanation even being offered to the public, have decided to scrap its 2-tier system (that was, until a month ago, being held up as a model for the state), scrap its current process, and replace it with absolutely nothing.

Dome advised the board verbally that it was her "legal opinion" (no signed opinion letter was proffered) that it was in the best interest of the district to use its policy on suspension and expulsion to respond to bullying allegations. That is why parents can expect to see a sharp increase in the number of disciplinary proceedings against our students in the future. It will be the only process we have left and it is evidently the one that the board has decided that we should use.

I say "the board" "has decided" because I regard it as impossible to believe that Dr. Skelly would take such a radical step without consulting the board either individually, or through the series of closed meetings on this topic that have been held ostensibly in anticipation of litigation.

Perhaps, given their current course, these meetings actually are in anticipation of lawsuits, at least in the existential sense.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by voter
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 13, 2014 at 11:29 am

i don't understand if this will cover students with mental health issues. for instance if a student with a 504 gets bullied are they considered disability or would they need an iep? this is important. say we had case like the girl at saratoga who committed suicide after being cyber bullied and who had mental health issues as well. would someone like that be covered in our new policy or not?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2014 at 11:51 am

@voter

A student with a 504 plan for accommodations for a mental disability would be "disabled" within the meaning of the law. However, whether or not that student would have recourse to using a complaint procedure would depend on whether or not the bullying was "on the basis of" a disability, a perceived disability, or associating with a person with a disability or perceived disability.

In other words, if a student with a 504 plan was teased due to her red hair and braces, then the fact of her 504 plan would not transform that ordinary bullying into disability based bullying. If, however she was called retarded, slow, stupid, or teased for taking too long on a test then that would give her access to a complaint process.

If these distinctions seem arbitrary and difficult for staff to make and implement, that is why the California School Board Association has given a strong recommendation that districts use their Uniform Complaint Procedures to respond to all complaints of bullying.

In my above example, suppose that the teacher or principal know only about the bullying based on red hair and braces and it is only later that it comes out that the same students who have targeted our hypothetical victim have also teased her in other circumstances in which they have called her "dummy" and "stupid." Now is it disability based? What if when interviewed, they said that they didn't know that the student had a disability so they didn't know that calling her "dummy" was so bad. Disability based or not? The decision is consequential, since deciding that it is NOT disability based means that there is no process, the UCP will not be used, and parents can challenge that decision as a denial of civil rights.

The idea that that state of affairs is somehow better and "simpler" for teachers and principals obviously needs rethinking.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2014 at 11:59 am

Now take it one step further: let's take our same girl with red hair and braces and assume no 504 plan, IEP, or diagnosed disability. Now, presume that the teasing is that she is "slow," "dummy" and "bad at math." She is, by the way, not all that good at math -- it's not her strongest subject. Assume that one day, the mean girls and boys who are bullying her say "you can't eat with us because this is the table for the kids who are smart at math, and you got an F on the last test. You can only sit here if you get an A in math. This is the table for smart kids and you're a dummy." The students when questioned stated that they think that the target is smart in some subjects just not math and they were "just kidding around."

Disability based?

Now change the hypo one more time. What if our girl with red hair and braces actually has a hidden disability -- a diagnosis of depression and anxiety -- that she and her parents have not discussed with the school because they do not want her in special education, and do not want her to be labeled. No one at the school knows that she has this disability, although it is diagnosed in her medical records.

Does it change your answer?





 +   Like this comment
Posted by Go MA!
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 13, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Here is a link to Sequoia Union's one-tier, thorough and excellent policy.

Web Link

Hey Palo Alto are you a lighthouse district yet? Can you at last lead from behind by using copy/paste on our policy?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Obvious
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 13, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Thank you Mr. Burke, for making it clear that this change is just isn't going to work for many kids. My own daughter is something like the girl with "red hair and braces". She's not disabled, doesn't have an IEP or 504 plan, but she is also "out of sync" with her peers in a way. Other kids are starting to notice and I am worried that in the future she could become a bullying target, and that it will affect her interest in school and feeling of self-esteem.

Why shouldn't my daughter get the same kind of protection that other children get? She needs her education as much as other kids do, and the school district should be just as interested in making sure that she can go to school free of bullying as other kids.

I am frankly astonished and incredulous that our school board is knuckling under the teachers union on this. Why should we elect parents like Caswell and Townsend to the board if they are going to just take direction from the teachers?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by voter
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 13, 2014 at 12:40 pm

@ Edmond Burke
The third example you cite is the one I was asking about. The thing is that disclosing a diagnosis of anxiety or depression does not automatically put a student into special ed classes, in fact the district is so stingy with services that it may not do much of anything although it could prompt some administrators to label the student in some way. But students who are already anxious or depressed often suffer more than the average student when they are teased. What would our policy cover? Answers are welcome from any quarter, not just Ed Burke. How about weekly editors, school board, or PAUSD office?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Obvious
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 13, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Good luck getting school board members to answer this question. I have contacted them all on this topic with no response except vague reassurances with no real content.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2014 at 1:05 pm

@"go MA"

Thank you for posting the link to your district's policy. I particularly like the definitions of bullying and the clear way that investigation and discipline are delineated separately. Just a word: this is what we here in Palo Alto have been calling a "two tier" policy in that it uses the UCP for discrimination and a site-based process for "ordinary" bullying. That said, the site based process is very thorough and in many respects is excellent. It was adopted prior to the effective date of Seth's Law as required by law. It may be that Sequoia Union will move to a one-tier system in accordance with the CSBA recommendation to do so. I appreciate many aspects of this policy which is head-and-shoulders ahead of PAUSD's new "do the absolute legal minimum" approach. Kudos to Sequoia Union. I wonder who their lawyer is?

@voter and obvious. There are many kinds of "hidden disabilities" involving, for example, a lack of physical coordination in gym class, problems with auditory processing, and more. In each of these instances students may be teased or bullied for having characteristics that seem "odd." I recall in the film "Bully" that the child who was featured did not have a diagnosed disability and was not shown as being in special education. Remember that whether or not the bullying is "based on" a protected characteristic is not the same inquiry as whether the child possesses protected characteristics.

I also would like to hear from our officials on the board and from our Compliance Officer about how these hypotheticals would be handled.

If readers have other hypotheticals that they are concerned about, they should post them here and I will do my best to analyze them under PAUSD's proposed new policies as well as under the Sequoia Union policy and under a one-tier system.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a year?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2014 at 1:10 pm

voter,

"But students who are already anxious or depressed often suffer more than the average student when they are teased. What would our policy cover? Answers are welcome from any quarter, not just Ed Burke. How about weekly editors, school board, or PAUSD office?"

The district has usually reacted to issues of stress and suicide to indicate that they do not see it related to school, and there is the running accusation that the fault is with parents in this high achieving community. If the parents are not high achievers they are considered slackers, and that's also the parent's fault.

With the exception of the decision made to not rank students (about 2-3 years ago), PAUSD is notorious for focusing on the bragging rights for elite kids, those same parents who are supposedly cause for the stress. Go figure.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jordan mom
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 13, 2014 at 1:39 pm

What about a white blond girl being teased by Asian students for being dumb? I don't want to be politically incorrect but we all know this is happening. My son says that if a white kid is smart they call him a "white Asian" and if an Asian is not stereotypical (plays football etc) they call him a white Asian or a dumb Asian. Is any of that going to be handled by the district process? I think there's a lot of Asian bashing that never counts as bullying because they are successful and so no one cares if they are bullied. There's also a lot of Asians saying whites are stupid that also never gets treated as a race thing because they are the model minority so it's not believed or because no one cares about reverse discrimination. So in these kinds of cases what will happen? Anyone?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jan 13, 2014 at 4:34 pm

'Distasteful process' mentioned - open season - in the latest editorial thread.
It think that unfortunately open season is the ongoing reality of those who do not have easy access to private lawyers. The ongoing reality of all groups - protected and unprotected. That was part of the reason that had me suggest checking the past decade when I asked Mr. Dauber to form a Shadow PAUSD Board. Sadly, all the reasons that had me write this very unusual address are still valid Web Link

We should not forget that we know of the OCR settlements only because of the family who came forward to the Weekly.

I want to thank, again, the family who came forward with the OCR settlement. I hope that your thoughtful and courageous act will not be wasted, and that you will see the changes that had you come forward, the changes I'm sure you hope to see, the changes that will spare others the experience you went through.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Midtown Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 13, 2014 at 7:34 pm

This is so disappointing, but so very typical. What a colossal mistake on the part of the district. It is time for Mr. Skelley to leave PAUSD.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 13, 2014 at 8:14 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.


f the policies are approved by the full board, Superintendent Kevin Skelly said they SHOULD satisfy a December 2012 resolution agreement signed with the U.S. Office for Civil Rights in which the district agreed to revamp its policies and procedures for dealing with complaints of discrimination based on gender, race, disability, sexual preference, etc.
( Capitals mine )

Bottom line: The OCR MIGHT be satisfied by this policy...But I guess they might reject it, too. The operating system in place that Skelly AND THE SPECIAL EDUCATION STAFF are putting in place still does not meet the standards of the working system available to other Santa Clara County School Districts. So is the PAUSD so " special " that they do not want to work within the existing system? Or did the CTA and NEA UNIONS make a " break some legs " threats?
I was waiting for the unions to show their power to intimidate. They have done so in the past.

The UNION might have a lot to do with what has been happening..and might be manipulating things at the board and administrative levels...and that might explain Kelly's smirk at the parents who have tried to work within a deliberately broken system.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jan 13, 2014 at 11:10 pm

@the_punnisher - I want to think that most of the teachers do care about the kids.
Thinking of the teachers' ongoing silence, the first "usual suspect" - fear of retaliation - comes to my mind. I want to think that the an atmosphere of best practices/doing the "right thing"/common sense would have presented teachers who model what they teach.

Can you please explain why would a union object correction efforts? This question is not disconnected from "confused" question, addressing you, in Edmund Burke's blog Web Link

Thank you!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by options
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 8:43 am

EB: "the district is, indeed, about to delete the current administrative regulation that relates to the board policy on student behavior (Conduct, BP5131) off the books."

First, PAUSD's current bullying policy and regulations remain on the books so it isn't that there will be none. What it says is that it is not recommended that certain changes to them be adopted right now.

EB: You say this will leave each site to "improvise its own procedures."

From the Weekly's article, that is not true either. The board is insisting that there be uniform, written bullying procedures and communication: "'Caswell and fellow committee member Camille Townsend told Skelly to return with clarification on posting procedures on the district's website for all types of bullying complaints, updating student manuals that will be distributed next fall, a system for tracking site-based bullying complaints, including oral complaints, and a timetable for rolling out new reporting forms on bullying. 'Parents just want rules they can refer to,' Townsend told Skelly. 'When you present this to the board I want reference to the conduct policy that it's inappropriate to bully other students, and that if you're in a protected class there's a clear Uniform Complaint Procedure and if you are not in a protect class our staff knows what to do as well,' she said."

EB: You claim that Caswell and Townsend and the district staff were not even aware that they had a bullying policy on the books. That also is not truer. The memo the district presented to them mentions the need "to revise ...Bullying (BP 5131.2)." They have been working on revisions to the current policy and regulations for months.

EB: As for the CSBA's recommendation for a uniform policy, you are upset that PAUSD will be "deviating from the CSBA 'strong recommendation' to use [its sample that has] the Uniform Complaint Procedure [for all]."

Six weeks ago or so CSBA wrote to Dr. Skelly and said this about that: "CSBA produces sample BPs and ARs...as SAMPLE BPs and ARs, it is expected that districts will conduct their own review and, if appropriate, make changes." CSBA also said that it is revisiting its sample and cautioned Dr. Skelly that its sample policy and regulations may be revised soon. Apparently it is a work in progress for the CSBA too and it is still figuring things out too.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 14, 2014 at 9:17 am

Thank you, Edmund Burke, for pointing out the case of "invisible disabilities." Many children are not formally diagnosed with disabilities such as anxiety, depression, high-functioning autism and so on until they are well into middle school, yet they suffer from being targeted by bullies who sense their difference earlier on, usually in elementary school. It is silly to think that somehow these children, and all children, should not benefit from a uniform and clear district-wide bullying policy. To ask teachers to determine whether a child is in a "protected" class will lead to all sorts of confusion.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a year?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 9:47 am

Options,

EB, the Weekly and you need to fight this out about the dissemination of what you say is incorrect information.

Ultimately, I hold the district and the board accountable for keeping the public guessing and waiting for one year and STILL there is nothing they have to say other than to indicate that they continue to squirrel around in pursuit of more OPTIONS.

On January 11 you must have missed my post, I asked

"The message sounds more to be that each school will have their own complaint procedure. If that is the case, we should see the complaint procedures for each school published?"

Why did you ignore this question? seems you are more into playing games with EB. If what you now say is true, AND the district knows this (or you are the district) - you could have answered as much.

Can you please answer my question from January 11?

If the answer is yes, would you know why instead of a uniform complaint procedure the district would want to have a motley of complaint procedures published? and can you tie this all in to the comments from teachers about the burden of having a uniform complaint procedure?

A suspiciously uniform concern, to me.

I can only hope that when the board finally answers, they will have everything published about each school.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fact check
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 14, 2014 at 11:21 am

@a year, I think the board has been answering, just not in a way that can easily be traced back to them.

"options" is presenting information that is incorrect or misleading, or possibly just confused. If so, she isn't the only one. I understand that at the BPRC meeting Camille Townsend in particular seemed to have a poor grasp on what was actually happening.

To take her points (that is, "options"),

1. The current conduct policy mentions bullying, and points for the process to handle it (along with other conduct issues), the sexual harassment administrative regulation that Dome and Skelly recommended for deletion. The BPRC went along with that recommendation, which means that the conduct policy will point to a nonexistent regulation.

2. That's because Townsend and Caswell, along with district staff, didn't realize that their conduct policy mentioned bullying (or even that the district has a conduct policy). The bullying policy referenced by "options" isn't a revision to an existing policy, it's a new policy.

3. Caswell and Townsend talked about the need for clarity, process, record-keeping, etc., but they actually agreed with Skelly that it would be sufficient simply to allow sites to develop their own bullying process (or not to develop one at all), with the only recourse for parents being to file a complaint against the principal if they don't like the result. That is apparently because Caswell and Townsend have acquiesced to the teachers union demand that there be no binding bullying policy for students who aren't in a protected class.

4. The CSBA does recommend that districts use a single bullying policy for all students. "option's" quotations are irrelevant to that point. It has been particularly odd to watch Camille, who usually insists on following CSBA recommendations, ignore and distort that point.

It's really disheartening to see the level of confusion and disinformation emanating from our elected officials on this policy, frankly.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a year?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2014 at 11:29 am

Edmund Burke,

How does Options' comment about a multi-school complaint procedure square with a one-tier bullying policy vs a two-tier policy or a zero policy for students who are not in a protected class?

We know this much, there is at least agreement about one policy for protected classes, and that policy has a uniform complaint procedure.

For the rest - is the policy itself a referral to school specific complaint procedures?

My only thought is that in one year I would have expected a review of all school procedures and to come up with a uniform "best" procedure. Could this take another year?









 +   Like this comment
Posted by options
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 6:17 am

a year?

Why presume that each school will have its own procedures just because student bullying will be be handled by the principal?

Caswell and Townsend said the opposite:"'Caswell and fellow committee member Camille Townsend told Skelly to return with clarification on posting procedures on the district's website for all types of bullying complaints [and] new reporting forms on bullying." The direction is to the Superintendent, not to each school principal. The procedure is to be posted on the district website. The bullying policy/regulations say the same.

EB: As for a hanging cross-reference in the bullying policy to a regulation that you say will be deleted, look again.

First, the old/current policy on bullying is detailed and a regulation, while nice to have and is something that the district will probably work on that AFTER CSBA comes out with its revised sample, is not needed before schools can proceed.

Second, the old/current regulation remains on the books. It is 7 or so pages long. The recommendation is that proposed changes to it "are not recommended for adoption AT THIS TIME." The proposed changes treated all complaints the same (one-tier) and had the district office dealing with all of them. Web Link

All,

It is interesting that you would assume that anyone who doesn't share your concern has to work for the school district and so is biased. I do not and am not.

I applaud your advocacy on something you feel needs attention and improvement. PAUSD will soon have new comprehensive policies for protected students. It sounds like that was a result of the OCR's intervention. If you helped in that, you should feel good that protected students are now getting what the law says they need.

But marginalizing and dismissing people who operative with a different set of facts than you do suggests, among other things, that you'd benefit from a broader set of friends.

All agree that bullying can devastate a child, but my circle of friends do not for a second think that very detailed policies that bus students to the district office for mediation will protect them. The district office is always available for any serious problem as it is and, frankly, it is so far removed from the school sites -- people who work there opted NOT to work with students -- that I'd rather people who are around students everyday intervene.

Wondering what merits you see in a one-tier policy, all I can figure is that:

The principal at your child's school is not the greatest. Push for a better principal so all students - not just those bullied - will benefit.

There too is that in the real world most employees end up not following policies to a T. Read numerous complaints about that on this forum. More detailed policies will result in more non-compliance, a gold mine for lawyers and litigious parents. That may be a good thing in your mind. It certainly gives parents of bullied students several people to blame - even if one of the complaints is just procedural. It also gives them more pockets to approach for damages. But many differ and think that helping students while avoiding, not inviting, legal fees and lawsuits is the better way to go.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 8:12 am

Options is confused.

I don't have time to answer this fully right now but the bottom line is that this is quite misleading and not at all an accurate depiction of the situation. "Options" seems to believe that the 5131.2 bullying policy that was being proposed is an amendment of an existing policy which will remain in effect. That is wrong. There is no bullying policy. Palo Alto Unified has never had a bullying policy.

Palo Alto has a "Conduct" policy, 5131, which mentions bullying. That policy, in turn, uses a site level investigation procedure drawn from AR5145.7 to investigate bullying. That AR is now being deleted. Thus, there will be no site level investigation procedure.

Nothing in this paragraph is accurate: "Second, the old/current regulation remains on the books. It is 7 or so pages long. The recommendation is that proposed changes to it "are not recommended for adoption AT THIS TIME." The proposed changes treated all complaints the same (one-tier) and had the district office dealing with all of them. Web Link"

I will post later to my blog in detail about this. For now: The "old/current regulation" is not old or current and is not on the books. It was merely a proposal that is now being scrapped. At the BPRC meeting Kevin Skelly called it a "monster" and Dora Dome called it"confusing" even though she wrote it. So that is DOA. The proposed changes did not make the procedure one tier. We never had a proposal for a one-tier policy. Dr. Skelly said he would bring one to the board but changed his mind.

Just about everything options writes is not accurate. I will generously say that it is very likely because this fiasco has taken so many twists and turns and had so little transparency that it is hard even for me to follow.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by angry mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 15, 2014 at 8:29 am

options says that "More detailed policies will result in more non-compliance, a gold mine for lawyers and litigious parents."

Hmmm. This is interesting -- this is the only plausible explanation so far for why Dora Dome and the district are now scrapping 15 months of work on a comprehensive bullying policy and flushing it down the toilet along with all the taxpayer money it took to write it in the first place. And along with all the promises that we would have a comprehensive bullying policy.

They don't think that the site staff will follow it and if they don't, then they don't want to be held to whatever it says.

The abandonment of this policy is just evidence that the school board has become entirely co-opted by district staff. They think that they are "on the team" with staff and that their job is to protect the district from the students rather than to represent the community (including all stakeholders and most of all students and parents). Staff work for us, they work for the board, they work for the public. Any board member who thinks that their job is to refuse to have policies because some lawyer told them in a closed meeting that this was how to avoid litigation is a poor excuse for a public servant.

Camille Townsend, though confused, actually alone among these board members believes in democracy and believes in representing parents. I am shocked to see her doing this. Although I don't agree with her views on a lot of things I did think she understood her job was to represent parents and students.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a year?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 9:35 am

options,

you quote board members requesting that Skelly return with "clarification on posting procedures on the district's website for all types of bullying complaints [and] new reporting forms on bullying."

Procedure then is that the Principal handles all the reporting forms? This would actually add up to a uniform complaint system btw.

The form to complain against a Principal should be published as well, explaining what happens with that complaint form against the Principal, does it go to the BOE? Like you, I am all for skipping district personnel too.

I'm not so sure I want my Principal to be in charge of all the bullying complaint forms. If there is a procedure previous to reaching the principal at each school, that would need to be published.

I disagree with you about policies. They matter to define what an institution stands for, including if you can't write one. This is not a coffee cup recycling policy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wow
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:00 am

As @angry mom says, options is providing, amongst the misinformation, some nuggets about what is actually going on behind the scenes. This sentence is worth repeating:

"More detailed policies will result in more non-compliance." That's presumably why the teachers' union and Barb Mitchell stepped in to kill Skelly's proposal: they don't intend to comply with a policy, and so they don't want to get in trouble for not complying. The Terman case is illustrative. Katherine Baker and her team at Terman, and Charles Young and Holly Baker at the district, ignored the district complaint policies as if they didn't exist.

The problem with this idea is that there are still federal rules that cover at least some students, those in "protected categories". That is why Barb Mitchell and Dana Tom tried during the summer, in sessions of the school board closed to the public, to build a legal case for resisting OCR's civil rights authority (reported in the Weekly here: Web Link). They were unsuccessful (although Dora Dome and Camille Townsend are still talking about OCR "exceeding their authority") but have been successful in engineering a "legal minimum" approach, which leaves most students in the district without a policy.

A healthy organization would publish clear procedures, make sure that everyone including parents and staff understand them, and then hold staff accountable for carrying them out. That's not what is happening in PAUSD. Instead, we get secret meetings, misinformation posted in public forums, school board members pulling strings behind the scenes, abrupt lurches in policy, and a teachers' union president with veto power over important policy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by options
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:40 am

It's ludicrous to report as fact what happened in closed session ("That is why Barb Mitchell and Dana Tom tried during the summer, in sessions of the school board closed to the public, to build a legal case for ..."). No need to jump to conclusions about things you do not know and then get upset about those conclusions.

How many of you know (and always follow) the employee handbook at your company? Just ask and you'll find at most companies most employees do not. Should they? Yes. Do they? No.

That is close to a universal truth. Which makes it sounds like those pushing for more detailed policies want people to trip up so they can point to their mistakes, regardless of how tangential they are to the real issue.

There is nothing magical about the policies that are being tabled right now. The district office does not have divine wisdom and as far as I know no one there has a PhD on how to deal with bullying. People who work there are about as far away from understanding and working with students as you can get in a school district.

For that reason, I'd think that students in protected groups would be happier and better served if the policy was site-based with appeals to the district if needed. I am not inviting a lecture about the new OCR letter, but it pretty much says the same. Deal with bullying but not too high up the chain of command which criminalizes and traumatizes students.

I don't intend to inflame, but I suspect the reasons some are pushing here has more to do with their political views than students' welfare. That is the only way it makes sense to me. But - to my original point - I admit that that is conjecture.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:52 am

"a year" asks the following question:

"Edmund Burke,

How does Options' comment about a multi-school complaint procedure square with a one-tier bullying policy vs a two-tier policy or a zero policy for students who are not in a protected class?

We know this much, there is at least agreement about one policy for protected classes, and that policy has a uniform complaint procedure.

For the rest - is the policy itself a referral to school specific complaint procedures?"

"Year" thank you for your question.

I will try to be as clear as possible in giving you a chronology of where we are and how we got here, though please note that the board and the staff have been clear as mud, and just as transparent so it may be hard for people to follow and I am in the dark about some details myself.

1. PAUSD has never had a "bullying" policy. The district first began to consider a bullying policy during the summer of 2012. By that time, the district and board knew (but the public did not) that Terman had been found to have violated a student's civil rights by failing to respond correctly to disability-based bullying. One of the issues identified by OCR at that time, but not disclosed to the public, was that the district lacked compliant policies on discriminatory harassment. Our policies failed to comply with both federal and state law. We did not use the Uniform Complaint procedure, which was required by law for many years (since 1999). There were other policies and procedures that were not correct. Part of the Resolution Agreement in the Terman case was that PAUSD would use the UCP for discriminatory bullying complaints and that it would, essentially, follow the law from now on.

2. The public knew nothing about any of this. But Dr. Skelly and Charles Young and the board knew that the district had some kind of issue with bullying, the federal government, state law, and policies and that there was a need for improvement.

3. That summer, in 2012, Dr. Skelly hired Brenda Carrillo, PAUSD's new director of student services, was from Santa Clara County board of education, where bullying was one of the issues she worked on.

4. One of the first things Carrillo did was to begin work on a comprehensive bullying policy for the district.

5. In December 2012, Dr. Skelly received an OCR Letter of Finding against the district as well as signed a resolution agreement with OCR regarding bullying. This agreement obligated the district to use the UCP for all discriminatory harassment complaints (which we did not at that time do), and to conduct training and produce a Notice to parents and a Guidance Memorandum for staff regarding these policies that did not yet exist.

6. During this time Brenda Carrillo continued to work on developing a bullying policy, but it did not comply with the OCR resolution agreement because it did not use the UCP for discriminatory bullying but instead had a site-based investigation procedure.

7. Still nothing was disclosed to the public. THe board was told that there would be training of staff on bullying but they probably assumed that this was just routine. It was not disclosed publicly that the training was the result of a Resolution Agreement with the federal government.

8. In February 2013, the family of the Terman victim went public and gave information to the Weekly to publish about the case.

9. At that point, this issue burst into public view. The district's response to the concerns of the public was that it was working on a comprehensive bullying policy that would be forthcoming and would address these issues. The board also made promises about a forthcoming "comprehensive, consistent" bullying policy. There were many many speeches and statements about the need for and promise to have a comprehensive, consistent bullying policy -- even though that was somewhat orthogonal to what happened with OCR.

10. Various task forces, climate committees, and stakeholder groups were hastily organized and promised a comprehensive consistent bullying policy throughout the next year. Over the summer, at least 2 such groups were convened.

11. During this time (February - current) the board began to hold regular closed meetings to discuss the OCR mess, which was rapidly becoming a fiasco and more parents learned about OCR and began to file their own complaints in hopes of getting some help for their disabled children. While most of these complaints do not meet the high evidentiary bar for proving discrimination, they signal a problem with the district's lack of clear procedures for handling such complaints.

12. Also in February, 2013 Paly published a story about Rape Culture which made it clear that the district also lacked a valid Title IX investigation procedure. OCR launched its own sua sponte investigation into that.

13. In March 2013, district lawyer Laurie Reynolds appeared before the board and gave a presentation that the Weekly called misleading and obfuscatory about the Terman case. She did not mention the procedural issues.

14. After her drubbing in the press for her lack of candor, Reynolds disappeared from public view and is replaced by Dora Dome, an Oakland based consultant who primarily conducts trainings on school discipline. Dome takes over negotiating with OCR. It is not clear whether she is acting as a district attorney or training consultant.

15. Through the ensuing months (spring, summer, and fall 2013), the board repeatedly stated that it was not discussing the matter publicly but it would soon, because the new comprehensive consistent bullying policy was coming, and when it was ready we would be moving to adopt it and put this whole rather sordid mess behind us.

16. Dome continued to work with OCR throughout the summer of 2013 to complete the drafting of a bullying policy that will satisfy OCR. The Carrillo draft was rejected by OCR because it did not use the UCP but had a site-based process instead. In order to satisfy the goals of having a comprehensive, consistent policy which was promised to the community and of satisfying OCR that PAUSD would follow anti-discrimination law and to satisfy the goal of site-based control, the policy was two-tiered. Discrimination complaints are heard through the UCP in compliance with the law. Regular bullying had a site-based process laid out similar to what is in current policy and similar to what Carrillo had drafted in her first cut at this.

17. In August, 2013 OCR approved this two-tier policy. Discriminatory bullying would be handled by the UCP and regular bullying by a site-based process. CDE and CSBA also approved it in November. It was about to be adopted. That was in December 2013 (last month).

18. Many in the community, including me, expressed reservations about the two-tier system, saying that it was both inequitable, and also would lead to mistakes. Dr. Skelly said he would revise the procedure to send all bullying complaints to the UCP.

19. Suddenly on December 20, Dr. Skelly sent a memo to the board slamming the brakes on the long-promised comprehensive consistent bullying policy. Instead, he notified the board that he had abruptly changed course, thrown away the bullying policy that was over a year in the making, and gone back to the drawing board with OCR. He was now doing the legal minimum, whatever was required to "get legal" on discrimination. There would be no bullying policy at all for the time being for ordinary bullying not based on a protected class.

20. That has left PAUSD with no procedure at all for the investigation and handling of ordinary, nondiscriminatory bullying complaints. Although Dome claims that we have our suspension and expulsion process, this claim merely serves to demonstrate that the Oakland-based Dome doesn't really understand Palo Alto, doesn't understand that we rarely use that process, and doesn't understand that we don't want more suspensions and expulsions here. Instead, we need a complaint procedure that guides principals and other staff as well as parents on what to do if there is an issue.

21. Dome also does not seem to understand that the suspension and expulsion due process accords rights to the accused but is not an investigation process for complaints in any way. It is revealed in the same meeting that the bullying forms that the district recently produced that do not comply with the UCP were modified disciplinary forms provided by Dome and that is why they did not work for the purpose to which Palo Alto was trying to put them. It is beginning to become clear that Dome is advocating either a radical increase in school discipline in Palo Alto or a situation in which there is no response at all to bullying unless it is so serious it results in suspension or expulsion, which is to say, virtually never.

22. The district currently has a Conduct Policy (5131) See: Web Link. As you can see, there is some language about bullying in this policy. It says that complaints will be handled under AR5145.7.

23. AR5145.7 is found here: Web Link. This is a site-level investigation process that is a lighter weight process than the UCP. It is this process that more or less formed the basis for the proposed second tier of the now-discarded two tier policy. This process is not consistently utilized but it is our actual process on the books currently.

24. Dr. Skelly recommended the deletion of this AR at last week's BPRC meeting. That means he recommended deleting the only process for investigating complaints of ordinary bullying that the district has.

25. At the BPRC meeting it was clear that neither the board members, nor Dome, nor Dr. Skelly even understand precisely what our current procedures are, what the effect of Skelly's proposal will be on them, and what will happen next. Both board members said that they wanted "something" that would tell people what to do, but did not understand that they were approving Dr. Skelly's proposal to delete that very thing that they were asking for. Dr. Skelly for his part said that he would now start the process over of writing something that was alternatively discussed as a new AR, a website, a flowchart, a set of forms, and "something, whatever it is" that would guide people.

26. Of course, that is what the two-tier policy that they just threw away was. And it is what the AR5145.7 that they just deleted was. So it is not clear why they are going back to the drawing board and starting over to make "a new AR, a website, a flowchart, a set of forms, and "something, whatever it is" that would guide people" or what that something would be or when it would happen.

That is where we are today. Fifteen months have gone by and two things have occurred: A. We have a process for handling discriminatory bullying that if adopted will comply with the state and federal civil rights law; B. we have less process for handling ordinary bullying than we had at the beginning. Today, under the current plan, we have deleted what process we had and we now will have nothing. We might eventually get "a new AR, a website, a flowchart, a set of forms, and "something, whatever it is" that would guide people."

Unaddressed is why Dr. Skelly and the board decided, out of public view, to eliminate the two-tier policy. They explained why they did not want a one-tier policy: staff did not want to have to send all bullying complaints to the district office. But why, given that, did they not just revert to the 15-months-in-the-making December 2013 draft of the two tier policy that had been approved by OCR, CSBA, and CDE? Why did they decide to trash that, waste all that work, and start over from scratch?

The answer to that was doubtless discussed off-line in the tangle of closed meetings that have been held. The public has been given no answer to this question.

As of now, every school is on its own to decide how and whether to investigate bullying complaints. If parents are dissatisfied, they can file a complaint against the principal or teacher. There is, of course, no criteria to determine whether or not a principal or teacher has or has not acted properly so no basis for the district to overrule them and no information for parents as to what basis there might be for complaint other than "I don't like this result." Thus, one can imagine how these complaints will be handled.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wow
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:53 am

@options: About the closed sessions, we know what happened in them because Barb Mitchell wrote a memo about it that leaked. See the link posted above for the story, which includes a link to her memo: Web Link. You know this as well as I do.

The idea that we shouldn't have policies because people will violate them is pretty breathtaking, I'll just leave it at that.

As to having a single policy for all children in the district: that's the strong recommendation of the California School Board Association. The reason is (1) consistency, and (2) making life easier for principals and teachers, because otherwise they have to decide on the fly whether an incident involves discrimination or not. Getting the answer to that question wrong produces a violation of state and federal law, and is the surest route to complaints and a lawsuit (cf. Terman).

Your reading of the new OCR letter is precisely contrary to what it actually says, as others have commented on above. You are packing an astonishing amount of misinformation into your posts. I won't speculate about your political motives, but I think they are clear.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by funny
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Funny how the district was just cleared from two OCR complaints, finding teachers and the administration did everything correct and that wasn't reported on Palo Alto Online. All we see are negative stories about PAUSD administrators and teachers and not the good. I don't expect anyone in this stream would have made a positive comment if they had printed it. Get informed before you slander people.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 1:15 pm

It is an overstatement to contend that the OCR letters "find teachers and the administration did everything correct." A conclusion that the facts do not meet the high legal standard for discrimination is not the same as concluding that staff did "everything correct." It may be that, or it may be that there were other difficulties but that they did not rise to the level of discrimination.

That said, it is good news for the district that OCR found that it did not violate student civil rights in other schools. Not violating student civil rights is the expectation we have for our schools and it appears that these two schools met that expectation.

These findings highlight three salient points:

1. In general, discrimination is a high legal standard. OCR rarely finds that schools have discriminated. In the case of disability-based bullying, in 2012 there were 1500 complaints and 15 Letters of Finding against districts for this category. That shows that it is pretty difficult to have a situation that gets so bad that OCR will find it to be discriminatory. This demonstrates that PAUSD should conduct an impartial, public investigation into what happened and why our policies were not followed so that it does not happen again. Before we can know that training will fix the problem we need to understand what went wrong so that we can ensure that we are doing the right training.

2. The quality of compliance you get depends on the principal unless you have district-wide uniform policies. At one school, we had a situation that was so bad and so out of control that it resulted in a Letter of Finding, an Assistant Principal was replaced, and a student was severely damaged. In other schools, where the staff may have been better, incidents did not get as out of control. But every student, regardless of the school that they attend, should have the same quality of experience in this regard. How is the board going to ensure that consistency for all students?

3. Rather than looking at the district's win-loss record (which stands about even right now), let's consider that we have had 9 OCR complaints over the past two years, nearly all of them from special ed families. What is going on with our relations with special education families that so many are feeling so desperate that they are turning to federal agencies for help? For a family to get to the point where they will file a complaint with OCR, the situation must have turned fairly hopeless at the site and district level. When parents feel that their child is hurting and there is no possible avenue of relieving that hurt at the site or district level they will seek another decision-maker. So why are so many families in a situation where their trust is broken and they have sought help from elsewhere? What can we do better in our own process so that every family of a special ed student feels that they are heard, respected, and treated with fairness and dignity? These are the hard questions that are not being asked (and therefore not answered) by the district but they lie behind these high numbers of complaints, the CDE audit, and other complaints and lawsuits including the cystic fibrosis situation.

PAUSD has an issue with special education that is of relatively recent vintage. Special Education should have been a focused goal for this year -- that suggestion was rejected out of hand by the board. That was a mistake that should be corrected. Why are special ed families filing so many complaints with so many agencies?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a year?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 7:45 pm

funny,

If anyone has slandered someone, you have the option to click on the "report objectionable content" button, and you should.

Celebrating 2/9 dismissed OCR cases seems hardly appropriate when there is continued confusion about the board's policies on these same matters, and no information about the status of the other cases. Not funny at all.

Edmund Burke,

"26. Of course, that is what the two-tier policy that they just threw away was. And it is what the AR5145.7 that they just deleted was. So it is not clear why they are going back to the drawing board and starting over to make "a new AR, a website, a flowchart, a set of forms, and "something, whatever it is" that would guide people" or what that something would be or when it would happen. "

In my head, I keep it as - 1 became 2, 2 became 1 then 0, now it appears it is actually 2, with a website, but 2 is not really 2. I appreciate the response, keeping track, what a task, surely you had not expected this to last one year.

I agree with your comment that PAUSD has an issue with Special Ed. The issue is what is happening with the bullying policies saga. What we're seeing is what special ed parents must experience all the time (rabbit holes of legal posturing), and for this reason alone an independent observer should be hired to know what happened these last two years, including why these policies are taking so long.

It is looking like the main reason policies are difficult to construct or special ed resolutions are so complicated is because it's impossible to get agreements from teachers or to count on their following policies. My question is why not hire more capable people for special ed, and bullying.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a year?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Clarification, it's not that teachers could not follow policies, but that the union can decide to not agree to keeping policies they disagree with.

Teachers do a great job, and it is not their fault there are such problems with Special Ed and bullying matters. But Special Ed and bullying do need more resources. Better to invest now than pay later.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Duveneck parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 15, 2014 at 9:32 pm

Thank goodness for Edmund Burke! It is wonderful to have things clearly laid out and in chronological order. I care deeply about the bullying issue in our district and believe that it is a big problem. Ask any student that you know if they have seen bullying at school and see what you learn.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:03 pm

In March 2013, Jay Thorwaldson published a blog post that included an interview with PTAC president Sigrid Pinsky about the OCR complaint. Sigrid posted into that thread the following:

"Much work is being done to develop a comprehensive anti bullying policy that defines what bullying is and outlines consistent responses. PAUSD is gathering input from different community resources including PASS and CAC. This policy will be accessible and understandable. As a community, we will hold the Board and the District accountable for completing this essential task. . . The goal is to have a finished policy which is accessible and understandable to everyone. Our process must be clearly articulated with a common definition and a well understood set of policies and procedures. We should hold the District and Board accountable for completing this task, which is well underway."

I wonder if Ms. Pinsky, who is reputed to be planning to run for school board this fall would care to comment on how she plans to hold the district and board accountable for their decision not to complete what she called an "essential task" of adopting a comprehensive bullying policy that includes a consistent well-articulated clear set of procedures.

Strong words. Now that that the work that was "well underway" that PTAC helped to give input on has been thrown on the ash heap, will PTAC be leading the charge for accountability?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:04 pm

Link: Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by angry mom
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:45 pm

Sigrid didn't mean that, she was just saying what she was told to say by her Skelly, Young, & Co. She has no idea what she was saying then and now that they are going to tell her to say something else she'll say that instead. New Sigrid statement -- "It was decided that it would be too onerous on our teachers to actually have that policy, and it would send too many complaints to the district office. Our kids need to have a flexible situation that is managed close to the classroom. Red tape and rules will take away professional judgment from our excellent teachers. It hurts to have your hand in the back of my head moving my mouth this way. Ow"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by options
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2014 at 6:19 am

EB: "There is no bullying policy. Palo Alto Unified has never had a bullying policy."

PAUSD does have a bullying policy: "PAUSD prohibits bullying. .. Students are encouraged to notify school staff when they are being bullied or suspect that another student is being victimized. In addition, the Superintendent or designee shall develop means for students to report threats or incidents confidentially and anonymously... [for students not in OCR protected status] the complaint shall be investigated and resolved in accordance with site-level grievance procedures' ... Any student who engages in ... bullying...may be subject to discipline, which may include suspension or expulsion."

The Weekly reports the same: 1) a new bullying policy is pending board approval for "protected" students, 2) the district's civil rights attorney says that "'There is a process (for "non-protected students"),'" and 3) the District has vowed to "continue working on specific [bullying] policies governing [non-protected] students."

There is nothing suspect about PAUSD's current policy on bullying for non-protected students either. It is straight out of CSBA-approved boilerplate and is the same language used by school districts across California. Google it.

Even the districts with a UNIFORM treatment of bullying complaints which have procedures set out in their regulations have the same approach and level of detail as PAUSD has in its actual policy. Their "uniformity" BTW is that bullying is to be addressed at the site-level.

Look at Ross in Marin County. Its uniform complaint procedure, in a regulation, is basically only this: 1) "encourage the early, informal resolution of complaints at the SITE level whenever possible," 2) initiate mediation if asked to, and 3) maintain confidentiality.

San Mateo High: 1) Students notify school staff, 2) Superintendent or designee creates a complaint form, and 3) complaints will be investigated and resolved at the SITE-level.

Ditto Woodside, La Canada, Huntington Beach and many, many others.

So, either the Weekly has it wrong & the lawyer is lying & the district is lying & PAUSD's printed policy is not really its policy & all these districts have it wrong too

OR

you are confusing PAUSD's not having THE exact caption, bullying policy and regulations you want, at the exact TIME you want, as it having none, ever.

And what does the PTAC president have to do with any of this? Your post gives credence to my supposition that the rhetoric is political. Compare tone of comments about Sigrid Pinsky, whom you say you mention because you think she may run for school board, to your comments about Ken Dauber, whom you urge to run.

It's too early to start campaigning, negative or otherwise. The election is a long, long time from now and no one has entered the race.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by options
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2014 at 6:30 am

EB: "discrimination is a high legal standard. OCR rarely finds that schools have discriminated… it is pretty difficult to have a situation that [OCR will rule] discriminatory. "

As for whether 9 OCR complaints is an indication of how PAUSD treats its students and special ed families, it also could be explained by Palo Alto having less flexible or more litigious parents than other districts do and/or our local civil rights lawyers doing a great job drumming up business.

For the sake of PAUSD's coffers, perhaps Edmund Burke's post will cause others to think of different approaches to resolve their concerns. Filing OCR complaints that do not meet the standard forces PAUSD to hire attorneys and pay their high fees. That takes money away from personnel and programs that help students.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Shut your PIE hole
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 16, 2014 at 8:25 am

More likely our parents have more education and more time to look after their kids needs not "less flexible " whatever that means. Options is very contemptuous of parents and giving a lot of misinformation. District staff, school board, former school board, or PTAC.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by options
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2014 at 9:41 am

FYI: CSBA's Current Uniform Complaint Procedure Suggested Language

CSBA Note: "The following OPTIONAL paragraph provides that all complaints regarding bullying will be investigated using the district's uniform complaint procedures pursuant to AR 1312.3 - Uniform Complaint Procedures.

Districts that choose to use ANOTHER COMPLAINT PROCEDURE for bullying incidents that are not covered within Education Code 234.1 should modify the following paragraph accordingly.***

1) [Optional] "Students may submit to a teacher or administrator a verbal or written complaint of conduct they consider to be bullying. Complaints of bullying shall be investigated and resolved in accordance with the district's uniform complaint procedures specified in AR 1312.3 - Uniform
Complaint Procedures."

2) Students who engage in bullying must be "subject to discipline, which may include suspension or expulsion, in accordance with district policies and regulations."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Former PAUSD Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 16, 2014 at 11:03 am

@options

I'm sorry, but I believe you are mistaken about the existence of a board-adopted bullying policy in Palo Alto. I will do my best to clear up the confusion.

You write:

"PAUSD does have a bullying policy: 'PAUSD prohibits bullying. .. Students are encouraged to notify school staff when they are being bullied or suspect that another student is being victimized. In addition, the Superintendent or designee shall develop means for students to report threats or incidents confidentially and anonymously... [for students not in OCR protected status] the complaint shall be investigated and resolved in accordance with site-level grievance procedures' ... Any student who engages in ... bullying...may be subject to discipline, which may include suspension or expulsion.'"

The language you quote is from a DRAFT of the bullying policy and its companion administrative regulation (BP/AR 5131.2), which the district has been working on for more than a year (and sent this fall to the CDE and CSBA for vetting), but it has NOT been adopted by the school board, and is not currently recommended for adoption by the board.

There are multiple versions of this DRAFT bullying policy on the PAUSD website and linked to stories in the Weekly, and perhaps you have mistaken a draft for an actual policy adopted by the board.

However, the Bullying Policy and its companion AR have only been proposed so far, and have not been adopted in any form by the board. In fact most recently the Superintendent and Board Policy Review Committee have recommended that this Bullying Policy and its AR be set aside, and not brought to the board for consideration at this time. Plans for any future board-adopted bullying policies are uncertain at this time, for reasons that are unclear. Given all the resources and public statements that have attended the development of this Bullying Policy (BP/AR 5131.2) during the past year-plus, this recent turn of events has surprised parents and given rise to protest from some in the community who were looking forward to adoption of a comprehensive board policy and procedure to govern issues around bullying in the district.

You can check for yourself at the PAUSD website, where all the adopted policies are listed: Web Link You will not see a Bullying Policy (5131.2) listed.

However, among the adopted policies on the website, you might notice BP 5131, which is labeled "Conduct." At the risk of adding more complications to an already complicated picture, this Conduct Policy lists student conduct that is prohibited under the state law discipline code, including bullying. Towards the end of that Conduct Policy it directs that: "Complaints of bullying or harassment shall be investigated and resolved in accordance with site-level grievance procedures specified in AR 5145.7 -Sexual Harassment." There is apparently some confusion among district officials about whether this Conduct Policy was ever adopted, although at the end of the policy document (on the district website) it says it was adopted in January 2010, and according to the board meeting minutes at that time, it was among those policies adopted. In any case, the complaint procedure set out in AR 5145.7 (and required for complaints of bullying and harassment under the Conduct Policy 5131) is apparently not in use at the school sites for handling bullying complaints, perhaps due to this confusion about whether it was ever adopted (and/or the fact that board-adopted policies and procedures are often not followed at school sites, which is another issue entirely).

Meanwhile, at this time, the Superintendent and Board Policy Review Committee are recommending that AR 5145.7 be eliminated, so it will no longer be in effect for any type of complaint, aside from the issue of whether it is followed. This AR 5145.7 is slated for deletion because all Sexual Harassment complaints are now proposed to be processed through the district-level UCP, to meet requirements of federal and state law (including Seth's Law). This action to delete AR 5145.7, once taken, would coincidentally eliminate any site-level procedure for bullying complaints that might have existed otherwise under the Conduct Policy.

With no Bullying Policy (BP/AR 5131.2), and no AR 5145.7 attached to the Conduct Policy, there will be no board-adopted policy or procedure in place to govern the handling of "non-protected" bullying reports and complaints. (Reminder: Under the scheme currently proposed, "protected" or "discriminatory" bullying complaints would go through the district-level UCP process, per state and federal legal requirements.)

All of these most recent Superintendent recommendations -- to shelve the draft Bullying Policy (BP/AR 5131.2) while proceeding to adopt the updated UCP (BP/AR 1312.3), the updated Nondiscrimination policy (BP 5145.3) and the updated Sexual Harassment policy (BP 5145.7), and delete the current AR 5145.7 -- are planned for presentation and discussion at the January 28th school board meeting.

Finally, the "process" that the school district's lawyer/consultant Dora Dome refers to that still would apply to the bullying of any students (protected or unprotected) is the disciplinary process contained in the California Ed Code and reflected in the district's discipline policies, which include bullying as conduct which is subject, under certain legal definitional criteria, to the disciplinary sanctions of suspension and expulsion. This disciplinary process (focused on appropriate procedural protections for the "accused") is quite different -- and to be distinguished from -- a complaint process focused on guidance for someone who wants to make a report or complaint about alleged bullying. A complaint process describes the steps to take when one wants to report bullying, and what to expect will follow procedurally from that report (for example: how it will be investigated, how a decision about resolution will be communicated, any appeal process for the complainant, what possible remedies might exist to support the victim, how numbers and types of complaints might be documented to create data to help evaluate the incidence of bullying and/or effectiveness of prevention programs, etc.). The vast majority of reports and complaints of bullying do not result in suspension or expulsion of the student alleged to have bullied or harassed (and that is to PAUSD's credit since that level of discipline is not viewed in most cases by experts in the field as the best means of handling peer victimization situations).

Thus, if we leave the handling of bullying complaints solely to the process set up in the discipline code, we are leaving parents and staff without any district-level guidance for how reports or complaints of bullying will be handled procedurally unless and until they become the subject of suspension or expulsion procedures. The disciplinary process will only kick in, and not very often, when the conduct is severe enough that the school decides to take the more extreme disciplinary steps of suspending or recommending expulsion of the student accused of the bullying misconduct. In that case there will be "due process" under the disciplinary code for the student who is accused and potentially subject to the discipline. There will be no board-adopted procedures focused on processes to guide and support those victims, and/or their parents, who want to make a complaint. That is not part of the disciplinary code scheme. If the board wants a policy to guide the process for handling bullying complaints, it needs to adopt one focused on that (in other words, some version of BP 5131.2). Relying on the discipline code does not serve that purpose.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Easy Living
By Sally Torbey | 11 comments | 2,369 views

I Told My Mom She's Dying
By Chandrama Anderson | 10 comments | 2,226 views

Grab a Bowl of Heaven soon in Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 1,323 views

Fancy Fast and Fun!
By Laura Stec | 3 comments | 756 views

Campaign Endorsements: Behind the Curtain
By Douglas Moran | 1 comment | 444 views