News

Editorial: A sadly misguided board

Defiant school board goes public with its strategy of resistance, hatched a year ago

For more than two years, the Palo Alto school board has been very intentional in keeping everything about its dealings with the federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR) a secret.

Back in early 2012, we now know, the board and its lawyers were so confident they chose to fight OCR over the district's handling of a severe bullying case rather than reach an agreement prior to the conclusion of the investigation, a procedural option that would have spared the district harmful and embarrassing findings of fact.

That decision turned out to be a costly and fateful one, financially and otherwise. It led to huge legal expenses and findings that the district had violated the student's civil rights. All of these consequences were avoidable had the district acknowledged mistakes and worked cooperatively with OCR instead of resisting.

None of this would have ever been known to the public were it not for the student's family releasing the documents, because Superintendent Kevin Skelly chose not to tell the board or public about the agreement or the findings.

When the story broke in February 2013, a stunned board made promises of future public briefings and asked the public for patience while it gathered needed information. No such briefings were ever held. Nor did the board heed advice to initiate a neutral and independent inquiry, a move that could have informed the board and public about both the district's and OCR's actions and behavior.

Instead, the board retreated into numerous closed-session discussions and meetings with lawyers where strategies for challenging OCR's legal authority were developed, and a decision was made to try and re-open the case and obtain investigators' notes, documents and other evidence on which OCR relied in reaching its conclusions.

Not a word about this, or the costs involved, was shared with the public, except a mistakenly released email last June when board Vice President Barb Mitchell expressed her view that the OCR was "strong arming policy 'agreements' at the school district" and asked questions about what legal means the district might have to counter it.

Throughout the last 18 months, the district has refused to release any of its correspondence with OCR regarding their disagreements and concerns. Selective letters finally made public last week show the district waited months to raise objections to the OCR's findings in the initial case.

In what little they have said, in public and private, board members and Superintendent Kevin Skelly have instead questioned the motives and veracity of complainants, other individuals in the community, the media and now OCR.

They allege the Office for Civil Rights has been "purposefully confrontational and disruptive," causing damage to the district's reputation and morale and leading to distortion or misinterpretation of the facts by the public and media.

There is great irony in the district's complaints about OCR, because the district's own practices suffer from the very same problems.

The district protests delays in responses to public-records requests while its own responses to similar requests have extended for months, well past legal timelines. It complains of the lack of email responses from OCR while one of the most common complaints from families is the district's failure to respond to emails. It objects to gaps or ambiguities in OCR processes while the district has not had legally compliant policies and clear procedures for parents and administrators until being forced to develop them by OCR.

We don't question the sincerity of school board members in raising their concerns about OCR, but their energy and the district's financial resources are being squandered by this tactic. And it will simply prove to be ineffective, as it has been for more than a year. Our focus should be on improving our schools and constructively moving forward, not trying to reform a federal law-enforcement agency.

The hard costs of the district's actions are staggering. In 2013, more than $300,000 was paid to the law firm representing the district in special education and OCR matters, three times what was spent in 2012, which itself was a record-breaking year. The district now estimates that 2014 costs may very well top 2013.

It is especially hard to fathom why, on the eve of welcoming a highly accomplished and eager new superintendent, the board would choose to launch a public attack on actions by OCR that took place over a year ago in a case that is now essentially closed. (Glenn "Max" McGee told us that he was informed, but not consulted, on Monday night about the board's intended action.)

Welcome to Palo Alto, Dr. McGee. To say you have a little clean-up to do is an understatement, but it's safe to say that right now 100 percent of the community is rooting for you. We desperately need some fresh eyes and new leadership in this great school district.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 6, 2014 at 9:33 am

"In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made
School Boards."
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

Eternally true.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Who's in charge?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 6, 2014 at 10:31 am

From watching the board and reading materials, it's clear that Barb Mitchell has been the leader of this board for a long while. She's so strong and effective, and they're so compliant, that the other board members don't seem to recognize they've been led down an ideological path contrary to their own core values. We can only hope that the new superintendent and new board members will return PAUSD to the progressive values that have long dominated its actions.
I was glad to hear that Dauber spoke up in opposition to this very wrongheaded and counterproductive resolution. However, the other two announced board candidates were very conspicuous by their silence. If all three candidates had taken a clear public position in opposition, the board majority might have reconsidered recklessly driving us over this cliff. If the other two candidates won't speak up on such a consequential action, can we assume that they will exercise the strength and skills to govern effectively?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dpal be'u
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 6, 2014 at 10:59 am

It is sadly ironic that that this editorial criticizes the board for the same mistakes as the OCR but believes the board is wrong to criticize the OCR.

You'd think a newspaper knew more about objectivity.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 6, 2014 at 11:23 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"this editorial criticizes the board for the same mistakes as the OCR"

Wrong, reread the editorial. It never buys into the school board's complaints about the OCR but simply acknowledges that the "There is great irony in the district's complaints about OCR, because the district's own practices suffer from the very same problems."

Perhaps the posters needs to retake Freshman English.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dpal be'u
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 6, 2014 at 11:27 am

"It never buys into the school board's complaints about the OCR"

Doubly ironic that the Weekly criticizes the board even though it has never investigated the complaints the board has of the OCR. Not once has it questioned the OCR's handling of the investigations. Not once has it asked the OCR why investigations have been initiated with no plaintiff. Not once has it asked why the OCR has chosen to deny FOIA requests.

Perhaps Mr. Carpenter shares the Weekly's belief the OCR can do no wrong.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 6, 2014 at 11:32 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Perhaps Mr. Carpenter shares the Weekly's belief the OCR can do no wrong."

Again the poster show her lack of reading comprehension - neither I nor the Weekly stated that the OCR can do no wrong.

In fact I previously posted:

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 4, 2014 at 4:52 pm
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
IF the PAUSD Board were
1 - smart
2 - really believed that the OCR had acted inappropriately
3 - understood how the federal government works
4 - understood how the federal government is organized
5 - had good legal advice

then they would have simply sent a one page letter to Michael E. Horowitz who is the Inspector General for the Department of Justice (DOJ) raising their concerns about the OCR.

And then they could have gotten back to their real job of providing oversight for the school district."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2014 at 11:32 am

This is an absolutely outstanding editorial.

The only disagreement I have with it is this sentence: "We don't question the sincerity of school board members in raising their concerns about OCR."

I am sure my esteemed colleague Mr. Johnson will forgive me if I say that the public has no basis on which to feel assured of the sincerity of its representatives. They have not given us, nor you, any basis for that belief because they have conducted their business in secret for the past 2 years. In those secret meetings one imagines, the sincerity of their beliefs has emerged. One glimpses the sincerity of Ms. Mitchell's beliefs in her secret, accidentally released email.

At the meeting the board members mouthed many words of support for OCR and also their intention to work cooperatively with OCR. The public has heard those words before and has no reason to believe them and every reason to doubt them.

I have no doubt that my esteemed colleague was trying mightily to say something kind about the school board members, or to credit them for some small virtue as is a common expression in this type of writing. In this case, they don't deserve that courtesy. They deserve no credit at all, and certainly not for "sincerity."

But this is a quibble and the editorial is a good one.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Betsy Bechtel
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 6, 2014 at 11:43 am

Excellent editorial.

I am very concerned about the Palo Alto Unified School Board's most recent action.

It is time for change.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Betsy Bechtel
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2014 at 11:45 am

I am a resident of Old Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dpal be'u
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 6, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Mr Carpenter, that is the purpose of the resolution. To enable the district to challenge the OCR. Did you not read it?

With that information, your post now reads:

"The PAUSD Board is
1 - smart
2 - really believes that the OCR had acted inappropriately
3 - understands how the federal government works
4 - understands how the federal government is organized
5 - has good legal advice

And can now sent a one page letter to Michael E. Horowitz who is the Inspector General for the Department of Justice (DOJ) raising their concerns about the OCR.

With that done, they can get back to their real job of providing oversight for the school district."

It's good that we can now agree.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Mr Burke - I think I speak for many of us. We are all waiting to hear you opine about the lack of leadership and transparency from the Stanford administration about the culture of rape and fear on campus just as you have described at Paly. Thank you. Maybe your colleague, Mr. Johnson, (do you work together?) could write an editorial on that, too.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 6, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Mr Carpenter, that is the purpose of the resolution. To enable the district to challenge the OCR. Did you not read it? "

I read it carefully and the districts response clearly demonstrates that, even if you accept their beliefs about the OCR's actions, they do not understand how the federal government works and they do not understand how the federal government is organized and that they do not have good legal advice.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Edmund Burke,

"At the meeting the board members mouthed many words of support for OCR and also their intention to work cooperatively with OCR. "

If the Board is representing the PAUSD community (teachers, staff, parents, students), this statement is generally true. The personal initiatives of some board members will forever be questioned for lack of transparency. The new Superintendent needs to tattoo this word somewhere. Transparency.

WIthout divulging personal details of students, you can be transparent, honest, forthcoming, and set about correcting, improving where necessary.

Editor's comment

"There is great irony in the district's complaints about OCR, because the district's own practices suffer from the very same problems."

Irrespective of how things go with OCR, the district has put the schools in a position where they need to be hyper responsive to problems that are raised at their sites. No more taking a year to write a policy, or cause drama, theater, and playing victim without delivering solutions to problems.

This being said, Edmund Burke, I think the OCR is not going about helping solve the problem in the best way possible. Theater is part of their strategy to call attention to problems, but theater can be destructive and unnecessary.

The Board is courageous to point out the obvious, and from a separate thread, an example of what is really theatrical is your insistence that OCR needs student statements to prove PAUSD guilt.

This is completely inappropriate and if this is along the lines of what was once mentioned as a "tradition" to use children to make political points, this should be restricted given that there are many other ways to achieve the common goals here. Common goals.

So, my question to you Edmund is the following:

What if the culture at Paly is not a "rape culture" and what if 99.9% of the students never knew the slut shaming victim, and what if the dating violence incident at Gunn was largely an isolated incident. Why do you need to ask 14 year old girls how they feel about streaking, when you know the answer.

Nobody is making a case for streaking, the Administration is doing something about it. What does OCR need to do, to achieve common goals?

The Editorial fails to mention how the bureaucratic process hurst students because of the serious disruptions, and also wants to use students to further punish their school.

I disagree that this is a good Editorial. It's a very narrow view of what has been happening.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 6, 2014 at 12:13 pm

I have no dog in this fight - but I have to say to Mr. Carpenter, that he should know (as a politician and/or public servant) that there are better (and more intelligent) ways to get your point across without demeaning others.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 6, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Please explain why it is "demeaning" to point out that posters have not read or do not understand the editorial upon which they are commenting?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Barbara Slone
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 6, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Thank you Weekly for this great editorial and thank you Betsy Bechtel and others that are willing to come out and call a spade a spade.

It has been time for change for a long time.

I am hoping that with the arrival of Max McGee as the new superintendent we can start with a clean slate and move forward in an open and transparent way.

Edmund Burke, I couldn't agree with you more about lack of sincerity. Thanks for providing us with an endless supply of information which it appears is very well researched!

Thanks to Ken Dauber and others who are willing to stand up to this "bunkered board" and point out where we can improve.

Truly, "We Can Do Better Palo Alto". I really like that "brand" more and more as lately I have gotten to the point of feeling that "We Can't Do Any Worse Palo Alto".

I believe that the performance last week of the Board as regards the OCR was the final nail in the coffin. This regime is dead. It is time to break new ground and forge ahead for the true betterment of our district across the board.

I am a native Palo Altan and grew up here in a time when honesty, integrity and values were rigorously adhered to.

Change is in the winds (it better be or we are in even bigger trouble!).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dpal be'u
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 6, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Mr. Carpenter, here is the link to the resolution: Web Link

It is short, only 2 pages, so you should be able to manage it. If you're having problems, I'll draw your attention to what is being resolved:

"NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education will expand its pursuit of a just review and remedy of substantial OCR errors in case no. 09-11-1337 and of fair, prompt, and reviewable investigation practices through correspondence and meetings with elected representatives and education coalition affiliates. "

Making it even clearer, it states that the PAUSD "may now expand its pursuit of a just review." This is a very important point for without it, the board to send cannot send a letter to Michael E. Horowitz.

Hopefully you now understand the importance of this resolution and how it dovetails with what you proposed, even if the editorial is beyond you.


Good Luck!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 6, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Thanks for the link so that everybody can read the ENTIRE resolution and make their own decision. It is very revealing about the mindset of the board.

No such resolution would have been necessary had the board simply approved a letter of concern to the Inspector General of the Department of Justice.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 6, 2014 at 1:41 pm

"No such resolution would have been necessary had the board simply approved a letter of concern to the Inspector General of the Department of Justice."

True, but consider the relative motivations. Sticking a big resolution in OCR's face is a lot more fun and ego-building.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PAUSD Resident
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 6, 2014 at 2:23 pm

As per usual, the editorial in the Weekly pretends that it has not played an active role in magnifying the role of OCR. In the spirit of transparency, perhaps the Weekly could:

1. Point out the relationship between the Weekly's editorial board, the individual(s) posting as "Edmund Burke", and certain previous and presumably future candidates for school board office?

2. Indicate and release all communications that the Weekly has had with the Office of Civil Rights, including those possibly requesting that OCR take action?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2014 at 2:35 pm

IMHO, this school board is a disgrace to our community.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tom Harkin
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 6, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Over the past years I have seen a pattern of this district's disregard either by intention or omission to follow state and federal laws.

According to the Santa Clara District Attorney's office PAUSD did in fact violate the Brown Act as reported by the Weekly Editor not in an editorial but in discreet comments on paonline:

"The law does not allow members of a governing body to utilize emails to convey their thoughts on an issue to their chief administrator (or each other) and allow him to essentially "poll" the body, all without the public having any idea of what's going on. As a result of our objection to the practice of these confidential emails, while the board did not believe it had done anything to violate the law, it agreed to make future emails public. In addition, at our request, the District Attorney's office reviewed several of the emails and advised us that there had been one clear violation and that other emails were probably not advisable but also probably not illegal."
Web Link

PAUSD illegally charged for summer school fees for more than a decade. The CA Dept of Education issued Fiscal Management Advisory 97-02 to all school districts in October 1997. Web Link

"III. C. A tuition fee or charge[may not be levied] as a condition of enrollment in any class or course of instruction, including a fee for attendance in a summer (see Section V below) or, vacation school, a registration fee, a fee for a catalog of courses, a fee for an examination in a subject, a late registration or program change fee, a fee for the issuance of a diploma or certificate, or a charge for lodging."

Similarly the district chose to ignore the legal advice opined in the OCR's Dear Colleague Letter dated April 4, 2011 regarding Title IX compliance Web Link and the Dear Colleague Letter dated October 26, 2010 regarding bullying of protected classes Web Link
We could have ignored these letters if we had just kept up to date with policy updates recommended and provided by the CSBA of which we are a subscribing member. Remember when our board said that they would provide a model bullying policy for all school districts. Now we know that in private they fought with OCR. Ultimately they approved the standard CSBA template except they stripped it of the recommended provision to include non-protected classes.

Finally if our district had read the letter regarding Title IX which advised districts to use the manual provided for school administrators in 2001 Web Link
we might have avoided the Title IX compliance review. The manual states:
"[I]f, because of the lack of a policy or procedure specifically addressing sexual harassment, students are unaware of what kind of conduct constitutes sexual harassment or that such conduct is prohibited sex discrimination, a school's general policy and procedures relating to sex discrimination complaints will not be considered effective."
In reading the Verde article it is apparent to me that students were not aware that the peer harassment of the victims was a violation of district policy. It makes sense to me that the OCR would want to interview students about this.

In February 2014 eight months after OCR opened the title IX compliance review the following section, copied verbatim from the CSBA template, was added to the district's Sexual Harassment Policy:

"The Superintendent or designee shall ensure that all District students receive age-appropriate
instruction and information on sexual harassment. Such instruction and information shall
include:

1. What acts and behavior constitute sexual harassment, including the fact that sexual
harassment could occur between people of the same sex and could involve sexual violence
2. A clear message that students do not have to endure sexual harassment
3. Encouragement to report observed instances of sexual harassment, even where the victim of the harassment has not complained 4. Information about the District's procedure for investigating complaints and the person(s) to
whom a report of sexual harassment should be made
5. Information about the rights of students and parents/guardians to file a criminal complaint, as applicable "

If our board and administrators had implemented these recommended policies in a timely fashion we would have had policies, procedures and training in place to protect our children from harassment and likely avoided the OCR investigations and compliance reviews. The board's claim that this resolution is to improve OCR and help other districts is disingenuous. This is about bruised egos. You were out of compliance. You got caught. Fix it and move on.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2014 at 2:43 pm

curmudgeon,

None of this is "fun."

Have the usual posters on these threads noticed that it's the same people, Carpenter included, that bang, bang, bang, at the board and PAUSD? And the amount of new opinions that surface is smaller and smaller all the time?

This is a HUGE district, thousands could post here anonymously to say something.

This is not "fun" for anybody and if you don't understand that, it's because you are of the same mind of Edmund Burke, that the Editorial is "absolutely outstanding."

I could be wrong, I can't speak for all of Palo Alto, but there is a much better way to do this, and not necessarily as "we can do better" PA, but as in there must be a better way.

Without the bitterness, and without using kids to make political points. PAUSD and OCR have plenty to keep themselves busy with their respective document nightmares. I think they can work anything out, while respecting the schools, staff, and students.

It's really not "fun" until we can stop the theater.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Who's in charge?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 6, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Tom,
Thanks for such a clear, factual summary of the context surrounding these issues. Unfortunately, the board and superintendent appear to have been led by a consistent mindset of pursuing as much district autonomy as possible from state and federal regulations, and as much site autonomy as possible from district leadership and oversight.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Betsy fan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 6, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Betsy Bechtel (comment above) is a current trustee of the Foothill-De Anza community college district, a former president of that board, and a former mayor and city council member in Palo Alto.

Thanks Betsy, for stepping forward.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 6, 2014 at 3:56 pm

[Portion removed.]

I think we are fundamentally in vehement argumentative agreement. It is painful to watch the school board's antics. Their silly nonsense is painful for the community and everyone in the schools who are striving to provide and receive the highest possible education.

It is no fun for anyone but themselves and their collective ego. Sadly, that ego seems to trump everything else.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2014 at 3:56 pm

"If our board and administrators had implemented these recommended policies in a timely fashion we would have had policies, procedures and training in place to protect our children from harassment and likely avoided the OCR investigations and compliance reviews. "

Yep, now that we have a policies, procedures, and training in place, bullying and harassment will stop. I remember that working when we all had training in our workplaces on harassment. It stopped immediately!

[Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jun 6, 2014 at 4:47 pm

I would give the resolution a grade of F in English Composition.

Why can't the board write a concise document listing point-by-point list of specific issues that they want fixed by OCR.

This document is just a bunch of politicians bloviating to no practical purpose.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by More than that
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 6, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Not only misguided, but undereducated, misinformed, unmotivated, underworked, over privileged. [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2014 at 5:23 pm



Wondering - If the new Superintendent agrees with the resolution, and asks OCR the same reasonable questions about student interviews, what would the top posters here think?



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 6, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"If the new Superintendent agrees with the resolution, and asks OCR the same reasonable questions about student interviews, what would the top posters here think?"

First, I doubt that he would agree with the resolution. But if he did then I would think that he is the wrong person for the job. What the board needs is a dose of adult supervision.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Peter Carpenter,

"First, I doubt that he would agree with the resolution. But if he did then I would think that he is the wrong person for the job. What the board needs is a dose of adult supervision."

I don't think he needs to agree to the resolution, it's done.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 6, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by so? Ed Burke?
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2014 at 6:49 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Laura's Mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 6, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Theater – "What if the culture at Paly is not a "rape culture" and what if 99.9% of the students never knew the slut shaming victim, and what if the dating violence incident at Gunn was largely an isolated incident."

I can't speak to Paly, but the dating violence incident at Gunn is definitely not an isolated incident. This year alone, I know of at least 1 other female student who had to get a restraining order against an ex-boyfriend. And everyone at Gunn knows about the senior male student who was expelled in March for spreading naked photos (possibly photo-shopped) of other female students. He was arrested on campus, along with one of our very own security guards who was fired. It's no secret. After the boys arrest, I know personally of at least 1 girl who could not wait to talk to the police to share her story of this boy's inappropriate interactions with her. I doubt she was alone in her experience and she wanted her story heard. Sure, I agree that the majority of students are probably not victims, but we can't be so naďve as to think there aren't more. Many are just too ashamed to come forward publicly.

Parent – I assume you are being sarcastic with your statement "Yep, now that we have a policies, procedures, and training in place, bullying and harassment will stop. I remember that working when we all had training in our workplaces on harassment. It stopped immediately!"

I agree with your sarcasm. I maintain in my daughter's case that I believe there were already proper policies in place. Gunn's own handbook clearly states acceptable options for these situations. However, they chose to ignore their policies and instead invented every excuse under the sun to do nothing instead.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by kung of Atherton
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 6, 2014 at 7:37 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 6, 2014 at 7:49 pm

I am really fed up with all the second guessing going on here.
Has anyone noticed that not one, not one PAUSD educator has commented.
The reason is simple , they are disgusted.
Lets do this, fire the board, fire all teachers and staff and let the state run our schools. Oh yeah 49th out of 50.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nadir yet .
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2014 at 9:11 pm

Can this get any worse?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by contrarian
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2014 at 9:25 pm

"Wondering - If the new Superintendent agrees with the resolution, and asks OCR the same reasonable questions about student interviews, what would the top posters here think?"

What if we put the "if ... what would" theater on hold and deal with reality as it unfolds?

Um?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr. Ed.
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 6, 2014 at 9:34 pm

"Has anyone noticed that not one, not one PAUSD educator has commented.
The reason is simple , they are disgusted."

Yes, they are disgusted with the Weekly. They no longer talk to the Weekly. They no longer read the forums. They only talk to the Post now. The Weekly has staked out it's ground.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nadir yet .
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2014 at 9:54 pm

Thank you Tabitha Hurley for getting Kevin Skelly and Charles Young to finally mention what's "best for our students." And then Skelly mentioned Tabitha. And the "unrelenting" Weekly's "sensationalism," which must mean the Weekly ignoring the principals' support of the board's fight against OCR, or "great appreciation" as he calls it. There you go, Weekly. All is well in PAUSD.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2014 at 9:56 pm

Laura's mom,

"I agree that the majority of students are probably not victims, but we can't be so naďve as to think there aren't more. Many are just too ashamed to come forward publicly."

To be fair, the issues should be which cases were not resolved appropriately. We do not know of the countless times the schools have helped students. If schools kept records their averages would not look so bad. The management issues are supposedly being corrected, and families will not feel they need to file complaints with the federal government, but of course should, if PAUSD fails. Of the two open OCR cases, one was not filed by a parent or student.

For the open case not filed by a parent or student, what appears to be an issue are OCR investigative needs. If what Burke says is true, the only way to find fault is by getting student statements (about what it's like for a 14 year old girl to see a streaker, how Winston behaved, and looking for a rape culture), and conduct this in group interviews, I would say spare the students. What does OCR expect to find other than what they already know.

At Paly, this year's 9th grade class has not seen streakers, the kids who were 14 when the streakers passed are now Juniors. The kids who were in the Verde articles are college Sophomores. The recent graduating class chose to stop the streaking "tradition" and everybody else could probably write a dissertation about sexual harassment after having lived through the demise of their former Principal. There is not a household that has not had to deal with this subject.

Is a federal interrogation of students really necessary?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Laura's Mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 6, 2014 at 11:02 pm

Theater – I absolutely agree that it is fair to say that only the cases which were not resolved appropriately should be criticized. I did not mean to insinuate that no cases are ever resolved appropriately. I was just commenting on your question regarding whether or not this violence issue at Gunn was the only one this year. Your question did not qualify that it was the only one not handled correctly, or maybe I misread it. This incident was not the only harassment/assault issue at Gunn, but you are correct that no one else felt the need to file an OCR complaint, or at least not yet.

However, I do disagree with the assumption that if schools kept records their averages would not look so bad. I know a lot of upset families since elementary school; many have pulled their kids out. But, I admit I do not have all the data so can only go off from what I've seen. And I do not know if the management issues are being corrected as you state they are. I'm hoping with our new leadership that that is the case, but only time will tell. I certainly have not heard of any new policies being implemented for these violence and harassment occurrences… have you?

I don't have a hard time understanding why the OCR would need to interview students. And these are high school students, so I don't think they are traumatized by it; my daughter certainly was not. I don't feel they are being "interrogated", just asked a few questions. If the OCR did not interview the students, people would criticize that they are not doing a thorough investigation.

Finally, you are incorrect about this year's 9th graders not seeing streakers. My friend's daughter started at Paly this year. The first day she saw streakers as I guess it's customary for streaking at orientation. However, my friend was at least pleased that the new principal sent an email right away, apologizing to parents and ensuring that she would not stand for this behavior. I'm not sure how the rest of the year went, but it definitely occurred at the beginning, and it was definitely upsetting to her daughter.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Laura's Mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 6, 2014 at 11:32 pm

Theater – one last comment regarding the senior with the naked photos. The school took action and expelled him which I think was appropriate. However, they allowed him to partake in the graduation ceremony and parties. I personally think that was a big slap in the face to his victims who were also graduating. Maybe the victim's families didn't have enough time or resources to get that decision changed, or maybe they didn't try. I don't know. But if my daughter had been one of those girls, I damn well would have done everything I could to ensure he was not there. Those girls deserved a day to celebrate without his presence to remind them of this awful incident. If someone is expelled, especially for harassing other students, then they should not be allowed back on campus, even for graduation. That's the whole point of expulsion. So I don't think that case was resolved appropriately either.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2014 at 11:42 pm

Laura's mom,

"I certainly have not heard of any new policies being implemented for these violence and harassment occurrences… have you?"

No, I haven't. The new Superintendent will have to respond to that and can prove himself effective right away by fixing this. While I don't think the Board is bad, the structure is scary. Everybody reports to all the chatty opinionated Board members, and they have an opinion about everything. This resolution must have come from the heart.

"you are incorrect about this year's 9th graders not seeing streakers. My friend's daughter started at Paly this year. The first day she saw streakers as I guess it's customary for streaking at orientation."

Forgot about that.


"I don't think they are traumatized by it; my daughter certainly was not. I don't feel they are being "interrogated", just asked a few questions."

I think it depends on the student and their family values, and I disagree that "a few questions" from a federal agency is no big deal. The district appears to have been willing to organize the interviews though, with some previous information and someone from the district present.

It's not an issue of traumatizing a student, it's common sense. The laws allow minors to be interviewed by non-school staff? Can the police do that without reason? It's not high school students, it's minors. Don't parents have a say?

What are the laws? I don't think this is an issue about hiding anything, the kids may even think it's cool, but it's not.

It's not cool to have federal officials talking to kids about anything in the course of a federal investigation. You seem like a nice person, but your personal opinion or mine is probably not the right way to go.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2014 at 11:59 pm

Laura's mom,

"The school took action and expelled him which I think was appropriate. However, they allowed him to partake in the graduation ceremony and parties. "

That is incredible, and it's back to this gourmet service approach to solving problems, which may have been ok in the yesteryear but not anymore.

I get that high school students are vulnerable and you have to take a lot into account before coming down really hard on them, but in this case at least the parties could have been off limits.

As odd as this may be to say, we may be understaffed. A few people handling a lot of big problems.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Laura's Mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 7, 2014 at 7:46 am

Theater – My understanding is that the law does allow minors to be interviewed by non-school staff, at least at the high school level, if they have witnessed an event. I know there have been incidents where Palo Alto Police have been on campus interviewing students about events, although I'm not sure if staff members were also present or not. But I know some parents who have complained about the police as they were not aware until after it happened. And I was told that during the OCR investigation at Terman parents were given advance notice by the OCR and the option to have their child opt out of the interviews. A few opted out, but most did not. However, that is 2nd hand information so please don't hold me to that. I do not know any of those families personally. I do know that during our investigation, they said that they'd obviously like to interview my daughter since it is her case. And they said if she'd like to talk to them in private, without me there, that's fine but not necessary. It was totally up to her.

In my opinion, I don't even like school staff members interviewing my children now without my knowledge. I agree they are minors and parents should be kept informed. I was furious when I found out that Gunn admin talked to my daughter about the harassment and did not even notify me of the harassment.

And you're right… our personal opinions don't really matter, but it seems most people on these posts only have that to share and I think it's ok as long as we don't portray it as anything but. I am clearly not an expert or a lawyer. I'm just a mom trying to protect my children and I can only speak to my experiences.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2014 at 9:12 am

Laura's mom,

Your pointing out how the district doesn't follow its own rules will hopefully help protect other students. I doubt anyone can argue with that, and just to be clear I don't call theater when parents file OCR complaints.

The district is a bit like a grade grubber. They know they deserve the bad grade on something, but they have to argue otherwise, when they could let it go. Unfortunately, they're not just an obsessed high achieving student - they represent the heavy lifting that is done by the schools, parents, students to have what are largely good schools to send kids. Legions of us graduate our children with the same people they went to first grade with. I think the averages are in the favor of the district.

What I call theater is calling this Alabama, and magnifying everything to the point that it is disruptive to many students. Editorials like this which only tell part of the story.

The OCR complaint that was not filed by a parent or by a student deserves scrutiny, and how they OCR is investigating is important. If someone that I didn't know filed a complaint about me and I had to open my house, open my files, give up my children, I'd want to know everything. Or if the police had a hunch I was up to no good, I would also want to know. OCR and PAUSD should be left alone to resolve this, and accountability should be carried out by the stakeholders, not random bloggers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2014 at 9:17 am



Actually if bloggers are so important to some people, it would be good to have a balance of opinions.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Laura's Mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 7, 2014 at 10:16 am

Theater – I agree OCR and PAUSD alone should resolve these complaints. But I wonder why some think that this Paly investigation has been so disruptive to students. Just because the district contends that doesn't mean it's true. I'm not at Paly so am certainly not qualified to state one way or the other. Do you have children there? Have they been interviewed? I agree the way OCR investigates is important, but again, do we even know for sure how they are investigating? We only know what the district is telling us, which isn't much, and I personally have no reason to take their word for anything.

And I disagree that the complaint at Paly deserves more scrutiny just because it was not filed by a parent. If a policeman catches me robbing a bank, without the teller calling it in, I still deserve to be arrested and go to trial. So if the OCR believes it has just cause to investigate, I would think they'd have that right. I believe their just cause was found when Paly publicized their rape culture article on NPR. But again, this is all just my opinion.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2014 at 10:34 am

As the excellent comments from Laura's Mom point out, there are at least 2 ways that the district strikes me as being not credible in its complaints about OCR:

1. The district contends that there is some risk to students from being interviewed by OCR without direct parental consent when such sensitive topics and dating violence or sexual harassment are being discussed. Yet the district has no procedures and no history itself of obtaining or ensuring parental consent or presence when the district interviews students on these specific issues.

"Laura" was interviewed by Trinity Klein about an actual eyewitness report of abuse by her former boyfriend and yet parents were not even notified. That egregious mistake is exactly what has cooked the district's goose in that case. The district failed to even notify parents, let alone obtain their presence or consent, so for the district to come with those unclean hands and demand that OCR not conduct any interviews with students unless and until parents not only are notified but give specific written permission, is just laughable.

In the Paly case, there was no trained sexual assault interviewer who talked to the students who heard or were subject to the specific egregious behaviors of Phil Winston. By all evidence, no trained sexual assault or harassment investigator was hired by the district (although such investigators exist) to come in and meet with the student [portion removed.] Parents were not notified. Parents were not invited to attend the interview of their child with a trained investigator, because none was utilized.

The district investigation of rape culture was nonexistent and the district investigation of Phil was brief, did not include interviews of students, and was pre-empted by his "voluntary" resignation and reassignment as a special education teacher with vulnerable middle school students.

The district's condition for interviews of high school students are outrageous given the district's own performance. The district wants a district official present. That in itself tells you that their motive is to protect themselves, not the students.

The district is not credible. Their resistance to student interviews is merely a stall and delay tactic borrowed from aggressive litigation tactics. If this was litigation it would be seen as a discovery abuse. It is appalling.

To quote former Mayor Bechtel, "time for a change." The fact that the "resolution" was unanimous means any change will have to be decisive and across the board.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by november run in
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 7, 2014 at 10:43 am

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2014 at 10:46 am

2. The district is also not credible when it complains about their being no parent complaint at Paly. This is a frivolous complaint intended to district the public.

The US Department of Education funds the public schools of this nation. As the funder, it has the absolute right and responsibility to protect the public fisc from abuse and from districts that fail to utilize that money appropriately.

The Congress of the United States has determined that such spending is in the General Welfare. The Congress of the United States has delegated to the US Department of Education such authority to ensure that those funds are only granted to programs and activities that do not discriminate on the basis of such factors as race or sex. Under Title IX, schools cannot discriminate on the basis of sex. Sexual assault is a severe form of sex discrimination. Schools must respond promptly and effectively to sex discrimination, including sexual assault.

That is the law. If you do not want to follow the law you have a choice. You can refuse the money. Districts that do not accept federal funding are not subject to OCR's oversight and monitoring. PAUSD can simply give back the federal funds that it receives and then can be free of what it regards as onerous compliance reviews.

The statute authorizing OCR to enforce the civil rights laws duly passed by the United States Congress does not limit that enforcement to specific complaints. OCR has broad enforcement authority and may, on its own initiative, launch a compliance review. Media coverage is one of the ways that OCR may receive information about a compliance issues. Another way that OCR may determine whether a compliance review is justified is by having repeated contacts with the same district that indicate that the district leadership is not committed to enforcing the civil rights laws.
From the perspective of the Congress of the United States, the interest of the United States is in ensuring that its funds are spent correctly.

If Congress wanted to limit OCR's jurisdiction to replying only to specific individual complaints it could do so. It has not done so.

PAUSD is well aware of that fact. PAUSD is raising a frivolous objection that it knows to be frivolous in order to stall, delay, and confuse the public about OCR's proper role and mission.

I am sure that the next thing that will happen is that the school board of our liberal Democratic community will try to enlist the help of Daryl Issa in launching an attack on Obama's Office for Civil Rights. That will be your tax dollars at work.

If you don't agree with that strategy, then it is time for a change.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2014 at 11:04 am

Edmund Burke,

I hope the OCR is aware of all your arguments. If they are, they would hopefully confirm that they do not need to get a group session with students to talk about Winston's ear lobe episode and naughty words during Finals. That is theater, and at the very least poor planning. It does not matter much to me if OCR or PAUSD are at fault for that.

Interview the class of 1975 to get an idea what streaking is like. Interview all the complaints about Winston with those directly involved (provided their parents are ok with it). There should be no shortage of sources or documents to proclaim judgement.

At the end of the day, I'm not sending my kids to school for OCR to take care of them. I trust the people who are in charge. Parents should be encouraged to file OCR complaints if they are hitting a wall, it keeps everyone honest, and when the OCR investigates, they should be as fair to community they are investigating. From your comments, I see the resolution as necessary, and there should be no reason to fear it anyway.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2014 at 11:19 am

"I trust the people who are in charge."

The US Department of Education is the agency that is "in charge." PAUSD is not a sovereign. The children of PAUSD are citizens and residents of the United States, entitled to all the privileges and immunities of US citizenship. The federal government is not a foreign power. It is looking after the interests of all its citizens, as well as the interests of its taxpaying public.

Please see US. Const. Art. I, et seq.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 7, 2014 at 11:34 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I see the resolution as necessary, and there should be no reason to fear it anyway."

There is certainly nothing to "fear" in the resolution but there certainly is cause to be concerned about the mind set of the school board that adopted such a document.

Having to proclaim one's innocence and excellence is seldom a useful strategy:

"WHEREAS, the District community has a distinguished record of exceptional outcomes corresponding to student safety, student learning, student conduct, inclusion, civil rights, and nondiscrimination;"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cassandra
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 7, 2014 at 11:46 am

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2014 at 11:54 am

Peter Carpenter,

You are cherry picking, people can make up their own mind, the resolution link is in the editorial.

Perspective depends on where you stand.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2014 at 12:01 pm



and by "where you stand" I do not mean political party, I mean how close you are to the schools, if you think some of this is theater or not. If you do politics though, it seems that Mitchell is one side, Burke the other. I'm in the middle, and I stand by my belief (misguided according to Burke) that when I send my kids to school, their school officials are in charge until they come home. If they have other issues they know to call 911 and so forth.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Who's in charge?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 7, 2014 at 12:14 pm

@Theater
I read Burke's and your arguments and I don't follow why you continue to miss-construe the purposes of the OCR Title IX review at Paly.
From my understanding, they are trying to determine if there were acts of sexual discrimination that the district did not respond to correctly and whether there are now adequate policies, training and implementation so that we do a reasonable job of preventing and responding to future incidents. Judging from how they handle issues elsewhere, they don't expect that having good systems will prevent all future incidents, only that we have made diligent and thorough efforts. That seems like a reasonable approach.
I sure don't think OCR cares what students thought in 1975 (now that would be "theater).
Also, your hypothetical, "what if 99.9% of the students never knew the slut shaming victim" at Paly, is either severely miss-informed or a deliberate miss-representation and another dismissal of the pain inflicted on the victim. I know that your claim is way off the mark. I hope that you simply didn't know how uninformed you are.
I think if our board and superintendent would focus on corrective actions rather than opposition to the federal government's role in protecting civil rights, we could soon move past these problems. Hopefully, McGee and new board members will lead us away from one self inflicted wound after another.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Edmund Burke wrote--

"The US Department of Education funds the public schools of this nation.
As the funder, it has the absolute right and responsibility to protect
the public fisc from abuse and from districts that fail to utilize that
money appropriately."

While it is true that most schools accept Federal Money, comments like "as the funder" suggests that Burke wants us to believe that all schools in the US are funded by the US Government--which is NOT TRUE!

Web Link
The U.S. Constitution leaves the responsibility for public K-12 education with the states.

The responsibility for K-12 education rests with the states under the Constitution. There is also a compelling national interest in the quality of the nation's public schools. Therefore, the federal government, through the legislative process, provides assistance to the states and schools in an effort to supplement, not supplant, state support. The primary source of federal K-12 support began in 1965 with the enactment of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
---
[Portion removed.]

Yes, the US DoEd does provide some funding for some schools, but it is not the primary funder! Schools have the right to not apply for Federal funds--if they don't want the never-ending entanglements of the Federal government in their business.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Act Up
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 7, 2014 at 12:51 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto voter
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 7, 2014 at 1:15 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cassandra
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2014 at 1:31 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto Voter
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 7, 2014 at 2:01 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cassandra
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2014 at 2:07 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ken Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 7, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Thank you for this editorial.

I believe strongly that the school board's resolution represents the wrong direction for the district. I made that point to the board at its meeting on Tuesday night (see Web Link). Rather than spending staff time and large legal fees on resisting OCR's efforts and on revisiting concluded cases, we should be working to fix the issues that OCR has uncovered -- because that will help all of our students, and particularly our young female, minority, and disabled students.

I've been urging this direction consistently for the last year and a half, including in an op-ed in the Weekly (Web Link) and in at least a dozen statements to the school board. Our school board should be leading the district in an open and transparent process aimed at understanding our shortfalls and fixing them -- not in a series of meetings closed to the public at which board members discuss and implement a policy of resisting OCR's efforts that is just now being unveiled. The recent case at Gunn provides ample demonstration that there is still substantial room for improvement (see Web Link). Students, staff and parents deserve to have their school board focused on how to make the district better.

Had the school board taken this direction, we would understand how it is that our existing policies and procedures were not followed, where there are gaps, and how these problem can be fixed. In fact, I have no doubt we would be well on the way to fixing them, given a chance. Let's switch directions now.

Finally, I don't see any necessity to act on this resolution now. The editorial says that our new superintendent, Dr. McGee, was informed but not consulted about this course of action. Before committing him to implement a policy of conflict with OCR, he should have a chance to weigh in. Based on reporting, he seems sensible and judicious. I hope he will decide to argue for the positive course I've outlined. But in any case, it's unwise not to seek his informed input. There's no urgency to this resolution, as most of it deals with cases that have long been resolved, some in the district's favor. Let's wait to give him a chance to understand the issues and provide the board and the community an informed opinion.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Who's in charge?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 7, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Ken,
Thanks for your thoughtful and constructive comments.
Your final point about the timing of this board action raises a good question. The new superintendent (and new board) will be saddled with the consequences of this action, taken primarily by lame ducks. Once McGee is on board, he will hopefully see that confrontation and obstinateness is not the best course. This raises a question of whether Mitchell and Skelly are acting now to preempt a different direction that McGee and a new board might choose to take. Will all of PAUSD have to bear the consequences actions that appear to be driven by their own hubris rather than the interests of our kids and our schools.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Town Square Moderator
online staff of Palo Alto Online
on Jun 7, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.

Comments characterizing, criticizing or promoting any potential candidates in the November school board race are being removed from this topic. This isn't the time or place, and the few already posted have all been disrespectful or derogatory in tone. There will be ample opportunity to debate the school board campaign and the qualifications of the candidates who ultimately end up running.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 7, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Hopefully McGee will ask the board to rescind this resolution in order to give him the opportunity to work constructively on these issues both internally and with OCR.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Serena
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2014 at 4:34 pm

I am wondering how many people on this thread actually read the memo from the school board detailing the jaw-dropping behavior of the OCR and the issues with the OCR process: failure by OCR to act when the district proved that an email in evidence had been doctored, failure by OCR to make a correction when its finding that the district had "failed to act" to protect a victim neglected to state that the district had SUSPENDED the alleged offending student (oops), failure of OCR to meet legally-mandated requirements and timelines, and on and on. Clearly, the combination of over-zealous but young and inexperienced OCR staff, the inability/unwillingness of OCR staff to actually read the 1,500+ pages of documents they required, and the knowledge by OCR that the district was bound by privacy requirements that would prevent the OCRs conduct from coming to light created a the mess we are currently in.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 7, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Serena - the issues that you raise are very appropriate to bring to the attention of the Inspector General of the Dept of Justice. However they are not issues that warrant the board getting into a knife fight with OCR when the board only has little stick.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2014 at 5:41 pm

who's in charge,

"I don't follow why you continue to miss-construe the purposes of the OCR Title IX review at Paly. "

You miss-construe my comments, and if I had to shell out opinions outside this virtual blog world, I would fee l the need for legal training to not feel accused of such a thing as miss-construing Title IX. But maybe I am, and if there is a lawyer, please let me know if I am.

I have been very clear (maybe you just missed that part of my comments) about not giving anyone a pass on acknowledging and correcting mistakes. I even called the district grade grubbers.

I have said parents and students should be encouraged to file OCR complaints if they hit a wall, and to out any ongoing lapses. If the OCR has found faults, I think it keeps everyone honest to make improvements.

To be honest, I don't know enough about Title IX to know how a case is made, but I personally believe that streaking, and Winston, are not in the same order as rape and slut shaming. The pain and violence of the latter are not anywhere near the other two.

My point is twofold. Group interviewing students who may involved in streaking, and Winston is an undue ask from students. To me it's theater, and worst, I feel it uses students. Burke wanting to know how a 14 year old feels about seeing a streaker for the first time?. I do think the class of 1975 would say nothing different than a current 14 year old.

A group chat with students during finals about rape, as they relate to the Verde articles with Federal investigators? I can only say I have a really bad reaction to that, and you can read back anything I have said repeating myself about this point. I have not been convinced otherwise. I would not give parental consent to that.

OCR and PAUSD are two public agencies in dispute about a series of facts and methods regarding past and ongoing investigations. I encourage everyone to not use the students or the schools to make a case one way or the other.

Ken Dauber,

I agree with what you say about fixing procedures, and you have an opportunity to make this about constructive steps for the future. Given the daunting details about every word that is said, and accusations flying around, it seems the ship has sailed about acting on the resolution. I hope for good procedures about how student statements are obtained and used, and if the resolution helps with that, good. Saddling the new Superintendent to take sides with OCR or the board that hired him is unnecessary.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by my vote
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jun 7, 2014 at 10:50 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Learned the Hard Way or Wouldn't Have Believed it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2014 at 11:01 pm

Serena - My family's actual experience with Palo Alto was horrible to the point of traumatizing, beyond petty vindictive bureaucrat stuff. We would have left if we could have afforded private. We love the schools and think teachers are incredibly good here and families incredible, too. Many of the people we dealt with at district level were not honest or honorable, not focused on student well-being as the priority, not incredibly competent, hyper-focused on their own convenience rather than thinking of how they can serve families, and way too legalistic and political in all the worst office bureaucrat ways. The OCR isnt warm and fuzzy to the parents who complain, either, but parents have little power in either arena. In this case, in this time, OCR were the good guys and PAUSD administrators the ones who, in a fair world, would be shown the door. (I think Hieronymous Bosch had such inspiration as this.) Certain people who almost certainly want to ensure the new administrator has no idea the kind of toxic personalities he inherits, want to be sure they discredit the OCR, too, in addition to families, the newspaper, and anyone else they may have a score to settle with. Yes, that's the kind of people we have in this district. Based on my experience, I think this whole direction is beyond sad, someone's petty revenge is wrapped up in it. OCR got the district to finally start doing its job, and here they want to fight that with school money. Holy crap.

I hope the new super is as good as he sounds. The parents are pussycats. They may have had to fight to deal with the snakes in the district office, but you bring in your own people and clean out the barn, and you'll see what I mean about pussycats - uber smart, accomplished pussycats who donate an extraordinary amount of time and money, too.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2014 at 8:45 am

Learned the hard way,

"you bring in your own people and clean out the barn, and you'll see what I mean about pussycats - uber smart, accomplished pussycats who donate an extraordinary amount of time and money, too."

I'm sorry about the situation you encountered and it's good to hear that you still feel positive about the schools.

Your comment about pussycat parents though does not ring true to me. Statistically and from collective experience parents are mostly good, but there is a percentage who can be impossible. Having witnessed a really bad situation where a parent caused unnecessary drama to a brand new teacher, I know there are some hellish parents. The problem was not the teacher, and if you knew what the problems were, you would not be making these generalizations about pussycat parents.

I do agree that the new Superintendent needs to take the hardest and coldest look at the district office, and that includes the board. I cannot imagine having to lead an organization having to bend my ear to five chatty people. We need leadership pretty bad.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2014 at 10:46 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Saddling the new Superintendent to take sides with OCR or the board that hired him is unnecessary."

I agree and that is why I hope that the new superintendent will ask the board to rescind their confrontational OCR resolution and let him do his job both internally and with respect to developing a collaborative relationship with the OCR.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2014 at 10:57 am

I agree with Peter Carpenter. However, I believe it is asking a lot of Mr. McGee to contradict his board before his first day of employment. It is another sign of this board's poor management and ideological obsession with the Obama OCR department that it would place its new Superintendent into this difficult bind.

For Ms. Mitchell and Mr. Tom and the rest of this board, it is more important to pass a resolution of secession than it is to wait and let cooler heads prevail. They are pre-committing our new Superintendent to their misguided war with Obama in order to force him to either disagree with them or be in a confrontation with the feds on his first day.

[Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2014 at 11:16 am

Peter Carpenter,

" let him do his job both internally and with respect to developing a collaborative relationship with the OCR. "

That can be done with or without the resolution. His job is anyway to make sure investigations are done appropriately, and that follow up on doctored documents is done. If OCR and PAUSD work it out, there is no need to keep talking about this. Will they ever have the chance to do that without all these requests?

LOL Peter, "rescind" the resolution


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2014 at 11:32 am

Edmund Burke,

"I believe it is asking a lot of Mr. McGee to contradict his board before his first day of employment."

May your cool head prevail on this one.

I'm not sure this helps but I support the resolution for the reasons I have already mentioned regarding interviews. I doubt this is a political war, and given space, I hope new leadership will work well with OCR and that the benefits will be clear.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Who's in charge?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 8, 2014 at 11:57 am

@Theater
While I agree that McGee will need to re-appraise both the district direction and move to make sure that he has the best staff to lead. However, I don't follow your statement about him taking a hard and cold look at the board. We elect the board and, for better or worse, they have the responsibility for setting policy, not the superintendent.
Also, I couldn't quite follow your LOL note to Peter about "rescinding" the resolution.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I believe that it would be a grave mistake to expect the new superintendent to be able to develop a good working relationship with OCR as long as the current resolution represents board policy on the interaction between the district and OCR.

For example, the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, as the sponsor of one of the 28 national Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces, receives significant annual payments from FEMA. If the Fire Board had a resolution like the PAUSD resolution directed at FEMA there is no way that our CEO, the Fire Chief, could have a productive relationship with his FEMA counterparts - to think otherwise is not ignore the way that institutions operate.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2014 at 12:10 pm

"misguided war with Obama" Now that is theater. I'm pretty sure he is stewing in his office thinking about how he is going to go to battle with the board of PAUSD. Wasn't he the one who accepted Russlyn Ali's resignation?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 8, 2014 at 12:14 pm

The Superintendent works for the Board not vice versa. I would trust that the Board did a lot of deliberating and thinking before they decided to create the resolution. I support the resolution and think that OCR has been on a witch hunt of sorts that has been fueled by a yet to be named source. That is a story I would like to see the weekly investigate, but we all know that will never happen.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Who's in charge?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 8, 2014 at 1:19 pm

@Palo Verde Parent,
You may be correct that "the Board did a lot of deliberating and thinking before they decided to create the resolution", since the board comments at the meeting appeared to have been well scripted. However, that would have been in violation of the Brown Act since they have not had a prior noticed agenda item on this topic. In addition, Heidi asserted in her comments that she had not had an opportunity to discuss this topic with her colleagues previously.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 8, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Hahahaha, a couple of days ago, the same people here were questioning the legality of hiring "Max" by citing Brown Act Violation . Now there are same leaning to him to ask him to rescind the resolution. Hahahaha.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by get real
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 8, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Peter, it was shown early on in this thread that you didn't understand the resolution. The OCR mandates that may not intimidate, threaten, coerce, or retaliate against anyone making a complaint. Do you truly believe that they would, themselves, attempt to intimidate, threaten, coerce, or retaliate?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

parent - there is no inconsistency in deploring the Board's absolute disregard for the Brown Act and also deploring their poor judgment in adopting this resolution and then recommending that the new superintendent not start his job tied to this foolish resolution.

These are three separate issues and each has its own best remedy:
1 - obey the law regarding closed sessions, private discussions and public comment
2 - recognize that the resolution is a mistake
3 - recognize that the new CEO should not be bound by this mistaken policy

It would not be a surprise if this resolution remains intact that McGee decides not to sign the proposed contract.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 8, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Peter, you'd better hide somewhere when the weekly is repairing the relationship with our future super.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

get real - I understand the resolution perfectly. and as posted earlier, if you actually read what others have posted:

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 4, 2014 at 12:06 pm
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
The OCR will not be vindictive but it will respond with vigor and focus to PAUSD's challenge.

PAUSD's only hope is that the district is squeaky clean.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 4, 2014 at 3:16 pm
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
"it strikes me as a calculated move to make the feds go away."

As a former federal regulator (Deputy Executive Director of the US Price Commission - which controlled every price charged in the country for 18 months) I can assure you that the adopted resolution will simply increase OCR's focus on PAUSD and will move the point of responsibility for OCR's interaction with PAUSD much closed to the top of OCR to someone with more experience and more resources and more political acumen.

Spitting into the eye of the tiger just isn't very smart.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Peter, you'd better hide somewhere when the weekly is repairing the relationship with our future super."

Why, I have nothing to hide - that is why I use my real name.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Who's in charge?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 8, 2014 at 1:42 pm

@ parent
I'm not sure if you follow the Brown Act issues. People weren't questioning the legality of hiring McGee over Brown Act issues. The primary issue about the closed session meeting in Aurora was that there were participants in that meeting who should not have been permitted under the Brown Act. Had they held that meeting correctly, it would not have interfered with the hiring of the superintendent. It would simply have meant that they would have not violated the law in how they held the meeting.
Going forward, McGee would not have the authority on his own to rescind this futile and counter productive "resolution". But he would be able to tell the board, in public, that he would advocate retracting the resolution. If that occurred, and the three school board candidates supported that position, then I would hope that the board would re-consider.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by get real
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 8, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Peter,

"The OCR will not be vindictive "

"PAUSD's only hope is that the district is squeaky clean."

LOL!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 8, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Peter, you are too naughty. Haven't you heard your instruction here "wait and see"?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2014 at 2:39 pm

who's in charge,

"I don't follow your statement about him taking a hard and cold look at the board. We elect the board and, for better or worse, they have the responsibility for setting policy, not the superintendent.
Also, I couldn't quite follow your LOL note to Peter about "rescinding" the resolution."

This would be a good example of taking a hard and cold look at the board. If it was politically motivated as Burke contends, the Superintendent would have to see through his own and the board's politics and make a decision about what is best for the schools, and students.

My dumb question is more about time management. How do you keep track of five bosses? One is into pre-school education, the other into Math 2000.0, the other one wants to reduce stress, and the other one wants to talk about the landscaping. All five have an opinion about counseling, and all have different parents and staff talking to them about a million things, not to mention hashing out the latest press articles. I'm curious about how you control so much chatter, and I would welcome an understanding of how he'll handle that.

Then, even though you say we elect the Board for better or for worst, every worst is a confrontation (multiply that X5 for the Superintendent's job). Your suggestion to have school board candidates added to decisions about the current proceedings is beyond contortionist, or simply political. I can already see everyone ready to make the resolution an election issue, which is ok, but now the Superintendent not only has to mind the five elected bosses, but also the candidates? My LOL to Carpenter about his idea for the new Superintendent to rescind the resolution is along the lines of, really?! Even Burke thinks that's too much to ask.

This new guy is our best hope to come in and work objectively, and asking him for political stances is wrong, and I don't see why the resolution is a problem.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Andrea Wolf
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2014 at 3:27 pm

In my opinion the resolution is wrong headed. I disagree with "Theater's" point about the student interviews and I agree with Peter Carpenter that it doesn't make much sense for our school district, which already has problems with the OCR, to now try and explain to them what a bad job they are doing. Maybe if the OCR was a county entity or even a state of California department this MIGHT be a reasonable action. But, shaking a reproving finger at a Federal office is not a sensible action for one school district to take on it's own.

Maybe our Board really does know so much more about all of the district's interactions with the OCR than we, the public, are allowed to know. Maybe if we were privy to this knowledge those of us who disagree with this resolution would be in agreement. If this Board is so convinced of the correctness of its resolution, then there should be no harm in deferring this issue until the new Superintendent and the new School Board members have taken office. I respectfully request that this issue be tabled until Mr. McGee has been able to review the resolution and it's ramifications and the new Board members have been elected. So much time has already elapsed between the time of the intial OCR investigation that is prompting this resolution and the resolution being voted on at the next Board meeting that it is difficult to imagine that time is of the essence. Taking this vote now and leaving Mr. McGee and two future Board members to deal with the consequences of your actions is lacking in integrity.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nancy Miller
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2014 at 4:12 pm

A few points occur to me.
- The resolution is not yet adopted, so it doesn't need to be rescinded. The school board is scheduled to vote on it in the next meeting (a week from Tuesday, I believe).
- The board is claiming that the district did not violate the rights of the disabled child at Terman, contrary to OCR's finding. That case was concluded two years ago. The evidence was overwhelming. I doubt that the district seriously believes that OCR will overturn that decision. So what is the purpose of this resolution?
- It seems to me that the board is trying to raise doubt about OCR's fairness, etc., in order to explain why the district hasn't tried to fix what is broken, and to resurrect the reputations of board members like Ms. Mitchell, Dr. Skelly, and Ms. Baker.
- If the board does pass this resolution, it will be a gift to the right-wing opponents of the Obama administration. Fox News: "Even in liberal Palo Alto, California, the school board is pushing back on government overreach..." [Portion removed.] Anna Eshoo, are you supporting Barb Mitchell's resolution against Obama's civil rights enforcement agency?
- The idea that this resolution is needed to pursue appeals isn't shared by the school board, since they have already launched appeals. The vagueness of what will come next (chatting with other disgruntled people, basically), shows that the resolution is about PR, not about doing anything in particular.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 8, 2014 at 4:17 pm

This board seems to be made of Barbara Mitchell and four meek and compliant followers. Mitchell seems to believe that the federal government is an alien enemy force to be feared, despised and ignored. Obviously, whatever the OCR says regarding incidents of abuse or neglect in the district, this board, meaning Barbara Mitchell and her gullible followers, will reject and label as a witch hunt.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"My dumb question is more about time management. How do you keep track of five bosses?"

Here is how the MPFPD Board deals with that issue:

5.1 Board Responsibilities and Duties of Fire Chief
Important activities of the Fire Board are the formulation of policies and rules regarding Fire District programs and services. In carrying out its legislative and policy-making responsibility, the Board shall delegate the administrative, personnel and executive functions to the Fire Chief.

5.5 Board Members Responsibility to Constituents
Board Members, individually and collectively, act as representatives of the citizens of the Fire District in maintaining and promoting fire and life-safety needs of the District.

5.8 Board Members Conduct and Responsibilities
Conduct
The Fire District Board Members shall observe the following code of conduct designed to guide their actions in carrying out their responsibilities. A Fire District Board Member should strive to: Understand that his/her basic function is "policy" and not "administration";

5.8.7. Recognize that the Fire Chief should have full administrative authority for properly discharging duties within the limits of established Board policies;

5.8.16. Give staff and contemporaries the respect and consideration due skilled professional personnel.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Fire District has a couple of other interest items in its Code of Conduct that might be of interest to the PAUSD Board:

2. Refuse to participate in secret meetings or other irregular meetings which are not official and which all members do not have the opportunity to attend;

3. Recognize that he/she has no legal status to act for the Board outside of official meetings;

4. Respect the rights of Fire District constituents to be heard at official meetings within established parameters and guidelines for public testimony;


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Andrea Wolf,

I expect the district and board to be extremely careful about the importance of the OCR's work, and as they get their grade grubbing points, they need to tread carefully especially since there is a lot of incomplete work surrounding policies, procedures, and following them. The Superintendent should address fixing procedures first. What if there was another poorly handled case, and everyone is busy with politics instead of helping a student?

There is obvious mistrust, but nothing in the resolution is outside of what would need to be done anyway. OCR and PAUSD should agree on appropriate interviewing, and I disagree with Burke that it's a free range call for OCR on campus.

Asking to wait until November makes this such a big deal. Everything should be resolved by the OCR and PAUSD, and the community will hopefully have the fruits of improvements to enjoy instead of the drama of every political move.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by snowden
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 8, 2014 at 6:44 pm

"There's no urgency to this resolution, as most of it deals with cases that have long been resolved, some in the district's favor. "

If this resolution deals with what has already been resolved, what is all the concern with asking the OCR to be more open? What is the problem with the resolution? If it only effects long resolved investigations then there surely can't be any harm in pursuing this information.

Are people afraid of what might be uncovered? Who's driving this opposition and what do they have to hide?

What is wrong with making sure that everything is published? We have a right to know if there is something funny going on.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"What is wrong with making sure that everything is published? We have a right to know if there is something funny going on."

Funny - The PAUSD has not posted the minutes of its meetings since January. The public has no idea what happened in either the closed or open session even though the law requires ANY decision to be publicly announced at the end of every closed session and during every open session.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Peter Carpenter,

"Funny - The PAUSD has not posted the minutes of its meetings since January."

I'm not sure this replaces formal minutes, but anyone can watch the open sessions. Meetings and materials are found on the PAUSD Board website.

"Meetings are cablecast live on Cable Services Channel 28 and webcast live on Web Link. To view on-demand archived meetings please visit Web Link"

Closed meetings would be closed, so how can they have published minutes?

Peter - thanks for the list with the Fire Board guidelines. If you watch one of the PAUSD open sessions, can you tell if the Board is doing strictly policy, or also Administration? I'd be interested in seeing what their specific guidelines are. Sorry this may be off topic.

Nancy Miller,

- If the board does pass this resolution, it will be a gift to the right-wing opponents of the Obama administration. Fox News: "Even in liberal Palo Alto, California, the school board is pushing back on government overreach..."

You're assuming that the Board has no legitimate reasons for the resolution. Should they back off to protect something from Fox news?

Can anyone explain why the resolution is a problem(other than political reasons)?

get real,

"The OCR mandates that may not intimidate, threaten, coerce, or retaliate against anyone making a complaint. Do you truly believe that they would, themselves, attempt to intimidate, threaten, coerce, or retaliate?"

This makes sense to me, and if this gets silly it will only be because OCR and PAUSD are not left to deal with this between themselves.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I'm not sure this replaces formal minutes, but anyone can watch the open sessions. "

No, it does not. Video recordings are not a legal substitute for Board approved minutes.

"Closed meetings would be closed, so how can they have published minutes?"

Because by law every decision made in closed session must be announced at the end of that closed session and the individual votes announced and recorded in the approved minutes.

" If you watch one of the PAUSD open sessions, can you tell if the Board is doing strictly policy, or also Administration? "

Better yet see the posted minutes and the answer is strictly policy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 8, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" If you watch one of the PAUSD open sessions, can you tell if the Board is doing strictly policy, or also Administration? "

Correction - I have no interest in watching the video. The Board packets make clear that the PAUSD Board is deep into administration.

My first answer was with regard to what the Fire Board does - strictly policy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2014 at 7:44 pm

Peter Carpenter,


"the answer is strictly policy."

Wow that is a lot of policy. I'm used to the word policy as guiding, and not changing that often, but I guess everything in the schools needs board guidance and can change often. And then it changes when the board changes. I'm not surprised that some things are erratically prioritized. I hope the new Superintendent is more transparent about priorities and how to move things forward.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Peter Carpenter,

"The Board packets make clear that the PAUSD Board is deep into administration."

I had not seen your correction post. That makes more sense.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TimeToLetGoOfStupidity
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 8, 2014 at 8:29 pm

Board - it's time to let go of the stupidity. Fighting the OCR is costly, and frankly a distraction in a district sorely needing to move forward. This is a huge waste of time and money, and distracts us from our strategic plans.

Keep in mind - behind every OCR complaint is a student who was wronged, either directly, or in the Paly Rape Culture through the environment created. Fighting the OCR is sending a message that the students are NOT the center of our district, but rather the district is more important than the students. Your reputation is gone, you cannot save that. But you can still make good for the students.

It is far better to capitulate to the OCR, clean up the district, and move on.

Focus instead on making the classroom experience less horrible for the students, and maybe the incidents that trigger OCR investigations in the first place will decrease.

Or eliminate the ineffective local admins that bungle the handling of student problems. If we had Principals who stood up for students, parents would not have to escalate to the OCR.

Here is how the world works today: 1) kid has a problem, sometimes from another kid, sometimes from a teacher.
2) parents try to take this to the teacher. (NO EFFECT).
3) escalate to the principal (NO EFFECT). "things will only get worse next year" - Chris Grierson
4) escalate to the district (NO EFFECT) - "it's a site problem - go back to the unresponsive principal
5) escalate to the OCR (some EFFECT)

You see, BOARD, this screwed-up system is broken. Just fix any of the items above that are labeled NO EFFECT, and you will not have any more OCR complaints.

When you stop ignoring the students, parents and forcing us to deal with broken sites, then we no longer need the OCR. You see, when you fight the OCR, you are fighting your own students, your own constituents. The people you represent. It is the community that you are fighting. You are fighting yourself. It's like hitting yourself with a hammer, then doing it again.

I hope the new Superintendent can draw you a diagram. You, Board, seem too dim to get this basic concept.

Then he can close the OCR nonsense as a chapter of stupidity, and move us all forward.

Board: it's time to let go of the stupidity and put this OCR nonsense behind us as soon as possible.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2014 at 11:44 pm

Time,

"behind every OCR complaint is a student who was wronged, either directly, or in the Paly Rape Culture through the environment created."

My understanding of "rape culture" is that it is considered a widespread societal wrong. I don't know enough about the way Title IX works, but I question the collusion of streaking and Winston to this term, if that is what you mean by the "environment created." It is actually so far fetched to connect these that I will be interested in seeing how they could do that.

There are improvements that schools can make to encourage victims to seek support and to provide it. The Verde articles have themselves contributed to the education not only of Paly but on a national level about this important issue. But I strongly disagree with your expletives about everything being broken, and that the OCR needs to clean up here.

The OCR and PAUSD can do a lot of good without any of the drama that is being thrown in either direction.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2014 at 11:56 pm



One exception to the connection with Winston is that as a Principal, if he could have provided greater support to the victim and was oblivious, then that is a problem. He could have failed at that irrespective of his other issues, and that could be linked to policy and procedural mistakes. Back to the same issues where PAUSD needs improvement, and they need to work it out with OCR.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2014 at 12:07 am

@theater

I agree with "Time To Let Go" and will also give my views on your question. You ask what is the relationship between rape culture and the issues of streaking and also of the fact that Phil Winston was found by the district to have engaged in sexual harassment by creating a hostile sexual environment at Paly.

First, I wonder why you ask about how these things are related. You appear to be operating under the mistaken impression that OCR's Compliance Review is somehow limited to the issue of rape culture. This is a fallacy, and one that I have heard repeated over and over by school board members, district lawyers, and district staff. It is incorrect. While the rape culture articles are one way that the district's sexual harassment issues at Paly first came to the attention of federal civil rights investigators, their Compliance Review was not in any way limited to those issues.

Indeed, their Compliance Review letter notified the district that they were investigating "sexual harassment' at Paly during the date range of 2011-13. There is no mention in the notification letter that the review is limited only or in any way to issues covered by the Verde. The Verde article merely alerted OCR to the potential existence of a problem.

Although the district has stalled and delayed this investigation shamelessly by trying to argue, as you do, that these other issues are somehow beyond the scope, this is a frivolous argument.

Second, there is a reason for this that is very good. A school with a rampant rape culture that leads to the serious harassment and hostile environment for students is one that may well have other problems with the leadership. In this case, that suspicion bore fruit, because during the time in question, the leader of the school (and the officer of the school who was charged with Title IX compliance at the site level was Phil Winston. Phil Winston was himself engaged in sexual harassment and it is no accident or coincidence that he also failed to respond properly to the peer sexual harassment on campus. That is a clear relationship.

In addition, the streaking that created a sexually hostile environment possibly for staff and students was also inadequately responded to by Phil Winston, who was himself found to be a sexual harasser and specifically to make comments about the naked breasts of underage female streakers on his campus.

All of these issues are related and properly under investigation through the Compliance Review.

The district has used frivolous discovery abuse tactics to stall and resist this investigation. It has not cooperated in good faith in my opinion. It has tried on two different tactics to get OCR to stop its investigation, claiming that there was no problem while at the same time firing its own principal for sexual harassment. The district knew that there was a hostile sexual environment on campus due to Phil Winston at the very time that it was telling OCR that there was no issue. That is a frivolous claim, intended to stall and stop a legitimate investigation.

[Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2014 at 12:30 am

Edmund Burke,

I think that the your entire post, does a pretty good job with the "reputation of this community."

The one that stands out is "A school with a rampant rape culture."

I don't watch Fox News, I could care less what is reported on Fox News, and given the legal wrangling that you have brought forth and accusations about my "shameless" arguments, I understand why this is in the hands of lawyers.

We disagree, and I hope the OCR gets this one right, as it has a much higher standard to meet than PAUSD.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2014 at 12:49 am

Edmund Burke

"Phil Winston was himself engaged in sexual harassment and it is no accident or coincidence that he also failed to respond properly to the peer sexual harassment on campus. "

This would only be true if another Principal would have acted differently. If WInston did what anyone else would have done, then there is no connection. As I said, the problem to not respond could be a district procedural problem.

And why are the student interviews necessary?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TimeToLetGoOfStupidity
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2014 at 6:57 am

@Theater,

Sure, we can sit here and dive intto the nitty gritty details - Did Phil contribute or not to the rape culture? who knows or cares- we know that he did Nothing to stop it. DiOrio, on the other hand is doing something - at least streaking is down.

Big Picture - we need to move forward. we can argue endlessly with the OCR, but it just appears more and more that the district is arguing for a Rape culture. When their own people can have a positive effect, why should PAUSD argue FOR the rape culture.

You see the messge is lost. i cannot tell what they are fighting for?

Is the board fighting for the right to bully students?
Is the board fighting for the rape culture?
Is the board fighting against the OCR, and by extension, it's own students?

The board is lost in the tall grass, and cannot find their way home. Go ahead and try to argue subtle legal details all day long, in the end you still look to be on the side of bullies and rapists.

its time to let it go, and spend out time and energy making the sites safer for students.

Let Go of Yhe Stupidity.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nick
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2014 at 7:26 am

" in the end you still look to be on the side of bullies and rapists. "

And guns don't kill people. The campanile asked the same questions the board is asking of the OCR and received no response from the OCR. Does that mean we're on the side of the bullies and rapists?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2014 at 8:32 am

"Second, there is a reason for this that is very good. A school with a rampant rape culture that leads to the serious harassment and hostile environment for students is one that may well have other problems with the leadership."

Mr. Burke, why aren't you calling for the ouster of the leadership at Stanford?


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

Time,

"You see the messge is lost. i cannot tell what they are fighting for?"

As I have posted before, I find the Board chatty and the structure of a Superintendent reporting to five chatty bosses who are "deep into Administration" (per P. Carpenter) ineffective, and wonder how things get done this way. I said this resolution must come from the heart because if it came from the usual deliberations, it may have never made it this far. This being said, I appreciate the work the board does, I trust them, and I trust our schools.

I think the boring answer to what they are fighting for is that they are doing their job. They need to make sure that any investigation, from the OCR or anyone, is done properly. They do not have the choice to "capitulate" on details to avoid a splash on Fox news. The argument that they make mistakes in following their own procedures properly is irrelevant, and actually several OCR complaints have been dropped and one is still in dispute so all that is unclear.

What has stood out to me are the interview issues, the fact that the complaint about Paly was not made by a parent or a student, and how a case is made against Paly using a mix of what to me are unrelated issues. I do not agree with Burke on practically anything he has explained and if the OCR will use the same arguments, it will be interesting. I could see the OCR finding procedures problems, but they would have all the evidence they need for that without what Burke calls the imperative to know for example how a 14 year old girl feels when seeing streaker for the first time. If they need student statements, they should obtain them properly and explain what for, that's common sense.

Burke calls arguments about minors being interviewed frivolous, yet the OCR addresses this in their handbook.

Web Link

"4. Interviews with Minors (Persons Under 18) or Legally Incompetent Individuals

OCR shall obtain written consent from a parent or guardian prior to interviewing any person under 18 years of age or otherwise adjudicated legally incompetent, for example, mentally impaired. Parental or legal guardian consent may not be required for persons under 18 if they are emancipated under state law and are therefore considered to have obtained majority. For persons under 18 who state they are emancipated, OCR should obtain proof of emancipation. Parental or legal guardian consent (or proof of emancipation) may not be necessary when the questions asked are of a general nature, not related to any specific events in which the minor was involved, and there are no records kept to identify the student. If a recipient refuses to allow minor students to be interviewed without consent even in the above circumstance, written consent must be obtained. If parents or guardians refuse to provide consent for an interview, and OCR determines that the child's information is critical, OCR may attempt to secure parental or guardian consent by inviting the parent or guardian to be present during the interview. If consent is denied, OCR will not interview the child."

These are not "subtle" details.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Burkean
a resident of Ohlone School
on Jun 9, 2014 at 9:28 am

Burke will probably do that when:

- The SU Board of Trustees and the Provost and President pass a resolution attacking the OCR, refusing to cooperate with an investigation into sexual assault, and placing the university's federal funding at risk;
- The University tells a victim of dating violence that it will not enforce a court order and she's on her own, so that if she strays from her assigned "walking route" she will be in great danger;
- The University fails to address systemic rape culture rather than condemning and addressing it;
- The Provost attacks and retaliates publicly against members of the Stanford community who disagree with his positions on these issues;
- The Board of Trustees hold secret meetings plotting a legal strategy to retaliate and resist federal intervention to protect students;
- The Provost allows bad publicity to mount without responding properly until it spirals out of control severely damaging the Stanford brand
- The provost and board discover that an administrator is sexually harassing faculty and students but rather than taking the trouble to fire him place him in a classroom with disadvantaged students

There is a huge difference between struggling with whether to expel or merely suspend a student found responsible for sexual assault, or with blowing the time-line of 60 days, as happened at Stanford, and engaging in systematic hostility to the rule of law.

If and when SU would ever (i.e., never) do that, I am sure Mr. Burke would call for a change in leadership. Some Stanford professors have spoken out publicly for the victims of sexual assault and against Stanford behavior in this case and that is what should happen. PAUSD faculty have not done so, despite the fact that they are tenured and that is ostensibly the purpose of tenure. They clearly know how to speak out publicly -- witness the Paly math letter. So there is no issue with them knowing how to speak up. Yet they have been entirely silent on this issue, or have spoken up only privately and confidentially. If faculty would be brave and willing to speak up publicly for victims instead of covering their own and the district's behinds PAUSD could change overnight.

Students at Gunn were on their own. Teachers did not stand with them. Where is #StandWithLaura? Where are the Gunn teachers speaking out publicly to say that they feel that their school should follow court orders of protection for domestic abuse victims? Please, go ask Gunn teachers when that will happen. Paly teachers by and large stood by and did and said nothing in the wake of the Verde articles, and Phil Winston's sexual harassment. Stanford faculty are setting an example that should be followed by PAUSD faculty. You public school teachers wanted tenure. Now use it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2014 at 9:47 am

- The SU Board of Trustees and the Provost and President pass a resolution attacking the OCR, refusing to cooperate with an investigation into sexual assault, and placing the university's federal funding at risk;
@ They would have not reason to pass such a resolution unless the OCR had been brought in. [Portion removed.]
- The University tells a victim of dating violence that it will not enforce a court order and she's on her own, so that if she strays from her assigned "walking route" she will be in great danger;
@ according to the victim at Stanford, she frequently ran into her rapist. I guest Stanford didn't tell him to stay away from her. You're right in that the student should have gotten a restraining order again him but I guess she thought that Stanford would protect her
- The University fails to address systemic rape culture rather than condemning and addressing it;
@ what has the university done other than change their policy to address and condemn the rape culture. The provost only expressed his condemnation after the embarrassing release of Spiegel's emails
- The Provost attacks and retaliates publicly against members of the Stanford community who disagree with his positions on these issues;
@you'd be surprised at what the Provost does and doesn't do. The weekly is just not covering him
- The Board of Trustees hold secret meetings plotting a legal strategy to retaliate and resist federal intervention to protect students;
@ is Stanford's Board of Trustees held to the Brown Act?
- The Provost allows bad publicity to mount without responding properly until it spirals out of control severely damaging the Stanford brand
@ I think the Stanford brand is hurt by this but greed and prestige overtakes everything so it will hold its position
- The provost and board discover that an administrator is sexually harassing faculty and students but rather than taking the trouble to fire him place him in a classroom with disadvantaged students
@ uh, this has happened at Stanford. Take a survey of female professors and see how many have been harassed and nothing has really happened to their harasser except for maybe a demotion unless they have gotten so much negative press they had to fire the guy. One woman I know who was harassed just ended up leaving since nothing happened to the harasser.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by slander and calumny
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 9, 2014 at 9:50 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2014 at 10:05 am

Burkean,

"engaging in systematic hostility to the rule of law. "

The OCR has dropped complaints against PAUSD. These could not have happened without PAUSD complying with OCR requirements. The open investigations are open, and OCR can say if PAUSD is being hostile to the rule of law, not you. The doctored document in the finding would have its own issues of following the rule of law.

This does not preclude the community from standing for the victims, and the best way is to do that is to hold the Board accountable for improvements in Title IX procedures and the culture that supports that. The schools and teachers do an astounding amount of work in that regard, and they did not keep Winston, he's gone.

The amount of pressure on the High Schools from the handling of this is incredible, and fortunately we have strong schools which can handle this because I cannot imagine any other school district being asked to be as perfect as Stanford is. Not to mention, Stanford hands down plenty of pressure in other ways to the maniacal college processes that impact the culture of schools around the country and especially the nearest ones.

Of course everything is broken if that is the only thing you choose to see.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2014 at 10:11 am

Burkean,

Winston is not gone, since he is still teaching, and you can thank the rule of law for that. Teachers have not defended him.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2014 at 10:12 am

When did this "discussion" about the Palo Alto School Board become a Stanford story?

Inappropriate...esp. since the facts of the Stanford student's case are pretty murky. Lots of loud demands for Stanford to ignore due process on the say-so of the accuser, who is a former lover of the accused -- and who was spending the night with the man.

Keep this thread about the Palo Alto School District on-point.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2014 at 10:38 am

Time,

By the way, the reason it matters to me how the complaint against Paly was filed is because I keep hearing all the add-ons to the case to make it a whole.

The OCR handbook somewhere describes that when they do a general compliance review, they have a variety of input points, such as community groups, etc. Did their sources alert to streaking or the Verde articles? Burke is saying their initial suspicion "bore fruit." What does that mean?

As I said before, if I was being personally investigated, I would want to know everything about the nature of the complaints against me.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by slander and calumny
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 9, 2014 at 11:54 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2014 at 12:15 pm

[Post removed because it references a previous deleted comment.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly dad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2014 at 12:59 pm

I read in a communication from the district a while ago that it was the Verde "rape culture" articles that drew OCR's attention. In particular whether the school protected the girls from harassment by other students at school, which is a Title Ix requirement. Then there is the separate question that came up about Phil.

I don't see the puzzle here about why OCR got interested. The journalism teacher and some of the students did a lot of media interviews about the Verde piece.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Paly dad,

"I read in a communication from the district a while ago that it was the Verde "rape culture" articles that drew OCR's attention. In particular whether the school protected the girls from harassment by other students at school, which is a Title Ix requirement. Then there is the separate question that came up about Phil.

I don't see the puzzle here about why OCR got interested. The journalism teacher and some of the students did a lot of media interviews about the Verde piece."

Why OCR got interested speaks to the case against Paly. Adding a separate interest in Winston is that - a separate case. What I would find a stretch is to use streaking or Winston to prove rape culture but stranger things can happen, maybe it's possible.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by SANDY
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 9, 2014 at 1:28 pm

It does not seem that the district was found in compliance but it sounds as if the OCR saw that there may have been bullying but it could not prove it was related to a disability. Equal opportunity bullying doesn't sound like a win to me. Luckily those parent chose the OCR route versus costly lawsuits.

Does it matter who started the Title IX investigation? There are plenty of reasons to believe that a Title IX investigation is warranted. If the OCR talked to staff and students, it seems that they heard enough to believe they had a responsibility to investigate whether or not they had a specific claim. From reports of the current culture that just seems reasonable.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly dad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2014 at 1:41 pm

@theater
I don't think the OCR is investigating "rape culture". I don't even know what that is or how you would identify it, actually. I think the investigation is about whether Paly is complying with Title IX by making sure that students and teachers (?) are not subjected to harassment on the basis of sex. For that question, whether the principal was sexually harassing anyone and whether the district acted appropriately when it was informed are relevant.

I'm glad to see this investigation. I can see some worrying signs and I think some attention will prove to be a good thing, in fact it already has.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TheConnection
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2014 at 1:46 pm

@ Theater asks what is the connection between streaking, Phil Winston and Rape Culture.

This is an easy connection to make:

1) Phil engaged in sexual harassment.
2) Phil did little or nothing to curtail streaking (which is part of a harassing environment)
3) Verde publishes Rape Culture article about how a girl was harassed and had to suffer an environment of sexual harassment
4) IT WAS PHIL's JOB TO MANAGE THAT ENVIRONMENT
5) When the article came out, [portion removed due to possible false and defamatory statement.]
6) Following the article, we saw more streaking - [portion removed due to possible false and defamatory statement.]
7) So Phil had multiple chances to show that he took the general issue of creating a safe environment seriously.

IT WAS HIS RESPONSIBILITY, [portion removed due to possible false and defamatory statement.] And we find out from DiOrio that it was not even that hard - in one year, with a few stern statements she made a sincere effort to change the environment and had some success. Is she done? Probably not, but she is doing something. That is her job as a leader. That is the job Phil did not do. It really cannot get any more simple than that.

Sure, you can quote that this is some nation-wide problem, blah-blah-blah, and therefore argue we should sit on our hands and do nothing. But the facts remain that we can do something, and someone has done something, and that was the Principals responsibility.

Much more work needs to be done. It would move faster with a Board who is not arguing on the other side of the problem.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TheConnection
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2014 at 2:00 pm

I would further add, that the Superintendent did nothing, upon seeing clear evidence that Phil did nothing. So that is also a problem.

When people are in leadership positions, and fail to lead, their direct supervisors should lead. Skelly failed in this manner.

Sure, we can cite a lot of arm's length philosophy about how the district should not get involved, but I don't buy it. It doesn't work. We have clear evidence that the hands-off approach to managing sites didn't work, and really failed at Paly.

It is offensive that the Verde article was met with no change by Phil, and no oversight/accountability by Skelly, and NO oversight of the lack of oversight by the Board.

[Portion removed.]

I think that is how they have ended up on the wrong side of the OCR issue - they are defending their previously stupid decision to let sites run themselves without accountability. Now they are trying to justify that position by arguing it was right with the OCR.

[Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Once again, it seems that the citizens of Palo Alto give all responsibility for raising their kids with the right values to other people -- most often to high school teachers.

What happened to the parents' job -- really a basic obligation -- to instill clear values in their kids LONG before they get to high school?

Way before high school, kids should automatically know not to harass people who are intellectually or physically disabled or not good looking or not rich, and not to cheat on tests, and not to get naked an run through public places ..... and all the other basics.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TheConnection
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2014 at 2:10 pm

@neighbor believes the schools should not manage their environment.

I disagree. I raised my kids to know better, and I expect the schools to enforce some minimum of behavior to ensure a SAFE ENVIRONMENT free of harassment.

I never understood the whole argument that schools aren't accountable - it should all be on the parents. Yet, how does that work? Am I supposed to go to school and reprimand the neighbor kids who are misbehaving? No. I don't get it. The school owns the responsibility for the environment. If my kid is misbehaving, tell me, and I'll manage this at home.

But a complete failure to do anything to manage the harassing environment is not an acceptable plan for the school to follow.

They are the responsible party here. They are responsible for the environment in the schools.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TheConnection
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2014 at 2:17 pm

@neighbor writes: "Once again, it seems that the citizens of Palo Alto give all responsibility for raising their kids with the right values to other people -- most often to high school teachers. "


Here is a fun fact - when I manage people at work, and they behave badly, I do not sit on my hands, and blame their parents. Rather, I tell them clearly the behavior I expect WHEN THEY ARE AT WORK. You see, I am taking responsibility for the environment I control. Do I care if they are good or bad people? No. I care how they behave at work.

And when someone doesn't get the message? I get rid of them. You see, this is something that looks like leadership: I set clear expectations, identify transgressions, and identify consequences. If necessary, I follow through on consequences.

Leadership. Not Hard.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Paly dad,

"I don't think the OCR is investigating "rape culture". I don't even know what that is or how you would identify it, actually."

Rape culture is a pattern of blaming the victim, shaming the victim, and creating excuses for the rapist - victim "asked for it", "wears slutty clothes," "deserved it," "making a big deal out of it." It is a culture that normalizes rape. This culture is inherited, and perpetuated, and it is also debated. Some believe the shaming comments are acceptable/true, and others think that rape culture detracts from placing the sole blame on the rapist.

How the education that Paly students gave about rape culture has been lost in all this is stunning to me. I won't debate rape culture here. Google it, inform yourself.

I don't know enough about the accusations or Title IX to know what is included. I have been clear that if mistakes were made in responding to harassment, they should be acknowledged, corrected, and properly addressed.

The claim matters, if only to also correct the mistakes. To clarify what the improvements are to be made.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by SANDY
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 9, 2014 at 3:00 pm

I know families who have moved their good looking, rich, athletic, intelligent kids to other schools because of bullying while I have seen some disabled kids greatly embraced and treated exceptionally well by other kids. Bullying can happen to any kid and it can happen to the same kids who were popular yesterday. No child is "safe" from bullying so this is really an issue for all parents. Children do learn by example so all of the adults in their lives should be good role models at home and at school...it takes a village.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2014 at 3:00 pm

The Connection

"This is an easy connection to make:

1) Phil engaged in sexual harassment.
2) Phil did little or nothing to curtail streaking (which is part of a harassing environment)
3) Verde publishes Rape Culture article about how a girl was harassed and had to suffer an environment of sexual harassment
4) IT WAS PHIL's JOB TO MANAGE THAT ENVIRONMENT
5) When the article came out, [portion removed due to possible false and defamatory statement.]
6) Following the article, we saw more streaking - [portion removed due to possible false and defamatory statement.]
7) So Phil had multiple chances to show that he took the general issue of creating a safe environment seriously.

IT WAS HIS RESPONSIBILITY, [portion removed due to possible false and defamatory statement.] And we find out from DiOrio that it was not even that hard - in one year, with a few stern statements she made a sincere effort to change the environment and had some success. Is she done? Probably not, but she is doing something. That is her job as a leader. That is the job Phil did not do. It really cannot get any more simple than that."

Adding everything that sticks is not going to help anyone.

What Phil did in response to the Verde articles is relevant if it was not in compliance with district procedures. If another Principal would have done the same thing, it does not matter that they solved the streaking issue or not.

This is getting old now, you can bemoan Mitchell's politics, and throw the kitchen sink. I jumped in here to comment about the interviews. The propriety of them, and how they relate to the case against Paly.

Burke thinks that interviewing a 14 year old girl in a group interview to talk about how she felt seeing a streaker for the first time is ok, I don't. I wondered why that is relevant, and I keep getting things about Fox news.

I will trust the Board and OCR to sort this out, and sincerely hope that the education that will come out of this is as good as I think it can be. In particular about how serious rape culture is.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Sandy,

"Does it matter who started the Title IX investigation?"

It actually does not matter who started it. It matters what the claim is, what is being investigated, how it is being investigated, what went wrong, and what needs to be corrected.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TheConnection
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Theater - we both agree: the interviews should be conducted according to policy, with careful regard for the students well being. No point causing more harm.



I agree with others however, that the general stance of the board appears to be fighting against the OCR on any point possible, even challenging their authority. This looks very bad to the community. It appears that the Board is against OCR in principle, and effectively challenging the students who have been aggrieved. I don't think they intend to look like they are supporting bullies, but it sure looks like it.

The Board should work to fix the broken systems that force students to go to the OCR as a mechanism of last resort. Many, many things have gone wrong before a student goes to OCR. The school could address this at the site, or at the district if they took the whole scope of the whole problem seriously.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2014 at 3:25 pm

To reiterate once again....the basic leadership model for kids are their parents.

By the time kids get to high school they should have an idea about how to behave toward others, where the boundaries of acceptable behavior are, and the meaning of right/wrong. They may have lapses -- after all, they have raging hormones and are testing the world out, and they are dealing with a lot of pressure to perform academically and socially.

While it is true that teachers have an influence, the basic job of instilling values belongs to parents.

Teaching kids to balance their own desires with the needs of others -- in the family, at school, on the job, or driving on the road, at the movies or restaurant or any public place -- should have been done long before high school.

When kids don't get these lessons as small children we see self-centered students, who later become unreliable employees or spouses who still exhibiting the characteristics of the "terrible two's."

It is unreasonable to expect high school teachers to suddenly bring up our kids. They certainly can have a very strong influence -- we all remember wonderful teachers who influenced our adult lives -- but they are not parents.

While your kids are still home with you, prepare them as best you can for the real world.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Susan
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2014 at 3:28 pm

The school board comments and documents focus on the impropriety of interviewing students and yet it appears that high school students have not been interviewed in regards to the Title IX compliance review.

At the board meeting Dana Tom stated: "OCR should require written consent from parents for interviews of their children
rather than simply an opt-out notice that may or may not reach the parents."

This statement is misleading. The OCR manual states that the district is allowed to impose written parental consent as a condition for student interviews:
"4.Interviews with Minors (Persons Under 18) or Legally Incompetent Individuals
OCR shall obtain written consent from a parent or guardian prior to interviewing any person under 18 years of age or otherwise adjudicated legally incompetent, for example, mentally impaired. Parental or legal guardian consent may not be required for persons under 18 if they are emancipated under state law and are therefore considered to have obtained majority. For persons under 18 who state they are emancipated, OCR should obtain proof of emancipation. Parental or legal guardian consent (or proof of emancipation) may not be necessary when the questions asked are of a general nature, not related to any specific events in which the minor was involved, and there are no records kept to identify the student. If a recipient refuses to allow minor students to be interviewed without consent even in the above circumstance, written consent must be obtained. If parents or guardians refuse to provide consent for an interview, and OCR determines that the child's information is critical, OCR may attempt to secure parental or guardian consent by inviting the parent or guardian to be present during the interview. If consent is denied, OCR will not interview the child."
Web Link

There is no evidence that PAUSD students have been interviewed without parental consent, only evidence to the contrary. Here is what Charles Young wrote in his weekly report to the superintendent about the middle school interviews:

"Office for Civil Rights
This week, our students and staff at [ ] were taken away from the classroom and their work to address and respond to an Office for Civil Rights (OCR) complaint brought against the District on behalf of a student last year. The complaint alleged that a sixth grade student was harassed and bullied because of her disability by other students and that the school did not respond. The district addressed the complaint but OCR requested the opportunity to meet with students and staff to investigate the claim. With the leadership of [ ], parents were informed and were able to dismiss their children from the interviews if desired. On Thursday, OCR investigators came to [ ] and interviewed 35 students, 4 teachers, 1 counselor and 2 administrators. The staff was unable to be present during student interviews, but both our District Attorney and a CTA attorney were present with staff. [ ] indicated that it went well; the day was long but the attorneys felt like it shed only a positive light on the school and our support of students. Apparently, students shared with investigators how much they liked their school. The results will be available by January."
Web Link

This account is quite different from comments made by the board members last week who inferred that opt out meant that not all parents were contacted.

On April 23, 2014 the district's legal counsel Chad Graff sent a letter to OCR pushing back on their authority to interview students among other things. Web Link
Here is the description from the board packet (Discussion Item 19 Office for Civil Rights Case Review/Appeal):

"April 23, 2014: This is the District's response to OCR's request for group interviews of high school students. The letter requests legal and procedural clarification and cooperation on procedures that will assure student confidentiality and parental permission while delivering relevant, factual, and verifiable information. The District outlines possible solutions and notes the continuing lack of response to the District's requests for the review of OCR errors in case no. 09-11-1337 which has significantly diminished the District's confidence in OCR procedures (see Attachment G)."

The letter questions OCR's authority to conduct student interviews, states that OCR must obtain written parental consent, pushes back on group interviews and requests that a district staff member be present at all student interviews. At the June 3rd board meeting Mr. Graff said that the OCR has not replied to their requests for these additional conditions for the student interviews, an indication that these interviews have not taken place. Meanwhile the victims and witnesses have graduated.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2014 at 3:35 pm

The Connection,

I agree with you on the well being of students and fixing the systems. Some are broken and others can use improvement. It's not an excuse but the district has grown a lot and the pressures are major. Not the least, the attacks that fly around. The new Superintendent needs to work on this, and hold the Board true to their word that they want to work cooperatively with OCR.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ask vs. told
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 9, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Susan, your quotes back up Dana's comment is completely.

Charles: "parents were informed and were able to dismiss their children from the interviews if desired"
Dana: "OCR should require written consent from parents for interviews of their children rather than simply an opt-out notice that may or may not reach the parents."

Requiring OCR to obtain consent before interviewing minors seems totally reasonable. Such consent is typically required if police wish to interview a child.

I, for one, would prefer to provide consent instead of having to go through the effort of "opting-out". The default should be that my child is not interviewed, not that consent is inferred.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Not true
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 9, 2014 at 3:51 pm

ask,

You are incorrect. PAUSD policy does not require parental consent in the case of a police interview. Their policy is to attempt to inform the parent, but the police can waltz on to any campus and ask to speak with a student without parental consent. At the high school level, this is not an uncommon occurrence, as there are police on campus on a fairly regular basis.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Not true,

That's good to know, and Fix #1 for the Superintendent. Publish what the rules are for our kids to be interrogated for any reason by law enforcement on campus. What rights do our kids have? Minors?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 9, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Publish what the rules are for our kids to be interrogated for any reason by law enforcement on campus. What rights do our kids have? Minors?"

I suggest that the 'kids' have the same rights on campus that they do if they were off campus. It is a huge mistake to create the illusion that students on campus are somehow exempt from the laws that apply throughout the entire community.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Susan
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2014 at 4:06 pm

@ask vs. told
Please read the text from the OCR manual that I quoted from above. It indicates that written parental permission is always required for individual interviews with minors and that the district/recipient (of federal funding) has the prerogative to impose written parental permission in the case of group interviews. The district could have imposed that for the middle school interviews but perhaps found it unnecessary since staff had contacted and got permission form all of the parents of the interviewed students.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Who's in charge
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 9, 2014 at 4:32 pm

@Susan,
Thanks for the info. It's nice to be able to read the actual materials rather than hear people's perceptions and claims.
Based on what you provided, I'm not clear what the district and "Theater" are objecting to. The most theater that I've seen on the subject was that provided by the board when then each spoke about this resolution. My favorite parts were the "we're in total support of the OCR mission, oh let me counts the ways", and "I'm so glad to finally be able to discuss this topic with my colleagues". Tony!, Tony!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Who's in charge,

I object to interviewing random students for the case against Paly which appears to be about a list of issues which are known well enough, see above. The suggestion from Burke that a personal story of a 14 year old about her first streaking experience is necessary doesn't make sense to me. During finals nonetheless. What do you expect them to say?

Carpenter says the rights are the same as outside of school. That probably means "you have the right to remain silent, etc." It's not to hide anything, it's to extricate the students from this situation, and to not make theater out of them. They might even think it's cool, I don't.

Circles now, I'm out of here.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 9, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Minors in the California juvenile justice system have rights just like adults. Minors have a right against self-incrimination and a right to an attorney, as well as other constitutional rights. This means that cops must read a minor his or her Miranda rights when they arrest that minor.

California police generally are allowed to question minors without their parents approval and without their parents being present. There is no requirement that parents must consent before their children are interviewed by the police. But the juvenile interrogation must be voluntary.

In a recent United States Supreme Court case, the nation's highest court indicated that minors might enjoy similar protections when interrogated by cops at school. The opinion held that cops must take age into account in determining whether a suspect would feel free to leave... thus creating a "custodial" situation that requires Miranda warnings."

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by not true
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 9, 2014 at 6:26 pm

A minor cannot be questioned unless he and his parents or other person legally responsible for his care been advised of the minor's miranda rights. A minor cannot be assumed to understand and any statement taken would be inadmissible.

In the case of the OCR, the OCR did not know if the parent had been informed. They didn't contact the parent and get agreement.

Susan, it doesn't say that the district can impose the requirement but if it can, why isn't it the default? Why shouldn't OCR be required to get permission?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by the original 'not true'
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 9, 2014 at 6:38 pm

not true,

you've taken my ID and you're giving out incorrect information. The police may interview any student without parental consent. Miranda rights are only required at the point when the police have cause to believe the person is a suspect in a crime and they want to ensure the statement is admissable in court. That would hardly ever be the case in most police interviews of students at school, just as it isn't the case if OCR interviewed a student.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fox News PA
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 9, 2014 at 7:17 pm

Wow Barb Mitchell did a great job changing the channel. Now everyone is arguing about this pointless stupid thing that is totally irrelevant. These students aren't in any trouble. They are witnesses in a compliance investigation. They can be listened to. [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Terri Lobdell
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 9, 2014 at 10:59 pm

A lot of questions have been raised about OCR's requests to interview students as part of its investigative processes in Palo Alto. The information below might be helpful as the community considers the implications of these questions.

The first question that often arises is: Why interview students? The reason most often given is that student accounts can play an important role in piecing together the truth about misconduct that allegedly happened at school, whether it is sexual harassment, school fights, cyberbullying, cheating, streaking, egg wars, drugs at prom, etc. This is why school administrators, teachers, police and OCR attorneys often seek to ask students questions when they want to find out what happened in these types of incidents.

Teens especially can be knowledgeable, articulate, insightful witnesses, if provided a confidential, nonjudgmental adult ear. Many teens will speak freely and honestly about their school experiences, if they feel safe and listened to. Many people who work with youth feel it's important for adults to take the time to hear what youth have to say, and to take youth seriously on topics of community importance.

OCR often depends on students as important witnesses when piecing together the picture of what happened with classmates in bullying or harassment cases, and also general school climate issues. Often students are among the most well-informed, impartial witnesses available on these topics. Conducting student interviews is an integral part of an OCR investigator's job, as it is for school administrators, district officials and some police officers.

In the Terman bullying case, for example, middle school student interviews (35 in total) were a significant part of OCR's investigation. Much of the corroborating evidence of bullying and harassment in that case, as described in the OCR's findings, relied upon student accounts.

According to OCR's written findings in the Terman case (in which the bullied student was referred to as "Student"), multiple students interviewed by OCR described a hurtful game they called "(the Student) touch." The game was played with both the Student and another disabled student (like a game of cooties).

Many students told OCR that they consistently tried to avoid the Student, that a lot of people bullied the Student and called the Student names like "stupid," "slow," "annoying," and worse. Classmates said, "If you're hanging out with (the Student), you're a loser too."

These and other forms of peer harassment began in elementary school and then continued on at Terman.

Several students told the OCR that they had never said anything to school staff about the Student being bullied because they were worried about being accused of being a snitch.

The OCR attorney arranging and leading the Terman student interviews was Shilpa Ram, a former teacher.

The process Ram followed for setting up the Terman student interviews was summarized in a Palo Alto Weekly June 2013 article (see: Web Link), and in documents made public during spring 2013. OCR proposed this procedure as its standard approach. The Terman staff cooperated fully. How it worked is described below:

OCR asked Terman to send out notices to parents of all students who had been in the complainant's classes the previous year. Terman's then-principal Katherine Baker agreed, and sent out a letter dated Oct. 12, 2011, on school letterhead, addressed "Dear Parents and Guardians." The letter said:

"Please read the enclosed letter from the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR). They are visiting our school on Thursday, October 20, 2011, and are inviting your child to participate in a group interview that will help them determine if our district is operating its programs without discrimination on the basis of disability. Please be advised that these interviews are NOT part of a district investigation, but we are cooperating with the (OCR). Student group interviews will take place during class time, and will be conducted by representatives from OCR. Terman staff will not be present at the interviews. Your child will be able to make up any work missed during the 30-minute interview session.

"If you do not wish your child to participate, please sign and return the enclosed form to the front office as soon as possible.

"If you have any questions you can contact OCR directly. Contact information is on the enclosed letter."

According to the school district, six parents chose to opt out for their students; no complaints about the process were received by the school, before or after the interviews.

Terman staff then provided OCR with a list of students available for interviews. From that list Ram organized student interview groups of 4-6 from each class (that the bullied student had attended the previous year), with 35 minutes allotted to each group. There were six student groups altogether, one from each of four classes on the bullied student's schedule, and two from the student's P.E. class.

Earlier that month, in an email dated Oct. 6, 2011, Ram described the interview process for Terman staff, and asked that no school staff or counsel attend the student interviews to allow for greater confidentiality and comfort. She wrote:

"As you'll see in the parent notification, we want to protect student confidentiality in the interview process. We will not collect any personally identifying information about the students. We have found that the presence of school staff or counsel could unintentionally make some students less willing to share their experiences. Therefore, we'd like to conduct the student interviews wihout staff or counsel observing. This is consistent with our approach to student interviews in other OCR cases. I have included my contact information on the form and parents are more than welcome to call me directly with any questions about the process.

"We suggest that the school provide a space that is appropriate for the size of the group and one which will maintain confidentiality. In the past, we've conducted such interviews in the library, in an empty classroom or other space.

"By Monday, October 17th, we would like the District to send us a list of the names of the students whose parents have consented to their children's participation in the student interviews… We'll use the list to put the interview groups together. If the District would like to suggest some students who are talkative or at ease speaking with adults by appending a short paragraph to the list or designating certain students with asterisks, we'd welcome your input….

"We are hopeful that with two staff members, we'll be able to conduct our interviews efficiently and minimize the time that staff and students will be out of the classroom."

A total of 35 students were interviewed at Terman, in the six small groups, on Oct. 20, without district staff or lawyers present. No recordings were made.

According to a report made by Charles Young to Kevin Skelly on Oct. 21, 2011: "Parents were informed and were able to dismiss their children from the interviews if desired…The staff was unable to be present during the student interviews, but both our District Attorney and a CTA attorney were present with staff (during staff interviews)…The day was long but the attorneys felt like it shed only a positive light on the school and our support of students. Apparently, students shared with investigators how much they liked their school."

Since the Terman findings came out, the district has taken a different stance regarding OCR requests to interview students. The next time the issue came up was about four months later, in spring 2013, in a case involving bullying allegations of a student with disabilities at one of the elementary schools. OCR asked to conduct student interviews of fifth graders and the district resisted. This was not made public at the time.

A Daily Post story on July 19, 2013 broke this news (with headline "School officials to rebuff feds") based on interviews with board members Barb Mitchell and Dana Tom who told the Post that the district had "denied OCR's requests to interview elementary students" and that the OCR had backed down from its request. Mitchell and Tom said the district would no longer accept opt-out forms as sufficient parental consent, and instead would require a more affirmative consent form. They also advocated that student interviews be recorded.

According to a district statement made to the Weekly after the July Post story, the district did not "refuse" to allow OCR investigators to interview the students (as was implied by the Post story) but "rather asked a variety of questions concerning the nature of how the interviews would be handled. OCR then decided that the student interviews were not necessary and they were not held."

Later OCR determined there was insufficient evidence to support the complainant's allegations of bullying based on disability in that case.

Most recently, this spring, about a year after the OCR's student interview requests at the elementary school, the OCR again requested (in early April) student interviews, this time at Paly and Gunn, in connection with its investigations of alleged sexual harassment at both schools. The district's response advocated for: affirmative parental consent, audio recording of interviews, and the presence of a district employee and/or independent psychologist during the interviews. The letter also challenged the relevance of information students might provide, issues about sensitivity of the information sought, the suggested group interview format and other problems. (See pp. 149-57 of the June 3 board meeting packet.)

As a result, OCR's proposed interviews of students at Paly and Gunn have been put off; whether, when and how they may happen in the future remains to be seen.

Some have asked about whether the district requires parental consent prior to student interviews with school administrators, or the police, as part of a local school or police investigation. According to a district statement, in such instances, "considerations for obtaining written consent from parents prior to a conversation or recording a conversation are situational and depend on various factors."

Specifically with regard to police, the district's statement cited board policies (BP/AR 5145.11) related to "Questioning and Apprehension by Law Enforcement." These policies allow law enforcement officers to interview and question students on school premises and to remove them when appropriate. It requires the principal to document information about the situation (officer's name, badge number, capacity, reason for interview, start/stop time of interview, etc.) and says the principal or designee whenever practicable should be present during the interview as an observer unless the student or officer objects.

Under these circumstances, the school is also required to attempt to notify the student's parent/guardian "as soon as practicable" about the police contact with their child. If the student is removed from campus by the police, the policies require immediate notification of the student's parent/guardian.

Another frequent question is: What types of information might an OCR attorney want to ask students about? A brief review of three recent cases, two from California and one from Minnesota, might be useful in showing the types of student information relevant to OCR inquiries:

In a 2013 Contra Costa County school district case involving an OCR-initiated "compliance review" regarding sexual assault and harassment (see: Web Link), the investigation included interviews with students, parents, administrators, teachers, counselors, etc.

According to the findings, the student interviews included high school, middle school and elementary school students, and provided information including:

--student descriptions of frequent nonconsensual student-on-student sexual touching during passing, recess and lunch periods; students also reported inappropriate touching by school employees
--students calling each other names that were sexually derogatory, with such language used throughout the day, every day; this behavior sometimes included sexual threats
--students reported many rumors circulating regarding the sexual reputation of female students
--students said they did not report harassing incidents to school officials because they didn't understand the conduct experienced was sexual harassment, didn't know they had a right to complain, didn't believe that complaining would be effective in addressing the problem, believed that the behavior is normal or condoned, are "used to it" and/or don't want to be labeled a "snitch," be ostracized socially or suffer physical retaliation for reporting
--school staff commonly ignore sexually harassing language between students, or even directed at them, as it is so pervasive that it is impossible to respond to it all
--many teachers stay inside classrooms during lunch and between classes, so they are not always aware of what is going on, or available to supervise students
--students described the hostile environment created by sexual assault and harassment incidents on the broader school community as well as on the students directly subjected to the attacks, and the lack of school-wide initiatives to address these impacts

In a 2011 Tehachapi, California case involving harassment of a gay middle school student who died by suicide (see: Web Link), OCR interviewed friends of the targeted student and also 75 of the student's classmates. The findings cite information from student interviews, including:

--students described the extent and types of bullying and harassment aimed at the gay student throughout his time of attendance at the school, including derogatory sexual comments and physical threats and assaults
--students described demeaning and mocking behavior outside the targeted student's presence, and also generalized gay slurs directly at individuals (or things) seen as undesirable, all of which resulted in an adverse impact on the school environment
--one of the student's friends said that she escorted the targeted student to the office on several occasions to seek help from school officials regarding the bullying; this contradicted what school officials told OCR, which was that the student had never reported his problems to them
--students reported that school employees ignored harassment of the gay student, even when they were around and aware of it
--many students reported that they believed steps taken by the school were not effective in stopping bullying/harassment, but were afraid to report bullying/harassment for fear of retaliation

In a 2012 case involving a Minnesota school district, Anoka-Hennepin (see: Web Link), the OCR conducted a sexual harassment investigation that involved several visits to the district, interviews with 60 individuals including current and former students, parents, teachers and district staff, and review of more than 7,000 pages of documents provided by the district.

Prior to the completion of the investigation, the district settled the OCR case in combination with a separate related lawsuit, into one "Consent Decree." The OCR letter summarizing the settlement describes interviews with students as yielding information about how targeted students were constantly harassed because of their failure to conform to gender stereotypes. Students gave details and specifics of that harassment, including derogatory verbal comments and physical threats and assaults (one female student reported being told to "go kill herself"), and also described the impacts of that harassing behavior on those targeted students.

Below are excerpts from the OCR Case Processing Manual (see: Web Link) about student and other interviews during an OCR investigative phase:

(d) Interviews

1. Introduction
Interviews are an integral part of most investigations. The objective of interviews is to gain an understanding of the records and data relevant to the issues in the case; to obtain information from and assess the credibility of witnesses; and to evaluate recipient defenses. OCR may conduct individual interviews or focus groups as part of its investigations.

2. Notice

Prior to initiating an interview, OCR should inform the witness of the following:

(i) The general purpose of the interview, including OCR's role, what law or laws may be pertinent to the investigation, and where appropriate, a brief explanation of what is under investigation.
(ii) The potential uses of the information to be obtained from the witness and the Freedom of Information Act. A witness who wants a more thorough explanation should be given a copy of the OCR Notice about Investigatory Uses of Personal Information.
(iii) The witness's right to personal representation during the interview by a person of their choice.
(iv) If the witness is an employee of a recipient, his or her right to refuse to have anyone else present during the interview and his or her right to refuse to reveal the content of an interview.
(v) The regulatory provisions concerning prohibition of intimidating or retaliatory acts by a recipient.
(vi) In most cases, the recipient's counsel will be allowed to be present during upper level management interviews.

3. Privacy

Interview witnesses under circumstances that assure privacy. An interpreter may be used if safeguards are taken to ensure the competence of the interpreter and to protect the witness's privacy.

4. Interviews with Minors (Persons Under 18) or Legally Incompetent Individuals

OCR shall obtain written consent from a parent or guardian prior to interviewing any person under 18 years of age or otherwise adjudicated legally incompetent, for example, mentally impaired. Parental or legal guardian consent may not be required for persons under 18 if they are emancipated under state law and are therefore considered to have obtained majority. For persons under 18 who state they are emancipated, OCR should obtain proof of emancipation. Parental or legal guardian consent (or proof of emancipation) may not be necessary when the questions asked are of a general nature, not related to any specific events in which the minor was involved, and there are no records kept to identify the student. If a recipient refuses to allow minor students to be interviewed without consent even in the above circumstance, written consent must be obtained. If parents or guardians refuse to provide consent for an interview, and OCR determines that the child's information is critical, OCR may attempt to secure parental or guardian consent by inviting the parent or guardian to be present during the interview. If consent is denied, OCR will not interview the child.

5. Records of Interviews

A written record of both telephone and in-person interviews must be kept. Interviewers will notify interviewees if a tape recording is used and tape recording will be done only with the consent of the interviewee. If interviewers use tape recording, the tape becomes part of the case record along with the written record. Regardless of the technique used during the interview, a written record of the interview must be created.
The record of the interview to be placed in the case file must contain the following information:

(i) case identification (name and case number);
(ii) name and identification of the interviewee, interviewer, and any other person present (include an explanation for the presence of any other persons);
(iii) date, time, and location of interview (including whether the interview was conducted by telephone);
(iv) a record of whether the interviewee was informed of required notifications; and
(v) written record reflecting the questions and responses obtained during the interview (this need not be a verbatim transcript but must accurately reflect the responses of the witness).

(e) Limitations on Obtaining Information

1. Actions Constituting Denial of Access

A recipient denies access to OCR when it:

(i) refuses to permit OCR access to written or unwritten information, such as electronic storage media, microfilm, retrieval systems, photocopies, etc., or to recipient's facilities during the recipient's normal business hours;
(ii) refuses to permit OCR access to employees during recipient's regular business hours;
(iii) fails to provide information by virtue of the refusal of one of its employees to do so or to provide access to information maintained exclusively by an employee in his/her official capacity; or
(iv) refuses to complete applicable OMB-approved compliance and survey forms relevant to an investigation.

2. Refusals to Provide Data or Access to Witnesses

(i) If the refusal is stated orally, either in person or over the telephone, the investigator should attempt to ascertain the exact basis for the recipient's refusal, and attempt to explain OCR's authority or provide other information to address the recipient's concerns.
(ii) If the investigator is unable to obtain access to the requested information, the investigator will consult with OCR legal staff (when on-site, this should be done over the telephone whenever possible before the investigator leaves the recipient's premises). Where appropriate, OCR legal staff should discuss the refusal to provide information directly with the recipient's representative.
(iii) Where attempts to persuade a recipient to provide information have failed, a letter should be prepared setting forth OCR's authority to obtain access to the information and addressing any particular concerns expressed by the recipient.
(iv) Whenever the office determines that compliance cannot be achieved, the office shall recommend that the case be referred for enforcement.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stop the Labeling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 9, 2014 at 11:09 pm

Why in the world do some people need to label some opinions as "Republican," "right wing," or "Fox News?" People's opinions on how our school board is performing have little or nothing to do with national, partisan politics. I see these comments as nothing but inflammatory and a cheap way to try and get people to agree with you for fear they will be labeled the political enemy.

Stick to the facts and stop the stupid labeling! And no, I'm not a republican (non-partisan, actually), but it seems as the less popular party in Palo Alto they are an easy cheap shot for those who lack any better argument.

Stupid and distracting from the real issues at hand.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2014 at 11:10 pm

Is it possible that some parents of students who graduated few weeks ago learned only recently, by the media, about the "streaking culture" going on during the past years?

As far as I recall, Palo Alto High responded fiercely to streaking on the first day of the school year. Were the parents let known that the response on the first day resulted from the growing occurrences of streaking during the past three years?

I am asking since this is about an education system. It is easy to get confused when the messages and "educational values" are not clear, consistent and based on simple common sense.
My above questions apply generally, not only to streaking.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2014 at 1:31 am

Teri Lobdell,

You've gone to the trouble of sharing a whole lot of information about OCR interviews and since I was among the ones asking, I'll share my reaction.

My sense is that whatever chips the district, school administration, the OCR, and community at large have left with our kids, they're very close to running out. We have created a system which forces young people to perform above learning or even enjoying their free time, and year after year we fail to make things better for them, but are quick to threaten them with a sex offense for streaking, and make headline news about cheating on the Algebra test. Kids, please make sure you also sing, dance, write code, and make us proud!

Going into their space, their face to ask the questions outlined above is invasive. It presumes that the school and district are not telling the truth, and by hearing from the kids directly, the OCR can find out "the real story." The real stories in this yet to be defined case - or just call it a "catch all" - are well known. Winston, streaking, the Verde articles. You can add all the other possible high school problems that are known to mankind, you will find them at our high schools. To have a blanket complaint to look for anything that can be found feels wrong. An invasive search into the hearts, minds of young people to get evidence to charge the school with a blanket complaint that has been presented basically anonymously.

I have no doubt we have some of the most articulate and educated students in the world. They can handle any interview and they would use it to teach and learn from it (though i have doubts losing half an hour of class is worth it). They are outstanding. Your editorial is not outstanding as Burke called it, our students are outstanding. My personal reaction is very negative to using students for already dissected and regurgitated issues which also serve as political talking points for many in the community.

So, that's my reaction, and reality is that the students will probably be necessary and used anyway. I would pay attention to the word voluntary, what minors can handle or not, and make sure the kids are aware and fully understand that the OCR is looking for evidence for a Title IX violation, or multiple ones at Paly. OCR and PAUSD should not lead them into the interview rooms like they're going to a Kumbaya session. It may be one, but it's not.

My negative reaction to using students in no way minimizes the work of the OCR, on the contrary, I want a shortcut to papers signed and procedures corrected so people can get to the real work in the schools. Continued education to change rape culture and harassment of any kind.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TimeToLetGoOfStupidity
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 10, 2014 at 7:01 am

@Theater writes: 'My negative reaction to using students in no way minimizes the work of the OCR, on the contrary, I want a shortcut to papers signed and procedures corrected so people can get to the real work in the schools'


if your 'shortcut' involves skipping the student interviews or skipping the investigation, then i would disagree. The investigation provides the details needed for correction.

The district has shown no aptitude for getting this right without the OCR involvement. Skipping the investigation appears to be shorthand for keeping OCR at arm's length. Go away, don't bother us, WE KNOW WHAT WE ARE DOING.

except evidence is clear - the sites and district do not know what they are doing. They have bumbled their way into a mess with a continuous stream of complaints coming out of the sites.

"Why?" you might ask? because the system is broken at a very fundamental level: Some teachers are unresponsive to student and parent issues. The principals are unresponsive to issues; their goal is to protect their site and reputation above the best interest of students. The district has abdicated responsibility: every issue is rejected as a site issue.

This is broken.

It forces major issues to be resolved with OCR because the sites, principals and district are unresponsive.

The student is not at the center of our district. When a student has a problem in this district , they are marginalized and ignored.

And the big picture view is that the Board has been fighting the OCR the whole way. And by extension, fighting against the very same students the sites have marginalized.

Shame on the teachers, principals and district for the mistreatment of their students.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2014 at 8:41 am

Time,

"The investigation provides the details needed for correction."

I would not call the student interviews the investigation.

The investigation provides details, the student interviews do not, in my opinion. Not in this case where it is not a specific grievance against Paly, or a student incident that they are investigating. OCR has thousands of documents and the fact that they have dropped cases against PAUSD means they have a pretty good idea about the district's workings. There are dozens of articles by this journal alone which can serve as details.

Asking a 14 year old girl what it feels like to see a streaker for the first time is not a "detail" that the OCR needs to be able to give any corrections for. Not to mention, streaking has been addressed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2014 at 9:01 am

Time,

At any rate, PAUSD would organize the interviews, as it has done so before, and seems completely willing to do so. They appear to be working out what absolutely should be appropriately structured meetings. My views are not demands, they are just a general sense that there cannot possibly be a detail about streaking, Winston, and rape culture that is not already known. Nothing that random students not directly involved could add. But much to gain for the future reporting about these issues, as if we had not had enough.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Aha
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 10, 2014 at 9:15 am

How would you know what an "investigation" requires? Are you a Title IX officer? Trained sexual assault investigator? [Portion removed.]

Student statements are part of a thorough investigation. Students report on the climate of their schools, on their subjective experiences, whether they ever reported anything, what was done, how it was handled and by who. The idea that OCR could make a valid and appropriate finding without talking to students seems doubtful. What, in that event, would serve as proof that a hostile environment actually existed for students?

I'm losing patience reading Theater's posts. Terri Lobdell obviously took a great deal of time and energy to explain why student interviews are conducted, how they are conducted, and what kind of information can emerge. The response is that Theater is impervious to facts. [Portion removed.]

If a student experienced harassment, tried to get help, didn't receive needed assistance, and continued to experience that harassment then that would be very relevant information. Students know about climate, about complaints and how they are handled, and they offer their own perspective on matters.

No one is forced to be interviewed. If these high school students choose not to be intereviewed then they can decline. But many probably want to talk to OCR if the national story has any relevance in Palo Alto.

If no student interviews are conducted and OCR makes a finding against the district, the district will use the lack of those student interviews to contend that there was insufficient evidence of a hostile environment. [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by kudos
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 10, 2014 at 9:28 am

Now who is creating the "theater"? Stop making this more than it is. No one ever said students are going to be labeled as sex offenders for streaking. They get a 2-day suspension… period. Let's not make up stories to try to get others hyped up so they agree with your opinions.

I say ditto to Aha's comments and let's stop going round in circles.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TheConnection
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 10, 2014 at 9:29 am

Of course, there is a connection between student interviews, and Board reluctance - the OCR is going to be mining the student interviews for further cases against the district.

And I say 'GREAT'! It is time to shine some light on the difficulties and harassment our students have had to endure, as well on the half-hearted response the sites put forth. There is no way to the bottom of this mess, until we get to the bottom of this mess.

The Connection is clear: The board wants to avoid such case-mining by the OCR, because they know the sites are broken, harassment is pretty widespread, and the district has taken no action.

The district takes no action, because they have NO OVERSIGHT of the sites. There is literally no oversight; and that is a form of institutionalized neglect.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Terri Lobdell
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 10, 2014 at 9:40 am

Among the issues raised in the school board's recent proposed resolution is the OCR's denial of the district's FOIA requests, and the subsequent lack of response to the district's appeals of those FOIA request denials.

The original FOIA requests were made to the OCR regional office in San Francisco, and the denials of those requests also came from that office. Appeals of denials go to a different place; the regulations require appeals to be made directly to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Management Appeals Office in Washington, D.C.

According to school district documents made public, some of which are still in redacted form only, there appear to be at least three separate FOIA requests involving three different cases. Two were discussed in the board's June 3 meeting packet. All involve different facts but the same basic procedure.

In the Terman case, Laurie Reynolds, one of the district's lawyers, filed a FOIA request with OCR's regional office on June 14, 2013, for release of all the files and records in that case.

In a letter dated July 12, 2013, OCR Regional Director Art Zeidman denied the request, citing FOIA exemption (b)(7)(A) which applies to "any records in open cases when release could reasonably be expected to interfere with the ongoing activities of the case."

According to Zeidman's letter: "OCR has determined that release of the requested information, at this time, could reasonably be expected to hinder the ongoing activities in the case; therefore I am denying your request."

Zeidman's denial relates to the fact that the Terman case is still considered an "open" case because the terms of the Resolution Agreement have not yet been completed. Once this occurs, and once the OCR signs off on its monitoring responsibilities under the agreement, the OCR will close the case. The exact timing of this is up to OCR, but at the very least it won't happen until all the terms are completed, which could take another school year.

The Resolution Agreement, signed by Superintendent Skelly, grants broad monitoring power to the OCR. It states:

"The District understands that OCR will not close the monitoring of this agreement until OCR determines that the District has fulfilled the terms of this agreement in compliance with [the federal laws] which were at issue in this case….

"Further, the District understands that during the monitoring of this agreement, if necessary, OCR may visit the District, interview staff and students, and request such additional reports or data as are necessary for OCR to determine whether the District has fulfilled the terms of this agreement and is in compliance with [applicable federal laws]."

On August 14, 2013, another district lawyer, Lenore Silverman, filed an appeal of the OCR denial of the FOIA request in this case to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Management Appeals Office in Washington, D.C. per the FOIA process regulations. Silverman disagreed with Zeidman's determination, and argued that the records should be released (her letter was included in the recent June 3 board packet, at p. 138, see: Web Link)

According to Chad Graff, another district lawyer who appeared at the June 3 board meeting, the district has not heard back regarding its appeals, despite the fact that appeals are supposed to be responded to within 20-30 days. The nonresponsive agency in this case is the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Management Appeals Office in Washington, D.C.

The district has had subsequent correspondence with the Office of Management in emails dated Oct. 17, 2013 (not included with the June 3 memo to the school board); those documents are still only available in redacted form. There have also been a number of other emails back and forth between the school district and the OCR's regional office, also redacted, since that time.

For example, in one document file released by the district on April 1, labeled "Jan. 2014 Board-Cabinet emails (see: Web Link), the documents in redacted form (showing only date, recipients and author) include:

--Two emails (with attachments) dated Oct. 17, 2013, from Lenore Silverman to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Management Appeals Office in Washington, D.C. (see pp. 3, 12)

--Email dated Dec. 2, 2013, from OCR's regional director Art Zeidman to Kevin Skelly (see p. 46); this appears to be attached to a redacted memo to the school board from lawyer Chad Graff dated Dec. 26, 2012 (see p. 44) and related to the reasons for the Jan. 14, 2014 meeting of district representatives with OCR attorneys; this January meeting was referred to in the June 3 school board meeting packet memo, along with the Feb. 19, 2014 letter released in full in the June board packet (previously released only in redacted form) from Skelly to OCR dated Feb. 19, 2014, summarizing the Jan. 14 meeting

--Email dated Jan. 17, 2014, from OCR attorney Zachary Pelchat to district lawyer Graff (see p. 42)

There are a number of other redacted emails between OCR and the district, also posted on the district's website among the Board-Cabinet emails released for other months. It is difficult to know, given these redacted emails, the full extent of what has been communicated with OCR, and how that might affect public discussion or decisions.

Still, the question remains: Why has the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Management delayed its response to the district's FOIA request appeals, as described by Graff at the June 3 board meeting? It's impossible to know for certain what the answer is, but the district's experience with these appeals is not inconsistent with the experience of the general public when dealing with FOIA. It is well understood among journalists, for example, that there often are long backlogs with large federal agencies when it comes to FOIA requests and appeals.

The Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press (see: Web Link) advises on its website that in these instances, the requester may want to consider a lawsuit:

"If your appeal is denied, or if the agency fails to respond to your appeal within 20 working days, you may file a FOIA lawsuit in the United States District Court most convenient to you, nearest the agency office where the records are kept or in the District of Columbia. Though technically you have up to six years after the date on which your appeal was denied to file a lawsuit, you should try to file the suit as soon as possible in order to demonstrate to the court your need for the information."

This is along the lines of what the OCR's regional office attorneys told Graff apparently, as recounted by Graff at the recent board June 3 meeting.

Delays by public agencies are also commonplace with California's own version of FOIA, the California Public Records Act.

Below is an excerpt from Section 603 of the OCR's Case Processing Manual, which includes a brief discussion of some FOIA procedures and exemptions:

"FOIA gives the public a right of access to records of federal agencies. The FOIA is implemented by Department regulations. (34 C.F.R. Part 5). Any requests for copies of documents or other access to information contained in OCR's files should be referred to the Enforcement Office staff responsible for handling FOIA and Privacy Act requests. Although each request will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, generally, OCR is not required to release documents during the case resolution and investigation process or enforcement proceedings if the release could reasonably be expected to interfere with OCR's law enforcement activities. See 5 U.S.C. §552(b)(7)(A). Also, a federal agency is not required to release records if they are pre-decisional documents that would be subject to certain privileges in litigation. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(5). Finally, a federal agency is not required to release documents if their release would or could reasonably be expected to result in an unwarranted invasion of privacy of an individual. See 5 U.S.C. §§ 552(b)(6) and (7)(C). OCR will not reveal the name or other identifying information about an individual (including individuals who file complaints or speak to OCR) unless (1) such information would assist in the completion of an investigation or in enforcement activities against an institution that violates the laws; (2) such information is required to be disclosed under the FOIA or the Privacy Act or otherwise by law; or (3) such information is permitted to be disclosed under both FOIA and the Privacy Act and OCR determines disclosure would further an interest of the Department and the United States.

"However, OCR can release certain information about your complaint to the press or general public, including the name of the school or institution; the date your complaint was filed; the type of discrimination included in your complaint; the date your complaint was resolved, dismissed or closed; the basic reasons for OCR's decision; or other related information. Any information OCR releases to the press or general public will not include your name or the name of the person on whose behalf you filed the complaint except as noted in the paragraph above."



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 10, 2014 at 10:16 am

Aha,

[Portion removed because it was previously removed in earlier comment.]

You're taking my opinions and projecting them to a conspiracy. I got my news about this topic here, and watched the meeting online. I am not closely aligned with the district but I am closely aligned with PAUSD, as a longtime parent. I believe in a district that accepts we all come from different backgrounds, belief systems, and I don't have to carry an affiliation to function. I voted for Ken Dauber, and would consider voting for him again. I have grown to respect Barb Mitchell. and if she ran I would vote for her too. I have my own mind, I am not anyone's puppet.

It would be unfair to the district to take my postings here as if they had anything to do with them. I have no idea if the district is being obstructionist (as apparently I am), can't the OCR say one way or the other?

You say - "If no student interviews are conducted and OCR makes a finding against the district, the district will use the lack of those student interviews to contend that there was insufficient evidence of a hostile environment. " Isn't the issue not if interviews will happen, but how?

I'm the only one saying they are theater. I don't count.

Again, you are reading way too much into my personal viewpoint which I stand by. If you can't understand it and choose to misinterpret it and make this a Fox news problem, there is nothing I can do about it.

This is all repetitive for me anyway now. I've expressed my views, and while I would enjoy tiring you more with my opinions, there isn't much else to what I have to say about this topic that I have not already said and repeated enough times.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2014 at 11:36 am

I hope Glenn McGee is reading all this. If he has any sense he take his job acceptance letter back. Life is too short for jumping into snake pits.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Josef Stalin
a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2014 at 1:54 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 10, 2014 at 2:24 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Vicki
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 11, 2014 at 12:33 am

@neighbor
My guess is that "Mr. McGee is reading all this."

There is reason to hope that he will bring a voice of reason to our district. Here are some highlights from his recent interview with the Weekly Web Link :

“McGee said he has dealt with the Office for Civil Rights once, when an investigation related to hiring issues was opened during his first superintendency in Illinois. He said the administration "followed all the proper procedures" and didn't have any findings."

Another comment from the story worth repeating here:
"I think at least from what I read in the papers, it's important to have transparent communication," he said, referring to Palo Alto. "And I think you've found out during your visit here that I'm kind of about that. I'm really open, and I believe in that." He demonstrates this in the beginning of an interview by a IMSA student journalist questioning his departure in 2013. He is refreshingly open and upfront about his reason for taking a new position. See Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Terri Lobdell
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2014 at 7:29 am

The June 3, 2014 memo to the school board from Barb Mitchell, Melissa Baten Caswell and Kevin Skelly (in support of their proposed resolution regarding OCR) says that on Dec. 26, 2012, "two weeks after a good faith voluntary agreement was reached" in the Terman case, the OCR issued an "unexpected report concluding that the District had violated anti-discrimination laws in failing to respond appropriately and effectively" to disability-based harassment of a disabled middle school student.

"The finding was a startling contradiction of extensive and well-documented staff actions in which civil rights laws were followed," the memo states.

Also included in the board packet is a May 20, 2013, letter that Skelly sent to OCR, summarizing a list of concerns the district has with OCR's practices, including a paragraph on the topic of when and how the district learned about the OCR findings.

Skelly's letter says that "OCR is not complying with stated protections of the District in OCR's process," questioning OCR's statement that its investigative attorneys had reviewed with district counsel, consistent with standard practice, "each of their anticipated findings" in a telephone conversation prior to the issuance of the written findings.

Skelly's letter says that the district's legal counsel has no record of such a conversation with OCR's attorneys that "included detailed review or discussion of OCR's anticipated findings." Skelly's letter also refers to the fact that "one telephone conversation in early April 2012" occurred but says it "did not include a discussion of the findings in detail, nor was it followed up in writing. Rather, it included general statements, and a statement that the Resolution Agreement would be forthcoming."

According to Skelly's letter, OCR's standard practice is to have a conversation with a school district representative about its investigative findings prior to the issuance of the written findings. This does not appear to be expressly covered as a topic in the OCR Case Processing Manual (see excerpts below), although it may be a standard practice.

According to the OCR manual, the basic procedure is: At the conclusion of an investigation (in Terman's case this was early April 2012, according to public record documents), if OCR determines that the evidence is sufficient to support a conclusion of noncompliance, "OCR will contact the recipient and will attempt to secure the recipient's willingness to negotiate a resolution agreement." (Note: No resolution agreement is needed if the OCR determines there is insufficient evidence.) If the recipient is willing, that negotiation process goes forward. Once the agreement is finalized, the letter of finding is issued. Per the manual: "If the resolution agreement is signed, a letter of finding(s) will be sent to the parties." If the recipient is unwilling to negotiate a resolution agreement, that triggers a different process (in that case, a letter of finding may be issued without the agreement, and the matter may be referred for enforcement action).

In the Terman case, the progression of steps that occurred appears to be consistent with what is laid out in OCR's manual. It also appears, based on public records and as reported in the Weekly on June 14, 2013 (see: Web Link), that the district had information from OCR in April 2012 regarding the substance of the investigative findings. The level of detail is difficult to pinpoint. The documents available include:

--In a memo to the school board dated April 9, Young stated that the district "received the Office for Civil Rights' results over spring break. As a result of the student's disability, we are responsible for corrective action related to discrimination and creating a hostile learning environment. Our attorney is working with the Office for Civil Rights regarding the corrective actions, which are quite lengthy.

"Holly Wade and I will be meeting with Katherine Baker tomorrow to discuss the findings, our response and plan moving forward. Part of the plan will include an IEP team meeting to discuss the findings, the development of a plan for training staff and notifying parents. Once the corrective actions are finalized, I will share them with you so you are aware of the areas we will be addressing.

"The staff at Terman will be disappointed as they felt they did a great deal of good work to ameliorate the concerns outlined in the parent's initial complaint."

--According to legal bills provided to the Weekly by the district, district lawyer Laurie Reynolds spent 1.6 hours on April 6 teleconferencing with OCR and researching discrimination issues, and 0.30 hours on April 9 teleconferencing about "OCR draft findings" and resolution agreement. On April 30, she billed three hours for time reviewing the draft resolution agreement, traveling to and from the district office, conferencing about the OCR resolution agreement, and teleconferencing with OCR.

Based on the documents available to the public, the district's complaint to OCR regarding how and when the district was informed about the findings appears to have been raised for the first time in Skelly's May 20, 2013 letter (described above and included in the June 3 board meeting packet). This same May 20 letter was previously released but in redacted form in response to a Weekly public records request.

According to the OCR manual, districts can choose to avoid a letter of finding if they are willing to enter into a voluntary resolution agreement at any time before the conclusion of an investigation. As the June 2013 Weekly story linked above reported:

"Also unclear is why the district did not act to avoid the negative 'letter of finding' by opting to resolve the case earlier with the Office for Civil Rights. Toughing it out to this late stage in the proceedings is a rare event….

"The vast majority of districts choose instead to reach agreement prior to the close of investigation, thus avoiding the letter of finding and additional political and legal exposure from damaging information the letter might contain. Why the district did not do that in this case, as it did in two other Office for Civil Rights cases it resolved in 2012…remains an unanswered question….

"Skelly confirmed (the availability of this earlier voluntary resolution option) in a report he made to the school board on his conversation with Office for Civil Rights Acting Chief Attorney Gayle Sakowski.

"'Districts can offer to resolve issues and OCR complaints at any time after the case is open. This process is open and if the district wants to resolve present cases they should contact the person handling the complaint. If district does not think it is at fault that's a decision they can make in terms of the process,' Skelly wrote.

"If the district does not think it is at fault, in other words, it can take the gamble that the Office for Civil Rights letter of finding will be in its favor. It appears this may have been the motivation for waiting it out in this case, although the basis for that decision is likely to remain confidential due to the attorney-client privilege afforded communications between Skelly and Reynolds."

Below are excerpts from Section 303 of the OCR Case Processing Manual (see: Web Link) regarding Letters of Finding:

"When OCR determines that a preponderance of the evidence supports a conclusion that the recipient failed to comply with applicable regulations, OCR will prepare a statement of the case (including a proposed resolution agreement), which the Chief Attorney or designee must approve. The statement of the case must set out the issues investigated; OCR's basis for entering into a resolution agreement; and an explanation of how the terms of the agreement are aligned with the issues investigated and are consistent with applicable regulations. The provisions of the resolution agreement will be aligned with the identified violation(s) and will be consistent with applicable regulations.

"The Office Director, in consultation with the Enforcement Director, must approve the initiation of negotiations and the proposed resolution agreement. Upon approval, OCR will contact the recipient and will attempt to secure the recipient's willingness to negotiate a resolution agreement. From the date that the proposed terms of the resolution agreement are shared with the recipient, OCR and the recipient will have a period of up to 90 calendar days within which to reach final agreement. The enforcement office may end the negotiations period before the 90 days have expired when it is clear that agreement will not be reached. If the resolution agreement is signed, a letter of finding(s) will be sent to the parties. …

"Under Section 303(b), the letter of finding(s) to the parties must include:

1. a statement of the issues raised by the complaint;
2. a statement of OCR's jurisdiction over the complaint;
3. a clear explanation of the pertinent legal standard and factual analysis;
4. If negotiations have resulted in an agreement, a statement that, when fully implemented, the resolution agreement will address all of OCR's compliance concerns. The letter will include a copy of the agreement; and
5. If negotiations have not resulted in an agreement, a description of OCR's unsuccessful attempts to resolve the complaint.

"The case file will include an index of documents in the file and a key referencing by tab of the evidence relied upon in making the determination.

"All letters of finding(s) must be approved by the Chief Attorney or designee and the Office Director or designee…."



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nadir yet .
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2014 at 8:47 am

So many words! What point are you trying, unsuccessfully, to make?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TheConnection
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 11, 2014 at 9:29 am

Let's try to re-order and summarize a timeline. There are a few key events the OCR uses: Investigation, Investigation Conclusion, 90-day window for negotiating a resolution, Issue Findings. Keep these in mind. If a district wants to prevent Issue of Findings, it must sign a voluntary resolution agreement BEFORE the Investigation Conclusion. PAUSD did not.

Here is how it went down:

- Early 2012 Investigation ongoing

- Early Apr 2012: Investigation Concludes

- Apr 9, 2012: Young receives preliminary OCR results

- Apr 30, 2012: district lawyer bills PAUSD for review of "OCR draft findings"

- sometime between April and December the OCR initiates final negotiations (the 90-day window to resolve negotiations starts)

- Dec 15 2012: District signs resolution agreement. (NOTE - this is well after the Investigation concludes, so it is too late to avoid the letter of findings, but early enough to avoid enforcement)

- Dec 26, 2012: OCR Issues Letter of Findings. (per manual, if the district entered voluntary agreement before Investigation Concludes, this would not have happened.)

- May 20, 2013 Skelly whines to the board in his letter that he was not told the findings ahead of time. He appears uninformed about the process, or is unaware that Letter of Findings would issue, BECAUSE he missed the deadline in early April when the Investigation Concluded.

- Jun 3, 2012: Board Members BM, MBC and KS write public letter to OCR complaining that Findings were Issued even though they signed the Voluntary Agreement.


The Connection: The board and Skelly are both oblivious that the deadline to avoid Issue of Findings occurred last April at the conclusion of the investigation. It seems that they spent their time during investigation in a state of denial and resistance. They could have capitulated, and signed the Voluntary Agreement last April and prevented their dirty laundry becoming public. Once the investigation concluded in April, the remaining process was 1) going to release the Issue of Findings no matter what, and 2) largely focused on Negotiations to prevent Enforcement.

What is fascinating is the ignorance of Skelly, and the board, and how dangerously close they came to becoming subject to Enforcement. (i.e. loss of money).

They wasted time during investigation with denial and imagining their innocence, and then were surprised [portion removed] when the Issue of Findings proved otherwise. Had they recognized that the sites are a mess, with no policy, procedure, rule of law, or any concern for students, they would have jumped on this issue immediately during investigation, and corrected the ship before the iceberg.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TheConnection
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 11, 2014 at 9:35 am

... And they still don't "get it".

They should stop fighting the OCR, whining about process they don't understand, and just capitulate. Give up. Move on. Let it go.

Let's focus on cleaning up the sites, establishing policy, procedures and OVERSIGHT, so that students have a safe environment.

Whining about OCR policies they don't understand is not going anywhere productive.

Get a strategy, close your problems, move forward. Change the culture and make this place better for students.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TheConnection
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 11, 2014 at 9:49 am

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Terri Lobdell
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2014 at 10:26 am

One additional fact in response to "TheConnection": The Skelly report to the board about his conversation with OCR attorney Sakowski about available early resolution options was dated May 6, 2013, as reported in the June 2013 Weekly story. This date from inadvertently omitted in the post above. Skelly's May 2013 report on this issue was made at the request of an unnamed board member, as also reported in the June 2013 story (Web Link).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Pretty Clear
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 11, 2014 at 10:36 am

Terri makes the point that it's pretty clear that PAUSD's own documents indicate that they received information on the findings around April, 2012.

The inference that I make from that, since PAUSD, with paid legal help, made a formal complaint (that they didn't receive that information until the publication of the findings), is that we can assume that this represents a better than typical level of communication going on within the district administration/board.

Therefore, the typical level of communication going on within the district administration/board must be abysmal, as many outside viewers feared but did not believe or want to believe.

Fear started when we were first confronted by the position that the OCR investigation was hidden from the board. It was possible to see that as a monumental, but one time, screw-up. It became harder to accept when the explanation for it was personal embarrassment, and that that explanation was accepted as just fine by the board.

That was the real theater.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jack
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:02 am

The PAUSD hires one of the most aggressive and unscrupulous law firms in the country to fight and intimidate families of children with special needs. It's time this community got real about what kind of town we are living in and the motives of our so called leaders. There isn't a person at 25 Churchill who doesn't consider money the #1 issue. Children stopped mattering around here a long, long time ago.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:14 am

Pretty clear,

"That was the real theater."

This theater has been known for a long time. Lack of transparency, the blow by blow of the communication mishaps. The theater on this can play out into eternity for all I care. Adult theater is ok, don't use the kids to win an argument either way, in what is clearly a dispute.

The interesting here - big picture - is that adults do nothing themselves to end rape culture, shaming girls for what they wear and accusing them of "asking for it" is commonplace (see the threads on dress codes). Let's cover the girls up because they're asking for it and disrupting boys' education. Well boys, stop looking at women as objects, and then maybe you won't be disturbed.

The OCR making one high school do a perp walk for rape culture, to me is gross (as in grossly unfair), and I can only hope that the end reporting will not be about how streaking (blaming the students) and Winston caused this, without being honest that this is about failures in procedures.

Long term, if one tenth of the Weekly's reporting on Skelly and board theater would go to ending rape culture among adults, that would be a real statement.

I blame everyone, and the kids should not be used to settle this score.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:40 am

Pretty clear,

If in fact procedures were followed by the schools, and the district is not at fault in their procedures, they need to address that. What if the procedures were followed?

Very convenient that people call for "capitulating" to the OCR.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by josef stalin
a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2014 at 12:13 pm

I can't keep track of all my names. Which one do you think is me on this thread? I can't find another.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TheConnection
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 11, 2014 at 12:16 pm

@Theater writes: "What if the procedures were followed?"

This is a hypothetical question that is unanswerable: there were NO procedures to follow. The bullying policy is only now available which outlines what to do.

We know from prior reporting that sites have little knowledge of policies. (See the comment from Chris Grierson, principal at Duveneck where he admits to the Weekly that he did not know policy Web Link )

Also we know from a neighbor's experience when a teacher bullied their child - the principals do nothing, and there was no policy to prevent this.

The same article linked here indicates that the Weekly interviewed around 100 families with similar site-level bullying issues and lack of policy and procedure to deal with this. This problem is widespread, has been covered in the paper for over a year, and is neither an isolated incident, nor is it being handled well.

So asking whether a messed-up site follows policies that did not exist is really a puzzling hypothetical.

Let's get back to the real world. Make the principals read the board policy, which they SHOULD BE IMPLEMENTING. Make the district oversee the sites, and try to instill a culture where the students matter.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Learned the hard way or wouldn't have believed it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2014 at 12:49 pm

"The PAUSD hires one of the most aggressive and unscrupulous law firms in the country to fight and intimidate families of children with special needs. It's time this community got real about what kind of town we are living in and the motives of our so called leaders. There isn't a person at 25 Churchill who doesn't consider money the #1 issue. Children stopped mattering around here a long, long time ago."

Agree 1000%! Although those who put money first have a way of being pennywise and pound foolish...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Terri Lobdell
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2014 at 3:40 pm

At its recent June 3 meeting, school board members, the superintendent and the district's lawyer expressed support for a proposed board resolution stating that OCR has not responded promptly or appropriately to their appeal to OCR for a "just review and remedy of substantial errors" they believe are contained in the OCR's Letter of Findings in the Terman bullying case.

For a summary and link to the Terman case findings, dated Dec. 26, 2012, see: Web Link

The memo to the board from Barb Mitchell, Melissa Baten Caswell and Kevin Skelly supporting the proposed board resolution states that "investigation errors (in the Terman case) were reported to OCR on May 15, 2013, more than a year ago, after which an OCR supervising attorney expressed willingness to review inconsistencies. The errors were again reported to OCR on Jan. 14, 2014, after which the OCR Regional Director expressed willingness to review District concerns regarding the case. To date, OCR has not responded except to deny District access to the investigation records that would help to resolve the matter."

(Regarding the issue of the district's appeal of the denial of its FOIA request for access to the Terman investigation records, see previous above post on that topic, and also "Additional Note" at the end of this post.)

Skelly details the alleged OCR errors in a four-page letter dated Feb. 19, 2014, included in the June 3 board meeting packet (see p. 145 at: Web Link). The letter concludes: "Essentially, in several places the Letter of Findings omits discussion of District efforts in addressing the student situation and creates negative implications from information that appears out-of-context to the District and/or that was not available for District review or response. The District's perception is that the investigating attorneys may have misinterpreted some circumstances reviewed and that the Letter of Findings creates some misleading impressions…. Certainly, the District staff intended to work carefully to prevent any bullying or harassment of the student and to provide the student an appropriate program at all times."

An earlier letter from Skelly to OCR dated May 20, 2013, also included in the June 3 board meeting packet, states: "It is unclear what right of appeal the District has to OCR's determinations. Ms. Sakowski (an OCR attorney) stated that OCR would be willing to review inconsistencies and unsupported determinations that the District found in (this matter). This was the first the District learned of the right to request reconsideration in this matter. The District would appreciate knowing what its appeal rights are for OCR investigations and determinations."

A review of section 306 of OCR's "Case Processing Manual" (Web Link) shows that only the complainant is provided with a route to appeal an OCR determination, and only for certain specific stated reasons with supporting documentation:

"The appeal process provides an opportunity for complainants to bring information to OCR's attention that would change OCR's decision. The appeal process will not be a de novo review of OCR's decision.

"The complainant may send a written appeal to the Director of the Enforcement Office (Office Director) that issued the determination. If the complainant has documentation to support the appeal, the documentation must be submitted with the complainant's appeal. In an appeal, the complainant must explain why he or she believes the factual information was incomplete, the analysis of the facts was incorrect, and/or the appropriate legal standard was not applied, and how this would change OCR's determination in the case. Failure to do so may result in the denial of the appeal."

Also, a complainant's appeal must be made within 60 days of the decision:

"In order to be timely, an appeal (including any supporting documentation) must be submitted within 60 days of the date of the determination letter. The Office Director may exercise discretion in granting a waiver of the 60-day timeframe where:

1. the complainant was unable to submit the appeal within the 60-day timeframe because of illness or other incapacitating circumstances and the appeal was filed within 30 days after the period of illness or incapacitation ended; or
2. unique circumstances generated by agency action have adversely affected the complainant."

Also, there is no timeline for the OCR to respond to a complainant's appeal:

"A written response to an appeal will be issued as promptly as possible. The decision of the Office Director constitutes the agency's final decision."

One reason school districts are not provided an appeal route similar to complainants is that when OCR makes a determination of noncompliance, the next step is a negotiated resolution agreement with the school district that is intended to settle the matter. (OCR does not enter into agreements with complainants.) This is a voluntary step on the part of a district, although if a district refuses, it could lead to an enforcement action in court. The clear incentive under these circumstances is for a district to agree to negotiate a settlement, as happened in the Terman case and in the most cases nationwide that reach this point in the process (most reach negotiated settlements earlier in the process, before the conclusion of the investigation and the findings that come from that, per an earlier post above).

In signing a resolution agreement on Dec. 14, 2012, Skelly agreed on behalf of the district to corrective actions based on the OCR's investigative finding of noncompliance, which the district was informed about in April 2012 prior to negotiation of the agreement (see earlier post above on this topic). The district reached this settlement voluntarily, and "without admitting to any violation of law," as the agreement states.

According to district documents provided, after the Letter of Findings was issued (subsequent to the signing of the resolution agreement, per OCR procedures), no concerns were raised with OCR about possible alleged factual errors until about five months later (the findings letter was dated Dec. 26, 2012, and the district first reported concerns on May 15, 2013, according to the June 3 memo in the board meeting packet).

During the months before May 15, 2013, once the Letter of Findings was disclosed to the board and the public in early February as a result of the family releasing the report to the Weekly, the district's lawyer and other school officials characterized the process with OCR in positive terms, said they had learned a lot from it, and were making positive improvements as a result. Examples of district comments included:

--Skelly's Feb. 2013 press statement: "We are profoundly sorry that a student was subject to bullying at our school…We worked closely with the Office of Civil Rights to design activities and policies that will help us improve the environment for our students."

--Holly Wade, director of special education, in a Weekly interview: "We see this as an opportunity to do some training, to look at some of our practices, to make sure they are very transparent in terms of how kids can seek help, what information we seek from students when they report an incident of bullying, and make sure all our administrative teams and teachers are well-trained in how to support kids when they are faced with situations where they don't feel safe…I mean it really is an opportunity for us, to press 'pause' with OCR's guidance, and give some really good training and provide support to our staff and students."

--In an email labeled "OCR Follow Up" from Katherine Baker, then-principal at Terman, to Skelly, dated March 19, 2013, Baker said that she and her staff had reviewed the OCR findings and resolution agreement, and that the teachers "have taken this case very much to heart." She said: "We have all been reflecting on what we could have done differently, or what we missed." She reported they had "learned many things from this experience," and "will institute changes." Lessons learned, as outlined in her email, included: "We need to have one go-to person for harassment cases"; "We must do a better job of documenting the steps we take in our investigations, including how we inform each other of the progress"; "We must be very proactive when investigating bullying/harassment incidents, and we need to determine if the harassment is against a student with protected status"; "It also means that we continue our practice of interviewing bystanders, not just the perpetrator and the victim, and we need to continue to monitor the situation with consistent follow up"; "We have learned that the harassment does not need to occur over time by the same perpetrators. It can be a single incident or occur at different times by different individuals"; "It is necessary to make every attempt to determine if a hostile environment has been created for the victim, and it is necessary that we stop the harassment"; "In the future we must be proactive about checking in with the victim and bystanders rather than asking them to report back to us if anything further happens."

District officials, back then, did not raise issues about substantial errors in the findings they were discussing.

Because of the secrecy surrounding these matters over the past year-plus, and even now with the district's recent release in the June 3 board packet of selected communications between the district and OCR that were previously redacted, it is difficult for the public to fully evaluate the nature of these disputes between the district and OCR.

It does seem apparent that whatever willingness OCR attorneys have expressed to review the record in the Terman case, in light of what the district has told them about alleged errors, it is outside what is required under OCR's rules. Whether that review has been made yet, when OCR will choose to communicate about it further with the district, and whether any errors will be found, remains to be seen.

Additional Note: The school district is seeking release of the investigative records and files in the Terman case, by way of requests it initiated about a year ago under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as noted in an earlier post on the FOIA topic. These requests were denied by OCR's regional office last summer, and are currently stalled in an appeal process with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Management Appeals Office in Washington, D.C.

As an addendum to the earlier FOIA post, and as it intersects with the topic of this post, some additional information from the district's April 23, 2014, letter to OCR's regional director from district lawyer Chad Graff (included in the June 3 board meeting packet, at p. 149) might be helpful. Graff's letter to OCR states:

"The District wrote on Oct. 17, 2013, to inquire about the status of its appeal and contacted you and/or other regional officials on January 14, January 22, March 12, and March 29, 2014, about the status of the appeal for the investigation records. Despite your and other commitments to follow up on the District's request, the District has never received a response. On April 7, 2014, we received an email from the FOIA Appeals Coordinator asking if we 'wish to pursue your FOIA appeal dated August 14, 2013.' On April 8, we responded affirmatively and described the long history of District communications indicating the intent to pursue the appeal. To date, we have not received a response. Per your suggestion, the District Superintendent wrote to you on February 19, 2014, to express the District's concerns on the investigation process and Letter of Findings in (the Terman case) as much as possible without the District having been able to review the investigation records. The District has not yet received a response to that letter."

As noted in the previous post, the district's Oct. 17 emails to the Office of Management Appeals Office have been fully redacted in response to public records requests, as have other communications between the district and OCR.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thank you
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jun 11, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Thank you Terri Lobdell for these remarkably clear and cogent posts. I wish you would publish them in the paper. They shed a clear light on what has happened.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TheConnection
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 11, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Okay - so Skelly had a chance to raise his concerns with OCR before he signed the resolution agreement in December? Why did he wait until May to bring this up? [Portion removed.]

Granted, he had chosen to keep everything secret from the Board before December, so maybe the [portion removed] complaints about this investigation are really coming from the board. Guess what? Too bad for them. Their chance to complain to OCR was squandered when Skelly chose to keep the whole matter secret from them. They bear the responsibility of his screw-ups.

But why the complaint letter now? To what purpose? It is an old case, where the district was late to sign an agreement, and late to register any complaints, and failed to discuss these issues during negotiations (which were held in secret from the Board). It is basically a done deal. The Board is playing Monday-morning quarterback if they imagine they can rewind this mess and complain to OCR at this late stage.

They should admit that mistakes were made in handling the Students issues, and mistakes were made in handling the OCR investigation and negotiation.

Then move on. Let it go. Focus on fixing the broken sites. Use the new powers of termination to let go of some of the site administration and teachers who bungle this kind of stuff. It will send a strong message that the Board really does want to make schools a safe environment for students.

[Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alice
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2014 at 9:57 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2014 at 11:02 am

Thank you Terri Lobdell for these clear explications of the situation. It is unfortunate that they are buried here in the bowels of Town Square rather than in a more visible location.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Carol Lewis
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 12, 2014 at 12:55 pm

@ Alice
I agree that this is s crazy Alice in Wonderland journey down a rabbit hole. I am ashamed that our district leadership thinks that this Resolution is a way out of this hole they have dug for themselves. We owe it to our children to uphold a higher standard. If we expect them to follow rules (cheating, streaking) we need to behave in a way that makes our children proud. It's well past time to own this make ammends and move on. Further digging in will not get us out of this hole.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Josef Stalin
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Dear Comrade Moderator,

Josef Stalin is the only name I have used to comment on this story. Please restore the comment that you have deleted for the erroneous reason that I have posted using multiple names.

Posted by Josef Stalin, a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2014 at 1:54 pm
[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Posted by josef stalin, a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2014 at 12:13 pm
I can't keep track of all my names. Which one do you think is me on this thread? I can't find another.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Town Square Moderator
online staff of Palo Alto Online
on Jun 12, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.

Josef,

You posted under the name "Serena" on June 7. Feel free to re-post your comments under that name. This is one reason we prefer that posters pick one name and use it consistently on all topics. Thanks.




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tavarish Stalin,
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2014 at 1:31 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2014 at 1:41 pm


Comrade Stalin, (Tavarish/tovarich Stalin),
I admire you. You got an instantaneous response. I asked so many times and never got any online response. I want to think the the prompt response is not related to the NKVD.
Molodec
vf


 +   Like this comment
Posted by informinator
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 12, 2014 at 10:07 pm

Jospeph, the Weekly uses a very simplistic IP address match to see if someone is using multiple names. If you're using a public machine (eg: Library) or someone else in your house has posted already, you'll end up with posts removed for using different names.

Even the editor's suggestion of "using the same name for all posts" only works is you're the only one using the IP address.

The only foolproof model is to log in. However, it wouldn't surprise me if they removed the other person posts if you did this.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Josef Stalin
a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2014 at 3:59 pm

I did not post under the name Serena for this story or any other story and I have never posted from South of Midtown for any story.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Midtown mom
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 13, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Wow, what a mess! I guess the school board is the one corner of Palo Alto that hewes to Republican ideas. What next? A little creationism mixed in with our evolution.? Some climate change debunking? November can't come soon enough.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Learned the hard way or wouldn't have believed it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2014 at 7:34 pm

I think they're desperate to try to cast a really bad light on the parents and OCR in advance of the new guy coming in so they get a lock on his opinion, or at least make him suspicious and standoffish, and keep a lot of the parents too afraid to make waves by speaking up when the new guy gets in. If he had any sense, he'd let go half the people in the admin at Churchill and bring in his own people, after really listening to parents with some guarantee of anonymity. Skelly's legacy will be to sink the new guy with the same petty-bureaucrat-millstone that sank him. Nice.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dismiss them
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jun 13, 2014 at 8:39 pm

At least half of them have conflicts of interest and are under-educated for the job. Too bad we cannot just dismiss these unqualified board members instead of having to wait so long to vote them out. They have done so much harm to Palo Alto students and to the Palo Alto name, as well as the PAUSD reputation. The rest of the Peninsula laughs at us, and THEM!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nadir yet .
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2014 at 9:46 pm

It's not just the Peninsula laughing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2014 at 10:33 pm

@Nadir yet - Yes, some are laughing all the way to the bank. None of those who face/experienced any of the occurrences that luckily became pubic info, those who are not en-route to the back are laughing. Nothing is funny. And no, I doubt it is the Nadir, yet.
I want to thank, again, the family who came forward with the info of the (first) OCR case. I do hope that your courageous act was not wasted.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Office Administrative Hearings
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 24, 2014 at 10:20 pm

Link to calendar of upcoming PAUSD legal hearings by Office of Administrative Hearings involving PAUSD and Special Education students can be located at:
Web Link

At the site, type in "Palo Alto" and click "run".
At the moment there are 4 upcoming hearings.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2014 at 12:19 am

@Office Administrative Hearings - I noticed case # so I am assuming that these are closed meetings to enable the privacy of children.
Can you kindly educate me as to these meetings? Is this some type of appeal? Are these meetings open the to (working) public?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Learned the Hard way
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 12:28 am

@Dismiss them,
"Too bad we cannot just dismiss these unqualified board members instead of having to wait so long to vote them out. "

Well, we can. It's called a recall. It just takes some determined parents or community members to follow the rules, the same way residents asked the City not to rezone maybell so much and when they didn't listen, they referended. You can fight City Hall -- and the board of education. Democracy isn't easy but I suspect you'd find a lot of support.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2014 at 12:51 am

@Learned the Hard way - yes you are correct. However, there is a huge difference between the city council and a school board.
The difference - fear of retaliation, about one's child.


I responded to your - just common sense suggestion - about a year ago here Web Link:

"I see several obstacles standing in the way of public grass rooting, organizing petitions, etc. The biggest one is fear of retaliation. I doubt anyone who currently has a child in PAUSD will risk the child well being, especially if there are current concerns regarding the child. Fear of retaliation was not publicly discussed prior to the first OCR settlement becoming public.
..."

BTW - that thread which was started by Curious, was locked completely.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alliluyeva
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 25, 2014 at 9:15 am

@Josef Stalin: this happens to is all the time. There are two other people on our house who also post on this forum. The moderators, and sometimes other posters, think we are all the same person.

Incidentally, the PAPD advise that a poster NEVER use their real name or location, and change bynames and location names frequently to protect privacy and anonymity. Occasionally, someone figures out who you are and where you live. Also, a friend who works in IT for a large company informed me that it IS possible to hack'into these sites and be undiscovered for quite a long time.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by OAH
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 25, 2014 at 10:06 am

Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) is the due process arm of Special Education in California. When parents and school districts have disputes about special education for a child they cannot resolve, parties can file for due process. Then the parties can settle, go to mediation, or go to a hearing where a judge will issue a decision. Decisions can be appealed to higher courts. Whatever happens, it is expensive and part of the legal fees Special Education is paying to it's law firm. Parents have to fight a school District's unlimited legal resources. Most fear having to involve their disabled child in a hearing and are deterred. And districts have access to legal advice, but parents usually would only bring in legal help when the District sues them or when determine they have to file due process to get a child help.
Past hearing Decisions involving Palo Alto Unified are on the OAH web site.
When the CDE notified PAUSD of its audit, it cited too many due process actions as one indicator it may not be in compliance, per Palo Alto online's School Documents link under "news" pull down menu above.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Run Ken Run
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2014 at 10:21 am

We need new blood on the school board. Fighting our special needs families? Fighting the federal government? Why don't they figure out how to open up that 13th elementary school and do things that matter to our families instead of hurting our disabled students and tilting at windmills. The board is out of touch and a failure. We need new ideas, just like on city council.

The insiders have done a bad job. We need fresh eyes, fresh ideas. We need some "outsiders" for a change. The same old crowd has made a mess. How about some new people? [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Learned the Hard way
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 2:06 pm

As a compelling counter to the people complaining about the OCR, wasn't the CDE sued for NOT doing enough to protect vulnerable children (and didn't it lose in CA Supreme Court)?

I'm sorry, I'm short on details. OAH, do you know?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by don't know what name I published under
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 26, 2014 at 6:35 am

@OAH, interesting link. And if you put in "Mountain View", "Cupertino" and "San Mateo" you get: 6, 8 and 22 respectively.

It does put some perspective into "all" these OCR complaints.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Can't wait
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 11, 2014 at 8:40 pm

For new school board


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Me too
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 12, 2014 at 9:46 am

[Post removed.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Tom Harkin
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 12, 2014 at 11:24 am

It is important that we elect two new board members that will work to rescind the Board's OCR resolution. The odds are in our favor with 4 out of 5 candidates stating they will do this. If the fifth candidate who supports the current board's position is elected I worry we will have more of the same.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PA Online Documents
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 12, 2014 at 12:15 pm

If the District argues it has no CDE or Uniform complaints, why do the legal bills posted by Palo Alto Online show PAUSD attorney's working on these types of complaints with PAUSD employees? Does that mean that complaints were filed?


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

Email:


Post a comment

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

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

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

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

*Required Fields

Local picks on 2015 Michelin Bib Gourmand list
By Elena Kadvany | 6 comments | 3,424 views

Ode to Brussels Sprout
By Laura Stec | 20 comments | 2,617 views

Go Giants! Next Stop: World Series!
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,941 views

Politics: Empty appeals to "innovation"
By Douglas Moran | 9 comments | 1,369 views

It's Dog-O-Ween this Saturday!
By Cathy Kirkman | 2 comments | 391 views