News

Ex-Paly principal disciplined for harassment

Phil Winston found to have engaged in 'unprofessional conduct and unsatisfactory performance,' continues as a teacher at Jordan Middle School

Former Palo Alto High School principal Phil Winston, who resigned last June 13 citing health and "work-life balance" reasons, was under investigation at the time by school district officials for multiple allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior involving both staff and students, according to documents obtained by the Weekly from the district.

The Palo Alto Unified School District's investigation substantiated most of the allegations, according to Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Scott Bowers, and on August 13 Winston was issued a formal "notice of unprofessional conduct and unsatisfactory performance." He was also reassigned to a special education class at Jordan Middle School, where he is currently teaching.

The notice, which Bowers said was recommended and prepared by the district's lawyers, outlined six student- and four staff-related incidents that supported its conclusions, and stated four "directives," or actions required, of Winston to "correct these deficiencies immediately."

The actions included refraining from using profanity, sexual comments and innuendo, and derogatory terms; commenting on the physical attributes and the dress of students or colleagues; having any physical contact with students or staff; and engaging in actions and language that are flirtatious or sexual in nature. He was also directed to complete a sexual harassment prevention training within 90 days. (District records show Winston had attended mandatory supervisorial harassment trainings in 2009 and 2012.)

The notice warned Winston that his failure to implement the actions could result in "further disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal."

Superintendent Kevin Skelly said in a written statement that he, the school board and district legal counsel determined that "the most appropriate course was to provide the employee with a corrective action plan—providing notice of unsatisfactory performance, clear guidelines on expected conduct, clear consequences if our expectations are not met, and clear provisions for assistance."

"While the behavior that was exhibited at Palo Alto High School was totally unacceptable, we have no reason to believe that the type of conduct that occurred there will be repeated," Skelly said in his statement. "We will continue to monitor the situation and make sure that our goal of achieving and maintaining a safe school environment for all students and staff is met."

In an interview Skelly said, "I wouldn't have put him (Winston) in the classroom if I thought he was a threat to kids." He described the actions taken as "the most serious consequence we could have (imposed), given the law and given the Ed Code."

Winston declined to be interviewed for this story, but in written responses to Bowers during the investigation he offered denials or different interpretations of his behavior from those of the primary complainant and witnesses. After being notified of the district's intent to release the documents to the Weekly, on March 19 he also submitted the following statement:

"It is important to note that the statements and inferences contained in the packet lack context and are as a result highly misleading. They inaccurately represent me and my character. In addition, they do not represent my performance over time, but rather highlight a short period of time during which I was under extreme pressure, stress and had personal challenges. I am disappointed that I did not take better care of myself. Although it's not reflected in the date of my resignation letter, I had shared with key personnel my intent to resign before these allegations were presented. I encourage you to read my responses contained in the packet."

The allegations against Winston were contained in a written report made by a Paly staff member who came forward in June, in notes of subsequent interviews with the complainant and four other staff members conducted by Bowers and Associate Superintendent Charles Young, and in an unsolicited email to Skelly, apparently from a parent.

Bowers said in a case like this he consults with legal counsel, conducts an investigation and seeks to substantiate the allegations through at least one "credible adult witness." He then turns over all the information to the lawyers, who then decide what should be done, he said.

The identities of the complainant and witnesses were redacted from documents released to the Weekly, and the Weekly has made further redactions in the documents it has posted online with this story to provide additional protection to these individuals.

The identities were not revealed to Winston, nor was Winston shown any of the documentation until recently, Bowers said. In mid-March, after the Weekly had requested the records, the district provided Winston with copies of the same materials (with identifying information redacted) a week prior to giving them to the Weekly, to allow Winston time to challenge the release of the materials, which he did not do.

No students were interviewed as part of the investigation, according to Bowers, because "we had the information from the adults that overheard it, we had confirmation that these things were said." One of the interviewed Paly staff members, however, was asked to contact a specific student to confirm a particularly graphic verbal interaction she said she had with Winston in spring 2012.

According to the staff member, the girl said she, her boyfriend and Winston had been talking in the library and the boyfriend left. Winston then said to the girl, "You know how to get your boyfriend to do what you want? You need to sit on him, whip him, and wrap your legs around his head." The girl told the staff member that she thought what he said was "icky" but let it go.

In his reply to the district, Winston said, "I do not remember exactly what I said, but I am absolutely confident I did not say you need to sit on his face, but rather something like, 'Make sure you stay on him and make sure he gets his work done.'" (Initially Bowers had reported to Winston that the girl had stated Winston had used the words "sit on his face.")

The allegations from the adults interviewed included some as general and subjective as complaints about "sophomoric" comments, "arrested adolescent," "stupid and ridiculous" or "erratic" behavior, but also discomfort about being alone with him due to his flirtatiousness and occasional unwanted hugs and neck or back rubbing. He was also said to have been dismissive of one colleague by telling her to "stop thinking like a mom" on numerous occasions.

The specific student-related incidents, witnessed by or reported to staff members, included Winston allegedly asking students leaving early from a May 21 talk at Paly by Eve Ensler, playwright and author of The Vagina Monologues, "Hey, where are you going? This is about vaginas. Don't you want to hear about vaginas?"

In Winston's written response to Bowers he said, "While I do not recall my exact words, I do remember saying something like 'Why are you leaving? This is about vagina monologues.'"

The Ensler talk, which included a panel of Paly journalism students, was billed as a "way to extend the conversation about 'rape culture' that was raised in Verde (a student magazine) last month," according to an email to parents by journalism teacher and Verde advisor Paul Kandell.

Another example cited was Winston asking a student if her "friend's boobs hurt when she was running naked through the quad," referring to one of the many streaking incidents that occurred on the campus in May 2013.

Winston's response to Bowers about the incident stated: "During brunch one day there was a group of at least 10 female streakers. I was walking through the quad as the streakers ran across the front area of the senior deck. As I made my way to the senior deck, I said, 'Gosh, that looks painful. That must hurt their boobs.'"

Winston also acknowledged on occasion telling girls wearing shorts that "your butt cheeks are hanging out, that is not appropriate." He said students "continually push these limits of decency and expose themselves," and that "many staff members have consistently expressed concerns to administration about students' body parts showing or hanging out, so this was done in support of staff with the purpose of creating a safe learning and teaching environment for all."

One staff member, who stated he or she had gotten to the point of not wanting to meet with Winston alone, recounted Winston referring to a male colleague as a "pansy" and his describing a particular student as "popular with white girls…because of his black dong," according to Bowers' interview notes provided the Weekly.

The initial allegations against Winston came on June 5 from a Palo Alto High School staff member who felt a "duty to report the many incidences that have been brought to me by numerous staff members." After a meeting with Associate Superintendent Young, who is the district's designated uniform complaint and Title IX "compliance officer," the complainant gave district officials a five-page memo detailing Winston's behavior, including inappropriate touching of both staff and students, verbal sexual harassment, flirtatious behavior, and creating a "hostile work environment" by not taking effective steps to stop student streaking, which had exploded during the month of May.

Also, shortly after Winston resigned Superintendent Kevin Skelly received a letter from what appears to be a parent dated June 24 reacting with concern to the news that Winston had requested a transfer back to the classroom.

Describing two incidents a year earlier, in spring 2012, while walking with Winston on campus during the lunch hour, the parent wrote:

"Phil saw an obviously distressed teen girl walking with an adult. He went up to her and told her he wished her well…while standing close in to her, face to face, and stroking her arm up and down repeatedly from shoulder to below the elbow.

"A few minutes later he went up to a group of girls, one of whom had just gotten an extra pierce in her ear. The other girls were exclaiming over the piercing; Mr. Winston again stood close and began playing with the girl's ear lobe and twisting various earrings, and did the same with a second girl in the group while bantering. One of the girls stepped back; Mr. Winston only moved closer and kept playing with earrings."

The parent ended the letter to Skelly: "But now that I see that Mr. Winston may return to the classrooms in which he will be alone with students, I feel an ethical responsibility to contact you to share these observations in the hope that Mr. Winston can be helped to make better choices in the interest both of students he will serve, and in respect for his own career."

The Weekly was provided the documents in response to a January 22 Public Records Act request for copies of any complaints alleging misconduct and disciplinary records pertaining to Winston and five other district employees. Under state law, such documents are separate from an employee's personnel file and are considered public documents if the complaints are substantial in nature and pertain to a senior-level school official. The 30 pages released were redacted to protect the identities of complainants and witnesses.

The documents provided included an email sent June 4 to the Paly leadership team (Winston, administrators and all of the Instructional Supervisors) by a another staff person alarmed about student streaking and the emotional safety of students and staff on the campus. (See sidebar.)

The email was sent the day after the district was notified of a "compliance review" investigation by the federal Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights into whether Paly provides a "nondiscriminatory educational environment free of sexual harassment," and "whether it responds promptly and effectively to complaints or other notice of sexual harassment of students." (See sidebar.)

The district's investigation of the complaints about Winston was limited to talking with the complainant and four other staff members. No written report, other than notes of interviews, was prepared. Bowers said that Lozano, the district's lawyer, guided the entire process, briefed the school board and prepared the August 13 notification letter to Winston.

School board members were briefed on the allegations by Skelly, Bowers and Lozano in a closed session in June. According to school board member Dana Tom, who was president of the board at the time, the board was also provided a copy of the documents for "review and inspection."

Winston's move to Jordan was noted as an information item on the agenda for the August 9 board meeting with an effective date of August 12.

According to Bowers, Winston is now "co-teaching" special education at Jordan, with either another teacher and an aide, or in the case of one class, two aides.

In a prepared statement to the Weekly on Wednesday, Tom said the board "authorized the requested reassignment to a classroom position after thoroughly considering the circumstances, the employee's record as a district teacher, and the employee's legal rights. He has been successful in meeting the district's high performance and behavioral expectation in his current teaching position."

School board president Barb Mitchell added in her own statement, "When people make mistakes, whether they are employees or students, our community expects prompt, informed and fair responses from school district officials, and this is what took place."

Skelly and Lozano both told the Weekly there was no agreement or "deal" made with Winston or the primary complainant about how the situation would be resolved.

"Personnel matters of this nature are always sensitive involving the rights of the employee, the rights of the staff and students and the public's right to information, all of which requires careful balancing," Skelly's prepared statement said. "We believe that in this instance all those rights were considered and protected."

To illustrate the legal issues the district faced, Lozano provided the Weekly with a document he authored describing past rulings and court decisions limiting the ability for a school district to successfully suspend or terminate a certificated employee under the Education Code.

In coming forward, the original Palo Alto High School staff complainant expressed great discomfort and a fear of retaliation, and conveyed similar fears of other staff members.

"The information that I have known and been made aware of has caused me many sleepless nights, yet as I explained, I feared retaliation from (redacted) Phil Winston," the memo said, explaining why he or she had not come forward earlier.

"I bring this information forward as my duty to report and in hope that the district will conduct their own fair investigation on this matter.

"It is my belief that if an investigation were conducted, many staff members would add examples that have been upsetting and hurtful to them and/or resulted in an unsafe learning/working environment for the students and staff at Palo Alto High School," the memo said.

"While I have great concerns about Phil Winston's general competence in his role and how this relates to our upcoming WASC (accreditation) process and the Title IX investigation…the immediate issue that I hope to see resolved is improving the climate for women and girls on our campus."

The memo included a list of 30 staff members (redacted in the copy provided the Weekly) who had "spoken directly to me concerning Principal Winston's inappropriate behavior and general concerns regarding his competence." Twenty of them were noted with asterisks as having personally "witnessed sexually harassing behavior" with colleagues, themselves or students.

"I have had many conversations over the last 3 years with staff members from all departments about numerous insensitive, inappropriate, and sexually harassing comments I have witnessed or others have witnessed involving our Principal, Phil Winston," the memo stated.

Records show that Young met with the Paly staff member on June 6. Young, who as the district's compliance officer is responsible for investigating complaints about sexual harassment involving students, sent a memo the next day summarizing the meeting to Skelly, and the issue was turned over to Bowers to investigate as a personnel matter.

The following day, Friday, June 7, Bowers met separately with both the complainant and Winston.

On Monday, June 10, Bowers informed the complainant his or her allegations were being taken very seriously, and he began contacting witnesses to confirm them.

On June 12, Bowers gave Winston a short written summary of six specific allegations about his inappropriate comments to students, and said he would share it with the school board in closed session as soon as he received Winston's response.

On June 13, Winston submitted his resignation to Skelly, stating that he had made "significant sacrifices as a father, spouse, and person in order to fully and successfully fulfill my duties to the District" and that "my passion has always been the classroom, and I am thrilled about going back."

At the time, Skelly told the Weekly Winston had "done a great job with kids and parents."

"We appreciate (Winston's) deep dedication and strong service to our community in this role," Skelly said. "He's just worked really hard on the environment at the school. His smiling face on the campus, his approach to the work has been really positive."

On June 14, Winston submitted to Bowers a point-by-point rebuttal of the statements cited in Bowers' June 12 memo which contradicted much of the information provided by the complainant and witnesses, stating that his conduct had been "misinterpreted." He also stated that "had this information been shared with me [at the time, I would have been eager to resolve any concerns or make any adjustments if necessary."

After that, the only documented action was the August letter to Winston with the formal "unprofessional conduct and unsatisfactory performance" notice, and a subsequent response from Winston.

School board agendas indicate that the board met in closed session on June 18 regarding an unspecified employee discipline matter, then again on Aug. 1 to appoint Kim Diorio as the new principal at Paly and on Aug. 9 about an employee discipline item.

Winston took over as principal at Paly in fall, 2010, after serving as an assistant principal at Gunn for three years. He immediately began putting his own imprint on the culture of the school to make it more student-centric and reversing the stricter disciplinary style of former principal Jacqueline McEvoy. Many students referred to Winston as "Chill Phil," and teachers recalled welcoming his energy, charm and desire to create a new atmosphere on campus.

While he was very popular with many students and parents, and initially viewed by staff as a "breath of fresh air," he became increasingly isolated and alienated from the school's staff, according to interviews with both teachers and classified staff, most of whom insisted on anonymity. Some teachers were concerned about his lax approach to student discipline, which they felt was eroding the overall climate and accountability for misbehavior, while others cited an increasing tendency toward non-communication with staff and arbitrary, unilateral actions.

Other staff interviewed by the Weekly expressed a reluctance to report concerns, including fears that nothing would be done, even at the district office level, and that speaking up would only make the situation worse.

"The culture wasn't there to support the teacher," one teacher said.

The best course often was seen as staying silent, for their own protection.

Young voiced concern to the Weekly about the complainant's and others' expressed fear of reporting and retaliation. "That's something that we take really seriously. Absolutely. We never want to cultivate a culture where people felt like they couldn't report things and feel supported in that process...The district supports that, we have a legal responsibility to support it, and anybody feeling that way, we absolutely take that very seriously."

Members of Paly's administration team, including Principal Kim Diorio, declined to discuss Winston or the allegations made against him.

Reporting and editing for this story was done by Chris Kenrick, Terri Lobdell, Jocelyn Dong and Bill Johnson.

Read related stories:

Student streaking: Alarm over mixed messages

Feds investigating Paly response to sexual harassment

Editorial: Hard school lessons

Comments

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2014 at 1:30 am

Edmund Burke is a registered user.

There is much that is disturbing in this account.

What I would like to focus on right now is the justification for placing Phil Winston in a classroom with students, particularly disabled students -- some of whom may have difficulty expressing themselves verbally. While it may be difficult (though in no way impossible) to dismiss an employee for sexual harassment, in some cases keeping such individuals from students is the only appropriate choice regardless of that purported difficulty. Indeed, districts often have a "rubber room" for just this purpose -- a place to which the offending teacher is assigned that keeps them away from students.

The statements by Kevin Skelly and Dana Tom in this story are unpersuasive and weak tea and that is a generous description. Skelly states that he "wouldn't have put him (Winston) in the classroom if I thought he was a threat to kids." Board president Dana Tom states that the board "the board "authorized the requested reassignment to a classroom position after thoroughly considering the circumstances."

But I wonder how many parents would come to that same conclusion? Let's review. Winston said to one student that she needed to allow her boyfriend to perform oral sex on her, commented on another student's naked breasts (after he allowed her to run naked exposing her breasts to him, and then said to a staff member that an African American student was "popular with white girls…because of his black dong." He also was allegedly stroking, touching, and caressing female students in a way that made people very uncomfortable.

How Kevin Skelly came to the conclusion that these actions were "not a threat" to the vulnerable special education students in Winston's class is very difficult to understand. Still harder to comprehend and justify is Skelly's statement to the public that "done a great job with kids and parents. . . He's just worked really hard on the environment at the school. His smiling face on the campus, his approach to the work has been really positive."

Was this a knowingly false statement intended to mislead the parent community of Jordan? This is an important question that should be answered. Certainly in my opinion it is very hard to square the facts reported in this story and known to Skelly and the board (but not the public) with this statement of Winston "doing a great job with kids" or that "his approach has been really positive."

It is these statements I think which raise the most profound and disturbing questions of this story and of this case. What was the basis for these statements? What was the basis for the conclusion that Winston was not at risk to repeat his harassing conduct? What was the basis for the risk analysis that led to placing him in a classroom with severely disabled and vulnerable -- our most vulnerable -- children?

The fact that it is hard to terminate someone for this kind of sexual harassment does not mean that the effort is not the most appropriate choice if the alternative is warranting the individual who has been determined to have committed multiple sexual harassment incidents to be "doing a great job with kids."

The suggestion that the matter was addressed by having him take a sexual harassment class and warning him not to talk about an African American student's black dong or telling a female student to wrap her legs around a male student's face again is in my opinion morally repugnant.

Winston is not the problem. The school board members who voted to put him in the classroom and sat silently while Skelly praised his work with kids and his positive impact on school climate are the problem. That conduct by this board deserves a full public examination. Once again, the public is left in need of a full, transparent public investigation.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2014 at 1:58 am

Edmund Burke is a registered user.

Here is a story about the way that LA Unified handles similar situations: the accused teacher is assigned to a rubber room during the investigation, and dismissal is sought. "Explains Deasy. "If there is suspected wrongdoing, we separate the employee [from the students], and then we investigate. Do [we] err on the side of safety? Darn right."

Web Link

In 2012, LA Unified had 300 teachers in the rubber room and had fired 96 teachers for misconduct between 2011-12. In addition, in LAUSD, accusations of teacher wrongdoing must be reported to parents within 72 hours.
That sounds like a better plan than assigning offending teachers who are found to be "substantiated" by a district investigation to teach special education students and issuing a press release praising their great work with students.

What is the moral and ethical choice -- the choice made by LAUSD or PAUSD?



Posted by Former Student, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 11, 2014 at 7:57 am

Former Student is a registered user.

As a former student under Phil Winston as principal, this article deeply disturbed me. Mr. Winston was one of the most caring, genuine, and involved principals that Paly has ever seen. I'm female, and neither I nor any of my friends ever found him to be anything more than friendly. Most of these comments sound, as Winston said, like they were taken out of context and could have been interpreted to mean a million different things. It's a shame that he made students feel uncomfortable, but this article and the comments have a witch-hunt mentality that I think ignores all the good he did for our school. There are teachers at Paly who say FAR worse things and are much, much more inappropriate with students, and they've been allowed to keep their jobs. Winston resigned and is now in a job where he's supervised all day by other teachers - what good does publishing this article do to anyone? He has a wife and two small children. If I thought that he had crossed any line, I would not support him by any means, but given the information, it seems that his friendliness was largely misinterpreted.


Posted by George Orwell, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 11, 2014 at 8:01 am

George Orwell is a registered user.

Bravo!!!! Restrict the thread, silence the discussion.


Posted by Palycls2012, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 11, 2014 at 8:37 am

Palycls2012 is a registered user.

My sympathies for those affected by Mr. Winston's actions, and thank you for coming forward.

That said, one of the best parts of my PALY experience was Mr. Winston's tenure. He took great pains to build up a rapport with students, and was a truly visible member of the PALY community. He went out of his way to engage with students and be more than a technocrat sitting in a corner of the campus. I realize that many in the PALY community come from environments where a skilled bureaucrat is just who they want as principal. As a student, I vastly prefered Mr. Winston's attempts to engage with the community, and I would expect many of my peers at PALY to feel the same.

Of course, this does not excuse sexual harassment. But I hope that PALY will seek to appoint a replacement that continues Mr. Winston's attempts at rapport, even with the memory of how such a policy can go horribly wrong so raw.


Posted by Peggy Duncan, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 11, 2014 at 10:02 am

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

In my experience, sexual harassment is depressingly similar in many different cases. What is different is what is reveals about the organization. In this case, it is mixed.

On the positive side, the district and Mr. Bowers in particular responded to the formal complaint quickly by removing Mr. Winston from his post.

On the negative side, I see several issues that are disappointing or puzzling, or both:

It appears from the report that this behavior was long-lasting and observed by many people at Paly (there were apparently 30 people on a list of witnesses with knowledge of various situations). Is it really true that no one at the district level had any hint that this was happening? If true, that indicates a serious breakdown of management and oversight. If not, it is even worse.

Reassigning Mr. Winston to a classroom without making parents aware seems reckless at best. The fact that it is a special education classroom is astonishing. It may be difficult to fire a tenured employee, but it is not impossible. Certainly placing someone in a special education classroom with vulnerable middle school age students, including young women entering adolescence, is not mandatory. If I were one of those parents, I would be outraged.

It seems that the "investigation" was quite limited, and not much was done to determine if there are other victims or to look into the overall climate at Paly. The reaction, including Dr. Skelly's misleading statement last summer, seems designed to get past the issue as quickly and quietly as possible, rather than dealing with it completely and forthrightly.


Posted by bisson, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 11, 2014 at 11:40 am

bisson is a registered user.

We don't want him come back to teaching field.


Posted by Crescent Park Mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 11, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Crescent Park Mom is a registered user.

My daughter is currently in Mr Winston's class. I've met him and spent some time with him and he is a very smart, capable educator that the kids relate to well. All reports from my daughter about Mr Winston have been very positive. This article does strike me as a "witch hunt". Skelly, Bowers, and the attorneys, would never let someone in the classroom that was a danger to our kids. This article isn't able to provide all the facts. Only Skelly, Bowers, and the attorneys have all the facts and based on those facts are how they decided he should stay in the classroom.

Weekly - I usually love your reporting but, in this case, I feel like you are just ruining this man's life for reasons only you know.


Posted by Crescent Park Mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 11, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Crescent Park Mom is a registered user.

Also note, he is co-teaching in a classroom that has special needs kids. Its no a special needs class. Now that we are integrating special needs kids into the regular classroom, they often need extra teachers to assist.


Posted by Harriet Chessman, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 11, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Harriet Chessman is a registered user.

I agree wholeheartedly with Edmund Burke and Peggy Duncan. This is an immensely disturbing situation. I do not understand how it is possible that Phil Winston is still in a classroom, now with children who are even more vulnerable. This is not a question of whether Mr. Winston has a "positive approach," or is liked by some students. This is a vital question about whether our schools can keep our children safe. In a community dedicated to preventing bullying, and creating a culture of trust and respect, how is possible that a leader of one of the two public high schools was able to act in this way for so long, and is now still in the school system?


Posted by milefive, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 11, 2014 at 1:04 pm

milefive is a registered user.

I'm a parent of two teenage girls currently attending Paly. Both of them have nothing but rave reviews of Principal Winston's supportive attitude towards them and their friends. He was always easy for them to talk to and they always felt like he listened to them. As a parent, I interacted several times with Mr. Winston at my daughter's Paly sporting events as he attended a few of their home and even away games. He was the only Paly administrator I ever saw at any of this particular sport's home or away games, so I was very impressed by his support. He was always happy to talk with us parents, sat in the bleachers with us, cheered on our players, and behaved 100% appropriately without any swearing or inappropriate language. I hope all parties involved in these accusations are treated with the respect they deserve, including Mr. Winston.


Posted by Paly Alum, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Paly Alum is a registered user.

Everyone's already stated how I feel. As a parent, I exchanged some emails with Mr. Winston and found him to be the ideal principal - prompt replies, rational, professional, approachable, visible, spirited, supportive of students.

Meanwhile, from reading the article, Mr. Winston's physical contact with students was completely inappropriate and he should not be back in the classrooms.

Skelly should have shushed this one and abstained from emailing to all parents about this. He is leaving anyway, so this was purely vengeful.

No wonder a female was elected to take Winston's place and no wonder she clamped down on streaking. I hope she can deliver the support to students as Winston did, but I have not seen it yet. I also hope she can reduce the academic stress at Paly and not fear the teachers. Mr. Milliken always supported the teachers and that was clearly wrong.


Posted by Former Student, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 11, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Former Student is a registered user.

This article is disappointing. Reads almost like a tabloid story. PA Online really should have done a better job of emphasizing all of the rebuttal points that Winston made to these "accusations." A lot of his comments sound like jokes, and ones that are barely inappropriate. Should students have to work with teachers or staff who make them uncomfortable? Absolutely not, but that doesn't mean it's the town's duty to kebab this man like he's a tried criminal. He wasn't running around having affairs with students (unlike some other teachers...), he was a younger principal who was incredibly friendly and trying to connect with his students. And at a school where young people are constantly treated like workhorses, his was a wonderful, helpful presence. It's a shame that people are so quick to judge based simply on a headline.


Posted by Moms Against Mean Girls, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Moms Against Mean Girls is a registered user.

Mr. Winston was nothing but a kind, genuine and compassionate leader. There was never any misconduct or harassment. These statements are clearly taken out of context and are misleading and slanderous. [Portion removed.] If you go look at the article about his resignation there is nothing but an outcry of support and sadness that he would no longer be Principal. If any of this were true it would have been present and known by everyone that interacted with him.
Web Link

[Portion removed.]

I apologize to you Mr. Winston. I apologize to you on on behalf of the school board for not standing by their administrators, the people involved in these ridiculous allegations, and the Weekly for such a misleading and awful article. Thank you for continuing to be a great leader for our children.


Posted by JLS mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 11, 2014 at 3:33 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

[Post removed.]



Posted by MidtownDad, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 11, 2014 at 4:05 pm

MidtownDad is a registered user.

Sorry but this guy need to go. He needs to be in the district office behind a desk. He should not be in a classroom behind closed doors. Especially with Special Ed students. [Portion removed.]

I feel sorry for the parents of his current students. To find out this news now. That this confirmed knowledge had been kept from you. [Portion removed.]


Posted by peppered, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2014 at 4:25 pm

peppered is a registered user.

Guys like this are very sophisticated. They make sure they behave decently with one set of people while they practice [portion removed] behavior with others. That's why you see the dichotomy of responses: praise and disgust.

Both groups are right from their own subjective viewpoints.

But the district corroborated the reports from 30 people, mostly staffers (adults). Just because Winston may have behaved well in many cases, that does not excuse his poor behavior in others.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by PalyStudent___2014, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 11, 2014 at 4:58 pm

PalyStudent___2014 is a registered user.

Principal Winston's behavior was clearly inappropriate, but linking him to the amount streaking incidents is false. Furthermore, the section labeled "Student streaking: alarm over mixed messages" is rife with error.

1) The year before Winston became principal, there were more instances of streaking then any years with Winston in office, students keep tract of the numbers; the magnitude of streakers cannot be attributed to his policies. Furthermore, his policy was firm: in Winston's first year, the administration called the college of at least one of the seniors who got caught streaking.

2) All evidence contradicts the statement, "even the students who might normally be expected to defend streaking…did not...". Facebook was overrun with posts of support for the students who streaked, interviews by The Voice* and CBS include students saying that they would like to streak, and even the Senior ASB representative posted to Facebook that she will not back up the statement by Dioro unless supported by the senior class (rightfully so—she represents the senior class). Furthermore, the implication that it is positive that student opinions were repressed is blatant contradiction considering that this article decried Winston for repressing the opinions of Teachers on the matter.

3) Not all teachers are offended by streaking: I have personally talked to some whose only issue with the act are the aggressive flavor it attains because the students are wearing masks, but this is a result of school policy, and not the choice of the streaker. It seems that teachers who disagree feel pressured to conform in this controversial debate for fear of being ostracized.

Lastly, I was of the minority of students whose only interaction with Winston was negative. I think that his acts of sexual harassment are disgusting and inappropriate (if he really said what was stated in the article), but linking him to the increased amount of streaking is truly slanderous.

*The Voice segment also contains people voicing their disagreement with the streakers act (one, on the premise that it will "ruin their college applications); it's appropriate that it showed both sides.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Edmund Burke is a registered user.

The school board has failed in every way that it is possible for a public body to fail its constituents. This is a sad cautionary tale of how bad things can get when elected officials consistently and over a long period of time fail to exercise oversight, and fail to act with appropriate transparency and accountability. No one can feel anything but shame and disgust reading this account of what appears to be a massive government failure -- a failure that continues. Should Phil Winston continue to work in a classroom with special ed children, many of them on the spectrum, many who are unable to express themselves verbally? No.

Winston said to one student that she needed to allow her boyfriend to perform oral sex on her, commented on another student's naked breasts (after he allowed her to run naked exposing her breasts to him, and then said to a staff member that an African American student was "popular with white girls…because of his black dong." [Portion removed.]

Here are just a few of the important questions raised by this story:

1. Did the school board attempt to prevent OCR from investigating rape culture because it wanted to prevent OCR from discovering [portion removed due to misstatement of facts] sexual harassment complaints [portion removed] then in its possession? This appears very likely from the timing.

2. The complaints regarding Winston, even absent the rape culture issue, document a serious hostile educational environment under Title IX and possible a hostile work environment based on sexual harassment under Title VII. Was a Title IX investigation conducted? This appears unlikely as no students were interviewed and Rape Culture emerged at the school even after the district investigation.

3. Once the board became aware of the substantiated allegations (dozens of them) against Winston, why did board members place him in a classroom? That rationale should be public so that the public can evaluate their judgment. In particular, Dana Tom, who was the board president at the time, should be required to account to the public for his views.

4. Why was the public actively misled by Skelly and the board about Winston's departure? At best, they should have given no comment. But the comments that were given appear to be inaccurate, misleading, and improper in my opinion.

What is called for now is moral, intellectual, and ethical clarity. The ethical and right thing to do was to attempt to dismiss Winston and to remove him from the classroom. Even if it would take time. Even if it would be expensive. The Weekly's reporting here was marvelous, but it's editorial lacked moral clarity. The big problem here isn't that it's hard to fire teachers. It's that PAUSD did not even try.


Posted by palymother, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 11, 2014 at 7:09 pm

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As a high school teacher from another distict, I'm asking where the flippin' union is to protect this teacher. Why are the ins and outs of this case so public? Why not malign him for his wife and children to see? Sounds humane to me.

When I blew the whistle on an administrator ten years ago at San Jose Unified, the man was disciplined, I got a transfer to a better place and it was far less public. Though my career has suffered significantly for blowing the whistle, not a day goes by where I don't regret calling out the roaming hands vice principal. By the way, he is in an even higher position in that district presently. Maybe he changed his ways after going through mandatory training.

I was impressed with Mr. Winston while my two children were at Paly. He has been disciplined and demoted. CTA needs to do its job. God knows we pay enough in dues.


Posted by palymother, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 11, 2014 at 7:21 pm

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I feel bad for every Paly teacher and administrator. Paly parents best resemble Reese Witherspoon in "Election." Period.


Posted by Muriel M., a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 11, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Muriel M. is a registered user.

I am deeply shocked and disturbed by the decision to reinstate Mr Winston as a teacher. In the corporate world, model companies terminate employees for such behavior. Being a people manager, I take a yearly training on sexual harassment and the actions described in the article would undoubtedly lead to termination. I find it incomprehensible that someone with such behavior would continue to work with children. This is analogous to the Catholic church where abusers were just moved from one location to another.
It is irresponsible and unrealistic to think that people with such behaviors will change overnight.
I have had a lot of respect for PAUSD so far but this action questions the trust I have put in PAUSD. Children deserve a safe and harmonious environment and parents need to trust that their children are safe.
I deeply hope that PAUSD will reconsider this shocking decision.


Posted by True Blue, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 11, 2014 at 8:07 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

When I read the "written report" provided to Dr. Young by a Paly staff member (see link above), it screams of a hatchet job and appears the staff member is simply building a pre-emptive case of retaliation if they are fired. There is no need state, multiple times, all of the "fear of retaliation" concerns unless you think you might be fired, and having a written statement that you had that fear will protect you.

Notice the "written report" starts off my describing Winston's authoritative approach as being offensive to teachers, and only after that moves into the allegations of sexual harassment, much of which is hearsay that would not be admissible in court. Smacks of unhappy teachers who didn't like a principal who made Paly about students, instead of teachers.

I also note that when Winston announced his decision to step down as principal, there was not a single accusation of harassment or improper behavior, even though the "fear of retaliation" camp could have spoken up anonymously. (Thanks to "Mom Against Mean Girls" for sharing that link above.)

Phil Winston ruffled some ego-centric teachers, made a few poor decisions in his jokes, and genuinely cared about students. From what I read his "inappropriate touching" could easily be simply genuine, platonic affection.

No doubt the man is not perfect, but he just might have been exactly what Paly (and PAUSD needed). It sickens me that he is being dragged through the mud and publicly disgraced. It is these type of actions that truly hurt our kids and community.

This article started a witch hunt and the Palo Alto armchair judges are more than happy to


Posted by frustrated mom, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 11, 2014 at 8:10 pm

frustrated mom is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] This explain why was Winston was so angry teaching the students with special needs, and punished with not letting them attend the class parties. He punished the special kids for having a disability. Instead of punishing them he should had teach or helm them with the assignment or the homework. Now I know that he did it because he was angry because he was moved from the principal to teacher position and took it on their special ed. kids. I heard that his teaching was mainly consisted in puting the kids to watch a noneducational movie. Especially on the days his co-teacher did not show up, he just inserted a movie and that was it. He got paid for doing nothing while the investigation went on. Yes, he was not always with another teacher in the classroom. Shame on Bowers, I know that he had competent teachers to do his job. They should had just paid him the money and keep him at his home. What a way to protect our kids. Winston you are a disappointment for our community. Thanks to you our house praces will be going down. Cheetos!


Posted by True Blue, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 11, 2014 at 8:11 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

<finishing last post>

This article started a witch hunt and the Palo Alto "armchair judges" are more than happy to jump in and pontificate, regardless their personal knowledge of the subject or the impact to those involved.


Posted by True Blue, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 11, 2014 at 8:27 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

Murial said, "In the corporate world, model companies terminate employees for such behavior." Only if the behavior is proven (and only in a "model" company, as you suggest). Termination based on hearsay would simply set up an unlawful termination lawsuit. In my experience in the corporate world, there is usually denial that anything happened, a whole bunch of chances to fix bad behavior, and the perp continues on with a (private) warning. All that said, I don't see the major infractions proven that would dictate the punishment he received as a result of this public airing of the matter.

To frustrated mom: Never mind...


Posted by palymother, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 11, 2014 at 8:42 pm

palymother is a registered user.

Wow. These comments are so scathing regarding Mr. Winston. Mr. Winston, go the John Proctor route in The Crucible. Protect your name. Use all those years of union dues to sue the district. Paly parents are a piece of work. Glad I'm moving after my son walks the stage in June.


Posted by peppered, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2014 at 9:22 pm

peppered is a registered user.

@palymother:

Mr. Winston should be fired. Period. End of Story.

He wouldn't last a day in the private sector. There's even less reason to have him NEAR our kids.

Your concern ends with Mr. Winston. Not for a moment do you feel any sorrow for his impact on an entire generations of students and families.

This is a community, not a commune.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by True Blue, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 11, 2014 at 10:01 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

To peppered: If you have facts that prove why he should be fired, please provide them. Otherwise, you are just an armchair judge that is forming an opinion based on hearsay and propaganda.

When I first read the Weekly article I also thought "off with his head," but having done a bit more research I no longer think that.

I firmly believe this man has made some non-PC mistakes, but does not deserve to be made a pariah as this forum is doing to him. Remember, hearsay is just that - there is no proof other than some people's word against his. He came in to make change (in the students' favor), and change does not go down well with the establishment.


Posted by Moms Against Mean Girls, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2014 at 10:49 pm

Moms Against Mean Girls is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] I also find it interesting that the Weekly knew to request his files when there was no motivation to do so.

It is my opinion that the Weekly is controlling the perception of this information and has presented it through biased media coverage.


Posted by Kharma, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2014 at 10:51 pm

Kharma is a registered user.

If the reason the accuser(s) wanted to remain anonymous was for fear of retaliation and Phil Winston is no longer in a position to "retaliate" from the classroom, why can't the names of the person/people coming forward with these allegations be released now? It may shed some light on this whole investigation. This story seems very one sided.


Posted by slg, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 11, 2014 at 10:53 pm

slg is a registered user.

While I realize that he was not formally charged, I am appalled that the school district reinstated someone with this record as a classroom teacher - and with special education students, no less. As a parent to a special needs child on the autism spectrum, who just started integration back into the regular school, I would be up in arms if such a teacher was ever assigned to work with my kid. My son would not have known how to handle such comments, and I could see some special needs kids taking such suggestive comments literally and trying them out! What are they thinking!
I have been less than satisfied with the school district handling of my son's integtation, and this just confirms what I am starting to suspect - the district treats special needs children as second class citizens - perhaps they are afraid they will ruin those perfect school rankings...

This is a disgrace!


Posted by PA mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 11, 2014 at 11:35 pm

PA mom is a registered user.

In polarized situations like this, the truth usually is somewhere in the middle of the opposite extremes. On the one hand, I'm sure the people who were subjected to Phil Winston's questionable behavior were genuinely uncomfortable. I agree that some people with personality disorders choose to treat some people well and others not so well. On the other, this also comes across to me like a Witch-hunt (that former Paly student amazes me with his/her insight at such a young age!). Things can be taken out of context, and mountains can be made of molehills. Also, we as the uninvolved public don't know what all really happened, so it's not up to us to pass judgment anyway. I'm sorry to see Phil's face dragged through the mud. I was the target of a Witch-hunt on a neighborhood level, so I understand first-hand what it's like to be slandered and have my character unfairly assassinated by people who were brainwashed into believing things about me that weren't true. I'm told the truth later came out, but the damage was extensive and I will never forget what it was like living under a public microscope where I was surrounded by people putting a negative spin on everything I did. Maybe Phil has some lessons to learn about reigning in some of his behavior, but I'm sure that what I described is what Phil is going through now.

Summing up, us outsiders cannot never know for sure what the actual truth really is in this situation, so we must give benefit of the doubt and keep an open mind.


Posted by True Blue, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 11, 2014 at 11:50 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

To sig: "While I realize that he was not formally charged, I am appalled that the school district reinstated someone with this record as a classroom teacher..."

So despite no formal charge (or proof), he has "this record?" Without proof, there is no record!

I'm stunned that so many people are OK with a man's career (and possibly life) being ruined without any proof or adult accusers coming forward and sharing the spotlight!

Based on personal experience, I also disagree with @peppered's statement, "He wouldn't last a day in the private sector." Oh yes he would, especially if he was deemed valuable by the company. I've seen far worse than even what this man is *accused* and been shocked when there were no repercussions. And no one in the private sector would be subject to this public criticism and persecution without equally public accusers coming forward. While I understand protecting minors (whether or not they are telling the truth), it seems most of the accusers are adults who no longer have any reason to fear retaliation from Mr. Winston. And yet, they remain shielded from public review.

This is a witch-hunt indeed.

And the PA Weekly has my email address so I am not doubt subject to retaliation for calling them out...


Posted by GoCardinals, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2014 at 11:53 pm

GoCardinals is a registered user.

I am also a teacher in another district, and am appalled by how this has all played out. It's interesting how these allegations were released to the press almost a year after Mr. Winston resigned. Not only does it sound like a witch hunt, but if anyone is a "victim of retaliation" it is Mr. Winston. My child's safety is my number one priority, but in this case it is clear from the tone of this article that these allegations have largely been taken out of context. It is really a shame that an educator that has done so much for our community is being made an example of. What a scary time and place to be a teacher…


Posted by slg, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 12, 2014 at 12:17 am

slg is a registered user.

To True Blue:
'To sig: "While I realize that he was not formally charged, I am appalled that the school district reinstated someone with this record as a classroom teacher..."

So despite no formal charge (or proof), he has "this record?" Without proof, there is no record! '

Yes. Our children's safety trumps the teacher's hurt feelings. Until proven innocent, keep him out of the classroom. Put him on administrative leave with pay, or an office job - not with the most vulnerable students in the school. Even if one out of the 30 or so complaints was shown true, he should not be placed in a classroom, much less in a special ed classroom.
Of course, since such students are less likely to understand inappropriate comments or know enough to complain, we could never find out if anything happened or not.

If tomorrow it was proven beyond doubt that he innocent, reinstate him. Until then, keep him away from students!


Posted by True Blue, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 12, 2014 at 12:33 am

True Blue is a registered user.

Sig,

This is the United States. People are innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around.

"Our children's safety trumps the teacher's hurt feelings."

Children's safety? He is not accused of rape or molestation, just *possibly* some non-PC jokes and genuine affection - let's keep it in perspective.

"...teacher's hurt feelings."

Obviously, this is not about "hurt feelings," it is about a man's reputation and career. I would suggest that you are part of the Paly mob that persecuted him except I know the Weekly will censor my post (deleting far more than necessary because I don't agree with their point of view."


Posted by slg, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 12, 2014 at 12:51 am

slg is a registered user.

This is my last response on the topic, as I stated my case, and see no reason to rehash it.

True Blue writes:

'Children's safety? He is not accused of rape or molestation, just *possibly* some non-PC jokes and genuine affection - let's keep it in perspective.'

Those are a lot more than "non-PC jokes". And is the report he was playing with a student's earring, and petting another on the arm, just a mark of "genuine affection"? If so, why are only girls being targeted?

True Blue writes:
'I would suggest that you are part of the Paly mob that persecuted him'.

My son is just starting to integrate into Gunn, thank you very much, and until today I have never heard of this case. So you are making wild accusations with no substance, after complaining that your favorite teacher is subject of the same. I wonder what your own stake is in this case!

The teacher is entitled to due process, and should not be fired until the accusations have been proven, true. But he is *not* entitled to a position that gives him direct access to vulnerable children, while there is a reasonable suspicion that he may take advantage of them.


Posted by Big, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 12, 2014 at 3:11 am

Big is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] He struck me as just always desperate to appear HIP. Sad really. HE was like that about technology. He let the kids online addictions run wild, and thought it was hip. Turning the libraries into video gaming parlors.


Posted by Big, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 12, 2014 at 3:39 am

Big is a registered user.

And, trying to be hip and friendly to the kids, he also didnt have the subtlety that genuinely charismatic leaders have. He was awkward, and overly anxious to be groovy. The result was a series of gauche and inappropriate behavior. He should have aimed for fair, distinguished and compassionate. Instead he was ingratiating, fawning and inappropriate. Not smart thing to be, but honestly not a pervert.


Posted by EP Parent, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 12, 2014 at 4:49 am

EP Parent is a registered user.

Thank you for this article. As a paly parent I noticed the "leaving for family/health reasons" and knew it was fishy. Thank you for finally opening this up to allow us to make educated decisions and reach our own conclusions.

When my daughter was a freshman I attended a parent meeting with Mr. Winston and was taken aback by his dismissal of my concern. Getting to know him a bit better here has bee really validating.


Posted by PA native, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 12, 2014 at 6:40 am

PA native is a registered user.

I don't know the people in this story, but it strikes me as odd. I think this could be a modern day witch hunt.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2014 at 7:33 am

Edmund Burke is a registered user.

I would like to note for those who are interested in facts that there was an investigation by the district that concluded that the allegations were substantiated. Discipline was imposed and Winston does not contest the bulk of the situation or the discipline, only that some of the comments were it "out of context." That is, Winston is not saying that he is the victim of a witch hunt. Winston is not saying that there was not a thorough investigation or a rush to judgment. The only people saying that are anonymous individuals, probably defenders of the school board, posting here.

The board will need its defenders, because the board has acted very badly here. Our board decided that it would be too expensive to fire Winston outright, at a cost of around $200,000, so it determined to place him as a teacher in a classroom with very severely impaired students, many of whom are nonverbal. Where better to place a teacher who may do inappropriate things than in a class of children who will have great difficulty telling anyone?

Then it assigned classified staff to watch him but did not tell them what they were watching for. Did Greg Barnes know of Winston's issues and agree to his placement in that classroom? Did the other certificated teacher know? Who knew? I hope the Weekly will find out.

Attacking the press is bad form. The free press is a fundamental institution of society. The Weekly fought hard to obtain these documents. They did so in order to do what newspapers do, discover the truth and disseminate it to the public. That is all.


Posted by Mike Alexander, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 12, 2014 at 8:41 am

Mike Alexander is a registered user.

I can't think of ANY context where it's appropriate for the principal to comment to one student about another student's "boobs"? It's a sexually-harassing misuse of power.

It sounds like the Board has handled the investigation appropriately. But I should think in the end it would be less expensive to fire the man.


Posted by palymother, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 12, 2014 at 8:54 am

palymother is a registered user.

Sir Edmund Burke says "attacking the press is bad form." Since when? Is your real name Rupert Murdoch? Palo Alto Weekly is behaving like a British tabloid. I am a Palo Alto resident with a son at Paly "attacking the press."


Posted by Karen Gibson, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 12, 2014 at 9:01 am

Karen Gibson is a registered user.

I thank the Weekly for this article and agree wholeheartedly with Edmund Burke and slg. It's disturbing to me that so many feel that Winston's comments were just mistakes or taken out of context. Maybe it's easier for people to think there is a witch hunt rather than face the possibility that there are some [portion removed] in our schools. This was a principal, someone who should have known better. It's his job first and foremost to provide a safe environment. Regarding the comment that "only Skelly, Bowers and the attorneys have all the facts", that's probably true. But even Skelly wrote in his email to the parents yesterday that Winston "took responsibility for the behavior". Skelly did not deny the allegations but unfortunately his corrective actions were grossly inappropriate.


Posted by palymother, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 12, 2014 at 9:04 am

palymother is a registered user.

Newspapers answer to advertisers just as the Palo Alto city council answers to builders. Your vhs copy of All the President's Men is fiction. Woodward and Bernstein cashed in long ago. So did the PA Weekly.


Posted by Kharma, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2014 at 9:43 am

Kharma is a registered user.

There are references to 30 [portion removed]. If you look through the notes, there was actually only ONE complaint made and it offered up names of others offended. [Portion removed due to factual misstatement.]

A full investigation may have revealed the motives of the complaintant and interviewed people. In the notes of one, it stated the issues came up in a "bitch session" about the principal.

The article states that Winston did not see these notes until The Weekly requested them. Therefore, his lack
of response is likely due to the fact that he was unaware of many of the accusations. [Portion removed due to factual misstatement.]


Posted by Perspectives, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 12, 2014 at 10:07 am

Perspectives is a registered user.

I would venture a guess that most everyone in our community values the fundamental American principle of "innocent until proven guilty". HOWEVER, as many here have pointed out, the article and email to parents in no way imply that Mr. Winston has been exonerated of all accusations and that he's just someone who's not getting his fundamental rights. In fact, both the article and the email say quite clearly that not only has he personally accepted a level of responsibility, but the Board itself found him responsible for actions * such that he was dealt (article title even) a "discipline" *.

This is not a case of a man merely having accusations that have not been at all vetted. This case has gone through a level of due process which resulted in punitive actions by a school board. It's natural he will have his own perspectives of what he thinks was "taken out of context" (and he certainly has the right to that opinion), but no one has a legitimate claim of a witch hunt here.

Most of the people here who are in defense of and support of Mr. Winston staying on as a teacher at Jordan have merely personally had nice and positive interactions and experiences with him. This is not good enough to defend a teacher with this history. It doesn't really matter if some people-- even a majority of people-- have had good experiences with him. I'm sure he did many wonderful things and created good experiences for many. Mr. Winston is probably a nice person. That's not the issue here. Being a generally, most of the time, nice person does not mean it is appropriate to be back in the classroom after this situation. It's the people he negatively affected in these described manners that are what needs to be taken into consideration.

Just because you drive well a majority of the time doesn't mean if you get a DUI you don't get your license revoked.

His history is not fitting of staying on as a teacher in the district. These are CHILRDREN he is impacting. The Board should have stepped up and have him move on. It's partially their own fault they've reinstated him that he's being dragged into such a transparent community spectacle. He should have accepted discipline of removal and quietly moved on. What a better and more mature solution for all involved.

I'm also very troubled he was placed in special ed classes. These are, as many here have already said, children who are the LEAST likely to stand up for themselves and understand inappropriate behaviors. How irresponsible of the District!!

As a parent who has an incoming Jordan student in the fall who will be participating in these special ed classes, I challenge someone to step up who is in my same boat and say they support Mr. Winston teaching their child. Seems to me there is not one person defending him who will now be facing him as their own child's teacher. Classic "not in my backyard" situation. Upsetting.

I urge everyone who has any opinion on Mr. Winston staying in the classroom at Jordan to write to Skelly's office and express your opinions.


Posted by Peggy Duncan, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 12, 2014 at 10:08 am

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

As far as I can see, the fact that there were four witnesses interviewed out of 30 was the district's decision. The previous poster says that only 4 agreed to be interviewed. I don't see any basis for that statement.

I am curious about why Dr. Young did not pursue an inquiry into whether Mr. Winston created a hostile environment for female students. Based on the facts and the complaint that is quoted, he should have done that as the district compliance officer. Yet the article said that he turned out over to Dr. Bowers, the HR head, as a purely personnel issue.


Posted by GoCardinals, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2014 at 10:10 am

GoCardinals is a registered user.

Kharma brings up an interesting point. If there was really only one complaint, not 30, who made it? Responsible journalists would bring up the question of motivation.


Posted by Misha, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 12, 2014 at 10:19 am

Misha is a registered user.

I am a parent of children who are and were students at Gunn. We had an experience with Mr. Winston that was very disturbing as it reflected disregard for child safety and health, failure to take appropriate steps to inform or otherwise ensure the well-being of the child, and complete lack of integrity. The situation was in 2008 and we were unaware at the time. Afterwards when tragedy struck in 2009, Mr. Winston [portion removed] about the situation. At the time of the tragedy in 2009, we were in a state of shock and though we knew things were completely wrong about this situation, we were in no position to follow up and did not appreciate it was not an isolated incident of Mr. Winston and his poor judgment, failure to do his duties, and lack of integrity. NOTE, this indication with Mr. Winston dates back to 2008 - almost SIX years ago.

Since then, I have come to learn of other families whose children have suffered as a result of Mr. Winston's leadership failures [portion removed.] It is apparent that there is a long-standing pattern of behavior going on here. Would that the Superintendent and the School Board choose to see the reality.

To keep him in any position where he has contact or responsibility for children, particularly vulnerable children, is frankly unacceptable. The Superintendent and the School Board must stop acting out of fear and of the wrong thing ~ what they should be concerned with first and foremost is the safety of the children. Period.

Even if they were to factor in fear and concern for the expense of a lawsuit, the appropriate counter measure is the damage done to the many children who have been and may be harmed directly and indirectly by Mr. Winston and his actions and inactions, and if they insist on staying in an economic mindset, then factor in the cost of the lawsuits brought by the parents.

Mr. Skelly is on his way out an true to form, unlikely to do anything more. So it is up to the School Board to WAKE UP and DO THE RIGHT THING for THE CHILDREN.


Posted by Moms Against Mean Girls, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2014 at 10:28 am

Moms Against Mean Girls is a registered user.

To GoCardinals, you mention "responsible journalism" but clearly that may be the problem. This article does not represent the whole story, only what they want to be perceived as "truth." Why else would the reader need to go digging through documents to make our own determinations.


Posted by Roger Dodger, a resident of another community
on Apr 12, 2014 at 10:56 am

Roger Dodger is a registered user.

This is a hit piece by a media outlet with another agenda. "Edmund Burke" (who seems to share that agenda to some extent) can intone all he wants to about how "attacking the press is bad form" but the Weekly is hardly The New York Times and it's been obvious for a while now that they have an editorial agenda of a higher order with regard to the school district. Attacking the press is actually good form when the press is yellow and seeking its own ends, and people on this forum have a right and a responsibility to say that they are disgusted by the tactics of their local paper (muzzling the discussion on this forum when it suits their ends is one highly questionable tactic that comes to mind). There are facts, and then there are *interpretations of facts*, the latter being pretty much everything that's being said here (including by "Edmund Burke"), the former being truly known only to those involved. (Or, as Rummy would say, "there are a lot of known unknowns.") Reading the documentation, my own interpretation of the facts is that Winston clearly exhibited some poor behavior and made some poor choices, and also that his intention may have been entirely misinterpreted at times. It also seems to me that he may have been unaware of the fact that his behavior was making others uncomfortable, but that he is not the dangerous serial predator he is being made out to be by the Weekly and other hysterics here. He was perhaps a bit too young for the job and perhaps a bit too eager to please the kids and show that he was hip to their scene. This may have led him to make the classic "young teacher" mistake of not maintaining proper social distance from students, and that social distance is absolutely critical if you are a principal. That also meant that he made certain enemies among the faculty, something which is unavoidable when you are a principal. The man had mountains of accolades when he left his position at Paly; this is hardly the reputation of a serial harasser. Winston clearly was well-liked and did a lot of good by a lot of students and others in his tenure as principal, which is worth remembering. Unfortunately what is done is done, the man's career and reputation have effectively been ruined, and he will have a difficult path now. The "harm" he may have done pales in comparison to the wreckage the Weekly and the torch-and-pitchfork gang here have done to any semblance of fairness we might have pretended to or hoped for.

As someone who, in a previous job, was accused of being a racist by someone who entirely misinterpreted something I said, I will point out that it's entirely possible for something similar to have been the case in many of the instances sited here. People get their feelings hurt and misinterpret things all the time. Saying you are uncomfortable or feeling harassed does not, in and of itself, establish any fact other than that your feelings are hurt and you feel harassed. There was and is disagreement about some of the incidents alleged; a lot of this is very fuzzy and the actual *facts* of what was said or what happened are known only to those involved. The single complaint names a number of other teachers, [portion removed due to factual misstatement.] Faculty politics is a complicated business, because the stakes are so low (usually involving egos).

The rest of us are just speculating, including "Edmund Burke".

But let's not let all that get in the way of ruining a man's career and reputation. [Portion removed.]


Posted by peppered, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2014 at 11:14 am

peppered is a registered user.

@palymother:
You say:
'I am a Palo Alto resident with a son at Paly "attacking the press."'

Yes, but you're also a teacher asking for the teacher's union to come to Phil Winston's side. You obviously don't care about the disgraceful example the principal was setting to generations of young people.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by Kharma, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2014 at 11:26 am

Kharma is a registered user.

In regards to:
"There are references to 30 [portion removed]. If you look through the notes, there was actually only ONE complaint made and it offered up names of others offended. [Portion removed due to factual misstatement.]"

Let me restate my fact with direct quotes so it's not interpreted as a misstatement and blocked.

Take directly from notes of Scott Bowers:
*Interview notes dated 6/18, interviewee "didn't remember many details"
*Interview notes dated 6/18, interviewee when asked if s/he felt the need to report any of the discussed content in the "bitch session" as sexual harassment: "No"
*Interview notes dated 6/27, interviewee when asked if s/he ever felt harassed: "No"

[Portion removed due to factual misstatement.]

"I also asked XX to contact any of the teachers who had spoken to XX and ask if they would speak with me. XX emailed me several days later to let me know that I had already talked with one of the teachers, XX, and the XX asked the one to call me. (I haven't received a call from someone as yet.)"


Posted by Roger Dodger, a resident of another community
on Apr 12, 2014 at 11:47 am

Roger Dodger is a registered user.

It's hilarious, sad, and deeply disturbing that the Weekly is censoring and removing content from the posts of registered users here with the tag "[Portion removed due to factual misstatement.]". If this is not an example of a fox in charge of the henhouse, I don't know what is.

If the Weekly is going to pretend that they want "transparency" on this forum by requiring registration, they should be willing to let people register and then say what they want to say. Otherwise the Weekly is so clearly sculpting the picture presented, it would be be even funnier if it were not more sad. My previous comment had a satirical comment at the end that was removed with no explanation. Any pretense the Weekly has to creating an open and transparent environment is a joke.


Posted by Town Square Moderator, online staff of Palo Alto Online
on Apr 12, 2014 at 11:56 am

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.

@Roger Dodger,

The moderating (editing) we do is to prevent false statements of facts and the disrespecting of other posters. There is nothing helpful about our allowing a known falsity to remain in a comment.

You are welcome to criticize our journalistic judgments or motivations, but we believe it is our responsibility to not allow made-up or grossly misstated facts to creep into the discussion on a very sensitive story. That is not helpful to anyone who is honestly trying to understand the information provided and the actions taken by the school district.


Posted by Moms Against Mean Girls, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Moms Against Mean Girls is a registered user.

Yet Weekly, you didn't "moderate" yourselves. Apparently you are exempt from "grossly misstated facts." Shame on you.


Posted by Roger Dodger, a resident of another community
on Apr 12, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Roger Dodger is a registered user.

@Town Square Moderator

Yet you are fine with allowing people to post character assassinations and defamatory content about the subject of your investigation? And you have the gall to claim you are trying not to allow "grossly misstated facts to creep into the discussion on a very sensitive story."? This is a joke. You've got commenters on here left and right condemning Winston outright with virtually no grasp of the actual facts, and you are combing through posts to make sure no one is "disrespecting" anyone else? It's absolutely laughable. Unfortunately it's also really, really sad, because a man's career, reputation, and life are being ruined. You don't seem to care about respecting him at all.


Posted by Those 183 Votes, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 12, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Those 183 Votes is a registered user.

@The moderator, in stating that you are removing a section of the post due to "factual misstatement", you are making a claim you know more than the poster. You are on very dangerous path when deleting posts simply because you disagree with a posters interpretation of the facts.

@Edmund, the fallacies in your posts seem to pass the moderators view of "factual misstatement" but, especially in this case, you are setting yourself up as judge, jury and executioner in spite of them. Reviewing your posts, "Tomas de Torquemada" should really have been your choice.


Posted by Town Square Moderator, online staff of Palo Alto Online
on Apr 12, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.

@183 The 'factual misstatement' removals are not interpretations, they are comments that actually are, either carelessly or intentionally, misstating the specific content of the documents that have been released by the school district. As you can see from all the posts above, we don't interfere with anyone expressing their opinions, but we want do want to try and prevent false 'facts' getting thrown into the discussion.


Posted by Justamom, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 12, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Justamom is a registered user.

Having a child currently in Mr.Winston's class my views are the same as the Crescent Park Mom. No complaints and no concerns. Everyone is passing judgment without knowing the facts. A reputation is at stake - we need to act more responsibly and show more restraint. An enquiry was held and action taken after due consideration by the authorities who had full knowledge of the facts.


Posted by Those 183 Votes, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 12, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Those 183 Votes is a registered user.

"they are comments that actually are, either carelessly or intentionally, misstating the specific content of the documents that have been released by the school district"

@The Moderator, then they should be easy to refute!

All we are left with is your claim that that is the case and the resulting aspersions you have cast on the poster by implication.

Reviewing the one-side "censuring" you have done in this thread, giving you that benefit of the doubt would be misplaced.


Posted by JLS mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 12, 2014 at 7:50 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

One thing that no one has commented on is that Winston's comment about the black dong isn't just sexist it's actively racist. It uses one of the worst and oldest racist stereotypes about black males and suggests that they are oversexed and involved with white girls. It is disgusting and despicable. [Portion removed.] This is an outrage that that statement alone was not sufficient to issue a 30 day notice. [Portion removed.]


Posted by JLS mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 12, 2014 at 9:04 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by palymother, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 12, 2014 at 9:44 pm

palymother is a registered user.

Peppered, I do care. Mr. Winston was an excellent principal when my daughter attended Paly and for my son, now a senior. I have been a high school teacher for over twenty years and as stated above, I blew the whistle on a sexual harassing admin. years ago when I was a department chair.

Mr. Winston is being publicly maligned here. He has a wife and children. He deserves the defense he has paid for with the CTA. Just like the defense i got when I got when I blew the whistle. Where were you "if this happened in industry" types when this went down a year ago? Buying stock? Buying an SAT tutor? Tweeting? [Portion removed.]


Posted by palymother, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 12, 2014 at 10:06 pm

palymother is a registered user.

"Is the accuser always holy now? Were they born this morning as clean as God's fingers? I'll tell you what's walking Salem-vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!"

From The Crucible by Arthur Miller


Posted by scoops, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 13, 2014 at 10:28 am

scoops is a registered user.

I am wondering if there is any justice, decency or fairness left in this world. This newspaper should have withheld much of their detailed expose concerning the Winston case, we have no need for that much information.
It appears much was garnered from second hand reports. As such, altering a word or phrase drastically effects our meanings; I am sure, most can agree, it happens all the time.
Furthermore, it appears students weren't directly questioned, certainly this is another "life lesson" lost. Students should be aware of the responsibility their words can hold, especially when it involves the livelihood and reputation of someone else, It is not something to be taken lightly or without thought.
Yes, perhaps Mr. Winston should have been more cautious in his choice of words, but personally knowing and working with him, I doubt very much he is guilty of the serious accusations in this article. This reminds me of a witch-hunt. Sadly, perhaps Mr. Winston was a too naive and inexperience to have been appointed into such a lofty position of leadership, especially in a challenging district. As I see it now, his reputation has been completely destroyed whether or not he remains with the District.


Posted by JLS mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 13, 2014 at 12:59 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

Phil Winston said things that were not explicable as "poor choice of words." That is an absurd thing to say. Should he have said " black penis" instead of "black dong"? Should he have said "wrap your legs around his neck instead of head? Would that fix it for you?

All this bashing the messenger is insane. It appears that the story about Karen Tanaki could not have been better timed. Some things never change in old PAUSD.


Posted by hr, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 13, 2014 at 2:57 pm

hr is a registered user.

Does anyone find it rather odd that after serving as both a teacher and administrator in the district for a few years, that only recently he gets "pulled across the coals " for word usage? Reads to me like he has some colleagues and parents who he felt comfortable around ( like a dime store politician parent or staff member) , yet they showed their true colors by screaming "foul" when they didn't get what they wanted, whatever that was. [Portion removed.]


Posted by JLS mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 13, 2014 at 6:33 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

I don't. But I do find it "rather odd" that so many people would evidently rather believe fantastical conspiracy theories about the Weekly and Paly teachers being on a joint witch hunt than believe that someone they barely knew committed sexual harassment. [Portion removed.] But you all hardly know him. You have brief contacts with someone you barely know and you think that those brief contacts somehow disprove allegations that were substantiated by the district's HR officer, Kevin Skelly, and the district lawyer. [Portion removed.]

This is how denial works, something brilliantly explicated just two weeks ago in Jay Thorwaldson and Jocelyn Dong's story about an earlier instance of sexual harassment in PAUD: Web Link

As in that case, here we have a group of parents banding together to defend the abuser and attack the whistleblower. In both cases, those parents had no basis for their views other than that they "just couldn't believe it."

But this is how abuse works. The abuser is charming and friendly. That's how he gets to be an abuser. [Portion removed.]

It is so sickening to see people saying that they disbelieve the women who were brave enough to come forward despite their fears of retaliation and even worse attacking the free press. On the basis of "I like Phil." Well, I liked Phil too until I found out [portion removed.] That changed my opinion, because I am not impervious to facts that are inconvenient for me.

Speaking of impervious to facts that are inconvenient, the Weekly was very credulous is believing that Phil could not be suspended and dismissed. Sexual harassment is one of the few things that a teacher can be suspended and dismissed for. Phil should be given his 30 day notice now, before May 15. By law he has to receive it by then in order to ensure he is not in the classroom next year.

Then while he is suspended the district should conduct the full investigation that it failed to conduct earlier, including interviewing students.


Posted by Registered Just for This, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 13, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Registered Just for This is a registered user.

The Weekly is printing the version of notes given to the DO by one of the complainants, who is reporting things that were reported to the complainant by others, which amounts to printing twice-removed hearsay as fact, and then claiming that they are "moderating" the discussion to make sure that the "facts" are kept straight. In fact what they are doing is muzzling the discussion and shaping the thread by removing content that is not meeting some vague standard known only to them, having to do with "disrespect" and those pesky "facts". This whole thread is a farce. The mob mentality being exhibited here, as well as the entirely lopsided treatment of this spectacle masquerading as "journalism" by the Palo Alto Dog Trainer, looks pretty ridiculous.

I registered just for this, and it's all I have to say, other than that I DO know Phil Winston, and I can assure you he is not the monster he is being made out to be here. The Weekly should be ashamed of itself for printing hearsay as fact with regards to something like this. Not your best showing by a long shot. You have a long way to go in your aspirations to Woodward-and-Bernsteinhood. And as for the tar-and-feather brigade, you might want to go back to the civics class you (hopefully) took that mentioned the concept of "innocent until proven guilty."


Posted by JLS mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 13, 2014 at 7:45 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Perspectives, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2014 at 8:06 pm

Perspectives is a registered user.

I'm certain that most,if not ALL of us (those not approving of the District's decision, and those supporting Mr Winston still in the classroom ALIKE) don't have all the facts. Of course not. But not all of us who wish Mr Winston be placed out of the classroom are calling him a monster. I have done nothing of the sort. I am sure he is a nice person, but that doesn't preclude me from believing he should not be in a specific position.

It IS possible to think he should be kept out of the classroom in his current role based on the-- fact-- that he was found in violation of certain codes by the school board. That is fact. He is not fully innocent or there would have been no discipline, nor would he have taken responsibility for what he took responsibility for.

Those of us in my shoes are not all on a witch hunt and actually can have valid reasons for being concerned. I'd appreciate not being lumped into the category of essentially being "un-American" and have less emotion dished out toward a reasonable alternative perspective. That is also an American value- to not angrily lump people into stereotypes.


Posted by MJM, a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 13, 2014 at 8:43 pm

MJM is a registered user.

IF, and I say IF, this story is true, then I feel very sorry for the girls at Paly because there are at least 30 teachers/administrators who will not come to your aid when you are subjected to inappropriate behavior. For 30 people to stand by and do nothing is appalling! And I say SHAME ON YOU!

Sexual harassment is a form of bullying. We have been trying to teach our children to stand up for themselves and to come to the aid of other kids whom they see being bullied, yet our own school employees fail our children. Instead they hide behind "fear of retaliation" to justify inaction.

As to this not being allowed in industry, get real. I have been a victim of sexual harassment in at least 2 different technology environments, and have worked in hostile work environments. In the 70's no one cared. In the 80's, it started to get on the radar. In the 90's, managers went through training, but the higher the perpetrator was, the more they got away with, even into 2000 and beyond. If a women wanted to succeed, she had to become one of the boys and today there is still a frat boy mentality at the upper levels of fortune 500 companies.

I would suggest that both high schools use this as a teaching moment to educate young women and men on what is acceptable behavior and how to deal with what they are likely to face (women more than men) in real life, whether college or the work force.

As for Phil, my thoughts go to him and his family who are forever damaged by these "accusations". No one deserves to be dragged through the mud like this without due process. This is not objective reporting, it is "sensational tabloid" reporting. I expect more from this community.


Posted by JLS mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 13, 2014 at 9:00 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

Phil HAD DUE PROCESS. What part of this is so opaque? I thought the reporting in the story was good, so why are so many people confused about whether or not PHIL HAD DUE PROCESS?

Phil received a 45/90 notice pursuant to Cal Government Code Section 44938. Under the law he was required to be given a notice of unprofessional conduct 45 days before any action can be taken in order to "correct his or her faults and overcome the grounds for the charge." He was required to receive a similar notice 90 days prior to any charge of unsatisfactory performance. He received those notices. They listed the charges. That is the process he was due under the law and his union contract and he received it.

Here is how you folks are acting. You are acting like an anonymous person approached the Weekly with an anonymous accusation against Winston of sexual harassment. And they printed it without any verification whatsoever.

See, that is not what happened. What happened is that Scott Bowers, the HR manager for the district, interviewed 4 staff members who independently corroborated the account of the individual who made the first complaint. That's five credible adults who verified the events complained of.

The investigation was sufficient to substantiate the accounts. The lawyer agreed. Kevin Skelly and the school board agreed.

Then they all took a wrong turn. Instead of issuing a 30 day notice of termination for immoral conduct under 44932(a)(1) as sexual harassment is usually handled, or under 44932(a)(7) for violating state law and district policy against sexual harassment, they elected to proceed to place him in a special education classroom (watched by aides because this IS a South Park episode) and issue a 45/90 notice. No such notice is required or would be appropriate for sexual harassment so he was charged instead with unprofessional conduct and incompetence, two sections that are not related to sexual harassment and not typically (or really ever) used to address it. That is for obvious reasons -- why should some sexual harasser get a second bite at that apple? Is it even plausible that state law would require that? Hint: no, it is not, that's why it is not the law.

Phil Winston should not be in a classroom based on the substantiated allegations of sexual harassment. There should have been a full investigation and he should have received a 30 day notice and suspension on September 15 (the first day he could have received such a notice). Since he didn't, he should get one now before May 15 and be assigned to [portion removed] the district office 8 hours a day while the hearings are held. He will probably lose based on how these cases have come out in the past.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by Justamom, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 13, 2014 at 9:01 pm

Justamom is a registered user.

hr you may be right. The main thing is the authorities in possession of the facts have acted . And it seems after due consideration.


Posted by frustrated mom, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 13, 2014 at 9:03 pm

frustrated mom is a registered user.

I wish this article would have not been limited to only register users so more people would had given their opinion without being afraid of retaliation. As those who said why the rest of the teachers did nothing, as a person who has worked in schools, it is not thateasy especially if you already have tenure. If you speak up is the end of your job. I was not tenure and I have to think very hard if I kept my mouth shut or speak up for those special ed. students who were intimidated and had to come to school everyday only to get sexually harassed. I did that in a middle school and few days later I was "laid Off" Imagine if all these teachers would had speak up, they would still have to face some of the people who have posted here. Those who believe that Winston was an angel, and could not have done it, or that he should continue to work with kids. Was it worth for the person who blew the whistle? I do not think so, because at the end Winston stay working. If it was a custodian who did that, yes he would have been fired right at the spot because administrators protect each other, but the low positions have no one to protect them, not even the union, often they or their spouses work in the administrators office. Of course they are on the side of the employee. I did speak up, but I often asked myself was it worth it? Nothing was done because they fired me, and nothing was done. At lease now I do not feel bad to receive my paycheck and spend it at the expenses of the students suffering. However now the special ed kids have no one on their side and I feel like I abandon them, even though the one who turned their backs on them was the administration. No it is not that easy to speak up, you are risking your job, your financial stability, and the judgement of the community who often would not even believe the aggressor is not capable of that kid of behavior. Thanks to the employee who had the guts to go and talk to Young even though their discipline was not in the best interest of the students, but in the benefit of the aggressor. When my kids hear the news they said, I always knew that there was something fishy about him, but did not know what. They never felt comfortable with him.


Posted by JLS mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 13, 2014 at 10:37 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 14, 2014 at 10:20 am

Crescent Park Dad is a registered user.

Becoming a registered user does not require using your real name as your screen name. Look at mine above! No retaliation possible.


Posted by JLS mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 14, 2014 at 8:27 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

On reviewing the materials that were released by the district there are a few things that leapt out at me that have not thus far been discussed:

1. It was reported to Scott Bowers that Phil stated to a male student that he "must be geting a lot of pussy" from his girlfriend.

2. A teacher complained that Phil was very flirtatious with her, gave her unwelcome hugs and backrubs and other unwelcome touching, to the point that she did not want to be alone with him. One incident of this harassment was witnessed by another teacher as well.

These are very serious incidents -- as are the others. This was no "bad choice of words" scenario, nor is it explicable by simple immaturity. But whatever the reasons, these are the not the actions of a person who in my opinion should be in a classroom. And it is patently unfair to expect the female co-teacher and female aids to serve as the canaries in Phil Winston's coal mine. He has exhibited behavior based on (2) above that is consistent with sexual harassment of female staff. Thus placing female staff with him, essentially to test whether or not he will repeat this behavior, is unreasonable.

The district should answer the question why he did not receive a 30 day notice and suspension on September 15 based on this conduct.


Posted by True Blue, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 15, 2014 at 12:02 am

True Blue is a registered user.

JLS mom: Your are quoting things that are NOT provided in the PA Weekly article - who are you that you have this additional information and under what authority are you posting it publicly? I see only hearsay, and even multiple levels of hearsay.

Your post smacks of a witch-hunt. If I were Phil Winston, I would be coming after you with a libel lawsuit.


Posted by JLS mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 15, 2014 at 6:32 am

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

I wrote:

"On reviewing the materials that were released by the district. . ."

These materials are on the district website: Web Link

The comment was "you must be getting a lot of pussy" was alleged to Scott Bowers by a teacher who said that a [portion removed] student report it to that teacher.

The alleged unwelcome touching of the female staff member including hugging and backrubs (gross) was made by Scott Bowers in Phil's 45/90 notice. Presumably if Phil rubs his hands on another teacher without consent again, he will really be in trouble!

[Portion removed.]


Posted by Karen Gibson, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 15, 2014 at 9:02 am

Karen Gibson is a registered user.

As JLS moms of 2 showed, all of these documents are already public on the school district's website. You can also go to Web Link and see public documents relating to other issues in the district as well. So it is the district itself who is releasing documents publicly, as they are required to do per the California Public Records Act. By reading the documents, it seems the Weekly reported quite accurately.


Posted by JLS mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 15, 2014 at 9:29 am

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by hr, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 15, 2014 at 12:09 pm

hr is a registered user.

MODERATOR : Would you consider these statements by E. Burke as "False Facts" ?

The only people saying that are anonymous individuals, probably defenders of the school board, posting here.

The board will need its defenders, because the board has acted very badly here. Our board decided that it would be too expensive to fire Winston outright, at a cost of around $200,000, so it determined to place him as a teacher in a classroom with very severely impaired students, many of whom are nonverbal. Where better to place a teacher who may do inappropriate things than in a class of children who will have great difficulty telling anyone?

Then it assigned classified staff to watch him but did not tell them what they were watching for. Did Greg Barnes know of Winston's issues and agree to his placement in that classroom? Did the other certificated teacher know? Who knew? I hope the Weekly will find out.


Posted by Perspectives, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Perspectives is a registered user.

It seems like the conversation has taken a direction towards bashing the moderators/Weekly such that I've become unclear on what's really being discussed.

Are we engaging in real dialogue about the community's feelings on re-instating this former principal in a place of authority in the classroom again, with special ed students?, or are we fighting a battle over how a paper moderates what they consider to be facts based on public documents and legal outcomes of an investigation?

What's out for public documentation is out. Period. The discussion shouldn't be about these documents! It should be about what the public feels is appropriate for a role for Mr Winston in our schools with our children, based on what we know to be in legal findings and documents. It's on the web.

Whether the Weekly decides to monitor and remove some pieces of posts they feel are inflammatory or contrary to information they have is really their prerogative as a newspaper.

Someone may not agree with things they remove, but I think we live in a community where we can assume the town's paper doesn't try to tailor and warp reader comments such that a man will purposely be maligned. That's some serious paranoia. I'm pretty confident in saying the Weekly is not out to get people.

And no, I don't work for the paper, nor do I know one person who does.


Posted by Those 183 Votes, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 15, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Those 183 Votes is a registered user.

"Whether the Weekly decides to monitor and remove some pieces of posts they feel are inflammatory or contrary to information they have is really their prerogative as a newspaper."

It's fine to remove inflammatory posts but quite another thing to remove content because it is contrary to the information they have.

That's the point. The paper is deciding what is the truth and removing any posts that conflict with their view of events.

This is an educated community and can distill fact from fiction. I'm surprised more people aren't concerned that a local paper has taken on the role of deciding what is fact to the point where they remove any contrary views.


Posted by Bill Johnson, publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Apr 15, 2014 at 6:20 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

@183

As our moderator posted in response to you earlier in this thread:

"@183 The 'factual misstatement' removals are not interpretations, they are comments that actually are, either carelessly or intentionally, misstating the specific content of the documents that have been released by the school district. As you can see from all the posts above, we don't interfere with anyone expressing their opinions, but we want do want to try and prevent false 'facts' getting thrown into the discussion."

If you wish to accuse the Weekly of selectively reporting information, feel free to identify how we've done that. We work very hard not to, but if we've screwed up we'd like to know. But if a commenter states that the documents released by the school district say "x" and they actually say "y" we aren't going to allow that comment to stand. We've removed such erroneous statements from posters on both sides of this issue. With material as sensitive as this, we believe we have an even greater responsibility than usual to not allow outright misquotations of what is a well-documented case. If you feel we have in any way misstated anything from the documents the district released please let us know, but so far no one has brought any such misstatement to our attention.

To suggest that since this is an educated community we should just let false statements stand because people will go and research the documents and learn the truth is not responsible or in the community's best interest in my opinion. And, as should be quite obvious from the diverse and opposing views expressed above by many posters, we don't remove "contrary views."


Posted by hr, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 15, 2014 at 8:50 pm

hr is a registered user.

MODERATOR and M. JOHNSON: Your stating that this is actually true and not "false facts" by Mr. Burke? Where was this revealed in the documents you shared ?

"Our board decided that it would be too expensive to fire Winston outright, at a cost of around $200,000, so it determined to place him as a teacher in a classroom with very severely impaired students, many of whom are nonverbal. Where better to place a teacher who may do inappropriate things than in a class of children who will have great difficulty telling anyone?

Then it assigned classified staff to watch him but did not tell them what they were watching for"

Thank you HR


Posted by Those 183 Votes, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 15, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Those 183 Votes is a registered user.

"We've removed such erroneous statements from posters on both sides of this issue. "

@Bill,
Well, to start with, your statement is factually incorrect. If you search for "Portion removed due to factual misstatement" in this thread, you will only find removals from those supporting Mr. Winston.
In essence you've placed your own views first and only removed comments from those supporting Mr. Winston as providing factual misstatements. That alone leads one to wonder as to your bias.

As an example, this is the sort of section that gets removed:

There is a huge gulf between the accuser's statements such as "Stop thinking like a mom" when the actual interaction was "he was working with a teacher on a complicated discipline issue and discussing how, as parents, you have to make these decisions for your own kids but as teachers you need to stop thinking like a mom and follow the handbook". This does throw an entirely different light on these accusations if the accusers are willing to spin this so far from the actual experience to try and make a case.


Posted by JLS mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 15, 2014 at 9:35 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

Here's some more facts you won't like, so I hope you're sitting down.

Around January 13, the district and it's lawyers and Barbara Mitchell and Dana Tom all attended a meeting with OCR attorneys to discuss the Title IX investigation at Paly. As a result of that meeting, OCR presented the district with a supplemental document request.

The district presented its response to OCR on February 5. One of the questions evidently asked by OCR was for "A list of any other incident of alleged sexual harassment, including sexual violence, against a Palo Alto High School student of which the District had notice from the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year through the date of this data request. For each alleged incident, provide a narrative description of (a) the alleged harassment and an explanation of how the school or the District received notice of the allegations, and (b) the investigation and resolution, including timing of the response and an explanation of the school or District's findings and any corrective or remedial action taken."

The district's response to this question did not include any information about the students who were allegedly the recipients of harassing comments by Winston, even though by February 5 the district was clearly "on notice" about those "incidents of alleged sexual harassment" because the district had investigated and substantiated them and issued a letter warning of discipline to Phil about them. Yet the district's response to the above question appears to make no mention of these several incidents. Rather it seems to refer only to some student-on-student incidents and perhaps those described in the Verde Rape Culture stories.

Could it be that the district and school board failed to tell OCR about the fact that the principal of Paly was investigated for sexual harassment, including incidents involving students, but failed to disclose this to OCR in its document request? It is very hard to tell what the facts are due to the district's use of redaction. The story reports that OCR has received this information as of the date that the story was published. But when did the district make that disclosure? Was it on or before February 5? If not, was the district's response to the document request fully responsive and forthcoming?

We do know that the district was very eager to stop the OCR compliance review into sexual harassment at Paly and that there were closed board meetings and consultations with lawyers about how to do that. We do know that the district made two different requests of OCR to stop its investigation of sexual harassment at Paly after the Winston allegations had come to light.

There are so many facts that we don't know. The district should now address this matter with full transparency.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2014 at 9:59 pm

village fool is a registered user.

@JLS mom of 2 - Thank you for the info, and for suggesting to sit down.

Here is a thread started back in July, dealing with PAUSD Board's secret meetings - Web Link

Assuming the info you provided is correct, do you think that transparency is within reach?


Posted by JLS mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 15, 2014 at 10:26 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

@village fool. Thank you for bringing up that issue and linking that earlier thread.

It is very enlightening to reconsider those events in light of what we know now about Winston.

June 3, District receives notice of OCR Title IX investigation of Paly
June 5, teacher comes forward with complaint about sexual harassment by Winston at Paly
June 6, teacher meets with Charles Young regarding complaint
June 7 teacher meets with Scott Bowers regarding complaint
June 7, Board vice president Barbara Mitchell sends email to district lawyer asking what can be done to forestall any "expansive federal requests for information or investigations, and/or protections from subsequently discovered 'violations' unrelated to the complaint, or when there is no complaint at all?"
June 12, Winston is informed by Bowers that he is under investigation
June 13 Winston resigns
June 13, District asks OCR to reconsider opening the compliance review
August 15, Winston receives 45/90 notice for sexual harassment
September 30, District again asks OCR to abandon its investigation

The timing and the knowledge of what was happening behind the scenes regarding Winston raises serious questions. Is Mitchell referring to the Winston matter when she asked the district lawyers what can be done to protect the district from "subsequently discovered violations" that were unrelated to the original purpose of the complaint?

This was originally interpreted by some members of the community as being related to Mitchell's libertarian and anti-government views. It was thought to be simply evidence that she distrusted the federal government.

But it now seems far more likely that Mitchell just wanted to know whether it would be legitimate to somehow try to prevent OCR from finding out about Phil, and to prevent OCR from investigating that situation if it discovered it? A question about that is raised by the timing of these events, certainly.

We really need transparency and the sooner the better.


Posted by Bill Johnson, publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Apr 15, 2014 at 10:40 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

@183, you're not going to find those exact words, since moderators usually simply remove problematic comments with a simple "portion removed." You're going to need to look through the various posts to see that there are lots of items that have been removed from those posting on both sides of this issue.

In the example you give, which is one of the mildest of the allegations made against Mr. Winston, you fail to explain that you are quoting Winston's explanation of his comments in a letter he submitted after receiving the district's disciplinary notice. You are certainly entitled to accept his version if you'd like on this or any of the other allegation, but the district official in charge of the investigation, Scott Bowers, stated that his investigation substantiated the complainant's allegations, and that's what the article referenced.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2014 at 12:03 am

village fool is a registered user.

@JLS mom of 2 - Thank you for your detailed response!

As far as I recall, the info about PAUSD Board's secret meetings became known to the public back in July totally coincidentally.

"Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action." - Ian Fleming





Posted by Those 183 Votes, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 16, 2014 at 8:22 am

Those 183 Votes is a registered user.

Bob, this really is simple. You have used two types of editing in this thread:

[Portion removed.] for whatever reason
[portion removed due to misstatement of facts] used exclusively for posters in the support camp

This is a clear show of editorial bias. By your editing, you've chosen only to accuse those in the support camp of "misstatement of facts".

Time to get your house in order.


Posted by frustrated mom, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 16, 2014 at 8:29 am

frustrated mom is a registered user.

Could things get any worst in our famous PAUSD/Skelly? I really hope not.


Posted by JLS mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 16, 2014 at 8:34 am

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

@183 votes

Do you really think that this is what's important? Whether it says "portion removed" or "portion removed for misstatements"? The principal of Paly was disciplined for sexual harassment, the public was misled into thinking that it was for health reasons, he was put in the classroom, Kevin Skelly praised him for being "great with kids" -- the lawyer and Skelly spun the public by telling them that the law forced the district to put him in the classroom when actually he could have been dismissed, and Phil Winston commented on a student by saying he had a "black dong."

Do you really think that after BLACK DONG the most important thing to talk about is how your [portion removed] post was edited? [Portion removed.]


Posted by Those 183 Votes, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 16, 2014 at 8:53 am

Those 183 Votes is a registered user.

Yes, the question of bias in a local paper is an important topic. If the paper has an agenda then readers need to know about it.

I'm happy to entertain other explanations for the Weekly's, let's be nice and call it "inconsistent editing", but nothing else has been forthcoming.


Posted by hr, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 16, 2014 at 9:41 am

hr is a registered user.

JLS Mother of 2. Are you saying that a health issue could not be related to comments made? Is it possible that there are health issues which the district feels do not need to be disclosed? Certainly working for the public in a high pressure district could lead to physical as well as mental health issues. I'm not Mr. Winston or his doctor, so I do not know the facts as to the health reasons, neither do you.


Posted by Perspectives, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2014 at 9:45 am

Perspectives is a registered user.

Deep breath. The paranoia runs rampant here! With all of these accusations of journalists stacking the deck and running amuck to American values in journalism, I took a look again at the posts. For the record (irony intended), the Weekly has NOT only called out "supporters" on misstating facts. Take a look.

To keep it real, there aren't that many posters being censored for that issue in the first place. If you search the posts, you'll find that most of the hits on the phrase are from people talking about the phrase and edits originally being made! Mountain out of molehill at this point.

Most importantly: So, what are all of these facts that contradict the public record? The facts that people, who feel Mr. Winston should be re-instated into child supervisory roles inside the classroom, feel need to be exposed? I've kind of only heard some nice comments about how some people know him and think he's a nice person and their child personally had a good experience and he did some great things at Paly and he has a family. (All true perhaps, but not AT ALL the issue, and clearly not part of a facts conversation).

What I'd believe from some of these posts is that the Weekly just keeps deliberately deleting things anytime someone who supports Mr. Winston in the classroom tries to post something germane in his favor. Seriously?

Maybe try phrasing your facts in the form of a question. Or with an "I wonder" type of preface to avoid censorship. At least then you'd still be doing your proper civic duty to share with the rest of us the real truth. (I'm actually only half being sarcastic... there is part of me that honestly would love to know what the public records have falsified).


Posted by JLS mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 16, 2014 at 9:46 am

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

Yup I am exactly saying that a bacterial infection did not cause Phil to say "black dong" "pussy" or " boobs." I am also saying that a bacteria did not cause him to say "don't you want to know about vaginas?" Nor did it make him give unwelcome back rubs to a staff member. I'm planting the flag.


Posted by Roger Dodger, a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2014 at 10:09 am

Roger Dodger is a registered user.

Here's a great link for people to listen to what kind of damage can be done by people getting hysterical in a rumor mill: Web Link


Posted by Those 183 Votes, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 16, 2014 at 10:22 am

Those 183 Votes is a registered user.

@Perspectives, you are correct. The Weekly has only now removed their editorial comments against supporters where they claimed supporters were posting "[misstatement of facts]".


Posted by Ashamedof PaloAlto, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2014 at 10:58 am

Ashamedof PaloAlto is a registered user.

So now an employees medical records are public information? The employees of Palo Alto should be very worried. Who's next?
How does JLS possess confidential information and feels it is her right to publish it?


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Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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