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School district leadership fires back at feds
Original post made
on May 31, 2014
The leadership of the Palo Alto Unified School District is swinging back at a federal agency, alleging that factual errors and faulty investigation practices by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) have "caused significant damage to the district and our dedicated educators."
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posted Saturday, May 31, 2014, 1:02 PM
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Posted by I have never been so disgusted with this board
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 1, 2014 at 12:12 am
There have been complaints. When people are at their wits end, they may file a complaint with the OCR as a last resort. This is usually after people have tried to resolve things with the district already for some time, or in one of the resolutions agreements, where a district seriously failed to make available the procedures for access to rights for disabled students under the law.
From the OCR's FAQs, which I found using Google:
"What if I am already pursuing my complaint within the school district or college or with another agency?
"OCR does not handle cases that are being addressed by another agency or within a school's or college's formal grievance procedure if OCR anticipates that the agency you filed with will provide you with a resolution process comparable to OCR's. "
If you have a legitimate complaint, but your district is trying to apply the procedures they have under the law, then OCR does not even take the complaint.
OCR is also not a police agency. Their purpose is to get districts to follow the law. There are a whole bunch of circumstances under which they will not pursue complaints (as above), but it does not mean a person does not have a legitimate complaint. As their FAQ says, they do not usually handle cases that are being addressed by a school's grievance procedures.
It's really, really strange for a district to avoid following the law, not respond to the OCR's asking them to follow the law, and then because they are so recalcitrant (putting them in a small, small minority of districts), the OCR gives them a list of things they need to do to come back into compliance, which they willingly sign and say they'll do -- it's really, really strange that they would not complain that they aren't going to follow the law to protect students, this must all have been an attempt to embarrass them. Right.
OCR had the right to stop PAUSD from getting funds or to fine them. Didn't happen. (Oh, that's right, the goal was just to make PAUSD of all the districts in the nation, look bad, but taking away their funding wouldn't have? In my observation here, given the behavior of the district officials, the OCR has exercised a great deal of restraint.)
When OCR does decide to investigate a complaint, it's usually because it affects a lot of people, or something is very wrong at a district. When they find something wrong, the vast majority of the time a district is already figuring it out and closing the case. It is only in a very rare number of cases, on the order of 20 out of 2,000, where the districts are found to be violating the law and the OCR has to tell them what to do to get back into compliance, and make them sign an agreement because they don't voluntarily do it on their own. Palo Alto had 2 of such agreements in a single year.
Kevin Skelly's bad was signing them without letting the school board know. Charles Young's, as compliance officer for the district, was allowing things to get to that point by completely not doing his job for years. This is not the fault of the government, and the fact that the board is even going down this road under the circumstances should in a reasonable world make them subject to immediate recall.
One of the resolution agreements was because PAUSD did not even make available, know how to work with, or even admit to having procedures for extending 504 protections to students with disabilities, even though the law requires districts to actively identify and inform parents of their rights and extend those protections to the students proactively because it ends up being better and cheaper for everyone that way, especially the disabled student.
Realize, the 504 procedures are written by the districts themselves, the government doesn't just give them a list of things to do, the district writes it's own guide for how it will follow the law, clears it with the government, and then is supposed to give it to parents. Our district had such procedures and was pretending to parents that it didn't.
The other resolution agreement was because a disabled child was relentlessly bullied over a long period of time, the bullying was related to the child's disability, and the parent found no effective recourse at any stage in the district over a very long period of time. There were some other disturbing aspects to this such as administrators objectively lying to investigators.
There COULD have been lawsuits as a result of that, in which the district could have paid damages, but there weren't, because parents mostly just want their kids to get and education and for the protections they deserve to be extended in this district.
I'm just so disgusted, this just takes the cake. MESSAGE TO THIS BOARD: LEARN HOW TO WORK WITH PARENTS AND FAMILIES. DEVELOP A CULTURE WHERE STAFF TREAT EVERYONE THE WAY THEY WOULD LIKE TO BE TREATED. GET RID OF THIS POISONOUS LEGAL FIRM. Your troubles with the OCR will go away, because you'll actually be doing your job.
I wish I could believe you, but in many cases the remaining insiders are people whose malfeasance is responsible for much of Skelly's trouble, though he seems unaware of it.
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