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Discrimination at Paly

Original post made by Kathleen Rotow on Jan 26, 2007

Has anyone else been told by Palo Alto High School that a science course taken at an accredited off-campus school could not be included on his or her transcript? If so, I ask that you contact me to discuss. I don't understand the reasoning behind such a position.

Comments (24)

Posted by ADL, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2007 at 2:14 pm

According to the Paly's course catalog Web Link , on page 5, it stated that PRIOR approval is required and that this is a district's policy, where " ... only under exceptional circumstances and with Prior approval can credit be earned off-campus to fulfill high school subject requirements..."

Posted by kr, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 26, 2007 at 4:20 pm

The question is what does the instructional supervisor at Paly, Kathy Lawrence, consider "exceptional circumstances" and under what exact circumstances has she given or withheld "prior approval". Subjectively making that determination lends itself to possible discriminatory behavior on the part of an I.S. If there is a policy that noone has the opportunity to have the grade placed on the transcript then that is one thing, but it is my understanding that this is not the case. Other students have been offered the opportunity to have that off-campus grade included on their Paly transcript. I don't understand why it wouldn't be OK. Gunn doesn't allow this level of subjective and selective power to be placed in the hands of one person, Ms. Lawrence. Gunn allows science grades from off-campus schools to be placed directly on the Gunn transcript. Why should Paly students be under a separate set of rules? Why should Paly students be held hostage by Ms. Lawrence?

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 26, 2007 at 9:36 pm

I suggest another way around this - if you think about it and don't mind not having the course listed on the Paly transcript, I am guessing you can still have that other institution send their report/transcript on when your student is applying to college. Or, does your son have a grade report or certificate? We are thinking of trying this approach (re: another department/subject). At the very least, your student can certainly list this course somewhere on his "activities" or possibly mention it in an essay or conversation.Let me know what you think.

Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Jan 27, 2007 at 12:02 am

To the person who launched this thread - why did you title it the way you did? It sounds like you have a personal issue with one person regarding one class. This isn't really the appropriate forum for it. You're fishing for other malcontents with an inflammatory title. If you really suspect that your issue is the result of discrimination, rather than simply an educational/professional disagreement, then you should take it up with the administrators and district. Calling it "Discrimination at Paly" misses the mark.

Posted by Kathleen Rotow, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 27, 2007 at 10:16 am

It appears, Skeptical Al, that you are the one jumping to conclusions. Members of the administration at Paly have been approached and have consistently avoided answering a very simply question: Has anyone else at Paly been allowed to post an off-campus science grade from an accredited school to their high school transcript? To date, noone from the administration has answered that question.

Posted by kathleen rotow, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 27, 2007 at 8:12 pm

I don't favor this course of action, since other students have had courses taken at various off-campus locations listed on their transcript. I think the issue is one of equal treatment of Paly students. These decisions have a profound effect on students and Paly administrators should not have the power to make these decisions subjectively. What's good for one should be good for all.

Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 28, 2007 at 9:38 am


Are you attempting to get prior approval and being denied?
A little more detail would be helpful.

Do you feel that students of a different gender or ethic background are not facing the hurdles you are facing?
Whats the basis for your discrimination claim?


Posted by Kathleen, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 28, 2007 at 3:51 pm


Prior approval has been denied by Kathy Lawrence without basis. Other students have not been treated in the same manner and have had their off-campus grades included on their Paly transcript. Doesn't that sound like discrimination to you?

Posted by Wolf, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 28, 2007 at 4:44 pm


If the situation is as you describe, and if indeed Paly principal does not respond to a *written* request to clarify the criteria, I'd try the following steps.

(a) Write her again, clearly stating your request for written clarification of approval criteria and quoting other cases where such requests had been approved.

(b) If no answer within reasonable time (e.g. 10 days) write a letter to the board, attaching your original letter to the principal, and complaining that the principal does not answer you. Ask that your letter be attached to the board's permanent record. Follow up with calls to individual board members and try to convince them this is a real issue.

(c) If no resolution, show up at the following board meeting and speak at the Open Forum to the issue. Re-submit your comments in writing to the board, with all the previous attachments, and ask for your letter to be put in the permanent record.

(d) If all this fails, ask the Super or Board President (in writing, copy to the board's permanent record) to place this item (criteria for recognition...) on the board's agenda. Board bylaws require that such item be placed on the agenda withing a reasonable time.

That's about as far as you can go with the official process. Hopefully something will happen on the way.

Posted by Kathleen, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 28, 2007 at 6:05 pm


Thanks for your input. It has been helpful and I feel confident that it is the right approach. Hopefully the principal at Paly will provide clarification.

Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 28, 2007 at 8:42 pm

"Doesn't that sound like discrimination to you?"

Sounds like it could be any number of possibilities.
I like Wolf's suggested course of action too.

Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Jan 28, 2007 at 11:33 pm

The word "discrimination" is a loaded term that should not be tossed about lightly. Sure, the situation you describe is technically discrimination, in the dictionary sense of the word, "telling the difference between." (as in "she has a very discriminating taste"). But the casual reader will see "Discrimination at Paly" and will read your posts and perhaps get the wrong idea. You don't seem concerned about creating mistaken impressions since you've done nothing to shed any real light on your situation, but you certainly haven't hesitated to publicly impugn by name the individual with whom you have a personal gripe. (You deserve some credit at least for not doing so anonymously).

There may be dozens of differences in a student's situation to justify an administrator's decision to treat students differently. Differences in age, health, academic standing and academic preparation would be a few reasons to arrive at different decisions, along with differences in the particulars of each request (what course is being affected and what place does the course have determining diplomas, college eligibility, etc). I get the sense that you wouldn't be satisfied without knowing all the relevant points of comparison, which may be quite time-consuming to determine. Then, the way these things go, many people (perhaps not you) would take all that info as ammunition to extend the dispute further. And beware - to decry subjectivity may invite an objective rigidity that you might wish you hadn't asked for if you get it.

It may be that your understanding of fairness is based on "everyone getting the same thing," while another reasonable, and I'd say preferable concept possibly applicable to this situation would be that fairness means everyone getting what they need.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 29, 2007 at 5:26 pm

sounds like a massive hassle for no reason

Posted by Kathleen, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 29, 2007 at 7:59 pm

It's not a "massive hassle for no reason". It is important that all students be treated in the same manner. Furthermore, college admission officers strongly prefer that the student's GPA be clearly set forth on one transcript. Mistakes are made. One transcript guarantees academic accuracy within the various admission offices. It is also unfair to the student who takes an accredited course only to be told that the course will not be included in the GPA set forth on his or her Paly transcript. This is especially so when another student is given approval to have the grade included on the Paly transcript. I for one find this situation troubling. There should be approval/denial criteria clearly set forth that apply in this type of situation universally to all students at Paly. Right now this is not the case and I believe this approach needs to be changed. Apply the same criteria to all students and all students will feel that they have been treated fairly.

Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 29, 2007 at 8:15 pm

There is not enough information in the original post to determine that this situation was unfair.

I know of students that have gotten this approved before, in all cases I am aware of, it was because the student had taken all that Paly had to offer on the subject and wanted to go beyond what Paly had the ability to offer.

Posted by Wolf, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 30, 2007 at 12:07 am

Whether there was a discrimination or not is immaterial. I see absolutely no reason why the criteria for approving external courses for official credit should not be clearly spelled out. Had they been, this whole thread would not exist, and kids would know up front whether a course will be recognized or not, instead of depending on the good will of the principal. What's wrong with that?

Let Kathleen follow up, and let's hope she will improve things for everyone.

Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 30, 2007 at 8:06 am

you're right, if she get its documented its a good thing.

Its the irony of the call for fairness by way of a public personal attack as part of the resolution process that got to me.

Posted by Kathleen, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 30, 2007 at 8:54 am

Simply stating the facts as they stand is not attacking anyone. The instructional supervisor at Paly denied "prior approval" for an accredited off campus course. That's simply a fact. The instructional supervisor at Paly granted "prior approval" for other students at Paly for accredited off campus courses. That's simply a fact. It is fair, and not an attack, to ask for the criteria relied upon. By the way, the name of the instructional supervisor for the science department at Paly is not a town secret. It is published in the Handbook disseminated every year to every Paly household.

Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Jan 30, 2007 at 10:43 am

Kathleen -

yes, the supervisor's name is publicly known, and it's nice that in your own mind you don't think you "attacked" anyone. Perhaps you can understand why some might perceive hostility when you use words/phrases like "Discrimination at Paly," "...held hostage by Ms. Lawrence," "...denied without basis." If you'd like to retract any of those, I think it would actually enhance the force of your main argument concerning transparency.

Posted by Kathleen, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 30, 2007 at 11:12 am

I sense hostility from you "Al". If Ms. Lawrence would like to set forth the basis for her decision, i.e., the criteria she used to make the decision, then we wouldn't be having this discussion at all. I for one would be happy with that outcome.

Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 30, 2007 at 1:03 pm


We should just agree to disagree.

Like I said, if you can get the process documented better thats a good thing.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 30, 2007 at 2:42 pm

You misunderstood me, Kathleen, I meant that YOU'RE going through a massive hassle for no reason -- THEY (the authorities) are putting you through a hassle here. This shouldn't be a big deal, it should be clear. Yes, the process for approval/denial should be transparent. However, I did advise a possible other route (separate transcript). I compliment you for your bravery on addressing this issue publicly. Yes, bravery is the correct term.

Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Jan 30, 2007 at 10:43 pm

Kathleen -

I have certainly been critical and skeptical - but hostile seems a bit overboard. Maybe you have a tendency to see hostility where none exists, or to create it by assuming it. Show me where I've been hostile, and I'll try to see it your way.

Meanwhile, you still haven't shed any light on your situation, and seem reluctant to own up to your tone. I wonder if you approached the matter differently if you might get different results.

Posted by Kathleen, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 31, 2007 at 8:07 am

I misunderstood what you were saying. Thanks for the support and I agree that I am going through massive hassle for no reason.

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