News

Palo Alto school board backs challenge to U.S. agency

Sloppy investigative practices spark misunderstandings, board members say

The Palo Alto Board of Education Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution challenging the investigative practices of a federal civil rights agency that has launched multiple probes of the school district.

Board members said their attempts to work cooperatively with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights had been met with indifference to the district's concerns about possible evidence-tampering, unfair demoralization of teachers, misleading media reports and disregard for student privacy.

The resolution opens the way for the board to contact elected officials and other groups to lobby for reform of OCR procedures, they said.

The board's vote came after pleas by six community members to reject the resolution.

"It's ironic that we wouldn't be in this situation if adults had better served children instead of trying to protect themselves," said parent LaToya Baldwin Clark, referring to the multiple OCR investigations into alleged violations of students' civil rights.

"I understand that being superintendent is sometimes a thankless and very difficult job but I do hope it's a job that should be focused on children and not on protecting adults as I believe this resolution does," Clark said.

Parent Christina Schmidt said she understood the district's frustration about the OCR's alleged "misrepresentations, omissions, unexcused delays, misquotes and not following its own procedures." Ironically, she added, many families experience similar frustrations when they approach the school district with concerns about treatment of their children.

"Now I'd hope you can understand how families who come forward and have a complaint may be feeling," Schmidt said, also urging the board to reject the resolution.

Despite their complaints about OCR practices, board members stressed that they fully support and share the mission of the agency to guard civil rights of all students.

"When the mission is so complementary, it seems reasonable that the working relationship should be more collaborative and constructive," board President Barb Mitchell said.

Yet Mitchell said the agency had ignored a district request to review an email OCR lawyers had once shown district lawyers that did not match the district's stored copies of the same email correspondence of the same dates.

"No one in our community is in favor of falsely implicating teachers and principals of discrimination against students, tolerating evidence tampering or disregarding student privacy protections," Mitchell said. "Unfortunately, in misrepresenting some district staff actions over the past two years, OCR's important mission has been undermined rather than facilitated, and diligent district educators have been demoralized rather than inspired.

"We hope that the resolution may help to raise awareness and encourage changes in OCR practices," Mitchell said.

Under questioning from board member Dana Tom, a school district lawyer suggested the federal agency may already be responding.

Within days of the board's first discussion of the proposed resolution June 3, lawyer Chad Graff said he heard from an OCR lawyer after a long silence, promising that the district's appeals "were going to be reviewed."

"She acknowledged the legal timeline had required a response in September 2013 but that we should expect a response within 45 days," Graff said. "I think that was a positive sign -- it was the first communication we'd had in over 60 days on this issue."

Over the past two years the OCR has conducted at least seven investigations into the Palo Alto school district. Two of those remain open. Four have recently been dropped for insufficient evidence. In an open case involving Terman Middle School, conditions of a voluntary "resolution agreement" signed by the district and the federal agency are expected to be completed in the next school year.

Related content:

School board hopefuls split over OCR resolution

National group invokes Palo Alto school resolution

Background material on the district's resolution and dealings with OCR

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by what?
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 18, 2014 at 10:33 am

Remember: PAUSD, What if this was your child that was affected? Mrs. Clark and Mrs. Schmidt hit the nail on the head! It would have never come to this if PAUSD had taken action before instead of being told to take action. A mamma bear protects its children, a bureaucratic board protects itself.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by tampering with evidence
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2014 at 10:51 am

[Post removed due to potentially defamatory statement.]


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 11:07 am

Why no report on what either Ken Dauber or the other board hopeful had to say considering you covered them a couple of days ago? I don't get it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thanks Weekly!
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2014 at 11:21 am

That's your story about this ridiculous thing? [Portion removed.] It allows Mitchell to make unchallenged and probably false claims about "evidence tampering" without noting that she has presented zero evidence to support that outrageous charge or to show that it in any way affected the outcome of anything. [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by interesting board meeting
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2014 at 11:22 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Concerned parent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 18, 2014 at 11:30 am

I don't usually watch school board meetings, but I tuned in this time to see what the fuss was all about. I thought that the board members were very reasonable and dignified. I can see why they were frustrated by the OCR investigations. Kind of interesting that OCR now starts returning their emails now that someone is watching and there is more accountability. I hope that the board and the teachers can now start paying attention to teaching our kids instead of dealing with these investigations. Tells me something that even after getting thousands of pages of documents and interviewing dozens and dozens of teachers and students that OCR closed most of the cases without finding that any violations occured.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 11:40 am

Bonehead board. Very glad to see Skelly go.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 12:31 pm

I agree with "Concerned parent." All five of the (duly elected and re-elected) board members appeared last night to be doing their jobs thoughtfully and diligently, in spite of intense pressure from the media (Weekly) and a fairly small group of angry voices. It was especially helpful to hear Ms. Mitchell talk about the great respect the board has for the mission of the OCR. The problem is with what appears to be outlandishly bad execution. I think the accusations that the board is somehow anti-child or anti-civil rights or somehow "right wing" are way off base. I'm beyond disappointed that the Weekly has not accurately or completely reported the details of this story. Details matter. Facts matter.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by watched the same meeting?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Weekly Reporter,

Did we watch the same meeting?

Weekly: "Board members said their attempts to work cooperatively with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights had failed, with the agency showing indifference to their concerns about possible evidence-tampering, unfair demoralization of teachers, inaccurate media reports and disregard for student privacy."

The board, superintendent, and their attorney were clear that the OCR and PAUSD continue to work collaboratively and are respectful of each other's work. The OCR even shared its appreciation for the professionalism and responsiveness of PAUSD staff and PAUSD's efforts that have produced voluminous documents (1000s of pages), 40 + people to interview in a short time span, etc.

The main focus of the board discussion seen on my TV screen was:

1. Getting the OCR's attention.

Lots of reminders and much patience had failed to get PAUSD's concerns addressed or move matters forward hence the need for the board's deliberation on next steps.

Apparently the board's plan to call public attention to this is already working. Before the board meeting two weeks ago, PAUSD's FOIA appeals, invited BTW by the OCR, had lingered for 9 months without a response. A day after the public plea was made at the board meeting, two separate OCR reps were on the phone with an apology, promising a 45 day turn around.

2. Sensitizing the local media to the unintended consequences of its reporting.

The board and attorney said that in the media's eagerness to report about this it rushed the public to judgment. It damaged reputations by naming names in stories featuring one unhappy person's unproven allegations without information about the context or added in for balance.

Several examples about how the media sensationalized stories were painfully cited by Heidi Emberling, examples which she shared were contrary to the tenants of responsible journalism she was taught while a student in UC Berkeley's journalism program.


3. Offering suggestions on how OCR can improve its process.

Obama's recent OCR task force admitted that the OCR process could be tweaked and improved.

The board said this resolution is trying to help with that by pointing out which of its procedures were not accomplishing the OCR's objectives but instead hampered the district's ability to direct resources to protect students.

Some examples of the significant redirect of school resources cited:

- Time. Dr. Skelly mentioned that staffers at schools with an open OCR claim spend 30% of their time over the X number of months the complaint is open working with the OCR and NOT on curriculum, on the playground, etc. 30% even on claims that OCR eventually finds are groundless (5 so far?).

- Public funds. $200k/year needed for attorneys, $X for staff to review and redact 1000s of pages of documents to comply with federal and state laws that protect student privacy, etc.

- Employee morale hits that interfere with the focus teachers can bring to their work.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by optical
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Baldwin-Clark raises an important point about the issue of protecting adults. The board talked a lot about that - staff morale. Of course tampering with evidence to blame staff and heavy media scrutiny are major issues which cannot be overlooked; however, this should not translate into that everything is perfect in PAUSD (run by adults). Tom admitted how often he hears about the need for improvements, and staff needs to be supported and encouraged to work on these needed improvements.

As the OCR issues are dealt with, the work ahead for the new Superintendent needs to be visible on the issue of necessary improvements and correcting long standing problems at school sites. During his speech McGuee talked about listening to diverse points of view; he needs to cross-examine these viewpoints. It's easy to get caught up in all that goes right in PAUSD - better to laser focus on all that goes wrong, or what could go wrong. That's where the real work is.

Protecting kids first will anyway also protect adults.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by watched the same meeting?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Compelling too was the frustration expressed by many board members last night about what the Weekly tags as "possible evidence tampering" by a complainant.

Fabricating evidence presented to the federal government can land someone in prison:

18 U.S. Code Part I - CRIMES. Chapter 47 - FRAUD AND FALSE STATEMENTS. 1001 - Statements or entries generally

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully—

(1)falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;

(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or

(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;

shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years ... or both...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by I watched the meeting
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2014 at 1:30 pm

My impressions:

First, the spectacle of the board interviewing the district's own lawyer as if he is an independent witness was odd. I think it was mainly a PR stunt. Mr. Graff is duty-bound to give answers that will serve the district's interests, not to give an accurate picture. Another waste of money.

The idea that the resolution isn't a challenge to OCR doesn't make sense. Barb Mitchell called OCR dishonest, unfair, not focused on children, arbitrary, slanted...basically, smeared them from here to DC and back again.

The "evidence tampering" allegation doesn't stem from the district's investigation, it comes from a conversation in which OCR wanted to compare an email that it had with the district's copy. That investigation (it involved Jordan, I believe) was closed a year ago with a finding that the district was complying. Why is this an issue now?

The transparency issue that the Obama task force addressed was public transparency about which universities are under investigation for sexual assault. As Graff said, the remedy was to publicly release the names of the 55 universities. It has nothing to do with investigation procedures.

Emberling seemed unaware that her board colleagues had cited pending legislation in the House and Senate in their own letter supporting the resolution.

The bottom line, at least for me, is that the board is spending a lot of time and public money attacking OCR for failings that are either made up out of whole cloth (the "tampering" issue is one that OCR itself brought up and presumably handled, not one they are ignoring), or is just part of their normal process. For example, Townsend complained about the very fact that OCR opens investigations based on credible allegations.

How does any of this help our kids? I think it's driven by adult egos, defensiveness, and the political agendas of some board members.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 1:39 pm

I agree that it was a PR stunt and I think it worked. They were able to have someone other than them articulate what they have been complaining about without resolution. I don't blame them for clarifying that the filing of a complaint really doesn't mean anything although the media treated it as though it was a guilty verdict.

I find it strange that you don't think they should find out if there was evidence tampering. I'm pretty sure if you thought the board had been complicit in evidence tampering you would be screaming from the roof. Why overlook what could be a crime?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Myths
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 18, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Attacking the media is a favorite tactic of politicians trying to distract attention. Paint me skeptical. Show me an instance of the media treating a complaint as a guilty verdict. And not just waving in the general direction of the press, an actual instance.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Known Fact
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 18, 2014 at 2:04 pm

We already know that PAUSD is vengeful....that is probably why they are backing this challenge to the OCR. Coupled with the fact that they have no real shame or guilt, and will spend so much effort avoiding any action to solve problems like bullying that they would have better spent the same amount of energy just working on the problem itself.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Waste of money
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 18, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Why should taxpayers in Palo Alto be paying for the school board to campaign against the Office for Civil Rights? That's my basic question for all this. The fact that board members don't like the press they are getting is no reason to divert money from schools to lawyers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Known Fact
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 18, 2014 at 2:23 pm

It is also a common tactic of lawyers for the guilty to attack the innocent. That is likeLy what is happening here.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by watched the same meeting?,
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 3:09 pm

California lawyers are duty-bound to tell the truth and canNOT give dishonest answers even if doing so would serve their client's interests. Web Link

I did NOT hear Barb Mitchell say any of the things about the OCR you listed. For exactly what she said, listen to the meeting when it posts here: Web Link

On evidence tampering, the public facts are NOT as you state them either. On May 23, 2013, the OCR investigating attorneys showed the complainant's email to the middle school principal and assistant principal during their OCR interviews. The district said that that email as staff reported it did not exactly match the email the district had in its system. [Portion removed due to potentially defamatory statement.]
Web Link

[Portion removed due to potentially defamatory statement.]

Weekly articles about this claim:

May 2013: "PAUSD expects to be sued with 'significant exposure' in 4 OCR cases"

June 2013: "'Insufficient evidence' in student search case"

If you are sure that the district has its publicly reported facts wrong, why should we believe you and not the district? Are you somehow privy to information NOT in the public record? If so, how?

On OCR intended process improvements, read to the end of the OCR report for the full story.

Doesn't sound like the board is making stuff up to me.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 3:25 pm

A few minutes ago someone posted that if we wanted to know who tampered with evidence, we should ask the Weekly, since the Weekly knows. So I responded: Ok. Weekly: who tampered with evidence? It looks like both posts were entirely removed without explanation. (Or at least I can't find them). Can you give an explanation, please?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by I watched the meeting
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Chad Graff is the district's lawyer, not an independent witness. Most of what he talked about last night was pure spin. Why is the board asking him about the media, staff morale, etc.? Why not interview Tabitha Hurley on the same topics? If we're getting PR, at least we should get it from PR officer rather than a high-priced lawyer.

Barb Mitchell did say the things I mentioned in my post. She questioned OCR's accuracy, integrity, fairness, intentions...I think "smear" is a reasonable characterization. I encourage everyone to listen. I was shocked.

The so-called "tampering" is connected with a case that was closed in the district's favor. No finding of non-compliance, no resolution agreement, over a year ago. I don't see a reason we are hearing about this now except to create a smoke screen and justify this resolution. Why are we paying lawyers to dig into this?

The Weekly articles you mention don't support the idea that the press is presenting complaints as guilty verdicts. The first isn't even an article in the Weekly, it's a posting from somebody on Palo Alto Online: Web Link. The second reports that the district was found not to have violated civil rights law following an investigation: Web Link
That demonstrates the opposite of what you are saying. If you have an actual example, please provide it.

Again, why is the board spending time on this, rather than on kids?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Town Square Moderator
online staff of Palo Alto Online
on Jun 18, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.

A Parent,

Because no evidence or documents are being made available that support the allegations of evidence tampering, any discussion of this is highly defamatory and carries with it great legal risks. We will remove any comments alleging such criminal conduct to protect the poster and us, as well as the identity of the person who is being accused of such conduct. The Weekly has repeatedly sought information from the school district and OCR that might shed light on this, but both have declined to provide any documents.

The alleged "tampering" involved a case regarding a missing $20 bill from a substitute teacher's purse, and the teacher's accusations that a specific student took it. OCR found insufficient evidence that any discriminatory harassment took place in that matter, and closed the case.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by I love "watched the same meeting?"
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 18, 2014 at 4:01 pm

I really appreciate the fact-based comments as opposed to the wild and unsubstantiated allegations that often dominate this forum.

Two points: 1. Most of the legal fees spent by PAUSD have been spent COMPLYING with the OCR not fighting it. Do you think spending many hours listening to testimony by PAUSD staff to OCR comes free?

2. Registering a complaint about OCR processes is NOT THE SAME as abandoning civil rights for all students. As "watched the same meeting?" pointed out, the district continues to work with OCR. But the public can get a glimpse into the cost of these several complaints with the attorney fees and the cost in terms of personnel time and morale.

Wouldn't we rather have our school personnel focused on our kids, than on a string of complaints that have been dismissed with no findings but have nonetheless cost hours of time and thousands of dollars to address?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 18, 2014 at 4:13 pm

@"I love"
Can you point out where we can see the breakdown is of the legal fees?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Really Confused
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2014 at 5:37 pm

I just read the Moderators' clarification that the email tampering has nothing to do with the case where OCR found the district in violation. The Resolution, along with the various statements by the Board indicated that this was their biggest issue and that it was very to material to adverse findings by the OCR. Instead, it has to do with a case where the OCR found the district in compliance. I feel mislead.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Really Confused
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2014 at 5:43 pm

I should have said the district's "claim" of email tampering, since all we have heard is that someone from the district thinks that what they remember the OCR showed them was different from their records. That is not evidence and the board should have been a lot more careful with how they characterized this claim.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Thanks Weekly
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 18, 2014 at 5:50 pm

@town square moderator. Right. It's defamatory. That's what I said in my post above about how you credulously repeated Mitchell's unsubstantiated allegation of "tampering" without informing the reading public that there is zero evidence to support it. So why is it still in this story?
[Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by watched the same meeting?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 6:01 pm

To "I watched,"

No reason to go back and forth with you other than to say that IF someone tampered with evidence (Weekly - note I prefaced this with "if") and that ALLEGED tampering lead to an amped up OCR investigation instead of an early dismissal, and so caused a redirection of substantial district resources (money, staff time) and damage to the reputation of the district and its employees, the board needs to get to the bottom of it to ensure that it doesn't happen again.

I do not buy the "relative morality" argument you are promoting. It is not OK to lie. Not if the dishonest means justifies a righteous end. Not if the lie didn't work. Not if the lie did work but in your mind wasn't "material" to the findings.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Really Confused
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2014 at 6:33 pm

@ Watch
Thanks for being more clear on your argument. It seems to rest on a series of "ifs" built on an "alleged". It appears now that this is the strength of the claims made by the board, except that they did not qualify their remarks like you did. Although it would have been less dramatic, they would have been wiser to have qualified their remarks rather than make accusations about a possible discrepancy. From their own statements, they don't yet know the facts, nor do we.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 7:25 pm

"Time. Dr. Skelly mentioned that staffers at schools with an open OCR claim spend 30% of their time over the X number of months the complaint is open working with the OCR and NOT on curriculum, on the playground, etc. 30% even on claims that OCR eventually finds are groundless (5 so far?). "

It's just astonishing how everyone is just making up what happened here out of whole cloth.

Let's remember that the initial complaints were because Palo Alto had almost no processes by which families could seek redress when their children's rights were violated. Or, we had them, PAUSD even wrote their own, they just weren't using them or seemingly even aware of them. The district was found not to be in compliance, and they worked to correct those problems.

The district would not have had to deal with any of this, spend any extra time, nor would they have had to deal with the OCR so much, if they had been following the law -- as outlined in their own procedures that THEY WROTE to follow the law -- like virtually every other district around the country does without having to be told.

Additionally, the OCR almost never decides individual cases or accommodations, rather, the OCR's job is to ensure districts have the processes in place to give children due process when there are problems. The cases they did not take because of insufficient evidence, they wrote that it was insufficient evidence that the district didn't have PROCEDURES OR PROCESSES. They are not deciding on whether people were discriminated against, they are deciding whether the district offered the students a fair process by which to investigate alleged discrimination. (Also, regardless, "insufficient evidence" does not mean "no merit".)

In the first two cases, there were clear problems with the district processes, which the district then took steps to remedy. They would not have had to do so had they been just doing their jobs, like most districts around the country. Given how serious the deficits were, it makes perfect sense that the OCR would take another look when more complaints surfaced. Given how navel-gazing and self-absorbed district people are being about the whole thing -- it's about THEM not the students -- it also makes sense that they got other complaints.

If only the district were spending a commensurate amount of effort on self-examination of how it is they ended up going for years without complying with the law on 504 protections, what impact that had on parents and vulnerable students, the honesty of their own practices, and how parents and families are impacted by the district's problematic recordkeeping practices. That at least would have a direct bearing on their mission, and look a lot less like hypocrisy and ego-driven CYA.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by optical
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 7:39 pm

TS Moderator

"The Weekly has repeatedly sought information from the school district and OCR that might shed light on this, but both have declined to provide any documents....

....The alleged "tampering" involved a case regarding a missing $20 bill from a substitute teacher's purse, and the teacher's accusations that a specific student took it. "

These two seem inconsistent.

Wouldn't it be better if all the speculations are put on freeze until the new Superintendent starts?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Constituent
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jun 18, 2014 at 8:23 pm

I'm having trouble following this logic:

"IF someone tampered with evidence...the board needs to get to the bottom of it to ensure that it doesn't happen again. "

This is in a closed case that was resolved in favor of the district, right?

Why does the school board need to do this? Don't they have more important things to do? How are they going to "ensure that it doesn't happen again"?

I know nothing about the circumstances, but this sounds like its either petty vindictiveness or some seriously screwed up priorities. Find something more important to do.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 8:34 pm

[Post removed due to potentially defamatory statements.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by watched the same meeting?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 8:38 pm

[Post removed due to potentially defamatory statements.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A Parent, Sr.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 9:11 pm

A Parent, Sr. is a registered user.

Earlier today I posted a couple of times as "A Parent" from "Another Palo Alto Neighborhood." Not very clever, I know. About an hour ago, someone else used the name "A Parent" from "Another Palo Alto Neighborhood" to past comments that are very different from what I believe and how I view this story. I'm sure it was inadvertent. I do wish the Weekly would investigate requiring verifiable, unique ID's. [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Patsy Mink
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 19, 2014 at 10:22 am

Patsy Mink is a registered user.

I just listened to the board meeting (Item E on the media center archive June 17th) Heidi Emberling gave an impassioned speech about the ethics of journalism in regards to the Weekly story that linked the resolution with the NSBA.
Heidi claims there is no link between the NSBA drafted OCR legislation Web Link
and the PAUSD resolution. She objected that the weekly article had reported that the NSBA featured the PAUSD resolution on their website. See Web Link

She described the NSBA as being nonpartisan and in support of civil rights. While that may be true if you go to the NSBA home page Web Link
it features Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla) and Aaron Schock (R-Ill) who agreed to sponsor the NSDA's Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, S.2451 and H.R. 1386. Currently S.2451 has the support of one other Republican and H.R. 1386 is supported by 42 Republicans and 1 Democrat. The legislation is aimed at curbing OCR's oversight of local school districts.

Heidi appeared to be surprisingly uninformed about her fellow board members' reliance on the NSBA position on the OCR when voting in favor of the resolution. Heidi's comments were preceded by Camille Townsend who spoke about a presentation by the School Lawyers Association at this year's NSBA conference. Camille stated that the attorneys reported that during a presentation by OCR to the School Lawyers Association the staff of OCR stated they were "on a national campaign and were seeking folks to file claims. They were encouraging the media to get people to bring cases against school districts." (Can Camille provide documentation in support of this allegation?)

In addition, the letter written to the board from Dr. Skelly, Barb Mitchell and Melissa Baten-Caswell recommending passage of the Resolution cites the NSBA legislation as reason for supporting the Resolution:
"We are not alone in our concerns regarding OCR investigation practices. The National School Boards Association's (NSBA) General Counsel presented in April on OCR overreach at the Council of School Attorneys Seminar and continues to monitor OCR investigation practices while being a resource to attorneys representing school districts. NSBA advocates legislation (H.R. 1386) to support local school board governance and flexibility and states: "The expansion of federal intrusion on public education in recent years has impacted local policy-making in ways that impose unnecessary rules, conditions, and restrictions, as well as significant costs, on local school governance.""

See Web Link

The closing line of the resolution states:
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.

If not the NSBA, which "education coalition affiliate" did Heidi think her fellow board members would be engaging with?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous22
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Anonymous22 is a registered user.

The trouble with this board advocating for local control is that they really don't mean local control, i.e., local families, meaning parents. They mean their own insular control. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and petty local bureaucrats usually provide the worst examples.

They have indicated absolutely no contrition for the serious deficits in our own district that led to the initial resolution agreements and findings, and the kinds of behavior they claim to be bothered by from the OCR that they themselves engage in far worse ways at great stress to parents and families.

I would like to see the district take every point they say they don't like about OCR involvement and look first in the mirror for how they need to do better. Because every single concern they have is many times worse at the district level toward parents and families, who they ostensibly serve.

Any attempt at decreasing "federal intrusion" should be accompanied by commensurate efforts to increase the power of local families to have the kind of real control described here. Given modern technology, for example, why wouldn't parents be given the chance to vote on whether we want the district to spend so much time and money on this, and if the vast majority don't wish it, the leadership heed the wishes of the community for whom they work? That is local control. Consolidating the insular power of local bureaucrats is not.


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