Town Square

Post a New Topic

Family files claim against school district

Original post made on Jul 9, 2013

The family of a Palo Alto special education student who was previously the focus of an Office for Civil Rights investigation and finding of civil-rights violations against the Palo Alto Unified School District filed a claim for damages against the district on June 21, a legal step required before filing a lawsuit, the Weekly has learned.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, July 9, 2013, 9:54 AM

Comments (78)

Posted by Hmmmm..., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 9, 2013 at 10:13 am

"William Abrams, lawyer for the family and a senior partner in the international corporate law firm of King & Spalding."

Is this the same "Abrams" listed here: Web Link


Posted by ?Hmmmm?, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 9, 2013 at 10:43 am

Not sure why Hmmm above is making this link to the page of someone who ran for Palo Alto's school board and is a committed volunteer for our schools. Why don't you say it is what you are thinking--as unfounded as I am afraid it might be?


Posted by Hot Pepper, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2013 at 10:54 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Told ya so, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jul 9, 2013 at 11:06 am

I think most of us knew this was coming. It might have been preventive medicine for the BOE to have let Kevin Skelly go long ago. Renewing his contract may have helped set them up for this coming lawsuit.

I would not be too doubtful about William Abrams, attorney at law, being one and the sme as Bill Abrams, the man quoted in the web link to Skelly's supporters. His opinion and his job are two different things, as an attorney.


Posted by JA3+, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 9, 2013 at 11:07 am

Abrams is likely listed here:
Web Link

The fourth paragraph therein may be of most interest here. I'd be interested to see his pro-bono 'success rate' (but that's just me and I don't expect many PA Weekly readers to hold a similar interest). With each case, the details and the facts matter.


Posted by FrankF, a resident of Ventura
on Jul 9, 2013 at 11:15 am

FrankF is a registered user.

Be careful in coming to judgment here - the PAUSD cannot say anything but the parents (and their lawyer) can say whatever they want. It's entirely plausible they bent over backwards for this child - of course there's no evidence either way. At this point PAUSD cannot say anything without violating the child's privacy.


Posted by Hmmmm..., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 9, 2013 at 12:47 pm

@?Hmmmm?
Let me see... a lawyer, who is at least a supporter of severe critic of the school district, who may also share the same views as the critic, goes pro-bono to file a claim against the district. And you don't want to know more?


Posted by Minority Report, a resident of Professorville
on Jul 9, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Kudos to the family for not rolling over. It takes guts, patience, and usually lots of money to stand up for your rights. Thank goodness that a qualified professional was able to help in this case.

I expect that all of the other OCR cases will also result in civil suits against the district to recoup all of the funds that each family spends to compensate for the district's illegal withholding of services, medical treatment to address the unsafe environment, academic advocates hired to educate the district on the law, etc. The families are likely waiting for the OCR to conclude their investigations, doing all of the due diligence and discovery, and then package it up with a bow to take to the civil attorneys.

What a shame that the district can't figure out how to fix these problems before they get to this point!


Posted by palo alto native, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 9, 2013 at 2:26 pm

"Any resolution of the case needs to account for the continuing damages the student is suffering, including after the student "ages out" of the public educational system at age 18, Abrams told the Weekly.

They don't just want money, they want BIG money.


Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 9, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Was this about money all along? Of course it must be difficult to raise a child with a disability. My sister and her husband are dealing with a similar situation, but while facing that they also lost another child after a multiyear struggle against leukemia. Certainly there have been issues at school over the years as kids learned to interact with one another in main stream environments, but there was no effort to sue anybody to make their lives easier.

The fact is that almost every kid in school will eventually bully someone else while in school and almost every kid in school will be bullied by one or more other kids while in school. It is terrible but it is all part of growing up. If kids are to be main streamed then they must put up with what happens in the main stream. The school district has "already placed the child in a residential facility at district's expense". However, the "ambulance chaser" has convinced the parents to go for more at the expense of every other child in the district. Seems very selfish to me.


Posted by IB BROCOVICH, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2013 at 4:30 pm

I think the following paragraph is particularly telling:

"The district, which tried to keep the public from learning about the investigations' findings and the resulting settlement agreement (signed in December 2012), is in the process of carrying out trainings and developing improved policies and procedures under the direction of the Office for Civil Rights."

I was under the impression that it was Skelly alone that tried to conceal this whole debacle. I remember when I watched the TV coverage of the Board meeting when the news came out about the OCR Letter of Finding. The Board acted as if they were caught totally off guard when the news broke. They asked Skelly point blank why he didn't tell them before it came out in the press. His response was a pathetic, "I was too embarrassed". Perhaps part of the reason was that he didn't want this information to influence the Board when he negotiated his contract extension into 2016 at a whopping $278K with perks that make his total compensation exceed $300K. I wish I could get paid that much for lying (by omission but nevertheless lying).

Kevin, you have timed out. Board, it his time for you to boot him out! If what the Weekly is stating in the paragraph above is factual, you should boot yourselves out as well. Weekly editor, does that paragraph include the Board when referring to the district? You should all be ashamed! The voters elected you to protect our children and not to protect Kevin Skelly and his lieutenants. This absolute madness has gone far enough!! Surely PALO ALTO CAN DO MUCH BETTER!!!!!!!!


Posted by Town Square Moderator, online staff of Palo Alto Online
on Jul 9, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.

The reference to "district" was intended to refer to district management, not school board members. While documents show the school board knew of the federal investigation in fall of 2011, and of its conclusions and the draft resolution agreement in April of 2012, there is no evidence they had been provided the final resolution agreement or the formal letter of findings by Superintendent Skelly until the Weekly published the story in February, 2013.


Posted by boscoli, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 9, 2013 at 4:55 pm

What is beyond any doubt is that Skelly lied to the board and concealed vital information from it. They punished him by giving him a new and improved contract. They are as culpable as he is in this shameful scandal. I hope the plaintiffs go for big money and I hope they get it.


Posted by Hmmmm..., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 9, 2013 at 4:55 pm

"They asked Skelly point blank why he didn't tell them before it came out in the press. His response was a pathetic, "I was too embarrassed".
Not true. He said he was embarrassed by the findings and who wouldn't be. He never said he was "too embarrassed". Melissa also said she was embarrassed.
See the report: Web Link
Repeating a lie doesn't make it true.


Posted by Retired Teacher, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 9, 2013 at 5:15 pm

This claim, and the lawsuit that will ensue, was a foregone conclusion. I'd bet the district will settle, but I'd love to see the OCR's novel theories of law tested in a court of law. How interesting that the lawyer is doing this "pro bono" and that it is advancing "costs." Didn't that used to be called champerty and maintenance, a tort? Guess that's ok in the US.

It's hardly a surprise that this lawyer is a supporter of Ken Dauber.


Posted by IB BROCOVICH, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Retired Teacher: It's hardly a surprise that there were some big money establishment people in PA (I am not going to name names unless forced to.....they have been mentioned before [portion removed] that chipped in big time to make sure that there would be no candidate that would wind up sitting on the board that would be a challenge to the status quo. So, we got Heidi and Camille. [Portion removed.]

It sounds as if the lawyer is intelligent and cares about our students more than our elected board members and Skelly do. Thanks to any lawyer who will give freely of his time to help those who cannot help themselves (or maybe those families should just go to another district that they can afford to live in?). This is often the response from the PA establishment. It's really revolting the lack of compassion shown by many of the PA establishment.


Posted by PA, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 9, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Alphonso is right. What a shame they had to file a law suit. Any sympathy I had for them is
now gone. A lawsuit is almost never the answer, especially for this situation. What a shame.


Posted by I vote, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2013 at 6:30 pm

I would have voted differently if I had a fraction of the information that has been revealed in the past six months.


Posted by how odd, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 9, 2013 at 6:47 pm

It truly is bizarre that a smart, Stanford educated, intellectual property and top pro-bono lawyer affiliated with Stanford legal clinic would support a smart Yale educated engineer and his wife, a professor at Stanford. Yes that is totally odd. And of course, Dauber's campaign call for transparency in governance was just stupid and only stupid people could support it. I'm glad that didn't happen! Fooey on transparency. I guess Bill Abrams and the 15,999 Dauber voters are part of a vast civil rights conspiracy.

Thank goodness, PAUSD acted totally properly, so there is nothing to worry about. Right?


Posted by Hmmm...., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 9, 2013 at 6:59 pm

@how odd,
I wasn't aware of that relationship. Do you also know who introduced the laywer to the family?


Posted by how odd, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 9, 2013 at 7:04 pm

It came from your own post. [Portion removed.]

Posted by Hmmmm..., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, 8 hours ago

"William Abrams, lawyer for the family and a senior partner in the international corporate law firm of King & Spalding."

Is this the same "Abrams" listed here: Web Link


Posted by Hmmm....., a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 9, 2013 at 7:30 pm

I was talking about the Stanford link. I didn't know there was more to their relationship than being a Dauber supporter. See my other post.
You didn't answer the question of who introduced the lawyer to the family. I'm sure the 15,999 Dauber voters would also be interested.


Posted by how odd, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 9, 2013 at 7:42 pm

The Stanford law connection is reported in the story. [Portion removed.]

"Abrams also is a Palo Alto resident and Stanford University consulting professor teaching "Children, Youth and the Law" and working on disability law cases with the Stanford Youth and Education Law Clinic. He is also a faculty adviser to the Stanford Students with Disabilities."


Posted by how odd, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 9, 2013 at 7:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by What a crowd, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 9, 2013 at 8:58 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 9, 2013 at 9:30 pm

I have been trying to follow these developments because as a taxpayer and PA resident I care about the reputation and practices of the school district. I don't have kids in school anymore. I probably don't know the parties involved. What I do wonder is about the recent evaluation of Skelly, which was done at a slow time of year, and I think it should be in the context of "have there been any major lawsuits or settlements during your tenure?" Somehow, it seems that isn't part of the evaluation, but I think it should be out on the table and part of it.


Posted by Retired Teacher, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 9, 2013 at 9:37 pm

IB BROCOVICH, the status quo in this district is extraordinarily outstanding! I don't think anyone bought this election; I think people could see very clearly that these critics were way off base, blaming the wrong people for the problems endemic to our society, and expecting the schools to solve everything.

If the district made a mistake in this case, it will be worked out in the legal process. But a mistake does not take away from all the outstanding achievements of this district, its students, its teachers, its staff, and its administrators.

Kudos to Dr. Skelly and the teachers he represents!


Posted by ATOM, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 9, 2013 at 9:48 pm

As the parent of a child with a disability who was treated very badly by the school district, I am not surprised by this case. My child was totally abandonded by the schools despite our efforts to get them to comply with the laws. The problem is not Kevin Skelly, but with the Palo Alto community and the values and expectations that they have imposed on PAUSD through the board and many years of influence. If you can't help the schools raise their test scores then they will try to get rid of you. They look better if they help the best and let the rest wither away. That is not Skelly's fault, it is the fault of all the people who have built up the reputation and expectations for Palo Alto schools.


Posted by infrastructure , a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 9, 2013 at 10:05 pm




Irrespective of the outcome, PAUSD counsel F, F & F will be cashing in on this one. What a waste. All this money could have instead been used to actually better serve students who have special needs.

But I forgot, the majority in the community think these students are a burden and find Skelly and Co's incompetence perfectly acceptable.

I think a movie, reality show, or at least a documentary should follow the Skelly circus.


Posted by infrastructure , a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 9, 2013 at 10:12 pm



ATOM

I agree it's the community and not just Skelly, but since he and staff are getting paid to serve all students, you would think they could improvise.

Not to mention, there are some teachers who refuse to follow the law, and actually for some of the real bad teachers, every child is a burden.


Posted by I vote, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 9, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Extraordinarily outstanding? As Skelly once said publicly: Keep drinking the "Kool-Aid."


Posted by how odd, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 10, 2013 at 2:46 am

The district is not extraordinary. The children and families are extraordinary. The district is run by mediocre bureaucrats like Charles Young who evidently can't even use Google to learn about the various state and federal laws he is supposed to enforce (i.e., Title IX) even when he is in the midst of a total sh(*storm for his failure to enforce them properly. The LOG for civil rights complaints has 4 complaints for the last 7 years. Are you kidding? There have been FOUR IN THE LAST SIX MONTHS.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

And then there's the Man. Any Superintendent who has four civil rights investigations, an illegal summer school program that costs nearly a million dollars in refunds, lawsuits, burned bridges with the press, despoiled relations with disabled community, lies, cover ups, half the community calling for his head, PRAs up the ying yang, and more can hardly be called a success. Yet our board is like a battered wife. Maybe he'll change. Next time will be different. He said he's sorry. [Portion removed.]
These schools are just average to bad public schools that are underfunded compared to privates and east coast schools but produce some kids who do well because their parents are paying for oodles of private enrichment and because as everyone knows these kids would do well anywhere. As long as high achieving immigrants keep buying in Palo Alto, the wheels will keep turning and that's all you [portion removed] people care about.

And the kids that get caught in the gears and chewed up in the process? The slower, the disabled, the poor, the minorities, the mentally ill? Well that's just the price of doing business.

There might be a few extraordinary teachers but they are the exception that proves the rule (Esther Wojcicki for instance). The rest are mostly fine. But some are truly dreadful and you know it's true.

Our district is extraordinary only in the incredible incompetence and fecklessness of the leadership and the depths to which they are willing to stoop.


Posted by how odd, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 10, 2013 at 3:01 am

One more thing. It is patently obvious that one thing any community with a lick of common sense would look at in the aftermath of a suicide crisis is its school counseling program. Is it good enough? Is it reaching every kid? Are there kids slipping through the cracks? Is there a better way to do this? What kind of a community goes through a massive suicide cluster and loses all those children and then refuses to do the one thing that any amount of common sense would tell you needs to be done -- improve your counseling program? Not Palo Alto. We're already perfect. We have no problems. It's wonderful here. Would you like to see my house price? It's large. It's very large.

Palo Alto not only did NOT do the one thing that would have made sense, it villified and demonized and assassinated the character of anyone who dared to suggest that in the aftermath of a serious suicide cluster we should make real improvements and reforms to our school counseling program. The Gunn staff, with the open insubordination and encouragement of the district staff, stabbed and shot and stomped the idea of counseling reform until it was dead and then backed the car up over it just to be sure. And the board just said "good work staff." Board: Did you find Gunn's high tests scores comforting when a student tried to take her own life in the bathroom at Gunn a few months ago?

It's the pit of darkness to go through what this community did and then declare that even talking about counseling reform was taboo because it would make the counselors feel bad. You know who feels bad? Every student who was at Gunn from 2008-present. This is tragic for the board to have just given up and let Kevin win on counseling reform at Gunn. It's sick and tragic and other things that I can't say here.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2013 at 5:39 am

@how odd - you wrote: "...We're already perfect. We have no problems. It's wonderful here. Would you like to see my house price? It's large. It's very large..." And - Beautiful, magnificent clothes that can be seen only by those who are invited to the ball.
Invitations skip "...The slower, the disabled, the poor, the minorities, the mentally ill? Well that's just the price of doing business..." May I add also those who "just" do not conform with the majority / the "others" / the outsiders?


Posted by Hmmm...., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 10, 2013 at 7:50 am

@how odd
You still haven't answered the question. Are you afraid of the truth?


Posted by Grover, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 10, 2013 at 8:08 am

@how odd, whatever legitimate complaints you might have, you're really going overboard with your criticism. Our kids have had quite a positive experience at PAUSD schools and so have their friends. I don't think any of families we know would agree with the statement that Palo Alto has "average to bad public schools".

You seem to be saying that the district didn't do anything substantive in response to the student suicides. Have you read the numerous articles about how Gunn went out of its way to support its students in the aftermath of those tragedies and how school-sponsored as well as student-organized efforts had real success at helping students feel supported and part of their community? I've met several Gunn students over the past couple of years, and they have told me that their school is a special place, far more inclusive and without the toxic jock-cheerleader culture prominent in most American high schools.

I think your heart is in the right place, and the district may have work to do when it comes to meeting the needs of all its students. But you may want to tone your anger down a bit, as it seems to veer into hysterical ranting not grounded in the reality of what's happening in our schools.


Posted by I vote, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2013 at 8:52 am

These schools are quite average, sometimes below average. The wealth of a majority of parents, and the local funding they bring, is above average. These majority students would do as well if not better in almost any system. The PAUSD is broken. Half-measures and busy activities such as the myriad responses to the Gunn suicides are not signs of excellence. PAUSD's corporate culture is defensive and unable to confront real issues.


Posted by how odd, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 10, 2013 at 9:39 am

Grover, you are right I am very angry, and I think everyone should be somewhat angry at the way our disabled community is being treated and and the lack of good governance practices and counseling reform at Gunn. The question isn't why am I angry, it's why aren't you?

Anyone who talks about the lack of a "jock/cheerleader" culture at Gunn doesn't know anything about Gunn. There is plenty of toxic competition just not based on athletics.


Posted by gladimgone, a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2013 at 10:49 am

It's about time for the Palo Alto bubble to burst. Time for the PAUSD to start taking issues(bullying, drugs, alcohol..etc) seriously and stop sweeping them under the rug.


Posted by Realistic Expectations, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 10, 2013 at 11:03 am

I have kids in elementary school so I have not seen the full spectrum of PAUSD school issues, but so far I have to say that the experience has been fantastic. Compared to the public schools I attended when I was a kid (in a blue collar town), these schools are wonderful. I remember growing up in 3rd grade when a group of older kids put a mentally disabled boy into a garbage can and held him there through the entire lunch break. He came out crying and confused. They tormented that poor kid and the teachers did not do a thing. He ended up leaving our school a few weeks later. I don't think anything at that scale happens here. Kids are nasty and cruel, that is life.


Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 10, 2013 at 11:13 am

PAUSD is a great school district because we have mostly very bright kids and very bright, very involved, often wealthy, parents. The biggest factor in school success is the socio-economic level of the parents. Most of the kids in the District would do well anywhere, our schools don't have a lot to do with it.

We are also an intellectually snobbish community (hence the comments about "B" students being slackers). If you are not really bright, if you need some extra help, you are looked down upon.

I have 2 kids that needed some "extra help". Under John Lents at Addison, one received the help she needed. Once at Jordan, very little happened. One teacher even refused to attend the Student Study Team meeting and later refused to meet with us as parents. Teachers regularly disregard accommodations that students are supposed to receive unless the students personally ask the teacher for them (even when the accommodations are documented in their IEP). Almost every kid I know that had an IEP for a learning disability ended up leaving Paly and attending another school (paid for by their parents, not the district).

In addition, there is very little tolerance by other students of those who might "drag them down" if they have to work with them. While students are generally very kind to the Special Day class kids that are obviously disabled, the kids with learning disablities that are not so visible, or the kids who simply don't "do school" well are not tolerated.


Posted by PA parent, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 10, 2013 at 11:17 am

I sincerely hope that the settlement emphasizes systemic change rather than simply a monetary penalty. This would benefit, rather than hurt, future PAUSD students.


Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 10, 2013 at 11:20 am

Odd
Why did you consider living in PA if you do not like the competition at Gunn HS? Just in case you didn't know it already, there has always been significant academic competition at Gunn - at least as far back as I can remember going back to 1965. Very little of the competitive fire came from the school - it all came from the parents. Your "problem" will never be fixed unless you change the entire community.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2013 at 11:31 am

@Hmmmm - I do not care to know who referred the family to the lawyer. I commend anyone who helps parents who do not have the funds or the contacts. The OCR turned out to be a venue for those who do not have easy access to legal advice. Do you have any way to know how many quiet settlement were made with families who can afford lawyers?
Also - It so happens that only last autumn a local case went the court way (and the national media way) - the court ruled, the officials decision was overturned. Luckily the family had fast access to legal advice. (link, sample - Web Link). Do you know if those responsible for this arbitrary move which was overturned by the court were accountable in any way? Is it possible that those who lack lawyers advice, or are somehow the "others" are systematically treated differently?


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 10, 2013 at 12:33 pm

We had one child that needed TEAM support at Jordan. Full involvement and cooperation. Just to present a different experience than above.

Again I would like to remind all of the adults on this forum that children are just that...children. To expect all kids to react and/or behave as you do yourself (an adult...hopefully), at all times, is an unrealistic expectation. The brain isn't even fully formed until the college years or past college!

Not a personal criticism of any above poster - but it is unrealistic to expect all children to be fully "tolerant" of others. Most of these kids don't know how to react or how to manage a situation different than what they know for themselves. And guess what - most teenagers are self-centered and can be somewhat selfish....so it is no surprise that a teenager may not react positively to a "paired" student who may not be as academically advanced. This is not the fault of PAUSD. It's called human development and it advances differently for every person. So try cutting some slack...


Posted by Hmmm...., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 10, 2013 at 1:03 pm

@village fool
Well, who referred the family to the lawyer to file claims against the district starts to become an issue if those referring the lawyers also happen to be organizing events to inform people how to lodge OCR complaints against the district.

It raises lots of other questions. Did the family ask for the referral or did the referrer contact the family? If it was the latter case, that Ohlone gig starts to look like a loss-leader instead of a community event.

You really don't want to know? You've got a very selective definition of transparency.


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2013 at 1:21 pm

@Hmmm.... - I hope to see transparency, best practices and accountability practiced by the district officials who are paid by the public and are to follow the law. I hope to see no discrimination.
I mentioned, above, the case that went the court way (and the national media way) - I do not care to know now who referred the family to the lawyer, I am glad that the family had fast legal help which overturned an arbitrary decision. Now that the court have spoken - is it important who referred the family? Do you see any other way the family could have gone? Is it possible that the "others" are more likely to face an arbitrary act, or just ignored?


Posted by PA, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 10, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Hmmm is right. Transparency applies to everyone, nice try village fool.


Posted by IB BROCOVICH, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2013 at 2:11 pm

I will not retreat or back down from all of my previous postings and analysis of the Administration of PAUSD and the Board. They should all be ashamed, removed and replaced with folks who actually care about ALL of the students.....not just the ones that drive the price of their homes up. I know many Gunn parents that would like to have equal counseling for their students as well but for some reason Skelly keeps ignoring the direction of our board and insists [portion removed] that he has his way with site based counseling. This is all quite baffling to everyone. I hope Dauber and his supporters are there when we need to elect a new board that actually implements changes that affect all students across the board.....not just the high achieving Ivy bound students. Palo Alto is not even a shadow of what it used to be before the parents that are consumed with status, money and credentials moved in. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Shoulda, coulda, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 10, 2013 at 2:12 pm

The Board of Education should have fired Kevin Skelly when they had the chance....when it was found that he was withholding facts from the Board and the public. Now he is just one big liability, and the Board just renewed his contract! maybe they have the power to withdraw it now.


Posted by boscoli, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 10, 2013 at 2:32 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Grover, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 10, 2013 at 2:46 pm

I can believe that it is tough for the non-outstanding kids to be around so many high achievers in this district. But I must say it does strike me how different this is from a more typical American high school like the one I went to, where the smart kids are dismissed as "brains" and the popular kids take pride in not being too intellectual or studying too hard.

Having experienced this type of brain-numbing environment as a teen, I know that if I were a smart kid now, given the choice between Jock/Cheerleader High in Anytown USA and a Gunn or Paly packed with other smart kids who care about education, there's no question I'd take the latter. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by how odd, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 10, 2013 at 3:03 pm

[Post removed due to referencing a previously deleted post.]


Posted by Can the Daubers help?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Ken Dauber campaigned that he would be a great fiscal steward of our district's finances.

Lawsuits for monetary damages are something a fiscal steward would NOT support since dollars paid out in settlement or damages are dollars that are not spent in our classrooms. That means money could be taken away from minorities, emotionally fragile students, and students with special needs who, based on what I read in the Weekly, appear to be in the greatest need of those dollars.

To Ken and Michelle Dauber,

You know Mr. Abrams. He not only supported your campaign, googling around it shows that he worked on Michelle's nonprofit's book project too so you three go back a ways.

Can you intervene on the district's behalf?

Mr. Abrams represented students in a class action against the Berkeley Unified School District which settled when the district allowed expelled students to return to school. In that case Mr. Abrams asked for monetary damages but he does not appear to have won any money for his clients.

Web Link

Can you broker a similar deal for our district?


Posted by Wow, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 10, 2013 at 5:15 pm

To Can the Daubers Help?

Since the root cause of this case is the malfeasance of the Superintendent and the passive acquiescence of the Board, I would say that the answer is, "Ken Dauber tried to help by running on a platform of transparency and accountability, the defenders of the status quo resisted that mightily, and now it is too late for that." Camille Townsend, Melissa Caswell, and Heidi Emberling have shown no interest in doing anything other than circling the wagons around a district leadership that mixes incompetence with disregard for the public.
Hopefully the prospect of money damages to compensate this child and this family for the district's failure to follow federal law will concentrate our minds on finding district leadership who can figure out how to avoid messes like this. Luckily, that doesn't seem to be a terribly hard problem, as most school districts manage to pull it off.


Posted by former district parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 10, 2013 at 5:29 pm

@Can the Daubers Help?

If you are serious, you're neglecting the fact that the attorney's duty is to look out for the interests of his clients, not "broker" a deal that saves the district money. It would be completely unethical for anyone attorney to set aside those interests. Law suits are the natural consequence of making decisions that are vulnerable to legal challenge. Some, of course, are frivolous. It's pretty obvious from all that has been reported about this case that it's not frivolous. This is obviously no ambulance chaser; he and his firm are trying to come to the aid of a family that has apparently suffered and can't afford representation.


Posted by how odd, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 10, 2013 at 5:42 pm

I second what Wow said. It is sad to think of how different this situation would be playing out if Dauber had won. For one thing there would have been a transparent open public discussion of the issues rather than a series of closed meeting, redacted documents, and outright false presentations by district lawyers intended to mislead the public on the issues. Dauber promised to put all documents on the internet and promised that we would know what he knew when he knew it. That alone is enough to make you weep when you compare the guts and determination he has shown in continuing to stand up for what is right with the cowardly behavior of the current board. Ironically, Melissa Caswell should really receive the strongest condemnation of the current board members. Alone among them, she is smart and she knows better. She knows that the right thing to do is to comply with Title IX. She knows that the right thing to do is to follow the law and ensure that disabled students are treated with equal dignity. If you look at the others, they range from naive (Heidi) to incoherent (Camille) to cringing (Dana) to libertarian (Mitchell). [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] But Caswell knows better. She wanted us to think she *was* better. Yet she has not lifted a finger to give the public information, not lifted a finger to ensure that there has been transparency or openness or appropriate governance. Of the rest, one can only say "well, who expected better?" Of Melissa, the community should rightly say "we expected better from you and you are a tremendous disappointment in every way."


Posted by Crescent Park dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 10, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Dana Tom and Barb Mitchell are board President and VP. They are in charge of the school board agenda. I would not blame Melissa for their decision to close down public discussion on this.


Posted by infrastructure , a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 10, 2013 at 7:54 pm


Crescent Park dad,

The idea that everything is "mostly" ok, but we can't control everything because kids will be kids fuels the incompetence at the district and by default the community is looking pretty incompetent too. The problem is not the bullies, but the process the district has to deal with bullying incidents, and the way the district interacts with the families of bullied children, to protect a target, or when handling a more serious situation.

In general, non-outstanding or non-conforming kids have it extremely tough in the schools. As Palo Alto parent posted "Teachers regularly disregard accommodations that students are supposed to receive unless the students personally ask the teacher for them (even when the accommodations are documented in their IEP). Almost every kid I know that had an IEP for a learning disability ended up leaving Paly and attending another school (paid for by their parents, not the district)."

However, I have heard there are many (many) students who attend private schools that PAUSD is paying for. In some cases, apparently they refuse to pay, so you have a kid who has ADD getting private school but someone who may need much more support getting refused. Either way, I call this a methodic way of getting rid of the non-outsdanding kids from our prized schools.

I guess this is what everyone is so proud of.


Posted by Scott and Zelda, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2013 at 7:56 pm

The whole school board has been one big disappointment. Now they are a liability as well, because they did not do the right thing at the right time, which would have been to send Skelly packing. By not doing this, they look to be complicit in an OCR list of violations. Dumb, dumb, dumb!


Posted by how odd, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 10, 2013 at 9:34 pm

apparently "school district lawyer" is not an occupation that attracts the best and brightest: Web Link


Posted by D Lamp, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 10, 2013 at 11:26 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2013 at 6:03 am

[Post removed because of referencing a previously deleted post.]


Posted by Ehrlichman, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 11, 2013 at 7:30 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Can the Daubers help?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2013 at 8:24 am

To Wow,

You say that this lawsuit will help the district avoid messes like this.

Interesting thought, but if that were the family's goal it would not look like this.

They only ask for money.

They do not ask for changes, making for a total of 0 demands for anything that might actually help another child in the district.


Posted by Can the Daubers help?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2013 at 8:27 am

To a former district parent,

Settlements, which is how almost all lawsuits are resolved, are brokered deals which ultimately come down to a negotiation on "how much" will it take to get this to go away. There is nothing unethical about that.

No one knows if this is a frivolous lawsuit because, as someone pointed out above, all the public knows are the selective facts that the plaintiff has decided to make public about a minor with special needs in its care.

This is a minor who trusts that her parents/guardians are acting in his or her interests when making sensitive information public and demanding money, money which BTW often goes to the guardians to manage and not to the child.

Compare that to what we know about the district's position: nothing. That is because the district is protecting the child's privacy by staying mum, which it is required by law to do.


Posted by Can the Daubers help?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2013 at 9:21 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 11, 2013 at 9:38 am

the_punnisher is a registered user.

I get to say " I told you so " because my parent was a Special Education teacher who rose to Assistant Administrator handling these type of problems in that big school district just south of the PAUSD. THIS latest event was predicted by that retired Administrator who I asked " would YOU take that Skelly job to resolve the PAUSD problems with the OCR? " NOPE " was the reaction to my question.
Since ALL the Special Ed teachers didn't follow the REQUIRED MANDATES they had to get their teaching credentials AND the board and Skelly DID NOT DO THEIR JOBS, the PAUSD is going to have to shell out some $$$ along with REQUIRED extra " sensitivity " training that costs more big $$$.

If the taxpayers forced a recall ( more $$$ BUT LESS $$$ THAN THEY WILL HAVE TO PAY OUT IN THE FUTURE ), that might have solved this issue at a much smaller $$$ amount.

Your " watchdog for the public " school board reminds me of that Mark Twain comment about School Boards; that certainly applies in this case.

I suggested a solution which would have the OCR and could have possible not have started a claim process WHICH IS A SLAM DUNK WIN ON A CIVIL LAWSUIT!

1 ) FIRE ALL THE SPECIAL ED TEACHERS WHO DID NOT EVEN APPLY THEIR MANDATED TRAINING TO BECOME A SPECIAL ED TEACHER! ( tenure is not an issue because they WILLINGLY BROKE THE LAW! )

2 )FIRE SKELLY FOR JUST CAUSE, his lies are just the tip of the iceberg concerning his behavior in this matter.

3) If the School Board does NOT implement these recommendations which could be construed as " damage control " by ALL the harmed parties ( OCR, on-going mistreated families and ultimately YOU, the TAXPAYER ), it should be your DUTY to replace ALL the School Board members.

Since this problem has been on-going for some time, the damages the PAUSD will have to pay could be a large amount of the PAUSD budget; because of the LAW BREAKING status, THE INSURANCE COVERAGE WILL NOT HAVE TO PAY ON THIS SET OF CLAIMS!

It is time to pay the piper for this willful misconduct.

Good Luck, you all are going to need it...


Posted by Hmmm...., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 11, 2013 at 10:09 am

@how odd
"It is sad to think of how different this situation would be playing out if Dauber had won."
Really? How could this possibly be different if Dauber had won? All this happened before the election. The only thing that could have been different is if the lawyer wasn't engaged, which happened after the election and at the behest of some "unknown" entity.
Given that, you should think about the ramifications of your line of argument before you continue.


Posted by Wow, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 11, 2013 at 11:15 am

Hi Can the Daubers help?
I wonder if you have been following the news coverage of this whole process. Claiming that all we know is a partial account provided by the family is flatly incorrect. Let's see what other sources of information we have:
1. The report from the Office for Civil Rights, which details facts such as the Katherine Baker, the Terman principal now a functionary in the district office didn't follow the law or policy, that Charles Young, the associate superintendent in charge of compliance didn't bother to follow the law either, that Holly Wade, the director of special ed, didn't do her job in providing an appropriate placement until the Weekly broke the story.
2. The district, which far from being silent had their lawyer Laurie Reynolds of Fagen, Friedman and Fulfrost deliver false statements to the public at a board meeting.
3. An editorial by school board trustees Dana Tom and Barb Mitchell that misstated the law and circled the wagons.
If you're looking for true statements the list is shorter, but the OCR report is definitely full of them.
You may be right that the prospect of paying money damages (and answering questions from the district's insurance company about how come senior staff looks more like the Keystone Kops) won't make a difference, but that's hardly something to blame the victims for.
The strain to find someone to blame for this debacle other than the staff who screwed up and the board who is signed up to defend them is entertaining, though. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Really?, a resident of Professorville
on Jul 11, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Really? is a registered user.

The role and function of the OCR is to address systematic problems in how an administration treats the rights of the minority populations (including those with disabilities.) The OCR does not represent any individual but rather the interests of our constitution and the law of our land.

Any finding that the OCR makes does not directly address the needs of the individual or group whose treatment caused the OCR to open the investigation. A child or group of children who suffered through extended bullying, hostile environments that prevented them from learning, illegal withholding of appropriate educational services, or any other discrimination really gets no personal benefit or even remediation as a result of an OCR investigation. Their families do not get compensation for private services or medical treatment that they have had to arrange because of the illegal activity. Nor do the kids affected get any extra services or help rejoining the school community. These families have spent tens of thousands of dollars that they can't afford to advocate for the rights of their children. They face incredibly expensive prognoses to repair the damage caused.

Going through the experience of being discriminated against is horrific enough. To add on top of that the district fighting against you for your rights makes it criminal. If you have lots of private funds you probably would have taken your discriminated against child out of this environment long before this point.

However, those that don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars to throw at the problem still deserve to have their children's legal rights protected. Once the OCR has determined that the law has indeed been broken and that the minority member was illegally denied their rights, it is much MUCH easier to file a civil suit to get compensation for expenses incurred and damages suffered. The OCR has an exceptional ability to access records that most civil attorneys could not get a hold of easily. Plus, discovery is the most expensive part of the case.

So, if the district is going to act illegally, pretend it hasn't and fight those who ask for their rights, resist the guidance of the OCR to improve its procedures and prevent future mis-handlings, and insist on dragging the victims to court to get made "whole" then they are opting for the expensive road and should not be surprised to be hit with millions of dollars in civil rulings.

One purpose of civil suits is to be sufficiently onerous to change the behavior of rational agents. Perhaps we will finally end up with rational behavior if not rational agents running our district.


Posted by PA native, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 11, 2013 at 3:43 pm

PA native is a registered user.

Really? You must be a lawyer, and if your not, I think you have found you niche!


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2013 at 12:07 am

village fool is a registered user.

I want to think that the promotion of the departing principal (Web Link) is not related to this law suit.


Posted by Star Teachout, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 3, 2013 at 12:00 am

Star Teachout is a registered user.

We were on vacation when this article was printed. I haven't the stamina to read through all the responses, but I do want to add that I know the child and family involved and this is not a simple case. [Portion removed.] No doubt that there were mistakes made with the administrations of 3 schools, but the family's choice to sue is an unfortunate one. I believe they received many services from our school district and they may have been poorly advised (encouraged) to take the legal direction. Losers on many sides. Although I occasionally ask our kids if anyone is being picked on, from my own experience I know that the victim often hides the truth from everyone. It may not be fair to blame anyone. It is a confluence of very unfortunate circumstances. Let's get through this and learn from our mistakes.


Posted by isez, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 3, 2013 at 12:36 am

isez is a registered user.

Thank you, Star Teachout, for shedding some light on this. There is always more to a story than what we read in the media, and I had a correct hunch that this whole ordeal wasn't black and white. People shouldn't start with their finger-pointing without knowing all the details.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Aug 3, 2013 at 12:55 am

village fool is a registered user.

@moderator - May I ask to remove the personal details about a child and family listed by Star Teachout?


Posted by Star Teachout, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 3, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Star Teachout is a registered user.

I understand why someone might want my post edited. However, part of my intent is that as a community (both schools and individuals) we parents need to be more involved day to day with our kids' classmates whenever possible, and to educate ourselves and be empathetic to the needs of all groups. Some families need more help than others. Getting each of us to extend beyond our own little demographic group is challenging, but necessary and rewarding. The system needs to strive to be fair.


Posted by jls mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Aug 6, 2013 at 9:06 am

jls mom of 2 is a registered user.

I think it is really unfortunate that Star Teachout, a parent "volunteer" at Barron Park School would decide to disclose information about the child and family as well as offer her opinion of that information, in this forum. Her post implies that she has a lot more information than she does, that there are facts that are not known somehow to federal investigators that she somehow knows, and that she is in a better position to judge the events at Terman than the federal investigators who interviewed 35 children, all the involved adults, the family and the child and had access to all of the school's records. [Portion removed.]

Her description of the family is condescending on many levels. Star assures us that the family "received many services" (that she somehow knows about). They are in her view not even smart or sophisticated enough to figure out for themselves that they needed to go to federal investigators or to an attorney when their child was harmed. They are being manipulated, in her view, because people like that could not possibly know that they have legal rights or want to protect them. Anyway, can't we all just get along? Let's just get through this, she urges. It's just "unfortunate circumstances."

Perhaps if Star Teachout's child was punched in the face, relentlessly bullied, teased, pushed, hazed, and school administrators were bizarrely incompetent and arrogant at the same time [portion removed], perhaps then you would have some basis on which to urge the family to just treat this as a learning experience and move on.

[Portion removed.]


If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

To post your comment, please click here to login

Remember me?
Forgot Password?
or register. This topic is only for those who have signed up to participate by providing their email address and establishing a screen name.

Veggie Grill coming soon to Mountain View's San Antonio Center
By Elena Kadvany | 16 comments | 3,117 views

College applications: round three
By Sally Torbey | 26 comments | 2,059 views

Is HBO's Silicon Valley Any Good?
By Anita Felicelli | 19 comments | 2,026 views

Finding mentors in would-be bosses
By Jessica T | 0 comments | 1,764 views

PAUSD Leadership Challenges
By Paul Losch | 20 comments | 1,568 views