Teen dating hell | May 23, 2014 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - May 23, 2014

Teen dating hell

Are our schools ready when relationships turn violent?

by Terri Lobdell

Laura had her hands full last fall. She had broken up with her boyfriend, Mark, the week before. Since then, he had been stalking her at school, where he was a student too. He cut class to follow her to and from her classes, where he stared at her through the windows. He called her derogatory names like "bitch" and "whore," pressured her to come back to him and barraged her with text messages. He also followed and harassed her on the way to and from school, Laura later told the police.

This story contains 4787 words.

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Editor's note: Freelance writer Terri Lobdell is married to Weekly Publisher Bill Johnson. She can be emailed at tlobdell@paweekly.com.


Posted by Harriet, a resident of Downtown North
on May 23, 2014 at 6:27 am

I guess this means don't get involved with anyone.

Posted by parent, a resident of College Terrace
on May 23, 2014 at 7:30 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Wow, a resident of Walter Hays School
on May 23, 2014 at 8:05 am

Wow, in light of an serious and level headed story, the two posters above have chosen to distort the message and blame the messenger.
Let's have a thoughtful discussion about serious issues.

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2014 at 8:05 am

This excellent story shows the ongoing problem with transparency and accountability in PAUSD under the leadership of Kevin Skelly. The management style of Dr. Skelly is fully revealed in the last lines of this story:

"On Nov. 23 Laura's mother wrote Skelly, Baker and Villalobos: "I am willing to meet if gaining more information would help to ensure this fiasco did not happen again."

Ten days later, she re-sent the email, having heard no response.

The next day, Dec. 4, she heard from Skelly. In their final phone call, Laura's mother said he declined to meet, saying: "No, thanks. I think we're good."

More importantly it shows the fecklessness of Charles Young. Young was the Title IX coordinator who should have investigated this matter. Yet he is not even a bit player in this drama. This is similar to his absence from the twin rape-culture and Phil Winston Title IX debacles at Paly.

Charles Young has no business continuing as the Title IX coordinator for PAUSD. Perhaps there are other jobs he can do well but he has repeatedly shown that this is not a good fit. Yet the board just gave him a three-year contract with a 6 month severance provision.

If Dr. McGee is not a good manager he will retain Young and the district's troubles with regulators will continue. If he is a good manager at all he will dismiss him as he is a liability. At that point, the taxpayers will hand young $75,000 in taxpayer money. Given this story, that is upsetting to say the least and is just the latest example of the Board failing to act like a board.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 23, 2014 at 8:08 am

This is an alarming story, but there is a lot lacking in it and so it does not make sense.

Obviously the events are from the point of view of the girl's family and the school. But what about the boy's family. This boy presumably is a minor and his parents should have been involved in all of this. Is this the case? I am not siding with anyone, but I would have expected that before all this got so far out of hand that the girl's family could have contacted the boy's parents and asked them for help in the situation. It is possible that this happened and hasn't been mentioned, but his family's involvement in this affair is part of the story.

Posted by True Blue, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 23, 2014 at 10:31 am

True Blue is a registered user.

I agree with Paly Parent - I found myself wondering when I was going to read about the boy's perspective, how his family dealt with the situation, and how the district dealt with them. The complete lack of acknowledgement of the "other side" of this issue makes this only half a story.

Note I am not defending him, just pointing out there were two parties involved in this issue and we are only hearing from one of them. If the boy's family declined to comment or participate, at least say that!

Posted by Roger Dodger, a resident of another community
on May 23, 2014 at 11:02 am

Roger Dodger is a registered user.

Calling this journalism is a joke. There is not one single reference in this entire "article" to the boy's story, his family's part in this, or his side of the matter. If you are going to pretend that you are doing journalism and not just publishing an expensive dog training tool or bird cage liner, you at the LEAST need to SAY that you tried to contact the family and that they declined comment (this of course assumes that you actually DID this). To do otherwise borders on journalistic malpractice, and it would earn you an "F" in any beginning journalism class.

Posted by KIDSNSCHOOL, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2014 at 12:13 pm

KIDSNSCHOOL is a registered user.

What is lost in al this sensational and poor journalism is that the boy NEVER came back on campus EVER after the incident regardless of what emails flew about. The parents GOT the result they wanted, just not in a linear fashion. The school in the end DID protect her. [Portion removed.]

I imagine Ms. Klein perhaps did the dance of a lifetime with a weak principal (who was recently reassigned for 3 years of poor performance and shuffled away), and a [portion removed] superintendent who threw her under the bus for the purpose of assigning blame. Does anyone believe Ms. Klein did ANYTHING without his approval and the approval of the rest of the clown car that is the PAUSD administration team?

Wow. A lot of one sided information. Very misleading and sensationally written. Is it lost on anyone else that on Klein's responses are posted, not the precipitating event emails that were responded to. How can you possibly print this story with no "other side" information from the boys family or the school. Or even print Kevin Skelley's email response in it's entirety. To have Ms. Klein forbidden by her superiors from responding from this story makes it far less credible.

What will be truly shocking is when the circumstances the boy had that FORBID, legally, his immediate reassignment to another school and the PROTECTIONS he legally had that made it impossible to do what the parents asked. The Weekly does not know those circumstances and if they led with those FACTS the story would be a MUTE point.

I am so glad the weekly drudged up every bleeding heart organization to bolster their pathetic journalism.

Posted by True Blue, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 23, 2014 at 1:10 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

Well, if the article is to be believed, the parents had to engage the PAPD, the district attorney's office, and private attorneys in order to ensure the boy could not come back on campus. I would not call that the school protecting her or doing the right thing, they simply were forced to comply with the law. And, according to the Skelly quote, the boy left the district altogether so that must have been the boy's parents' decision and action, not PAUSD's (who would only have re-assigned him to Paly if they had done anything).

From what is written in the article, PAUSD failed at every juncture to act appropriately. The only question I have is why the girl's parents are not suing the district for attorney's costs and emotional distress. A lawsuit is the only thing that will make PAUSD change (and maybe not even then).

Of course, this is only half an article so who knows what really happened...

P.S. It's "MOOT," not "MUTE." Just tryin' to help...

Posted by KIDSNSCHOOL, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2014 at 2:11 pm

KIDSNSCHOOL is a registered user.

True Blue; when the OCR comes back and exonerates the school and Ms. Klein, will you be there to take back the "lawsuit" comment? Because you are commenting on hearsay, not fact.

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 23, 2014 at 2:20 pm

JustMe is a registered user.

Isn't this story just another story of bullying at school? The reasons for the bullying may be different, but the trauma and school response seem very similar. It was certainly a story of one person harassing another, followed by a horrific story about what the school was willing to do about it. The second story looks like another example of why we need to be able to fire people who are clearly unwilling to do their jobs.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 23, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

KIDS - is this even relevant? "And those kids had over a year of bliss on campus in front of everyone."

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Edmund Burke is a registered user.

In response to the question regarding "his side of the story" the boy admitted (pleaded guilty to) a serious criminal offense. His assault was witnessed by bystanders who intervened and stopped him. The only relevant fact is that he did it, and that he did it on the way home from school. That made it a physical assault on another student that was within the school's disciplinary jurisdiction. Those are all the relevant facts about the boy, and they are uncontested. There is no need for any more about that.

This is not a story about he/said/she/said. The facts of the abuse are not in dispute.

This is a story about management failure and rank incompetence by school personnel. These personnel, overseen by Kevin Skelly and Charles Young, failed totally to implement Title IX yet again. They failed totally to understand and follow their obligations under the law.

Ms. Klein was, I have no doubt, trying to do her best in an environment in which she was poorly trained, poorly supervised, and poorly managed. Policies are wrong or out of date. Training is nonexistent on this subject. Management must take responsibility, but she also has to take responsibility.

In particular her statement that the boy could not be disciplined because he was truant on the day of the assault badly mangled and misinterpreted a section of the education code that has to do with imposing discipline FOR truancy itself, not for violent assaults committed while truant. [Portion removed.]

PAUSD should address the management failures that brought it to this point. And to those who continue to wonder why OCR is investigating PAUSD and not some other district, the answer is that PAUSD continues to disobey the law.

Posted by True Blue, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 23, 2014 at 4:18 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

Pretty sure I began my post with, "...if the article is to be believed..." and then said, "From what is written in the article..." and ended with, "Of course, this is only half an article so who knows what really happened..."

I think I made it pretty clear my thought was based on the "hearsay" reported in this article. And, no, I wouldn't take back my comment. The girl's parents could file a civil lawsuit irrespective of what the OCR finds.

Posted by Those 183 Votes, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Those 183 Votes is a registered user.

Ed, you were right up to this point: "This is a story about management failure and rank incompetence by school personnel." But, as always, you overplayed your hand.

This article has no comment from the district. [Portion removed.] What you are subsequently presenting as "facts" are, at this point, "assertions". Come on, with your background, you should know the difference.

Given how the results of the recent OCR investigations have fallen, wouldn't you also consider it prudent to wait until OCR has finished their investigation before bringing out the rope?

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2014 at 6:28 pm

Edmund Burke is a registered user.

I have no rope, just my own opinion based on reading the facts. One does wonder however at the appetite of the PAUSD board for continued controversy rather than transparency and good governance. And also at the quiescence of the people.

This reminds me of something I once said "When the leaders choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents, in the construction of the state, will be of no service. They will become flatterers instead of legislators; the instruments, not the guides, of the people."

Posted by Those 183 Votes, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Those 183 Votes is a registered user.

"based on reading the facts"

There you go again. Please look up the difference.

Unsurprisingly the editor chooses not to remove your categorization.

Posted by Kwsmith, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 23, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Kwsmith is a registered user.

Wow. I agree the school should have some accountability. But it starts with the parents. Not sure how old they are, but perhaps they should not have been dating. Novel concept, don't date to this level until college. Lots of blame on the school. How about both sets of parents for steering their kids?. Typical over the top controversial article.

Posted by resident3, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2014 at 9:19 pm

resident3 is a registered user.


"Novel concept, don't date to this level until college"

Harrassment and aggression is not a dating "level."

I agree that parents have a role. I have heard of parents who control their kids so much they prevent them from dating at all in high school. Others who are "anything goes", and who allow middle school kids to act like little married couples.

But from the school point of view, it's High School, dating - expected, like you expect to the sun to rise. Most relationships are normal and not a bad thing for kids to learn while still at home about boundaries and managing relationships. This is about dating.

The story line shouldn't be about teen dating hell. Hell would do, it's not dating!

There must be a great amount of shame and fear when you are a victim, so it's not likely to come up at the dinner table that your boyfriend or girlfriend is a drunk abuser. Adults can't handle this kind of abuse, it's a terrible pattern.

Ok schools, get your head out of the sand and stop pretending hell deserves special treatment. How about a zero tolerance policy about peer to peer aggression.

Posted by True Blue, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 23, 2014 at 9:56 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

"...drunk abuser?" Was alcohol ever mentioned? Maybe Resident3 knows more about the story?

Good luck forbidding your high school aged children to date - try it and most will just go behind your back and then you really don't know what is happening. Then they CAN'T come to you for help.

Teach kids what is normal, and abnormal, behavior. Talk, talk, talk to them about what is going on with them. Know their friends. Develop a relationship with their friends' parents - they may hear things from their child that you need to know. Volunteer at school and wherever you can to see your kids with their friends. Teach them about and agree on reasonable boundaries (e.g. only double-dating allowed and parents drop off and pick up, no alone time with a date except at the library or in the backyard when parents are home, etc...). You need to give them enough room to feel like they are growing up and gaining independence, but not so much that they stray too far from the nest.

Know where your kids are all the time, trust them to make age-appropriate decisions, and understand what "age-appropriate" means for your child.

Build a strong, mutually-respectful, trusting relationship with your children rather than trying to "control" them as teenagers.

Posted by resident3, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2014 at 10:17 pm

resident3 is a registered user.

True blue

"...drunk abuser?" Was alcohol ever mentioned? Maybe Resident3 knows more about the story?

No, I don't know "more." There are three similar stories on TS and the "date to this level" caught my eye. One of the stories had a drunk abuser, at school (imagine if that happened at work). They all sound like hell.

Your tips are all good, but everything could look perfect and sound perfect and your kid could still be hiding something. In these cases, it appears the victims all reached out to the school.

Do pediatricians ask these questions during check ups?

Posted by frustrated mom, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 28, 2014 at 10:47 pm

frustrated mom is a registered user.

I truly admire the time, energy and dedication of Laura's mom. I am glad she always made sure that her daughter was safe. She had a lot of knowledge about the law, school rules and this helped everyone. If it was one of the immigrant parents who do not speak the language, and have no idea of what are the school's responsibilities, the victim would be worst shape. Thanks for risking your identity in order to makes us parents to open our eyes about what could be happening to our children and we might not even know it. I really admire you. Thanks to your tenacity and persistence things did not get as bad as they could have been. Blessing and hope Laura, her family and the young boy are doing better. Hope he to is getting help to learn how to deal with break ups. I am not surprised that Katherine Baker did not replied back. She should not even be a district administrator. But it was Skelly's idea. Now we are stuck with her and Young (who did not even got involved in this case, I guess it was probably better because it would had not made things any better.

Posted by Mass Mom, a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Mass Mom is a registered user.

Thank you for the article on the Gunn family and their struggle with their daughter's school district honoring a restraining order.

I am the mother of a 15 yo high school sophomore who was raped and sexually assaulted by two males who attend the same public high school in Massachusetts.

We too filed for and were granted a court order requiring the assailants to stay away from her. We filed for only 50 feet inside the school because we thought that the school would not fight us at that low distance...it allowed the assailants to attend school while the case was investigated. We asked for 50 feet just to keep them out of her line of sight during the school day while we awaited investigation and prosecution for the rape.

Instead of accommodating the physical and emotional safety of our daughter so that she could continue to receive an equitable education as guaranteed by Title IX, the school's Assoc. Principal testified for the rapist at the restraining order hearing and requested that the court remove the proximity requirement within the school entirely.

He said under oath that he "felt sorry" for the rapist and that he "worried that the rapist would miss out on being with his peers" if the restraining order were in effect. When the judge asked the Assoc. Principal what he thought the school could handle in terms of distance, the administrator answered "zero feet".

The judge granted the order, yet still the school refused to accommodate the order in any way. The rapist was permitted to brush up against my daughter in the halls and stairs. The school refused to remove the assailants from the lunch room and told us when we complained of harassment and retaliation through intimidation "It's not a school issue, if you have a problem with him, call the police."

Of course, when police did come to the school, the administrators told them that the student had a right to be in the halls and so without the school backing our claims, the police were without much recourse. The DA's office tried to push the prosecution of the rape through as fast as possible, but our daughter spent months enduring close contact and intimidating harassment by her rapist.

Her grades suffered, she spent lunches in the nurse's office, she dropped classes to get away from friends of the assailants, she dropped extracurriculars from stress. She had been a straight A student. By the time the end of the year came around, she had 2 C's and 3 incompletes.

During this time, we contacted the Office of Civil Rights and filed a Title IX complaint against the school. This changed the tune of the administrators who then realized that they COULD (and in fact were required to) keep him more than zero feet away from her!

The OCR just finished their investigation and final interviews last week and we should know shortly what the findings are.

(We already know that the district is in deep trouble as the Assoc Principal, who suggested that a rape victim would be able to learn in a setting where her rapist under felony investigation is permitted within zero feet of her, happens to also be the Title IX Coordinator and the kid's coach!)

I’d like to thank the Gunn mother for speaking to the press as it allowed me to know that there are other mothers out there fighting for the rights of their daughters in similar circumstances. I am not able to go to the press yet as the rape case is still in the prosecution stage. When we can speak out, we plan to do so.

Thank you again for a great article.

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