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New district policies and procedures: months in the making and still not fully baked

Original post made on Oct 31, 2013

Complicated board policies and procedures designed to protect student rights, create fair process and comply with ever-growing numbers of federal and state laws can be a burden to overworked school administrators, school officials point out.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 14, 2013, 8:26 AM

Comments (13)

Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 31, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Wow - this is such a good in depth article. It is a complex problem - state wide. Many districts do not have an easy to use process - or do not disclose their process to parents or the press when asked.

Uniform Complaint Procedure. This was meant to be Uniform and not complex. If it is non-uniform, it becomes inherently complex.
(this topic is still of interest - even though months have passed)


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 31, 2013 at 7:25 pm

To meet the OCR request, we will end up with a policy that is incomprehensible to anyone but lawyers. Hmm.... Wouldn't it just be simpler to teach our kids to be nice to each other? And along those lines, teach the adults in this community to be nice to each other.


Posted by Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 1, 2013 at 5:50 am

Actually, the OCR request was simply that the district affirm that it would use the state Uniform Complaint Procedure to deal with complaints in which unlawful discrimination is alleged. That is already the law, and the UCP (which is mandated by the California Department of Education) is pretty simple. It requires that complaints be handled according to a timetable and that there be clear rights of appeal.
PAUSD doesn't want to simply use the UCP, because it interferes with the district's 'site-based control' policy. Site-based control requires that each school get to make up its own policy, and that district administrators aren't responsibility for ensuring that rules are followed. Since that's incompatible with the law and the OCR settlement agreement, PAUSD hasn't been able to finalize its policy. Until the district decides to throw in the towel and abide by the law, that won't happen. That's why the new policy hasn't shown up in a school board meeting.
A more interesting question: why hasn't Board President Dana Tom or VP Barb Mitchell followed up with staff members in public about it? Could it be related to Tom and Mitchell's policy of resisting federal authority over civil rights, discussed in secret meetings of the school board this past summer?


Posted by Skelly's legacy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2013 at 7:03 am

Every school district has to follow the uniform complaint procedure. Skelly and Young repeatedly chose not to because of arrogance or stupidity. Either way, we will be paying for it as we are now for many years. This is their legacy.


Posted by Skellytons, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Nov 1, 2013 at 8:56 am

Dr Skelly has ruined it for everyone. To ensure healing and moving forward, wouldn't it be better if he left PAUSD? [Portion removed.]


Posted by Hugh Bris, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 1, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Thanks to Steven Nelson for bringing this issue back out of the shadows. When the board and the public discovered that the superintendent had signed a resolution agreement with the OCR with provisions to update board policy and district procedures last February there seemed to be a sense of urgency to get this done spurred by public sentiment and a deadline imposed by the OCR Resolution agreement. Staff and board comments at the February board meeting indicated that PAUSD would work to provide a model policy for the rest of the county. Instead eight months later we are out of compliance with federal and state laws in regards to harassment and a model of how not to operate as a school district.

This deficiency in policy and procedures leaves the district vulnerable to investigation of complaints and lawsuits. Of even greater concern, without clear procedures for parents and staff to follow when harassment arises, this deficiency potentially leaves children unprotected from harassment.

The board is responsible for setting the direction of the district, establishing effective structure through policy and other decisions and to ensure accountability to the public. I would like to see some accountability from the board on this issue.


Posted by New News, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 1, 2013 at 1:38 pm

This was written six months ago in June. Surely action has been taken by the board since then, but I have not heard what has occurred. Can the Weekly or someone give us an update. I am confident that Dr Skelly would not allow us to continue to be in violation of the law.


Posted by EB, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2013 at 2:37 pm

No action has been taken on this issue. The district received a final marked up policy from OCR and then rather than have the board adopt it, it sent it to CDE and CSBA to ask what they thought about it. That went into a black hole so far as the public is concerned. Just to recap, the events leading to the first OCR letter of finding occurred in the 2010-11 school year. It is now the 2013-14 school year. Had the district entered into a Resolution Agreement with OCR swiftly when the complaint was filed in the spring of 2011, this would be long over. Instead, the district fought the complaint, lost, received a letter of finding, and now has fought and footdragged on complying with its own agreement.

The district will remain under OCR monitoring for the first complaint, until it fulfills the terms of its own Resolution Agreement. One of the terms of that agreement was to adopt an appropriate board policy barring disability harassment. Since PAUSD has not yet done that, all of the other complaints filed since that time -- 2 more alleging disability bullying -- will likely both result in problems for the district since the district still does not have an appropriate policy or training for staff and thus is out of compliance with the law and was out of compliance at the time of the events alleged in those complaints.

The situation regarding the Resolution Agreement has become unacceptable. It has been several years. Why isn't this resolved?


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2013 at 4:08 pm

@EB - you asked: "...It has been several years. Why isn't this resolved? "
One simple partial possible answer can be that the issues that brought the OCR to PAUSD "traditionally" did not affect those who could hire private lawyers. Another bit could be that some of the concerns brought to the OCR did not seem to be reasonable before given PAUSD reputation and the fact the only very few pointed to these issues. I am assuming that parents who hired private lawyers before did not experience some of the occurrences the OCR investigated. Also, fear of retaliation was not discussed until last year. That goes back to reputation, visibility of issues and culture. Generally, I think that the infrastructure that enabled these issues to begin with was not yet identified. I wrote some more here (my blog)- Web Link


Posted by Thanks to the Author, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 3, 2013 at 10:18 pm

I love this article, it kind of reminded us what has happened in this school district: an innocent and not violent child has suffer and her rights were violated by the principal of Terman, and the special education staff, which has resulted in detrimental damage for both the student and her family. Now the student got abused so much, that she has to live far away from her family. Now Principal Katherine Baker got a promotion as a result of her bad job, and the special education administrators get to put an a show at the last months meetings, and the school board members get to cheer for them. Which by the way I believe that it was a way to buy their silence when they get taken to court. Worst of all the person in charge of working on those policies and making our schools a welcoming place is that same Terman principal who violated the rights of the child. What a joke! Thanks to the person who wrote this article. I can tell that she cares about our student's rights. She should be one of our board members.


Posted by Reese Ponsible, a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 4, 2013 at 8:32 am

Who is at the helm of PAUSD? Who is costing the district tons of money in legal fees and damage control? Who treats special ed kids and their patents with contempt?

Quietly dismiss this person and most of the problems will magically disappear.


Posted by Absolutaly Right Reese Ponsible, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 4, 2013 at 12:15 pm

To Reese Ponsible,
I do agree with your posting. I wish we could have a magic wand to make this person go away, and again things will be better in our district, but we are not so lucky, and the ones affected the most are our special ed. kids, who get less services because $ has to be spend in fees. Very well written comment without offending the Reese Ponsible person


Posted by Skelly's legacy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 5, 2013 at 6:37 am

If the superintendent left, could you trust the associate superintendent?


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