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School district critics, lawyer clash on federal probe

Original post made on Feb 27, 2013

Critics of Palo Alto Superintendent Kevin Skelly and a lawyer for the school district Tuesday presented clashing perspectives on a recent probe by a federal agency of a Palo Alto middle-school bullying case.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, February 27, 2013, 6:26 AM

Comments (110)

Posted by It is not a big deal, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2013 at 7:31 am

I could see that they are trying to minimize the seriousness of this issue. Too bad they still don't get it. Yes, it is a big deal to violate the rights a any child.


Posted by inclusion, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2013 at 7:47 am

"very productive, collaborative fruitful process," It's unfortunate other groups can't manage to engage with the board and the community in the interest of effecting change in a similar fashion.


Posted by Weekly Reader, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 27, 2013 at 7:56 am

"Palo Alto school district leaders and parents should be shocked and saddened by the portrait painted in a scathing investigative report from the U.S. Department of Education.

The report from the Office for Civil Rights, completed in December and obtained by the Weekly, found that the district violated federal law in the way it handled the ongoing harassment of a middle school special education student.

Without admitting that its actions violated the law, the district entered into a settlement agreement that imposes a detailed list of actions and reforms aimed at correcting the poor practices the investigators uncovered.

In a rare, detailed glimpse into the workings of the school district by an outside agency, school officials are portrayed as not understanding federal discrimination laws, not having good procedures and systems for addressing complaints, not conducting proper investigations and not providing appropriate training to its employees. Most importantly, the district did not stop the bullying or impose any discipline.

The 10-page report and seven-page settlement agreement reflect the results of an extensive Office of Civil Rights investigation, conducted after the family of the Palo Alto student filed a complaint with the office and turned over emails and other materials documenting its repeated attempts to get the school to take action over more than a year.

The report and settlement agreement, with redactions to protect identities, has been posted by the Weekly on PaloAltoOnline.com. The Weekly is also withholding which of Palo Alto's three middle schools were involved to protect the victim, who continues to be enrolled.

IF it fully complies with the terms of the settlement agreement the district will not face legal action by the Department of Education. But the family is not a party to the agreement and has the right to bring a civil action against the district if it chooses.

The federal investigation included on-site interviews with students, teachers, counselors and administrators by Office of Civil Rights investigators.

For a district and community often viewed as mired in process, the investigation uncovered a stunning lack of protocols and systems for addressing serious complaints.

It found that school staff members who had knowledge of the harassment were left to their own devices about how to respond and that no single staff member or administrator was designated to investigate and gather information. No records were kept of interviews with the victim or those students involved in the bullying, witnesses were not interviewed and no one compiled all the information relating to the incidents. None of the teaching staff at the school could recall having been informed about the student's repeated reports of bullying nor being asked about what they might know. Requests for an aide to monitor the victim during lunchtime were rejected by the district office and kicked back to the school site, stating in an email that the district "is taking the position that bullying is each site's responsibility" and that the site should "work this out."

As disturbing as the report's revelations are, the response this week by Superintendent Kevin Skelly is equally or more concerning.

He made no apologies nor showed any sign of acknowledging the seriousness of the institutional problems identified by the Office for Civil Rights."

UPDATE: As of last night's meeting, Dr.Skelly has still not showed any sign of acknowledging the institutional problems identified in the OCR report. Instead the district has engaged outside counsel who is paid to offer an alternative explanation which is more favorable to the district. The highlights of her case being that 1) the law is not clear 2) the process is collaborative and the district has not been cited or sanctioned 3) district's commonly enter into resolution agreements with OCR. It is her job to minimize the situation.

Ms. Emberling, Ms. Baten Caswell and Mr Tom voiced their regret that they were not informed by the district sooner about this matter.

The Board had not been informed until after the report was made public that the administration entered into a settlement resolution with the federal Department of Education Office for Civil rights and that the events documented in the report had transpired on a PAUSD campus.

I expect more from the Board and District administration. I expect accountability and transparency.


Posted by Wow!!!, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 27, 2013 at 7:57 am

It is clear that Dauber and his crew are just on a witch hunt!!! Can they just please [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] stop judging and be part of the solution and not the problem. Has Dauber and his crew ever fallen short, made a mistake in judgement?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] We as humans were not born perfect and Skelly and crew will learn from this and make changes or they will end up firing themselves with repeated behavior. Some people in Palo Alto need to really understand we are a top notch school district, bottom line!, and always going to be problems or people feeling they are getting the short end or even unfortunately kids getting bullied.

Come up with solutions working together instead of attacking!!! It gets really old after awhile and is very unattractive.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 7:58 am

OCR was engaged in a law enforcement process with PAUSD, not a tea party. They did not offer the district milk and cookies, they gave them a Resolution Agreement rather than being sued in federal district court. Any portrayal of this as anything other than law enforcement is what lawyers have to say. There really was nothing else she could say -- it's her job to try to present bad facts in a positive light. It was naive of Ken Dauber and WCDB to think that the school board would be allowed by its lawyer to have public discussion of facts that will lead to a large judgment against it. That's why no staff spoke about what they did or what they knew or when they knew it.


Posted by inclusion, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2013 at 8:01 am

The responses from Ken and his group above reads like trying to "score points" instead of being part of the solution. Hardly the way to get elected.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 8:16 am

@wow. You know what else is unattractive? Having a little disabled girl student punched so hard she has to be taken to the office in a wheelchair, and then not intervening to stop the bullying. You know what else is unattractive? Having a federal agency find that our school district violated federal civil rights law? Know what else? Trying to snow the public with a lawyer's summation instead of having transparency or accountability. Know what else? Continuing to employ the incompetent staff who presided over this mess.


Posted by Peggy Duncan, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 27, 2013 at 8:19 am

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

In my experience, being "part of the solution" when something goes wrong includes finding out what happened and why. We know something about what happened, from OCR. As far as I can tell, we don't know why.
Do we have a general failure of the PAUSD complaint process? Do we have a few staff members who didn't do their jobs correctly? Do we have a failure of the special education department (the child at the center of this didn't get the right services until after the story broke in the press)? Do we lack a way for problems at schools to be noticed at the district and fixed? Most importantly, how common is this failure? Are we protecting other children who suffer harassment in our schools, particularly those who are disabled?
I have read the OCR report and it doesn't try to answer those questions. It is our job to answer them. I am disappointed in Melissa Caswell that she doesn't see this, she usually seems smart and focused.
Attacking the messenger is a time-honored response of public officials who have failed to do their duty and have no interest in the truth coming out because of their personal involvement. Kudos to Dauber and his group and to the Weekly for pressing for transparency and accountability on behalf of the community.


Posted by inclusion, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2013 at 8:25 am

Melissa is smart and focused and understands how to run a district as evidenced last night.
I haven't seen any effort from WCDBPA's to engage with the district. All I see is attacks. That isn't being part of the solution.


Posted by Solution?, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 27, 2013 at 8:34 am

I understand that some people have a problem with the school board actions and inactions concerning this situation. And I understand that some people have a problem with the people who are complaining about the school board's handling of the situation.

But what are we doing to address the REAL problem, that kids are being bullied?

And are there other, related issues we should be concerned with? Does it go being teasing and taunting? Are some kids getting physical? Let's stop complaining and offer a solution.

Or am I the only one who actually cares about our kids??


Posted by Where's-The-Outrage?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 8:41 am

> Melissa is smart and focused and understands
> how to run a district

It is difficult to see that any of the current five Board members have the slightest idea how to run a district. What expertise in organizational management do any of them have on their resumes?

Skelly was hired to run the district. The elected Board's role is specified in the California State Ed Code:

CA Ed Code/Powers of School Board:
Web Link

It's pretty clear that Skelly does not know how to run a large organization. The fact that the Board is not outraged over Skelly's keeping this matter quiet, sitting on the back of his sending questionable emails to the Board, without even one of the Board showing any concern for possible violatios of the Brown Act—pretty much screams that none of these people "know how to run a school district".

Sadly, too many people in Palo Alto are only concerned about how the schools drive up home prices to be concerned about the nuts and bolts of how the District spends almost $200M a year, or how complaints about possible violations of Federal law are handled inside the District.

It's hard to see anyone on this Board even remotely concerned about what has happened! But the sad part is that this matter will probably not be raised as an issue the next time there is a PAUSD Board election. It will either be forgotten, or judged to be "off limits" by the Candidates for the next open Board seat.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 8:45 am

The lawyer for the school district would like you to believe that this case is all about a school staff that tried its best and did its job but made a few little mistakes. The lawyer for the district would like you to believe that these were understandable mistakes, common mistakes that a lot of schools make, because the law is hard to follow.

That is not what this case is about. This case is about a little disabled girl who went to school hoping to make friends and have fun but was mercilessly mocked, taunted, hazed, punched, pushed down, told that she was "stupid" and "retarded" and "no one liked her" on a regular basis. This is a case about a little girl -- the lawyer for the school district doesn't want to talk about her, and that's easy to see why not -- who was once pushed down so hard that she was taken to the office in a wheelchair -- A WHEELCHAIR. This case is about a family who diligently tried their hardest to make the district aware of what was happening. This case is about a school where the counselor had detailed records of every incident including the names of the children involved in the punching, pushing, and cruel taunting -- and in which school officials repeatedly failed to intervene to stop the bullying.

This case is about a school that had no policy in its handbook about disability bullying.

This case is about a principal who was so arrogant that she told the government that her staff didn't need training because the staff was so "sophisticated."

This case is about an assistant principal who was not candid with the government and said they had no records of who had bullied and punched and hit and pushed and been cruel to the little disabled girl.

This case is about Charles Young who despite being the "compliance officer" didn't comply with the law or his own rules or policies.

At the very heart of this case, it is about justice for a little disabled girl who just wanted to go to school and make friends and learn and have fun but because of the incredible negligence and deliberate indifference -- a term you will hear a lot of in the coming months -- of PAUSD ended up instead in a psychiatric hospital suffering from severe depression and suicidality -- conditions that science tells are are directly caused by bullying and negligence like that displayed here.

This is not a case about a district that should have known about the bullying. This is about a district that DID know but didn't do anything.

The lawyer for the district wants you to believe this and she thinks you will because she thinks you will basically believe anything about PAUSD. She is banking on the idea that this town wants so badly to believe that it has great schools that it won't care about the facts -- the fact that a little disabled girl was hurt very badly. And that countless others of children just like her are hurt every day in our schools due to our lack of policies and accountability.

Don't believe her. Show that you care. Stand up for the victim in this case like the federal government did. The only way this child is going to get any justice is if the people of Palo Alto are able to help her. Will you?


Posted by inclusion, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2013 at 8:53 am

There you are again. Just trying to score points. Why not provide recommendations to the board and volunteer to follow through? Why not get involved with efforts such as PSN? Why not work with groups already in the schools to improve, educated and deal with bullying?
No, it's so much easier to say things like "where's the outrage" and sit back than actually DO SOMETHING to help.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 8:58 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

This case is about a little disabled girl who needed help and the adults who did not help her. When adults don't help a child who is crying out for that help, the law considers that to be beyond ordinary negligence. The law considers it to be "deliberate indifference." When a district is deliberately indifferent -- when a little disabled girl is punched and hit so hard that she cannot get up and walk and is wheeled to the office in a wheelchair but nothing is done to stop the bullying -- when that happens as it happened in this case, the law doesn't allow the school to just shrug and say 'that's hard to fix." The law imposes remedies and requirements on that school to fix that situation.

The district's lawyer [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] want you to think that this is too hard to fix for the school. It's not. All it took was to care and to follow the law.


Posted by WALTER HAYS PARENT, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Feb 27, 2013 at 9:06 am

There are bullies in our school and nothing is being done about it. When someone brings anything to the attention of the administrator they make it seems not important. And to make matters worse, minority parents and kids also feel bullied by our own principal. It is really sad.


Posted by Duveneck dad, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 27, 2013 at 9:14 am

This seems obvious to me. PA violates civil rights of disabled child, enters into settlement agreement with Feds. Why wouldn't we want to know why it happened? This is a big organization taking care of thousands of our children. What am I missing?


Posted by inclusion, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:11 am

@Edmund
I didn't know Crescent Park was in Marin County. You must be using Apple Maps.
I also don't think it is too hard to work with the district to fix things. Although you obviously find it a lot easier to sit at a computer terminal and attack than get involved.


Posted by Where's-The-Outrage?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:22 am

> I also don't think it is too hard to work with
> the district to fix things

And you would use the experience of this little girl's parents as an example of how easily things can be fixed--when trying to work with the District?

Can you cite, say, five examples where parents, or interested parties, have been able to identify, and fix, problems that were festering in the schools?


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:25 am

This case is about a little disabled girl who was told by a girl in her class that "everyone hated her, and therefore she had to hate the Student too." The girl then tried to kick the little disabled girl but the disabled girl was able to get out of the way. The family informed the district in writing about this incident and told the district that the little disabled girl was afraid to go back to school "knowing that everyone hated her." An investigation revealed that the bullying was related to the student's disability. The family requested that an aide be assigned so that the student would feel safe. Instead, the district special ed department emailed back that it would not provide an aide for the student to protect her from the disability-based harassment, because "bullying is each site's responsibility." The family asked Dr. Skelly to help them, but the Superintendent emailed the principal that he "wasn't sure what, if anything, we can do" about the parent's concerns.

A month later another student punched the little disabled girl in the face. The torrent of abuse continued. The disabled girl was called 'gross, stupid, retarded." Dr. Skelly was informed of this in writing by the family. Still the district did not effectively intervene to stop this abuse.

The district's lawyer wants you to think that this is a subtle or hard case, and that PAUSD was unfairly treated by the federal government. That is just not true. It makes sense that she wants you to think that because it's her job to try to defend the district. But this isn't a case about federal over-reach.

This is a case about a little disabled girl who was punched, kicked, pushed, hazed, verbally abused and ultimately ignored by the adults who were supposed to protect her.

Palo Alto -- what kind of community are you? Will you stand with the victim in this case or with the district's paid lawyer?


Posted by inclusion, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:38 am

" and that PAUSD was unfairly treated by the federal government."
Where did you get this from? PAUSD described the interaction with the government as a "very productive, collaborative fruitful process,".

Please read the article.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:43 am

Last night the district's lawyer said that bullying was a "theme" of OCR and that OCR had changed the law so that things that were not previously considered bullying now were. That isn't true but it also isn't relevant to this case at all.

The hitting, kicking, punching and hazing as well as the relentless verbal abuse -- "retarded, stupid, gross, everyone hates you" -- isn't subtle, it isn't new, and it has always been bullying. The parents told everyone -- they did everything they could to make everyone aware.

The district showed deliberate indifference to this situation by not helping her. There was no change in the law, there was no "theme" and there is no justification. But the district's lawyer had a job to do which was to make the best case she could for the district and she did a good job for her client.

But did the district do a good job for you, people of Palo Alto? Does the fact that this little disabled girl who just wanted to go to school, make friends, learn, and have fun like eveyrone else was treated to this relentless abuse make you feel that your district did a good job?


Posted by inclusion, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:52 am

@Edmund
...then OCR got involved, they found deficiencies and worked with the district on a plan for improvement. See, it's called engagement and how you effect change.
Drumming up outrage as your above posts try to do, provides little beyond an outlet for your own frustrations. Try to get involved and you might actually achieve something.


Posted by surreal, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:52 am

Surreal to see the BOE engage with the community through a lawyer.

Is Barb Mitchell trying to re-define unlawful discrimination, or inventing a bullying definition that suits her. Pleading ignorance about the OCR violation while at the same time trying to change the rules and definition? Mrs. Mitchell you go to Washington.

As for Mitchell's concern that the current definition is too punitive (as opposed to not punitive enough for Homework), don't be surprised that most parents and students actually know that when you cross the line to bullying about disability, religion, race, sexual orientation, you get in a lot of trouble, or at least you should. A punitive response is expected to deter further abuse.

Please stop focusing on the legal trouble Skelly got us into and start doing the right thing PAUSD. You can't even pretend you get the point of the OCR violation?

PS: Did I detect a smirk on Mr. Skelly's face when he said at the meeting last night that we actually don't have that many special education students in the district?


Posted by Anne, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:53 am

Edmund Burke, thank you for your heartfelt comment.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 11:17 am

The district's lawyer wants to distract you by telling you about "collaboration" and process and complicated laws that are hard to comply with. She thinks you are not smart enough to understand what went on here. She thinks if she can bamboozle you with talk about the process you will forget about the little disabled girl with the pretty smile who just wanted to go to school, make friends, and be included. The district's paid lawyer thinks that if she tells you about how hard the staff worked she can make you forget about how the little disabled girl was pushed, punched and kicked.

But you won't.

This is a case about how students at the school "made a game out of avoiding contact" with the little disabled girl.

This is case about how students at the school had started a game in elementary school (where the student was hazed and bullied until she had to transfer schools) called the "[student's name] touch." Students told the federal civil rights investigators that since elementary school that they had "tried not to get the [student's name] touch." These children told federal investigators that they also used the name of another, different, disabled student in their bullying game.

This is a case in which our children told federal civil rights investigators that students with disabilities said things that were weird and that they didn't like to work with disabled students on group projects because they were slow and "wasted class time."

This is a case in which this family did everything to notify the school but the state-mandated Uniform Complaint Procedure was never used so the district never solved the problem.

This is a case in which the Assistant Principal misled federal investigators when he/she told them that the school would have helped the little disabled girl but her family had never told them enough information to help. That wasn't true at all.

This is a case where PAUSD dropped the ball, hard. The facts of this case are terrible. So it makes sense that the district doesn't want you to know the real facts or the real law of this case -- that would just lead to more questions, more lawsuits, more people coming forward.

This is a case where the district things that the right response is to hire a public relations officer. Because they have a real PR problem.

Don't you believe it Palo Alto. This is a case with a name and a face, even if it's confidential. This is a case about a real child -- a loving, funny, warm, kind, sweet little girl who had the bad luck that the adults who were assigned to protect her were more interested in protecting themselves.

What kind of community are you Palo Alto? Will you stand with the victim of bullying or with the district's paid lawyer?



Posted by Do your job, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 11:27 am

I'm embarrassed that we have members in our community who want to deflect blame from our elected politicians (Heidi, Camille, Barbara, Dana, Melissa) and highly paid administrators (Skelly, Young, Wade). I don't remember the Daubers or WCDBPA causing Skelly to behave unprofessionally and incompetently, forcing Young to mishandle teacher relation issues at more than one school or to completely and utterly fail as the compliance officer, or for Wade to have three years at these problems only to make the worse.

I'm also embarrassed that I have to say that I don't know the Daubers nor am I a member of WCDBPA. As a citizen, a homeowner, an educator, a parent, and a voter, I must urge the Board to take action by March 15 to notice Skelly, Young, and even Wade. Our district deserves the best and we have in no way received that. I want to be part of the solution so just let me know if I need to contact the OCR or the county DA or the Registrar of Voters with a complaint, which will be anonymous like this post.

Let me know if I need to contact de facto leader of PAUSD, the lawyer.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Disclosure: our kids have graduated.

Is there any data that provides an accurate scope on the size of the problem? In other words, how many cases are we looking at among the approximately 11,000 students?

Obviously there is a systematic/procedural problem that must be remedied. But I am curious as to how widespread (or not) has the issue been documented to-date.

Thanks.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 12:04 pm

@inclusion:

You criticize people for being upset with the Skelly and the Board as merely attacking but not offering any specifics or being part of a solution.

Note that you say the same thing to them: you attack these people but offer no specific suggestions on how to be part of the solution.

It's obvious that the Board doesn't want to take any action on this and just want to put a good face on it so they can move on. So what do we citizens who want to 'get involved' have to do to be part of a solution? All we can do is attend a school board meeting and ask the board to take action. What else do we do? Riot in the streets? Burn Skelly in effigy?

You make no sense.


Posted by Special ed parent, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Feb 27, 2013 at 12:15 pm

@Crescent park dad. Without an investigation involving looking at district records and talking to parents, teachers and administrators, I think there is no way of knowing how many children have been subjected to harassment or bullying without adequate district response. The CAC (our special ed parent group) did a survey after the Weekly reported on the OCR finding. 95% of parents responding reported that their child had been bullied at school, but that number has issues of course, and it only includes kids with special needs.
The short answer is without some digging with the cooperation of the district there is no way to know. We don't even know the middle school involved in the case although I have heard some rumors.


Posted by Carrie, a resident of Ohlone School
on Feb 27, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Wasn't there a similar case against PAUSD re: civil rights violation related to harassment in 1997 or 1998? I believe it involved the district's lack of protection against an elementary school girl's sexual harassment from a boy (or maybe several?) and the district had to provide extensive training to their entire staff because of the ruling from the OCR. Can somebody verify? I guess PAUSD has failed to learn their lesson.


Posted by inclusion, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I haven't criticized anyone for being upset with Skelly and the Board. Nor, as Edmund tries to imply, have I taken away from the seriousness of the situation. These are your straw-man arguments.
I have criticized unproductive attacks and people more interested in scoring points than rolling up their sleeves and getting involved. Ken's response last night was a perfect example of that.

"All we can do is attend a school board meeting and ask the board to take action."
Rubbish. When was the last time you volunteered at the school? What about forming a parents group at your school and deal with these sorts of issues and engage with the principal/teachers. You don't need to do this through the PTA and, yes, it involves work.
It's easy to criticize from the comfort of your terminal. What about actually getting out there and doing something about it? I don't see any of this from you or WCDBPA.


Posted by Duveneck dad, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 27, 2013 at 12:23 pm

You don't park your lawyer out front and direct all questions to her unless you think you have a serious problem. Staff members are probably facing personal liability if the facts are right, so I agree it's naive to expect them to give any details.


Posted by super volunteer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 1:05 pm

@inclusion -

"When was the last time you volunteered at the school?...."

I volunteered anywhere from 10-25 hours a WEEK at my kids' elementary school and have done it ALL. driving on field trips, PTA, Site Council, helping in the classroom....and I have attended many school board meetings. My kids had great teachers (for the most part). I have seen up close and personal how dysfunctional this District is, and how much that complete lack of leadership is trickling down to the kids...and that's why I moved my kids to private school right after elementary (last year I got my youngest one out).

When was the last time YOU spent time in a classroom? The teachers might be fabulous, but they have ZERO leadership.

If you take the time to look, you will find that the number of applications to private schools is skyrocketing. There's a reason for that - it's called 25 Churchill.

I fully support the Daubers and Edmund Burke.


Posted by parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 27, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I posted this on the other thread and think it's appropriate here as well.

I am not a member of WCDB and have been both a supporter and critic of our school district.

I am APPALLED at the mishandling of these cases. I am APPALLED at the lack of courage to simply face the situation at hand and do the right thing. All these attempts at smoothing over to not offend teachers, staff, parents, students, etc, has only made the whole situation worse.

I am APPALLED at how, over and over, the students and families are expected to suck it up because life is unfair... and told to remember just how lucky we are to live in Palo Alto and go to our amazing schools.

Our schools have a great reputation due to the tireless efforts of many, many individuals - students, parents, and teachers - that, combined together over a long time, make for a great system. BUT Our schools also have a terrible reputation as meat grinders when, as witnessed here, someone doesn't get the "memo" on how to navigate through/conform to the system.... these nonconformists become the flies in the ointment. They become victims again by daring to challenge the image of picture perfect Palo Alto. It's appalling to be told to focus on the picture perfect image and to ignore the sharp edges of the shattered pieces.

It takes 10x as many "good acts" to undo just 1 screw up. The way this is being managed reminds me of the Catholic Church scandals that have been dragging on for years. It reminds me of what the definition of "is" is. For once, just once, I would love to see some courage and leadership out of the school board.


Posted by Do your job, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 1:17 pm

To the Trustees of the Palo Alto School Board:

As district parents and community-minded citizens, we strongly support Palo Alto's tradition of educational excellence. We especially appreciate the dedication of the many educators, at all ranks, who make our schools great.

Recently, we have become aware of deep concerns among this district's parents, who have raised questions about trust and communication which are clearly fundamental to our district's success.

We are writing to you, the Board, with one request: that you speak directly with all of these parents in a safe, confidential forum, and listen to them with the full attention they deserve so that this matter can be resolved in full. We appreciate and support your thoughtful attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

A few parents


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 1:38 pm

@inclusion:

"Rubbish. When was the last time you volunteered at the school?"

So is your point that my volunteering at school is somehow going to make Charles Young do his job? The word "rubbish" comes to mind.

There is no logic in your argument.


Posted by Terman mom, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Feb 27, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Edmund thank you for educating us on the facts here. I am sickened to learn about this. I am also worried about my children because even if they are not being bullied witnessing this kind of abuse would be traumatic. Edmund you are lawyer can children who witness this kind of very severe abuse also sue? If my children came home and said that they they saw a girl hit hard enough to need a wheelchair I would be furious! This isn't Iraq! School board what are you thinking? Help us, don't apologize for Dr.Skelly!


Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 27, 2013 at 1:42 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

I asked my retired SJUSD Assistant Administrator if she wanted to get involved ( she was a Special Ed teacher that climbed the management ladder: Teacher, Assistant Principal, Principal, Administrative Staff, Assistant Administrator )

NO WAY would she try to fix up THIS KIND OF ADMINISTRATIVE FAILURE.

Remember what I posted earlier on this issue? Now it looks like not only the Special Ed teachers need to be FIRED, their ADMINISTRATION contacts need to be FIRED as well. When you have to resort to LEGAL PROSTITUTES from the American Brothel Association, you know you have a BIG problem.

The Palo Alto TAXPAYERS have a reason and a right to be angry about this travesty that had to involve the FEDS to determine the TRUTH of the matter.

This failure indicates a " New Broom " policy had better be implemented soon before the PAUSD has to pay out a significant part of their budget to all victims.


Posted by Do your job, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm

To the following parents,

Will you now help oust this superintendent like you did six years ago? Or will you sit by and protect yourself despite even more compelling evidence that this administration needs to go

Be consistent.

Note: the following parents (some are so PAUSD employees) signed a letter against the superintendent in 2006, it's public information:

Danny Abramovitch, Alex Aiken, Wendy Akers-Ghose, Susan Alters, Anne Avis, Amy Balsom, Dory Bleich, Jonake Bose, Martha Bowden, Ronda Breier, Steven Carothers, Pancho Chang, Dave Charleson, Mark Christopherson, Melinda Christopherson, Cindy Chun, Dan Dykwell, Claude Ezran, Dan Farley, LaVonna Floreal, David Foster, Jon Foster, Rita Giles, Sabine Girod, Carolyn Godfrey, Ellen Harris, Wynn Hausser, Scott Hayes, Kate Hill, Ann Hubbell, Steve Hubbell, Ann Idzik, Bruce Jaffe, Elizabeth Jensen, Lindsay Joye, Nancy Kelem, CeCi Kettendorf, Jenny Kiratli, Lydia Kou, Amy Ladd, Duncan MacMillan, Pam MacMillan, Lynn Morton Magill, Grace Mah, Jamie Maltz, Vera Michalchik, Natasha Moiseyev, Erwin Morton, Pauline Navarro, Cosmos Nicolaou, Evelyne Nicolaou, Joni Okamoto, Joan Phelan, Ken Poulton, Katherine Terhune Ratcliff, Miriam Rotman, Al Russell, Kathy Schroeder, Scott Schroeder, Stephanie Schubert, Ilona Sockol, John St. Clair III, Debra Sutherland, Kathy Tracy, Preeva Tramiel, Carolyn Tucher, Samir Tuma, Dianne Vernon, Mark Vernon, Lanie Wheeler, Jennifer Widom, Julie Williams, Blake Winchell , Mara Yarp, Cindy Ziebelman


Posted by Peggy Duncan, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 27, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

I'm far removed from having school-age children so I don't share some of the raw feelings of parents here, but I am bothered by the attacks on community members who care enough to stand up and say what they think in public. I'm from Michigan originally and grew up with the idea that taking a stand is a good and honorable thing to do (I'm from a union family).
Some people complain about speakers who "score points". I see people who are "making points" and informative ones. Let's not make the mistake of thinking that any criticism is an attack and a zero sum game. The school district is not for the people running it today, it is for the kids. Making it better means listening to criticism and deciding whether it is valid, not dismissing it out of hand. More information is almost always better, too. I do wish all of our school board members had that attitude.


Posted by Solution?, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 27, 2013 at 1:58 pm

I continue to see a lot of people placing blame and very little in terms of suggestions on dealing with the bullying problem itself.

What if Skelly were to be removed from office and replaced by someone more transparent, but no action was taken to make things better? What if Skelly apologized and became more like what the people of the community would like him to be? What if the board came up with a comprehensive and clear definition of bullying and laid out a reporting plan so all future "official" bullying cases got reported?

Would any of this ensure that the bullying situation would be improved? Would this help any of the abused kids? Or would the abusers/bullies simply get more creative and deceptive about how they do what they do? Would our very intelligent students learn how to stay just one inch off the radar?

Let's think about what we want for our kids. We want them to be safe, don't we? We want them to be happy and healthy and able to learn and develop in our schools, don't we?

Let's concentrate on the solution. Any ideas?


Posted by training?!, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 27, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Here and there are references for the need to "train staff." I think this is patently ridiculous and indicative of government nonsense. It's about common decency, not having in-service workshops to blather nonsense about defining bullying. When administrators show leadership and teachers supervise the children and teens, and have an active presence, bullying is minimized. Of course, it can never be eliminated, and there is a turnover of students so the environment is not static, but resorting to the need for more taxpayer $$$ to be spent on "training" or "re-training" is bureacractic nonsense.


Posted by inclusion, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2013 at 2:28 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
@super volunteer
If you really had spent that much time in the school, you would have known the situation amongst the students and which were having a hard time. You would have either encouraged your kids to get involved, talked the parents of the kids causing the problems and brought it up with the teachers and community. All that without having to form a group to deal with an endemic problem.
But then, that would require you to get involved!
@David,
I don't even understand your response. If you don't believe parental involvement in schools can have an impact in all aspects of school life, you're in the wrong district.


Posted by Yes, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 27, 2013 at 2:31 pm

@Solution?

Yes if PAUSD had protected this child by following its own procedures, she would not have been repeatedly physically assaulted, and she would also have experienced adult caring. So she would be better off. This situation isn't really about how to prevent bullying from ever happening. It is about how to ensure that adults react appropriately when it happens rather than ignoring it. It's not that complicated. If firing Skelly could make that happen, I'm for it. There seem to be a lot of other superintendents who have this figured out better than he does.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 2:41 pm

The district's paid lawyer and "inclusion" want you to think that this is about how people didn't see what was happening to this child. Implicitly, they are blaming the victim and her family for not being "involved" enough. It is understandable why the district's lawyer and other defenders would like you to think that -- after all, the facts of this case are so egregious that any chance to change the subject is welcome to the district.

But that is not what this case is about.

This case is about a family that made dozens and dozens of complaints, often in writing.

This case is about the fact that the school counselor kept track of those complaints in her notes that include the names of the children who were abusing this child but did nothing to effectively stop the bullying.

This case is about the fact that the Principal told OCR that there was no harassment -- it didn't occur because according the the Principal it isn't harassment unless it is the "same kids" doing it -- if it is different kids, she thought she had no obligation to stop it. This is the same Principal who told OCR that her staff didn't need disability harassment training because she and her staff were very "sophisticated."

This case is about how the little disabled girl herself went to FIVE different teachers and administrators at the school to tell them that her classmates were bullying her.

This case is about how when OCR interviewed the teachers, none of those teachers could recall being asked by district or school administrators including Charles Young, the compliance officer, not even one time, not once, not ever -- "if they knew anything about the student being bullied, or told about the bullying reports that they had received from the family, or from the Superintendent's office."

This case is about a massive failure -- of the child, of the family, of the community.

This case is about whether Palo Alto has a heart.

This child has a speech impairment. That's why she was punched and kicked and pushed so hard she couldn't get up and walk and had to be taken to the office in a wheelchair. She can't speak for herself. She needs you to do that Palo Alto. You have to be her voice. You have to say for her, because she can't say for herself, that this is unacceptable. That you stand with her not with the district's paid lawyer no matter how slick or how highly paid or how smooth she might be. This little disabled girl needs a voice -- will you be that voice, Palo Alto?


Posted by Speaking of policies, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2013 at 3:24 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by surreal , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Solution?

"I continue to see a lot of people placing blame and very little in terms of suggestions on dealing with the bullying problem itself. Let's concentrate on the solution. Any ideas?"

There are many great solutions!

1. Do what John Lents did years ago at Addison Elementary. He put students and parents on call that if there was any bullying which crossed the line to a civil rights violation (disability, religion, race, sexual orientation....), he would take it to the legal realm. Everyone became aware of the law - eons ago, way before Skelly.

2. For all the other kinds of bullying, mean girls, boys, cyber bullying, case by y case. Obviously non-serious stuff gets one treatment, but when a parent comes into your office crying, investigate and monitor closely. Study patterns, identify kids that may need help. A student who is a frequent target may have issues, and the bully may have issues. Both could be suffering and the bullying is a signal to investigate, and involve the parents.

Whatever you do, do not retaliate against the parents, or send them away feeling worse than when they went in.

I have basically (for free) given you solutions which will cover how to respond to most bullying situations. These solutions can be called common sense, thoughtful - I would venture to say most of our schools already have good systems going on.

Entirely different solution now, to deal with Administrative incompetence and ethical issues involving leadership. Responding to of a disabled student is not and should not be rocket science. However, once you failed in responding appropriately, and have already been called on your failure, you don't make it the victim's fault, or say that it's no big deal.

How your Admins respond to bullying is what will encourage or deter bullying in your schools.


Posted by Skellyton, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Feb 27, 2013 at 3:32 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Cardinal, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 27, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I want to applaud Dr Skelly and his supporters on the school board for their discipline in sticking to a proven formula for successful crisis management. They are following the tactics that my institution has used consistently when accused of permitting harm to children. Most of all, remember that the reputation and interests of our revered institution must supercede the interests of any individual.
1. Try to convince the so-called victims that they miss understood the intentions of the perpetrator and the problem is not as significant as they perceived.
2. If the problem continues, repeat Step 1.
3. Conduct an "internal" investigation and proclaim the institution has been found by itself to innocent.
4. Move the victim or perpetrator to another branch location and hope/assume that the problem will go away.
5. When the problem recurs, repeat steps 1-4.
6. When step 5 fails and the problem becomes public, blame the the messengers and the press. Insist that it is now the revered institution that is the victim due to the criticisms of its conduct.
7. Repeat step 3 and proclaim that the institution is now a model of exceptional conduct.
8. Stall on final resolution until you can retire.


Posted by Another dissapointed Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I agree with Kellyton
We need new leader who is not afraid to tell principals how to do the job when problems arise. Also I watched the board meeting last night, and it seems to me that the attorney tried to calm down PAUSD parents by trying to make it sound like the OCR findings is something that happens a lot and is not a big deal. Time to wake up guys! Do you really think that the family of the student bullied will not suit the district? They have the right to do it, if they choose to. If I was the superintended and school officials, I would apologized to the parents of the student and conduct the investigation, with the hopes that the family sees that they are really willing to find out what went wrong, and why the school allowed the bullying to continue, and do something about it by firing those people who fail the student. But maybe, Skelly and the board members are afraid that they will be the ones who failed the child. well. If this is the case, I could understand why he refuses to the investigation. I guess he wants to keep his luxirous salary as long as he can. But, eventually, he and the ones who failed the child will have to say good bye. They had their chance to make things better for this child and they "blew it", as Dr. Skelly says. Hope next time we hire a new superintendent, we do not just look at what prestigious university they graduated from, but we pay attention to and the kind of job they did at the former job and what king of heart do they have. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Too bad, we did not know about it before they hired him, or before they renew his contract last year.


Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 27, 2013 at 4:09 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Thank you, Mr. Burke, for keeping the message on track. For many others, I offered a solution in my first comment on this issue: FIRE the Special Ed teachers that did not do their jobs in the first place! Read my other comment on the experienced person who has the background to deal with this issue. The fact that she WILL NOT TAKE THIS JOB IF IT WAS OFFERED TO HER speaks volumes about how YOUR District is handling this problem. When things get so bad that the FEDS HAVE TO INTERVENE, A hard look at EVERYONE from the Administrator on down to the Special Ed Teacher is warranted. Her sticking to practices REQUIRED OF SPECIAL ED TEACHING AND STAFF made sure that the District she administered discipline ( yes, bullying WAS nipped in the bud during her tenure ) so well that many wanted her back AND Santa Clara County wanted to give her a special Judgeship to handle only Youth Issues @ $400/day.
What the public can do is issue or inform the district that there is a NO CONFIDENCE vote concerning the present Supervisors and the Administration of the District. The Samuel Clemens remark about School Boards applies in this case.
Then the next step would be to have the existing Board step down en-mass which would give the public time to put their money where their mouths are. Running a district is still much like a business; when you have competent people below the management level, EVERYBODY WINS and the CHILDREN become the real winners!
The only monkeywrench in this idea is the NEA and CTA Unions..that is the 800# gorilla in the room no one wants to talk about.

( It is interesting to note that this ex- Assistant Administrator still lives only 5 miles way. That is why I originally asked the question )

For me, I always enjoyed my time visiting and competing as Second Board in the MVHS Chess Club, especially at Gunn HS.

My tenure at the old Cubberley HS was another matter, best left to the other topics....


Posted by Heartbroken Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 4:09 pm

After reading this article and the comments (especially Edmund Burke's) my heart is broken. I intend to become one of the voices in Palo Alto that will speak up for any child at any time in our district that I may see suffering. I have trained my children in the importance of intervening if they see a student being bullied. Sometimes it is very difficult for a student to be an upstander and advocate for the victim but it must be done by both students and staff. Witnessing the kind of abuse described in these postings would be traumatic for any of our students and might even lead to PTSD (this happened to a friend's child as a result of seeing another student beat up).

Our district is clearly broken too if all the allegations are borne out in fact. I am confident that we will find out at some point what led up to this disastrous outcome for this child and the district. Certainly we will not find out from the OCR report as Melissa stated. I want to know how it got to the point of a Letter of Finding against PAUSD.

I watched the meeting on TV last night. It was like watching a FOX News show seeing the spin that the attorney tried to put on the OCR findings. The victim was blamed yet again (by the attorney's implication) for not asking for an early resolution agreement. I couldn't believe my eyes or ears! And we, the public who pay the salaries of these administrators are expected to sit back and watch the board gloss over this and, as usual, act as if this is not big deal and effectively say it's time to move on? Being cited by the Federal Government is not something that happens everyday in every district (although the attorney tried to paint is as something that happens all the time which is not factual). It is a HUGE DEAL As pointed out last night by one of the public speakers (and apparently backed up by solid facts)that we are, indeed, truly exceptional (not in a positive way!). According to one speaker, our district (meaning Kevin Skelly the Superintendent) chose to fight both the family and the government and resisted changing the district's guidelines so that they would be in alignment with federal law. If Skelly failed to inform the Board of this serious problem the board could not be held responsible for not knowing as they may, like the public, have found out about the depth of the OCR findings only when it was revealed recently in local news. But now the Board knows and if I were any one of them I would be livid about not being informed. They seemed to be sitting there completely unaffected by the events. I realize that they were probably told by counsel that they could not react. It was a disgraceful presentation by the attorney and will serve to afflict more pain on any families who have been affected by serious bullying issues. Haven't these families suffered enough? As I said, I will be a voice for that girl and any other families or children who experience similar treatment from our district. This is not taking care of our students bottom line and I am disgusted. We elected the Board to protect our children and they hired senior administrators who we pay the exorbitant salaries of who are just not fulfilling their promises to us. How long must this continue to go on?

Thank you Edmund for asking me and others to step up and be a voice for disabled girl as well as any others that may present themselves in the future. Enough is too much!


Posted by super volunteer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 4:28 pm

@ inclusion.

I did everything you suggest - in fact, I did more than that. I tried to work within the system. I worked with our principal for countless hours on things like project cornerstone. In fact, I was the parent representative for the first round of project cornerstone surveys. I have presented to Project Safety Net. My niece has special needs (different district), my MOTHER is disabled, I know what it's like to grow up with kids making snarky remarks about my MOM and I am VERY AWARE of the challenges families face. I have done A LOT. At one point one of the principals (not at my school) approached me in a coffee shop and THANKED ME for my hours and hours and hours of service. When was the last time you helped someone in a wheelchair? For me is was yesterday.

Attacking me It doesn't change the fact that 25 Churchill is broken, nor does it change the fact that a girl in a wheelchair was SLUGGED.




Posted by Skellytons in the Closet, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Thank you "Cardinal" for providing a brilliant 8 Step Plan for successful crisis management. I shudder to think that Dr. Skelly could reach step 8. I sure hope that he doesn't reach retirement age during his tenure as Supt.

I also applaud "Dr Skelly and his supporters on the school board for their discipline in sticking to a proven formula for successful crisis management". They did a truly masterful job at the meeting last night! Kudos to them all! They are doing a truly meritorious job! It will be fun to see how many more "Skellytons in the Closet" will emerge in the near future. I am looking forward to seeing if they can stick to this wonderful 8 step plan.


Posted by Roger Mahoney, a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Cardinal--The trick is making people think that they are the only ones and that they will be shunned if they break the code of silence. If parents think that all their friends will be looking at them cross-eyed they'll keep quiet. We've been doing this a wee bit longer than PAUSD but you're surprising good at it. I'm off to Rome! Cheers!


Posted by Sorry, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Edmundo, I am crying to hear your posting. I takes this kind of people like you to put an end to bullying. I do not know if you are professional or graduated from a good university, but I know that you have a good heart. And also the people who are responding to your call. I know Palo Altan's have a good heart, and they will do anything to change things for all students, but this might not happen because our district and its attorney is trying to make it look like it is not a big deal. I wish the girl could talk without using her name and tell us the bad experiences she had at school when they punched her, push her back, call her retarded, stupid, and many other names, and told everyone in front of her to stay away from her as if she had a contagious diseased when all she wanted was someone to talked to, which is what every middle school child wants, but because of this horrible experience, she could not enjoy her middle school years as everyone else did, and all of a sudden her whole life went down in pieces, and she had nothing left to live for. Yes, I am still crying, crying of sadness that nothing was done for this girl because the teachers and the school principal did not believe it was happening. Not one person is guilty of her suffering, but all those who knew and did nothing to help her. Sorry girl for failing you. We promised to make things better for other students, it might be too late for you, but hanging there, you have a great future ahead of you, and things will get better. God has something waiting for you, he is not like our school administrators, he loves you and know how you suffered inside. Love you gir, hope one day you can read this comments, and know that many people do care, they do have a heart.


Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 27, 2013 at 6:02 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

I just got off the phone talking to that ex Assistant Administrator....I outlined what I have said so she got the scope of the comments I have made so far. She VERIFIED that, yes, she HAD TO DEAL WITH MANY OF THESE SAME ISSUES! She confirmed what I had said in my earlier comments was/is a possible course of action needed to properly show the Feds that the District is working to meet their official requirements regarding Special Ed victims of bullying.
She did have one other comment: Why didn't the Superintendent ask the COUNTY COUNSEL ( a specialized lawyer who deals with these types of problems ) for the proper protocol to work on these type of Administrative issues? The Board AND THE PAUSD TAXPAYERS deserve an answer as to why that was not done! IMNSHO, that type of failure proves that Skelly is not fit for the job of Superintendent of the PAUSD. That, along with the reported issues previously, points to someone who cannot properly do the job. That also shows that the present job of the School Board to maintain the proper ability to oversee the PAUSD is not being done. My comment about the Samuel Clemens quote stands and is appropriate.
I do not know what is to be a next step outside of what I have outlined before. I just know that the PAUSD is on the hook for at least one civil lawsuit and possible other action by that Federal Agency. I know that the solution I proposed will show an attempt is being made to meet Federal Requirements; as a former manager in the private sector, dealing with OSHA required paperwork and HAZMAT education was part of the job; to claim ignorance was a good way to get fired....that should also be the situation in the Superintendent's case.

Again, THE PUBLIC HAS A RIGHT TO KNOW WHAT CONCRETE STEPS WILL BE TAKEN BY THE SCHOOL BOARD AND SUPERINTENDENT. If that RIGHT TO KNOW is not followed through by a PLAIN, FRANK CONVERSATION, the best next step is a NO CONFIDENCE vote and removal of all parties from the Board on down to the failed Special Ed Teachers.

THAT would restore public confidence in the PAUSD and the District would have schools the TAXPAYER could be proud of!




Posted by Silent Victim, a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2013 at 6:09 pm

I am wondering how many other silent victims are out there. Many students come from hideously dysfunctional families--families without any perceptible support network for their children at all. I came from such a family and when I was bullied I was afraid to tell anyone because primarily the "perps" were the "popular kids" and I thought there would be hell to pay in retribution if I told on them. I know there must be tons on kids that are also afraid to tell and are "Silent Victims" The effects of my experience are lasting and I can still get quite upset thinking of some of these things. Because of my experience, I would like to try and make the experience of today's students have a better outcome. We need to do everything in our power to try and provide the safest possible environments for our kids.

It breaks my heart to hear that PAUSD does not take bullying seriously enough. If they did there never would have been a case where the district got cited by the Federal Government. I am ashamed of my district. How could this happen? We need some answers.

I could not count on my emotionally unavailable parents to come to my defense other than to tell me that I should just use that dandy little ditty that they taught me as a very wee child, "Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me!". That was supposed to take care of every incident of abuse (which was primarily verbal). Fortunately, I was never physically assaulted; unless you call having the same boys on a daily basis sit behind you in the classroom all the while snapping your bra strap and telling you that he and his friend were going to come over after school and "f" you. I guess that these days this would fall into the category of "sexual harassment" these days. We didn't have these names for various unspeakably cruel behaviors in the 50's. I didn't feel there was anyone I could tell about what was happening to me. It was in a junior high in Palo Alto over 50 years ago. Feeling that alone and helpless is an awful feeling.

If this were to happen today I would hope that I could talk to an adult at my school and that the appropriate actions would be taken to stop these perps in their tracks. Bullies need to be appropriately punished and monitored so that they cannot reoffend. I truly believe that anyone who would choose to hurt another student in these ways must need help themselves. What would drive a student to do such things to another student? Perhaps they are hurting terribly inside themselves and need some counseling.

Apparently, with the current OCR case, the district has has on its plate, not much (if anything) was done and my heart goes out to this family whose disabled daughter had to suffer unspeakably cruel treatment . I can't imagine how deeply the effects of such treatment will affect this girl for the rest of her life. I hope that she can get the appropriate treatment to deal with the aftermath of these criminal acts that were allowed to happen. As mentioned above, I also feel that there is something radically wrong with the mind of the perps. Mean girls in middle school can be some of the worst. In my day they were usually the "popular girls" destined to be future pom pom girls and sorority sisters."

I would ask the PAUSD Board and Administrators to please do everything in your power to make sure that something of this nature is never allowed to happen again and give us some solid answers about how it happened in the first place. Your conscience can be your guide. I would like to know that the people we hired and elected have a conscience.

Your attorney gave us no answers last night. It seemed like a PR event and was nothing more than damage control. Look deep into your hearts and decide if you want our district to be known as a cold and callous district who doesn't value each and every precious student whose education is entrusted to you. Change is possible but you must be honest change agents. Enough smoke screens and deceptions. It's time…..


Posted by Out, out, damn spot, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Feb 27, 2013 at 6:18 pm

So why haven't the Feds recommended ousting Dr Skelly? He has been responsible for some pretty severe harm done to several students, not all of them special ed kids. One was simply a blonde girl!

Anyone who has so little compassion for kids with special needs, who cannot look an adult in the eye, who cannot answer a question put to him face-to-face, who seems to have no real leadership, who is so cowardly, inconsistent, who can not make an informed decision and then stick to it....has no business as superintendent in this prestigious district. His background is questionable and should not have been overlooked in favor of his expensive education. He is simply not qualified, and that is all
there is to it

The next step should be drawing up a petition, getting signatures, and getting Dr Skelly out of Palo Alto before he causes more harm.


Posted by Nicene , a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2013 at 8:08 pm

If paonline gave an award for best post of the year Cardinal would win hands down. I wish this thing had a like button! Editor you should reprint it in the Weekly it's brilliant ! PS I don't know who the writer is.


Posted by "Thank God I didn't...", a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 27, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Nicene: I couldn't agree more. Wish I could come up with stuff like that!

Cardinal: Are you posting from Rome?


Posted by Sorry, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Nicene I agree with you. It is a great post, hope school officials get it.


Posted by Sorry, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2013 at 9:10 pm

I also loved the postings of Edmund Burke. I can tell that he is speaking from the bottom of his heart. And he did get to my heart too.


Posted by Edmund Fan, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 27, 2013 at 9:45 pm

I agree with you "Sorry". I wish the Board and Admin. in PAUSD could benefited of Mr.Burke's obvious grasp of the whole situation. he seems to know way more than anyone at the Dist. Orifice. Perhaps we we would't be in sucha huge mess now! He really got to my heartstrings too.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:19 pm

It's easy to be outraged. It takes a little more effort, however, to become educated about what bullying is, particularly in relation to children with special needs. Please read this link. Web Link
You will realize that what happened in our school district happens in districts across the country, and the world. This family was lucky in that they had advice to write to the OCR. Most families don't know to do that. What is getting lost here is that this is a widespread problem and it is going to take the efforts of all adults in this community to solve it. Not just the adults in the school district. We need to start teaching children, at a very young age to tolerate and respect differences. We also need to take a look at our own tolerance levels and make sure we are modeling appropriate responses. If you have children, please ask them on a regular basis if anyone is being mean to them. You may have to ask more than once. Learn what the indicators are if your child is being bullied. Web Link Most kids feel so badly they won't tell an adult. If they are not being bullied or suffering from social cruelty, ask them if they witness this behavior and help them to become an up stander not a bystander. Most importantly, think back to your own childhood and whether or not you were a target, a bully or a bystander. Most of us are not unscathed. How can you change the future?
Every school district struggles with this issue. PAUSD is not alone. If you are really concerned and want to be part of the solution, not just the finger pointing, please educate yourself. I guarantee it will be eye opening. You will have sympathy for all involved. Mostly for the target, but also for the bully and the bystanders.
I am not excusing what happened in this case. However, unless adults educate themselves about bullying in this day and age and become part of the solution, nothing will change. What happened to this child is awful and inexcusable. However, don't delude yourself that this kind of behavior does not occur on a regular basis. Children, like adults, are afraid of differences. Their reaction of being mean is out of fear or uncomfortableness. Punishment won't solve that problem but education will. This includes education of all adults: parents, teachers and administrators. Much research has been done on the topic of bullying or social cruelty. We all need to learn about the advances in understanding this very complex issue.


Posted by surreal , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:19 pm



Silent victim,

There are more safety nets available today, there's even something called Project Safety Net.

Many kids get help, but bullying, and what these days is also called social cruelty is rampant. It even follows you home with "social" media.

Kids are mean, and one has to worry about particular targets, like this young disabled girl. I mean everyone that hurts should be of concern, but imagine in this atmosphere of "achievement" how ugly it can be. As you point out, what if a bullied kid can't rely on their parents either.

I think the more punitive the system is for bullying is, the better because kids actually want to be good. Give them reason to, instead of this system of bully protection programs.

Sad part is that most schools are not making mistakes, and the community has gone out their way to deal with bullying. This is a drama created by leadership, by extension the entire community, and for that we will deserve to end up on 60 minutes any day now. High achieving district fails a disabled student.



Posted by Agree with Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:21 pm

One thing everyone seems to miss here is just how rare it is for the OCR to show up in person and conduct an actual on-site investigation like that. They just don't do that unless your district is really, really in need of help. (Other words than "in need of help" come to mind, but I'll keep this clean.)

Secondly, when OCR gets a complaint, they CAN slap wrists, but that's not their goal. Their goal is to get districts to honor the law. They nudge districts to do the right thing, since districts know OCR holds a giant stick if they don't, but OCR likes never to use it if at all possible. Of course PAUSD is trying to spin this as the feds being "collaborative". The feds bend over backwards not to have to get nasty. But it's not because PAUSD, it's because that's the way OCR works. Their purpose is to make schools comply with the law for the purposes of education.

But coming out to our school physically and interviewing people? Reporting that the assistant principal all out lied? That in both settlements we know of from this year, the district not only wasn't following the law, they seemed not to even know the law. Districts WRITE the procedures for following the law themselves!

Given Mr. Skelly's embroilment in special ed lawsuits at Poway, it defies credibility that he aw shucks just simply didn't know better. He had an agenda, and it didn't include "collaborating" with families.

And these are just the cases we know about. Confidentiality is often an aspect of complaints settled by mutual agreement in these situations. You'll never know about those cases and if there were in fact other complaints Skelly hasn't owned up to.

Mr. Skelly's actions are increasing liability for the district, and having a lawyer represent the district by covering for Skelly now is a conflict of interest. He should get his own lawyer and the district should get both a new superintendent and new legal counsel who actually are motivated by wanting to do a good job for the FAMILIES who pay their handsome salaries.


Posted by support, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:27 pm

i support the district office on this one. I speak for the majority.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:29 pm

Again, all it takes for the OCR to investigate is a letter of complaint. Most parents would have no idea that they could write a letter to the Office of Civil Rights. If they did, I'm sure we would see a huge number of investigations. This family was lucky that they had counsel from someone in this community that they could make such a complaint.


Posted by Sorry, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Do not speak for others, let others speak for themselves. I am speaking for myself. So far I have seen very few who support the district in this case. I am wondering if you work for the district. In that case your have to support the district because they are the ones feeding you and your family. You mean you do not support the child who suffered so much during he middle school years? You do not seem to have a heart, and so far the only people who do not have a heart are the school officials. You could be one of them.


Posted by Cardinal, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 27, 2013 at 11:02 pm

I wholely agree with "support".
Federal and state governments have no right and no business interfering with revered institutions such as PAUSD. We are absolutely able to judge ourselves without outside interference and we have decreed ourselves to be pure innocent. So called "outside investigations" are clearly biased against us and they are obviously envious of our test scores and other achievements. We must prevent outsiders from interfering further before they damage our sacred reputation. Those of us who are true believers should trust our leaders above all else, not question them regarless of "evidence" and rally to protect the institution. Sometimes sacrifices must be made for the greater good of the institution and this is one of those times.


Posted by Agree with Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2013 at 11:22 pm

Careful Cardinal,
People might not have read your wonderful satire above and probably think you are secretly one of the school administrators.


Posted by Cardinal Fan, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 28, 2013 at 12:34 am

cardinal: you are brilliant! Yes, I think you have hit the nail on the head!! Since everyone is jealous of our test scores and our exceptionality in every area. Being one of a very small umbrr of districts in the country to receive a citation (letter of finding?) from the Federales puts PAUSD in a very select group!


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 7:54 am

"parent" and the district's lawyer want you to believe that this whole situation is the result of the fact that the parents of the disabled little girl wrote a letter to OCR. Parent insinuates that someone, probably Professor Dauber, advised the parents of the disabled little girl to write the complaint to OCR. They want you to believe that whenever OCR receives a complaint they investigate and the fact that there were only 14 districts, including PAUSD, who received Findings against them, in the entire United States of America in the past 4 years is just because there aren't many complaints. Parent and the district's lawyer want you to believe that Palo Alto is just like everywhere else -- we just got unlucky.

The district's paid lawyer said she was going to tell you all about the OCR process but she left out all the important parts to try to make it seem like PAUSD is just like everywhere else. She even told some whoppers, like "this happens every day. Many of your neighbors" have been in the same situation with OCR.

But that's not true at all.

This case is about a little disabled girl who just wanted to go to school and make friends and learn and have fun, but instead she was pushed, punched, kicked, humiliated and degraded. She was told that everyone hated her, that no one would be her friend. Children made a game of avoiding her and the game even had a name that they said out loud in front of her. They called her "stupid" and "retarded."

This went on all through 6th grade. The entire year.

The little disabled girl told FIVE teachers about the cruelty. Her parents wrote letters begging for help. They asked the superintendent. They even asked the school board members. They didn't mention that in their paid lawyer's presentation the other night, but it's true. And every one of these officials either didn't answer the family, or told them to go back to the principal who had already failed them.

The Principal told the federal investigators that she didn't think that what had happened was even harassment. And she said that her staff was very "sophisticated" so they would not need any training on disability harassment.

The assistant principal told the federal investigators that he would have helped the little disabled girl but he had no records of who had hurt her. That wasn't true at all but he said it to the federal investigators.

Meanwhile the little disabled girl was pushed and hit so hard that she couldn't even get up and had to be taken to the office in a wheelchair. She was punched in the jaw so hard she couldn't chew her food. Another girl tried to kick her and told her that everyone hated her.

That is what this case is about. It is about a little disabled girl with a speech impairment who wanted to go to school with everyone else. Maybe she saw all the signs around school saying "not in our town" and found those confusing. Maybe she saw all the anti-bullying presentations and she thought "I wonder why this doesn't apply to me? Maybe there is something so bad about me that I don't even deserve help from these adults. I guess they must be right about me. I am horrible." And she got sad. And she stayed sad. She didn't want to go to school anymore at all -- who can blame her? Then she got angry at her parents for making her go to school. Who can blame her? Why, she thought, am I the only one who is treated like this? Why am I asking adults for help and they don't help me? I must be horrible.

Then she started to think about hurting herself.

That is what this case is about.

The district's lawyer and parent want you to think that this happens everywhere.

That's not true.

It only happens where adults ignore the law. Kids can be cruel everwhere. That's not the test of whether the law is broken. The test of whether the law is broken is whether school personnel, when cruelty is brought to their attention, act to stop the harassment -- whether they take measures reasonably calculated to bring it to a stop -- or whether they ignore it because they are "very sophisticated" and don't need the help of the law.

It can only happen where the compliance officer never responds by using the Uniform Complaint Procedure.

It can only happen where the superintendent responds to pleas from the family with a note to the principal saying "I don't know what we can do."

It can only happen when the assistant principal says that he has no evidence of who is bullying even when the district has that evidence.

These facts are what courts call "deliberate indifference" to the disabled girl's rights. She had a right to an education. And the school was deliberately indifferent to whether she received it or not. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why PAUSD is in this situation. Not because kids are cruel everywhere. Not because the law changed. Not because it is hard to follow the rules.

Because everyone ignored her. Maybe because she was slow. Maybe because she was disabled. Maybe because her parent isn't a venture capitalist with a Tesla making a big donation to PIE. Maybe because the school blamed the family for being such a problem with their complaints. We won't know why until a court forces the district to answer for this. But we know the basic outline of the facts now.

As to how common this is, the district's lawyer and parent aren't telling the truth about that one either.

There were 1,513 complaints of disability harassment made to OCR in the past 4 years. Most of these were closed without any investigation. OCR doesn't "open an investigation" into every complaint even if the facts of the complaint aren't the right kind of facts. For example, if I complain that my child was hit in the face by another child but my child is not disabled, or a racial minority, or gay, and there is no evidence that this was anything but a schoolyard fight, then OCR has no role. They say "sorry, that is terrible but it's not discrimination." And they close the case. And over half of those 1513 complaints were closed administratively without a big investigation.

Only about 600 complaints even made it to the next stage -- investigation. Over half of those (348) found no violation. So that means that OCR investigated 600 complaints and found that in 348 of them, there was no evidence of a violation.

That's not what happened to PAUSD.

That left about 250 cases. Around half of those (119) were resolved in early resolution in which OCR serves as a mediator.

That's not what happened to PAUSD.

Around another 100 cases were resolved by the district agreeing to resolve the complaint by taking corrective action prior to the conclusion of the investigation so that there was no finding against the district pursuant to Section 302 of the OCR procedure manual.

That's not what happened to PAUSR.

You see, it's up to the district how hard they fight or when they cooperate with OCR. When OCR is doing an investigation, the district can say at any point in that investigation that they would like to cooperate, like to fix their violations, and like to enter into a Resolution Agreement.

But that's not what PAUSD did.

Instead, PAUSD was one of only 14 US school districts in the past 4 years to fail to say to OCR "we want to cooperate" at an early stage of the process. The district's lawyer said that this was common. She wasn't accurate at all.

The other districts in our situation are mostly poor and rural. They are in places that OCR knows well in the deep south, places like Catoosa County, Georgia, and Opelika County, Alabama, and Edgcombe County, North Carolina.

Those are the places that OCR knows well because they are in the deep south where protecting minority civil rights has been a persistent problem, places famous for bigotry and violence.

Those are PAUSD's "neighbors" that the district's paid lawyer wants you to compare yourselves to.

The district's lawyer thinks that this will be OK with you to be compared with "neighbors" like Catoosa County, Georgia, and Opelika City, Alabama, and Oconee County, Georgia, and Hemet Unified in California. She thinks that Palo Alto parents are probably just like those parents in those places and that we will be more worried about protecting our school district officials than about protecting little disabled girls from being punched and hit and kicked and taunted to the point of suicidal thoughts. Maybe we don't like outsiders, just like those places. The district's paid lawyer thinks that's a pretty good bet.

You have to tell her she's wrong. She's got the wrong theory of this case.

Palo Alto, are you going to stand with the little disabled girl who was pushed down to the ground and told she had no friends and wasn't welcome here because she was different? The only way to show the district's paid lawyer that this isn't Catoosa County Georgia or Opelika Alabama is to stand with that little girl against intolerance and against deliberate indifference.








Posted by Observer, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 28, 2013 at 9:19 am

Thank you Cardinal for your satire, and Mr. Burke for your eloquent reminders about what is really at stake here. Unfortunately there are going to be more parallels to come. We are probably headed for our own Time of Trials, literally. When governance breaks down, sometimes the only change agents that are effective are more powerful outside forces. We have had a taste of federal power already with OCR, and will almost certainly be getting more. The school board has already had a closed session to talk about the litigation risk the district is facing.

Caswell is quoted as saying, "There's been a lot of discussion and work by staff on what went wrong and why we need to do more than we've been doing to resolve this kind of situation." There is no public evidence for that statement. The OCR report is still the only source of information about what went wrong. I wonder if she knows something that the public doesn't, or if she was just expressing the kind of blind faith that Cardinal is highlighting?


Posted by Ethics? , a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 28, 2013 at 10:13 am

Is anyone questioning why the School Board is paying a lawyer to do a PR snow job on the public in the first place? I see why they need a lawyer in court if the district or the staff are sued. But why is the public paying a lawyer to present the district in a favorable light not to a jury but to us the taxpayers? I haven't seen WCDB or the Weekly questioning the propriety of this but it seems wrong. The School Board does t work for the district they represent the public. Why is the school board having a public relations presentation to the public to protect staff? That doesn't smell right but neither of our supposed watchdogs are telling us about it.


Posted by Agree with Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 11:08 am

@ Observer
"more of what [they've, i.e., adminstrators have] been doing would mean, covering up, denying, deception as necessary, do a better job making it look as if they are complying but not complying in spirit, forgetting they work for families and failing in virtually every way to work with them or serve them.

Yep, they do seem to be doing more of that.


Posted by Agree with Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 11:21 am

@ Edmund Burke,
You wrote "There were 1,513 complaints of disability harassment made to OCR in the past 4 years. Most of these were closed without any investigation. OCR doesn't "open an investigation" into every complaint even if the facts of the complaint aren't the right kind of facts. For example, if I complain that my child was hit in the face by another child but my child is not disabled, or a racial minority, or gay, and there is no evidence that this was anything but a schoolyard fight, then OCR has no role. They say "sorry, that is terrible but it's not discrimination." And they close the case. And over half of those 1513 complaints were closed administratively without a big investigation.

Only about 600 complaints even made it to the next stage -- investigation. Over half of those (348) found no violation. So that means that OCR investigated 600 complaints and found that in 348 of them, there was no evidence of a violation.

That's not what happened to PAUSD.

That left about 250 cases. Around half of those (119) were resolved in early resolution in which OCR serves as a mediator.

That's not what happened to PAUSD.

Around another 100 cases were resolved by the district agreeing to resolve the complaint by taking corrective action prior to the conclusion of the investigation so that there was no finding against the district pursuant to Section 302 of the OCR procedure manual.

That's not what happened to PAUSR.

You see, it's up to the district how hard they fight or when they cooperate with OCR. When OCR is doing an investigation, the district can say at any point in that investigation that they would like to cooperate, like to fix their violations, and like to enter into a Resolution Agreement.

But that's not what PAUSD did.

Instead, PAUSD was one of only 14 US school districts in the past 4 years to fail to say to OCR "we want to cooperate" at an early stage of the process. The district's lawyer said that this was common. She wasn't accurate at all."


You forgot one thing in your very astute observation. In how many of those 14 school districts did the federal government have to follow up their original resolution agreement with an on-stie, physical investigation? I would be surprised if it was more than a handful. Maybe the answer is 1. (The Weekly mentioned no on-site investigation in PAUSD's 2nd settlement.)

And this is only the one we know about. Maybe the lawyer isn't lying, maybe this IS an everyday occurrence for PAUSD, and there are other families who complained to OCR and they entered into confidential intermediate settlements. Has Skelly disclosed how many of those he has entered into, if any? Or how many other complaints have been lodged with the OCR? Or how many other families have complained to the schools and districts over similar matters but had no idea they could ask OCR for help when the district wasn't following the law?

I am STUNNED at the reaction of the board to cover up for Skelly and use district legal services in this way. To whom else is our district accountable? How do we remedy this as the public?


Posted by Do your job, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 11:23 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by Do your job, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Isn't it one name per thread? Why remove the truth? If you remove this truth, then remove the other posts I have also.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 28, 2013 at 1:27 pm

I have no confidence in the PAUSD Board or in the Superintendent. For an idea of how other school boards respond when their Superintendent fails to lead on a similar issue, see the following article that was in yesterday's Contra Costa Times. Web Link

Also, bravo Edmund Burke for keeping the focus on the real victim in this case.


Posted by Agree with Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 2:23 pm

@Paly Parent,
You start the petition, and everyone I know will sign it.


Posted by Ethics?, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 28, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Did anyone see the Post story today about Dana Tom trying to stop Ken Dauber from talking about the new bullying policy at the Board Meeting? Dana doesn't want the truth to come out but it wasn't just staff that didn't follow the policy. All the board members were asked for help by the family and most of them just ignored the emails. Dana Tom answered not by informing the family of the districts complaint policy and how to a file a complaint or by sending them the complaint form as he should have but by telling them to go back and trust the principal who had already failed to properly address the problem . His tone in that email is quite condescending as well. In April Dana was informed that OCR made a finding against PAUSD but did nothing. this month when the story broke dana acted surprised and blamed staff for not following policy. But Dana Tom is as guilty of not following the policy as Charles Young or Dr. Skelly. Dana Tom just sounds petulant and hysterical. But he can't violate the Brown Act and the First Amendment by deciding to let some speakers like Vic Ojakian talk overtime and off topic or give the union 9 minutes but try to stop criticism and the truth from coming out.

I can understand why Daubers criticism makes Dana unhappy but he can't use his power as board president to arbitrarily allow some comments that might be too long or not quite topical but not those critical of himself and his conduct. Look for Dana to pull a Townsend and run again in 2014.


Posted by Agree with Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 3:52 pm

@Ethics,
I'm glad you are bring up the board behavior. This has always been the way this board operates, they don't really do anything. From that sense, they didn't really treat the bullied family differently, they don't really deign to do much for anyone in the parent community. And they certainly don't tell you anything when they know better. (Doesn't mean they didn't violate the law, though!)

As for the district's attorney trying to spin this as "positive", if you've ever asked yourself just how stupid they think we parents are, well, here's your answer.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 28, 2013 at 3:57 pm

@Agree with Edmund Burke: Gladly, although why we need a petition to get the school board to do what's best for our kids is beyond belief.


Posted by Where's-The-Outrage?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 4:39 pm

According to @Edmund_Burke's narrative, the little girl at the heart of this matter was hit, and kicked, by her classmates. If that is true, why were these incidents referred to the police--as physical assaults. If she were attacked as brutally as described in the narrative--shouldn't her parents have called the police, and identified the girls attackers to them?

Something is just wrong with the scenario. Both the School and the parents need to explain to us why they have not asked the police to step in.


Posted by Wow, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 28, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Saw the Post article. Tom seems to be forgetting that he doesn't serve as head of Skelly's palace guard. Shutting down critics through hairsplitting and bending rules isn't supposed to be in his job description. On the other hand there is a disabled child who could have used some of his outrage.


Posted by Family friend, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 28, 2013 at 4:50 pm

The family did call the police finally in desperation when the school refused to respond. The school is supposed to but didn't and also didn't deal with it itself correctly. The school was angry at the family for calling the police but it is a sign of how desperate the family was becoming. Other families having similar problems have tried to call the police and the police have refused to help saying (incorrectly?) that the police so not have jurisdiction at PAUSD elementary schools.

Honestly to me the police should be called on these adults who stand by and don't help!


Posted by Where's-The-Outrage?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 5:00 pm

> The family did call the police ..

Thanks for the info ..

> and the police have refused to help saying (incorrectly?) that
> the police so not have jurisdiction at PAUSD elementary schools.

This is a little hard to swallow, since that means if one student kills another the police will say: "sorry, nothing we can do?"

The police didn't seem to have too much trouble arresting a kid who hard an air-gun a year or two ago. Seems that they had jurisdiction then.

So--maybe it's time for some one in the media to earn their salaries, and get the various EdCode, and Municipal Code on the table, and find out who has actual jurisdiction when a child is assaulted, or raped, or killed, on a PAUSD Campus.

It can't be that hard for this bit of "law" to be unraveled.


Posted by Get them Out, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 28, 2013 at 5:01 pm

So When is Skelly leaving? What do we need to do to make it happen, he and the ones who failed the student needs go now. I wish they would quit so it won't be so embarrassing for them to be fired. Same thing with the board members.


Posted by all you need is the numbers, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 28, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Get a petition going.


Posted by Where's-The-Outrage?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 5:45 pm

The picture that is developing, at least from outside the PAUSD, is that it might not be all that safe a place to be, and that children with special needs are not likely to be protected as well as they should be by the Staff.

This situation is somewhat unnerving. It is more than time for an audit of this situation that is more systemic than the one the Federal OCR performed.

We need more than the feckless Dana Tom's "regret" to help us understand what has been going on here.


Posted by Insider, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 28, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Unless you have thousands of signatures, a petition isn't going to move this school board. They are unhappy with Skelly but not yet ready to fire him, because they doubt their ability to keep the district going without him. The fact that Charles Young, the Assoc. Supe, is also implicated in this makes it harder for them to fire Skelly, because the obvious fallback isn't going to work. That leaves some possible caretakers at the district office.
If you do have thousands of signatures, the obvious move is to use them to mount a recall election. This thing hasn't caught fire yet but if there are lawsuits it well might. I've been hearing more mentions of recall around town than ever in the past, among folks who typically don't worry much about school issues. A reform slate might work, with some organization and funding behind it. You need 15% of registered voters to sign, which seems doable with an organized effort. Tom, Townsend, and Mitchell are the most likely targets, though Emberling doesn't have much name recognition yet. Caswell is safe, and has positioned herself as the most critical on the board, although her quotes in this story don't help her much.


Posted by Weekly Reader, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 28, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Where Is the Outrage:

Here is another question that I would like the local media to explore:

Who on the Board, besides Dana Tom, was aware of this case and voted to renew Dr. Skelly's contract anyway?

I voted for Melissa, because, like one of the posts above, I find her to be smart and thoughtful. Did she know about this during the election? Did Camille? Camille was Board Chair at the time. Did we really have an election where two incumbents knew about this and said nothing to be re-elected?


Posted by Sorry, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 28, 2013 at 6:32 pm

All school board members knew about the bullying incidents, the student who was bullied spoke at two board meetings in different times, and asked for help, but they really didn't help her, one time, they just ignored her. The other, Young told her mother to go and talk to Mrs Wade. No follow up. In the second to last meeting on the middle of February, Camile, board member, said that she did not knew the family nor the child. That was a big lie. Everyone in that room knew, including the middle school staff that attended the board meeting that night. It is easier to say, I did not know it, that way, there is no responsibility or accountability on their part. Yes Dana very rudely tried to stop Ken Dauber from speaking the truth, and kept pressing the beep many times, so no one could hear what Ken was saying. He was speaking the truth, and they do not want the public to hear it. I hope there is no retaliation against Ken. I feel bad for the Dauber's they along other people have been supportive the family, since the issue became public. They even got attorneys for the family. The family is law income, and cannot afford one, even like that they managed to bring attorney's to the IEP, on and off because they could not afford it every IEP. The lawyers that the Daubers recommended do not charge money is is some kind of attorneys that work for free when they see that there is a need. God bless the Daubers, and all the people who are supporting the family during this difficult times. Who knows what the future will be for this little girl. I hope she starts to heal, and that she gets good therapy. I know the bullying experiences are going to stay with her for the rest of her life.


Posted by  , a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 28, 2013 at 6:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Sorry, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 28, 2013 at 6:55 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 7:52 pm

The district's paid lawyer and " " want you to believe that the real victim in this case is Dr. Skelly. But that's not true at all. Dr. Skelly is a grown man without any disabilities who made his own decisions. Some of those decisions may have been mistakes. Some of those mistakes might have consequences for Dr. Skelly.

This case is about a little girl who had a disability. She wanted to have friends, like all children want to have friends. She wanted to learn and grow and experience things. She wanted to be accepted and included. Instead she was cruelly taunted, hit, punched, kicked, and abused.

She asked FIVE teachers for help. Her parents reported the abuse and hazing. The school administrators refused to acknowledge that there was a problem, and turned them away. Up the chain of command they went, all the way to Dr. Skelly and the board. And they were turned away.

Dr. Skelly sent a note to the principal saying "I don't know what we can do."

Dr. Young never implemented the state-mandated Uniform Complaint Procedure even though he is the district's named compliance officer.

The School Board president Dana Tom told the family to work it out with the principal who had already failed them.

The principal told federal investigators that there was no harassment and that she and her staff didn't need any training. They were very "sophisticated."

Then the little girl was called "retarded" and punched.

The assistant principal told the federal investigators that he would have helped her but he had no record of who had harassed her. That wasn't true.

The family went to the police. The district failed to change.

The family went to the federal government. The government made findings against the school. Still, the district failed to change.

The family went to the Palo Alto Weekly. The district failed to change.

It was not until the family obtained pro bono counsel that the school finally agreed to change and provide needed help for the disabled little girl.

Of course, by now the help that the disabled little girl needs is much greater than it would have been had the school and district done what it should have done back in 2010. That is called "damages" and of course they grew during the time the district failed to change.

The difference between a sixth-grade disabled girl who was punched in the face, knocked down, kicked, pushed, told she was worthless, while all these adults did nothing effective to stop the harassment and the head of the richest school district in California? Yes, what is the difference?

The difference is that unlike Dr. Skelly who had control of his own situation and decisions, that little disabled girl had no control over what happened to her.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

That disabled little girl who just wanted to go to school and make friends and be accepted is now going to be spending high school in a therapeutic residential school away from her family, her mother, and her siblings. She may feel lonely and scared. She may miss her family and wish she could just be normal and accepted and have friends like everyone else.

That is what this case is about. It is about adults who failed to take actions that were reasonably calculated to stop the abuse and harassment so that all those consequences that the little disabled girl will now be paying -- could have been prevented.

Palo Alto, what kind of community are you? Are you the kind of community who thinks that holding adult men accountable for their job performance is the same as letting bullies punch a little disabled girl in the face and doing nothing effective to stop it?

The district's paid lawyer and staff posting here want you to think that the real victim in this case is Dr. Skelly. You have to show them that they are wrong. You have to stand with the victim in this case, and be her voice. Can you?




Posted by all you need is the numbers, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 28, 2013 at 8:19 pm

" the obvious move is to use them to mount a recall election. "
This won't work. You didn't have the numbers to get Ken in. You won't have the numbers for a re-call.
"Unless you have thousands of signatures, "
But you've been saying everyone want Skelly out. Are you now saying you don't have the numbers?


Posted by Do your job, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 8:50 pm

My entire post was deleted earlier today for multiple names, but this has been the only name used for this single topic, so I think it was too revealing, though most of the information is from the Weekly's site, in other words all public information. I won't be able to recreate the message but most of you have hit the major points, especially adding that web link to the firing of the superintendent at a high dollar amount. All these events clearly confirm what Joe DiSalvo said back in 2006-07: PAUSD is sick. The board that was elected in 2008 and those who were re-elected in 2012 have overseen one of the worst periods in PAUSD's history. We could not stop kids from killing themselves and now we have violated the civil rights of a child. Any single one of those events wipes out the latest science award or couple if million from Pie or the promise f $20 million for Paly. When you leave a kid behind the way we did, it means we have failed, and our leaders need to take the responsibility for that and step down and remove those who were responsible: Skelly, Young, Wade.


Posted by Agree with Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 9:05 pm

@Edmund Burke,
People don't realize just how adversarial this district can be toward families of children with special needs. Since the child had a 504, that right there put her family into an adversarial relationship with this district. So when the child had a complaint of any kind related to the disability, it is their WAY to ignore them as much as humanly possible. In my experience, there is pressure from above to do that when there are any implications related to responsibility under the disability laws. And that indeed is what the feds found. (Didn't know the law, didn't follow the law, after what Skelly did in Poway to special needs families?! Unbelievable.) It's not just that they didn't follow process, it is their WAY not to follow process, their WAY to be adversarial in as many cases as possible, because the alternative would mean they'd have to do things our management doesn't want to happen in the scheme of things. So we get this corrupted WAY that created this terrible outcome.

This is not the case with all districts across the country, it's a way this district has chosen to do things. It's not even remotely credible that Skelly et al don't know the laws, they have just chosen to deal with families that way because they could successfully avoid extending that umbrella of protection to a lot of families who would benefit otherwise, because extending those protections incurs responsibilities for the district for each of those families and it's easier to try to discourage them and make them go away.

However, the law actually provides that districts are supposed to be PROACTIVE about extending those protections to children, and this is another way the district was breaking the law that could end up the subject of another complaint if the board doesn't wake up and clean house, or the if they won't, the community doesn't wake up and really clean house.

It is absolutely outrageous to treat this like something little they just didn't know better about and a little training will solve it. We need to clean house and bring in people who are motivated to serve the families of this district!

Honestly, the district will be fine if they got rid of Skelly, Young, and Wade tomorrow. know a few secretaries at some of the local elementary schools who could do a better job running things temporarily tomorrow without any fancy degrees or the excessive salaries. Actually, I wonder where the district nurse was in all of this and why she didn't do anything since she was probably part of the 504 team? Isn't there a nurse on site at each of the middle schools, too? Where were they? The district nurse should be about ready to retire anyway, and probably that assistant principal who lied to the feds should go, too. It's too late to step in and protect the kids of this district and that little girl from the bullying that happened, but we are just as guilty if we turn away now that we know.


Posted by dawning on me, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 28, 2013 at 10:36 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Mom, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 28, 2013 at 10:41 pm

Edmund Burke,

If you know the victim's family (I guess you are the one), you could tell them that they could easily sue the district for her medical treatment and all the time and work they did to come this far.
I don't mind the district's spending the surplus money for the compensation for the family instead of throwing it away to the teachers with terrible jobs.


Posted by Agree with Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2013 at 11:42 pm

Mom,
I think if someone sues the district, it comes out of their insurance or their insurance fund (if they are self-insured), it's not the same pot of money as the teachers' salaries.


Posted by dawning on me, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 1, 2013 at 7:26 am

With tenure and unions as a protective umbrella, the only thing that really can control a teacher is the law, i.e., an IEP. That is probably why the district chooses their WAY of dealing with special ed as some other poster put it.


Posted by Observer of observer, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 1, 2013 at 11:42 am

We all appreciate your lit crit. What are you proposing to actually do? Grading the posts of others is funny but this isn't the AP English language test. What's your solution? Do you think a new handbook paragraph will fix this? What about the 10 policies we already had?


Posted by Citizen, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2013 at 3:41 pm

I guess the critics knew what they were talking about, based on today's editorial.


Posted by Observer, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Mar 1, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Observer of moi, I think that as I suggested, we need to start by giving this student some respect. Words are powerful. When you start to paint pictures of this student, using personal details, you not only make him/her easier to identify, when her/his anonymity is supposed to be protected for many obvious reasons, but you also make the student into an object of pity, which does her/him no good. This is about the civil rights of a student - period. That student's rights are a matter of law and have nothing to do with whether she/he looks a certain way or not. In order to approach the task of finding a good long term solution, we need to keep focused on the district, the violations, the obfuscation and do what is right by, not only this one, but all students who might find themselves in a similar predicament in our district. Yes, it looks likely there will be a civil suit, which, though probably right for this family and student, will further postpone a set of solutions that might spare more students going forward. Going forward, I would propose the community establish a team of trained experts who do not answer to the district, but are tasked with hearing from students who are not treated right by our district and advocating on their behalf until a solution is reached. I've never heard of anything like this being done, but as a parent whose own students have found themselves on the receiving end of a similar brand of arrogant dismissive treatment from district staff, I've often thought our students have nobody to represent them when they have a problem with this behemoth. The teachers have a union, the superintendent has the board, etc. The students have nobody. This is why they are so often ignored when they have a real issue.


Posted by Observer of observer, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 2, 2013 at 10:26 am

I basically agree with you including about the idea of an ombudsman of some kind. Humanizing the victim and giving readers a concrete image of the child is important because the districts obfuscation strategy is to focus on laws and policies and things that are ambiguous and complex and hard to clarify. The district seems to be implying that its all a matter of interpretation. Not everyone had your level of clarity. Most people are very willing to forgive the district and indeed are looking for a reason to do so. Refocusing on the child and humanizing her may not be necessary to you but for the average person it probably matters what actually happened. Cases are not won on law they are won on facts. There is a real person here and who she is and how she felt is important not only as a strategy but also because bullying and discrimination silence and render invisible the victim. They are offenses against agency. It is not paternalistic or patronizing to restore the voice and agency that were lost. Kevin gets to sit around all day having his voice heard. If you can find a way to stop Townsend from talking I will nominate you for a MacArthur. It's a hard thing to do and it may be too heavy-handed. Perhaps if our elites and leaders who are sitting on their hands publicly and privately whispering that its time for Kevin to seek his fortunes elsewhere would take the heat publicly then others could step back. Anonymous side seat driving does not impress me. Take the risk yourself please. And to those who said a year ago that the weekly was wrong and bullying to call out Kevin and the board on the Brown Act you have some responsibility now for the climate of secrecy that has come to this predictable sad sorry conclusion.


Posted by Observer, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Mar 3, 2013 at 10:36 am

Observer of moi, I appreciate your response to my comments, and I do like the term ombudsman. I still insist that the student's privacy and dignity trumps anyone's need to convince the public to do the right thing. I'm not sure why you are advising me about taking a more active role? Did you assume that if someone makes comments on PA Online, that that is the limit of that individual's contribution?


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