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Bullying recommendations delayed until April 9

Original post made on Mar 15, 2013

The Palo Alto school district will unveil its recommendations for a new policy on bullying April 9, Superintendent Kevin Skelly said this week.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 15, 2013, 9:03 AM

Comments (125)

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Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 10:41 am

I love the positive spin that's going on here.

> "While I was heartened to see we had some of the best practices and strategies in place, there are certainly things we can work on."

What were these best practices and strategies that allowed the district to have its clock cleaned? Perhaps it refers to the having staff on hand who weren't completely unconscious?


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Posted by Gold star
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 15, 2013 at 10:46 am

David, obviously you don't appreciate the importance of the PAUSD brand. Our schools are excellent. Get with the program. OCR isn't with the program. That's why they rejected PAUSD's submission, a detail that was omitted from the weird off topic speech about how great we are.


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Posted by parent of HS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 11:21 am

These comments must have been made at the BOE. Which brings up the topic that the PR can't prevent Skelly from Skelly speak.

"We're in the vanguard of some of this as we were a few years ago when we did the policy around suicide prevention, and we want to make sure we get it right," he said.

Vanguard? Vanguard?

We were at the "vanguard of some of this" a few years ago because we had five suicides in one of our schools. Dr. Skelly, please - you have no mercy on the spin you will put out to make PAUSD or yourself look good.

Not even a PR will spare us from this type of speak, and scary if this is the way our "leaders" think.

I am glad the OCR training has started, did the board attend?


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Posted by JLS mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2013 at 11:44 am

It seems strange to say we are in the vanguard when OCR basically found that the district is bringing up the rear.


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Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 11:56 am

On the contrary, I DO value the PAUSD Brand. That's exactly, why I'd like these issues addressed vs. swept under the rug, so that the brand is NOT corrupted.

Nobody is fooled by the shenanigans that are on display at the PAUSD Board meetings or by Tom/Mitchell/the PAUSD lawyer's equivocations.

I'd much rather we had a brand, not be branded due to mismanagement and distortion.

You can't have a brand without integrity.


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Posted by Gold star
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 15, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Yes I also noticed the clueless and shameless comment about the vanguard of suicide prevention. His callousness and insensitivity is boundless. But it's like Heidi said this family's tragedy is The district's exciting opportunity! Gold star Kevin that was a horrifying statement but it was revealing.


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Posted by JLS mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm

I didn't see Emberling's statement, but I would just like to read a statement from the supt. or board that doesn't make me cringe or have to figure out what part is actually true. Why are they having such a hard time just telling the truth?


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Posted by Gold star
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 15, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Well if we are keeping this superintendent maybe a PR officer is a good idea because every time he talks an angel dies.


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Posted by JLS mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Also, Tom and Mitchell really disappointed me on Tuesday at the board meeting. I watched on TV. Parents came to question their statements in their editorial and were completely ignored by those two. Just arrogant.


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Posted by FrankF
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm

FrankF is a registered user.

It does seem strange to claim to say we were in the vanguard of ... suicide prevention.

As I recall we were having a crisis of teenage suicide - and everything we did to end it was only to get back to normal.

Bullying, especially in Middle School, is not new nor has it been particularly effectively addressed. My children are in High School / College now but we had our own incidents during Middle School they were not quite as dramatic but my experience with reporting it to the administration was similar - a sympathetic ear and little action. Talk to other parents and your children you will find the same thing. That is the fact - no spin.


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Posted by Gold star
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 15, 2013 at 1:08 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Anonimo
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Mitchell, Tom, Caswell, Townsend, Emberling, Skelly, Young, can it get any worse?


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Posted by Uberengineer
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2013 at 2:36 pm

The number one problem with dealing with a bully situation is resolving the "he said"/"she said" conflicting accusations...in other words the thing most needed to stop bullying is hard EVIDENCE that it is occurring, and determining who is the victim and who is the guilty party. Bullies can usually avoid prosecution by threatening and intimidating their victims into silence.

I believe every school should have a collection of wireless video transmitters that can be checked out by students who need to collect evidence against bullies. The video transmissions would be captured and recorded by video recorders secured in the school office, so there would be no way they could be "abused" for nefarious purposes, since only a school administrator could gain access to the recordings. The bullies could simply take away (steal) a normal video camera and erase any incriminating video, but since the video signal is actually captured on a machine in a locked room of the school, strong arming the video camera away from the victim would only provide MORE evidence (in the form of a recording of the incident) that the bullies were guilty. If these video transmitters were small and easy to conceal, MOST bullies would quickly learn that their victims just might have one at any time (or perhaps a nearby friend has it), and that the bully's outrageous behavior would be captured as irrefutable evidence against them. The parents of the bully (who ALWAYS DENY their kid could be the problem) would have no way to deny the situation.


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Posted by remember Paly
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 15, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Regrettably, reference has been made to the relatively recent cluster of suicides around the Gunn commnity. So I will mention something from the other side of the city.
About 4 or so years prior to those events, there were a cluster around Paly. It's sad these poor kids are so quickly forgotten. I think any comparison of Palo Alto high schools vs. other districts along the train line will indicate (at least to our public knowledge) that PAUSD is not in any vanguard with regards to teen suicide prevention...


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Posted by Maria
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 15, 2013 at 2:52 pm

PAUSD is clueless as usual. There was an attempted suicide in a Gunn library restroom about 2 weeks ago. Kids are taking AP classes from outside agencies to get a jump on their peers. If you are not one of the neurotic group of students & parents, you are useless to these animals. They will make fun of you and bully you as they are being bullied at home. This is madness.


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Retaliation - is this issue going to be addressed? That is by adults.
Is there any way to draft anti-bullying/retaliation recommendations without knowing the magnitude of the problem? Settings? Reasons bullying/retaliation incidents were addressed (or not) the way they were?


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Posted by parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 15, 2013 at 4:02 pm

It could be worse and has been: Pino, Cohn-Vargas, Lindo, Cohen.


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Posted by Anonimo
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 4:09 pm

parent, well done with your post, it's a tough choice, but it's pretty corrupt and rotten now.


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Posted by clarifying confusion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Ken Dauber, this is not true: "The problem is that we failed to follow procedures that were clearly established in law." The law says districts must have procedures, but it does NOT establish what their procedures must say.

Just so everyone is clear on how this works:

If the procedures it comes up with are not followed, the board steps in to make sure the problem is not that they are unclear or unmanageable; if they are, the board revises them. Otherwise, the Superintendent's office steps up communication and training.

Whether a federal law is violated is up to a judge to determine. Lawyers from both sides will tell the judge how they would like the court to interpret the facts of the case, but the judge decides.

An OCR Resolution Agreement, like that entered into here, is not a court ruling or a "settlement" as Ken Dauber asserts. It documents what the family and school district voluntarily agreed to. At this level, the role of the OCR is that of a mediator - it makes suggestions. Not only is it not a settlement or court ruling, it is not even a contract between the parties that they can rely on it court.

If both sides hadn't agreed - say the family wanted the district to pay for private school tuition and the district would only agreed to facilitating the child's transfer to a neighboring public school - the OCR will issue a "Letter of Finding" which is the OCR's attempt to match the facts to the law. Even that is not a court ruling and does not mean that any laws have been broken.

The only harm that can befall a school district that does not follow the OCR terms is the loss of federal funding which, sadly, hurts students with disabilities the most.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 4:40 pm

This is a quote from Dr. Skelly in the above story: "Trying to capture the community spirit around things and making it understood for members of the community is hard work that must balance our legal requirements as well as our local interests," he said.

What does this mean? One must read it perhaps five or six times before gaining any insight into what these words mean as arranged. Once grasped, however, the meaning is upsetting.

Although this sounds like harmless bureaucratic jargon, what Dr. Skelly is saying is very frightening. He is saying that it is difficult ("hard work") to get staff to understand and accept the concerns around their handling of disability-based bullying. He is saying that it is extremely challenging for him to get our principals and other staff to understand and follow the law because their culture of handling complaints informally at the site level by telling students to "stay away from each other" is just too ingrained. That is the "local interests" he is "balancing" against the "legal requirements."

This is not how the law works. The law works like this:

Step 1: Congress passes a law such as the law against discrimination based on disability or race.

Step 2: the agency charged with interpreting and enforcing that law (in this case the Department of Education) issues guidance to the regulated entities (in this case, 14,000 school districts) about what the law means. In this case, Department of Education Office for Civil Rights has issued a series of guidance letters and other regulations since 1994 explaining what a hostile educational environment is and how to prevent it from occurring in programs funded by the federal government.

Step 3: PAUSD knows and obeys the law.

There is no step in which we "balance" our "local interests" against the "legal requirements." Dr. Skelly is from South Carolina and I am sure he knows that better than most. Indeed it is very surprising to hear a southerner who professes to care deeply about civil rights and equal education to say that we should balance our legal obligations against our local sentiments.

The "local interests" Dr. Skelly appears to be referencing is PAUSD's practice of having no district-level complaint procedures and handling everything at the site level despite state and federal law to the contrary.

Surely as a South Carolinian, Dr. Skelly is familiar with nullification.

This we cannot do.

It is the job of every citizen to know and follow the law. Ignorance is no defense, nor is a desire to disobey it even for a "good reason." California is a state in the Union and we have to follow federal law. Palo Alto is a creature of the State of California and you have to follow State law. Dr. Skelly it is your job to ensure that your employees know and obey the law. Please do not offer any further justifications regarding PAUSD's years-long effort to nullify state and federal equal education laws in order to maintain site-based control.


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Posted by Slelly's memory loss
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 15, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Dr Skelly has completely forgotten that it is the PAUSD's RESPONSIBILITY to keep each children safe, and that is an indisputable fact. He cannot get around this....the district is legally responsible and therefore liable if the child is threatened or bullied!


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Posted by parent of HS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 6:34 pm

clarifying,

"If the procedures it comes up with are not followed, the board steps in to make sure the problem is not that they are unclear or unmanageable; if they are, the board revises them. Otherwise, the Superintendent's office steps up communication and training.

Im assuming you are saying If the procedures (the district) comes up with - you mean the new ones, now in April?

or the procedures it came up with before the OCR violation occurred.

Based on your clarification, the district procedures before the violation are causing both - board revisions, and more training.

The point Dauber and the public have asked is what happened? What new laws are you talking about?

When the board and the district clear up their own stories, it will be really clear.

The real confusing part though is the absence of concern for the bullied child (other than from the community asking for an investigation). The focus of the board and Skelly is more along the lines of we are SO embarrassed this happened to PAUSD, we do not deserve this, the laws are wrong, they're not really laws, actually they are rapidly changing, though the deal we made is great, we are HAPPY with it. This is an exciting opportunity and we are at the vanguard of setting bullying policy. Please.

I think Skelly needs to apologize for saying stuff like that - the vanguard statement.



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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 15, 2013 at 6:47 pm

All you have to do is google California bullying laws. It's amazing how complicated it is. Here is one example: Web Link
Bullying and harassment are defined differently. Bottom line is that kids are MEAN to each other. Doesn't mean it is bullying, but it does have to stop. It is all of our responsibility. Have you talked to your child about what goes on in schools on a daily basis? Not just PA schools, but schools across the world. We are no worse or no better.


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Posted by Skellytons in the Closet
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 7:10 pm

@parent: When you receive a Letter of Finding from the Office For Civil Rights it means we are worse than the vast majority of districts in the country. Haven't you been paying attention? Of course Skelly can try to spin anything to try and make himself look good. In this case (OCR), to quote Skelly "I blew it". Quit trying to minimize what being cited by the OCR means. It is a HUGE deal and the district needs to own up to this and make the necessary improvements (which in this case may mean a personnel change or two) to guarantee that our district complies with the law. Yes, bullying happens everywhere and everyday but surely this district can do better (another quote from Kevin).

Skelly's statements regarding the handling of the suicides is disgraceful and highly disrespectful and hurtful to the families who suffered through this and to all PAUSD community members. I would like to apologize for him for his outrageous statement (obviously he won't do it himself).

Instead of hiring a PR person (hey, call it a communications officer or whatever) it is PR. I think that Kevin could hire a star high school English or journalism student to look at and correct his statements before he opens his mouth and makes these ridiculous and often unintelligible remarks. Lots cheaper than using this high priced communications person or the district's lawyers.


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Posted by Parent of HS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 7:24 pm



parent,

Good point, the board is likely separately working on the bullying policy and a harassment policy. I understood there is already a PAUSD harassment policy, which both California and the Federal government have, and that is what the school site and the district failed to follow. Other than PAUSD's various interpretations of state and federal laws ,it's actually not that complicated.


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Posted by parents
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 15, 2013 at 8:00 pm

If every time a civil rights offense was reported, the OCR would be deluged. Most parents are unaware their children's rights have been violated and most parents are unaware that they have the option to report the violation. Most parents don't read the school handbooks, even thought they sign that they did so, so they don't know what their options are. Most parents don't have access to lawyers who can advise them. I think it's great these parents had access to help. Maybe it will help to highlight all the violations that occur on a DAILY basis. Kids are mean to each other. It doesn't mean that they are bullies or are bullied. It only takes one incident to affect a child. Parents, it's time to parent. Teach your children empathy, tolerance and to stand up for others. The schools are not the root of the problem. It's just that kids spend much of their day in school. If the incident involved in this case happened to be in a park, nothing would have happened and probably no one would have stepped in.

You can't expect the schools to solve all the problems.


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Posted by clarifying confusion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 8:05 pm

S-in-the-C,

As you say, "Haven't you been paying attention?"

There was no "Letter of Findings." Rather it was a "Resolution Agreement," which is simply a mediated voluntary agreement as I posted earlier.

The Resolution Agreement does not say that any changes in personnel are required or recommended. That idea was put forward by a few parents who have been unhappy with Dr. Skelly on a variety of issues for two years now.

Web Link


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 8:21 pm

"confusion" is attempting to execute on Laurie Reynolds advice to spread disinformation. Or perhaps he is simply ignorant. As it appears that "confusion" is a district staff member based on his comments, it is very sad that he has these completely incorrect facts. Every single factual statement in "confusion's" post is false. I will address these in sequence below:

1. "Ken Dauber, this is not true: "The problem is that we failed to follow procedures that were clearly established in law." The law says districts must have procedures, but it does NOT establish what their procedures must say."

This is entirely false. Reality is diametrically opposite. California law requires the use of very specific procedures for bullying based on disability or other protected classes. This is called the Uniform Complaint Procedure. It is required by the California Education Code, See Cal. Educ. Code 234.1 (2012); 5 C.C.R. 4600-4687, 4900. This is a required highly specific procedure that must be followed in cases of written complaints of discrimination including a specific investigation and written determination, with appeal rights to the CDE.

PAUSD has a Uniform Complaint Procedure, codified at BP and AR 1321.3. Because this policy requires a district level response (written complaints of disability based bullying are to be referred to Charles Young, the district's Compliance Officer) the district has chosen to ignore it. This is because of the district's preference for informal site-level resolution despite the fact that it is unlawful.

The OCR Resolution Agreement requires PAUSD to use the Uniform Complaint Procedure and PAUSD agreed to do so but thus far has not implemented it. It remains on the books but unutilized.

2. "Whether a federal law is violated is up to a judge to determine. Lawyers from both sides will tell the judge how they would like the court to interpret the facts of the case, but the judge decides."

This is also false. Congress passed civil rights laws, including laws against disability-based discrimination. The US Department of Education enforces those laws through its Office for Civil Rights. The Office for Civil Rights conducts investigations and can make a finding of noncompliance. That is what happened in this case. Only 14 other US school districts in the past 4 years have had a finding of noncompliance with law as has PAUSD where disability-based bullying is concerned (out of 1513 complaints). That is an enforcement action by an administrative agency and it is not in a court but it is still under law.

3. An OCR Resolution Agreement, like that entered into here, is not a court ruling or a "settlement" as Ken Dauber asserts. It documents what the family and school district voluntarily agreed to. At this level, the role of the OCR is that of a mediator - it makes suggestions. Not only is it not a settlement or court ruling, it is not even a contract between the parties that they can rely on it court. If both sides hadn't agreed - say the family wanted the district to pay for private school tuition and the district would only agreed to facilitating the child's transfer to a neighboring public school - the OCR will issue a "Letter of Finding" which is the OCR's attempt to match the facts to the law. Even that is not a court ruling and does not mean that any laws have been broken."

This is false gibberish. OCR did NOT serve as a mediatior in this case. There was no agreement between the parties. The family did not agree to anything and is not a party to the Resolution Agreement. That simply did not happen. Nothing in this paragraph is true.

What happened in this case is that a complaint was filed in August 2011. OCR investigated the complaint from August to April 2012. Although PAUSD could have requested at any time bewteen August 2011 and April 2012 to engage in a resolution prior to the conclusion of the investigation under OCR section 302 of the procedure code, PAUSD chose to fight the investigation and argue that they did not violate the law. They seem to have done this based on the advice of their counsel, Laurie Reynolds. That was not good advice.

In April 2012, OCR concluded its investigation. At that point PAUSD had a choice. It could either agree to a Resolution Agreement with OCR to change its ways or it could face enforcement litigation from either OCR or DoJ or both. At that point the family was no longer relevant to the situation, and was not a party to the Resolution Agreement, which is between OCR and the "recipient" of federal funding, PAUSD.

PAUSD then resisted the terms of the Resolution Agreement, risking enforcement litigation, trying to bargain OCR down from its initial request for annual training for all staff to one-time training for principals only. This negotiation dragged on from April 2012 to December 2012. The family was uninvolved.

4. "The only harm that can befall a school district that does not follow the OCR terms is the loss of federal funding which, sadly, hurts students with disabilities the most."

That is not true -- a district can face enforcement litigation seeking injunctive relief from OCR or from the DoJ. It can also face private enforcement litigation seeking injunctive relief, damages, or both. It can also experience loss of reputation, something that is already happening in PAUSD.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 15, 2013 at 8:37 pm

@Edmund Burke. Clearly you are a lawyer. It's very difficult for a lay person to actually read and interpret the law because it is written in "legalese". Bottom line, people violate the law every day. They don't pay all the taxes they should, they roll through a stop sign, they don't report a salary to a housecleaner they have every week, they ignore a traffic signal, they park where they shouldn't.... I could go on but I think you get my point. Again, civil rights laws are violated every day, not just in schools but in workplaces, in public, etc. We have a long way to go and I hope we get there someday. I'm pretty sure that if you looked closely enough, most, if not all, schools would see violations of a child's civil rights, either gender, race disability, etc. every day. That's horrible but, unfortunately, most parents don't know to report to the OCR. If they did, the OCR would be overwhelmed with complaints. Every time a child calls another child "gay" pejoratively, that's a violation of civil rights. Please don't tell me you don't think that happens every day across the country. Why aren't you advocating that parents start looking at their own behaviors and what they are teaching their children? None of this will stop until that happens.


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Posted by Michael Priesty
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Hi "parent" the issue isn't about whether bullying happens. It's how school staff responds.


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Posted by Voter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 8:46 pm

I just read Skelly's confidential memo to the board and he says that everything is just fine. Fire this person immediately, board. Pay him to go. If we are paying for a top-5 superintendent and receiving low and poor performance, then you need to do your job and fire him now. The send inept Charles Young on his way back to the East Bay, back to the director level, or help him get a superintendency in a mediocre district. It's ridiculous that the unneeded positions of a PR director and others are being funded, yet we are not posting for a new superintendent and associate superintendent. These two are the worst. The board has been made to look like clowns, but they can't blame slick Skelly, they have to blame themselves, more with each day that Skelly is here.

If you love Skelly, then list his accomplishments here, because enough people have spoken up in the last month with their dissatisfaction with his handling of the suicides, Brown Act violations, and of course his recent lying (when you don't tell the truth to the board and public, that's how some of us interpret that forgetting to tell the whole truth thing). What has he done that has warranted his millions? That's right, plural. Do the math. Either way, post proof that he has delivered five and two-thirds years' worth of excellence. Give him an overall grade: A? B? C? How about D? F?

And for those of you with a fetish for Dauber or WCDBPA: I'm not with them, I've never met them. Also, I am not a communist, I have never been a communist, if that helps you. Come to think of it, Skelly and Young remind me of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew and Nixon's appeal to his silent majority as the Viet Nam War worsened despite Nixon's positive reports to the board. Let us know if you are bewildered by this irrational protest.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 15, 2013 at 8:54 pm

@Michael- I suggest you read Emily Bazelon's book "Sticks and Stones" It really highlights how difficult this issue is. A bullying event(s) is not always cut and dried. Emily really delved into the Phoebe Prince death by suicide which everyone attributed to bullying. She points out that it is not as easy as that. There are always two sides to a story and it's difficult sometimes to find out the truth.


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Posted by Pressed Meat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 15, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Pesky civil rights. Parent sounds like a certain notorious MP from our neighbor to the North.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 9:03 pm

@parent: you wrote "Every time a child calls another child "gay" pejoratively, that's a violation of civil rights."

This is also false. This is very unkind and may violate hate speech or other rules or codes of conduct. But if the school intervenes effectively to stop the harassment, then it is not a violation of civil rights. The civil rights violation is something that the SCHOOL does, not something that the other child does. A civil rights violation in this kind of case is that the school itself failed to take action to stop harassment about which it knew or should have known. That's it. The school is not being punished for the child's conduct. The school is being punished for its own conduct.

That is why schools have to have complaint procedures -- it is as much to protect the school district as the child. Switching hats for a moment and giving a defense perspective, the district needs to have strong reporting and investigation procedures in place so that it can ensure that in every case responsible officials know and investigate impartially and take action to prevent further harassment. Otherwise, in the absence of proper procedures and reporting protocols, cases can fall through the cracks, principals can be incompetent, and the district can be exposed to a cascading series of complaints, enforcement actions, and even private lawsuits for money damages. All that is avoidable with proper complaint, investigation, and reporting protocols.

When a district has an obviously mishandled case, the second worst thing it can do is to dig in and fight. The worst thing is to be deceptive and dishonest as well as dig in and fight. That is because these are not private corporations such as Ford or Phillip Morris with a Pinto or a Marlboro product to defend. We expect dishonesty and hardball tactics from such a defendant. A school district is something else. In a close-knit community like Palo Alto that takes great pride in its schools to have our own schools -- the people we trust with our children every day -- to have them take a hardball litigation stance including hiding documents and dishonest presentations is so hurtful to the community that it is producing an outpouring of rage that even the suicides did not.

I have seen very few people on these forums defending the conduct of Kevin Skelly, Charles Young, the district's lawyer Laurie Reynolds, or the Board of Education. The Board is making a grievous mistake. It is they who are soiling the PAUSD brand by allowing this to painfully go on, hiring a PR flack, refusing to grant the public transparency that is their duty, and yes, possibly making personnel adjustments if they are warranted after a full and fair investigation. It is the Board that is now failing the community by adopting a stance more appropriate to Philip Morris than our local schools.

We should not excuse the Board merely because we have come to have low expectations for their abilities. That is not an excuse for misleading the public or for sitting silently while others such as Ms. Reynolds do so on their behalf. This is a shameful episode in which Dr. Skelly and the Board are sullying the reputation of our excellent schools.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 15, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Again, kids don't report these violations that happen on a daily basis. If children were taught to be tolerant and respectful, these violations wouldn't happen. I am not saying the schools are perfect in their responses, but neither are the parents. Even if it is reported, and 90% of bullying/harassment incidences are not, it's difficult to ascertain the truth. Just as there are lawyers who will defend the guilty, there are parents and other students who will defend the bully. It is not cut and dried. What provoked the kid who responded by punching the target? Usually no one punches anyone "just because". Again, it's not right, but it is not as easy as you make it out to be.


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Posted by Avid reader
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 15, 2013 at 9:12 pm

@parent--I loved sticks and stones too. My favorite part is page 186-87. It's so great and it even mentions a Stanford prof! You are sure right to rely on what is in that book and the experts she quotes.


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Posted by parent of HS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 9:24 pm

parent,

"Why aren't you advocating that parents start looking at their own behaviors and what they are teaching their children? "

Your kind of advocating that it's no biggie to break rules, to get caught, or to challenge laws.

What lesson is that for your kids?




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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 15, 2013 at 9:35 pm

I think what that Stanford professor says is profound, but it really doesn't have anything to do with the conversation that bullying and the response to it, is all about the schools. Sure, school administrators can intervene. In fact, that can make a situation worse as the bully and his/her friends retaliate. Again, I refer you to the book, Sticks and Stones. Administrators did intervene. The bullying did continue. If we teach our children to be kind, tolerant and respectful, at a young age, we could go a long way to solving this issue. Blaming and firing a couple of administrators is not going to solve a problem that has far deeper roots. Do you honestly think that bullying/harassment will stop if these people are gone? Do you honestly think that any administrator can solve this problem without getting the parents and community to be part of the solution. That will take some work on the part of the parents and community. However, it's so much easier to blame someone else.


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Posted by parent of HS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 9:37 pm



parent,

Actually, I don't see a problem with challenging laws. Which PAUSD could do.

I just happen to think these discrimination laws/guidelines are good. Maybe that's the problem, those defending Skelly justify it because they are against the OCR.

So do something about it instead of trolling around with personal tips on parenting. Go and actually challenge the OCR.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 9:40 pm

parent:

No one has said it is all about the schools. That is a straw man. It is some about the schools. The some that is about the schools is that under federal law the schools have an obligation to intervene effectively to prevent discriminatory harassment where they know or should have known about it. PAUSD's complaint procedures were not implemented. I believe we are now in a "tiresome loop" in which you continue to raise the same straw man and I continue to demolish it. This is a zombie argument. I will not further address it.

Is the Board receiving good advice from its counsel? It appears not from what has been published. People will not "move on" until they have answers. There is a large "credibility gap" in this instance, and I think the reference to Nixon and Agnew made above by Voter is very apt.


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Posted by parent of HS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 9:51 pm

parent,

"Do you honestly think that bullying/harassment will stop if these people are gone?"

You actually think that is the reason people want them gone is because that will stop bullying? Really?

On bullying, I do think admin intervening can cause retaliation, but not if the intervention is good and effective, and with follow-up, and systems which prevent that from happening. It also depends which grade level. 4th graders are not going to do the kind of stuff those girls did to Phoebe Prince. Parents can step in, so forth.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 15, 2013 at 9:58 pm

I'm glad you acknowledge it is not all about the schools. Why are you then not advocating that parents and adults in this community take some responsibility for this? Again, I have not said the district is not without blame in terms of responding. However, just do a google alerts on bullying and schools, etc. and you will see this district is far from alone in its ability to respond effectively to these complaints. There are always two sides to a story. If the OCR didn't think lack of understanding was a problem, it wouldn't have sent a 10 page letter in 2010 to administrators and teachers about their responsibility regarding harassment complaints. However, just because they sent the letter doesn't mean that everyone read it and understood it. Do you, and everyone else reading this, actually read the terms of agreement on all the sites you log on to? I know I don't.


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Posted by parent of HS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2013 at 10:19 pm



parent,

A compliance officer definitely needs to read and understand the fine print. You pay him a lot of money just to do that. And the boss also needs to know the laws and understand them, and seek help if they don't.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2013 at 5:45 am

It would be a travesty if Skelly still had a job on April 9. No, he didn't instigate bullying, but he was scandalously responsible for not following established guidelines of dealing with this very serious issue. Moreover, he doesn't seem to genuinely feel and acknowledge that this is a serious issue in the district.
He even addresses the now famous and infamous case of the special ed student bullying as "alleged bullying."
His record in the Poway school district indicates that he deals , or rather doesn't deal with the bullying issue very poorly.
His failure to inform the board of his greement with OCR is an indication of a flawed and very truthful character. Plenty od reasons to terminate his contract.


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Posted by clarifying confusion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 7:39 am

Edmund Burke,

Let me start off by saying that I am not an apologist or a staff member. It is important for a school district to follow its procedures and not ignore them.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] What is hard to stomach is the partial truths attempting to paint a world that is black and white - which it hardly ever is.

-

The job of interpreting the law rests solely in the laps of judges.

While the OCR is very familiar with Civil Rights laws, government agencies are hardly unbiased enforcers of their agency's rules which is why the last word does not rest with them. Think the IRS, the government agency most are familiar with. More often than not it shows its bias by ruling that people have to pay more taxes. Tax litigation is a thriving business; the IRS is sued for overreaching and it often loses.

-

Federal involvement is always to be taken seriously and its findings may or may not have merit.

What is important to remember here is that this is not a case of the OCR cherry-picking the worst case to devote its attention to; it responds to all complaints filed.

-

The Education Code requires districts to adopt policies that must contain a few points. In the world of procedures, it does not set out a particularly "highly specific procedure" but rather building blocks for policies that school districts devise. (These policies ARE the top-down district-wide action that some have been criticizing PAUSD for NOT having.)

What you fail to share is that in every institution there are employees who do not follow procedures. Apart from the district hiring employees to double check each other's work (a cost it could not justify) there will be those who are good at their job and those who aren't. You find out about those who aren't after mistakes are made.

If a district employee did not follow the policies here, that impacts students and needs to be corrected. But that does not change that at its core this is a personnel problem at the site. The California law which requires that a district officer ensure that certain rules are followed doesn't change that and certainly does not mean that the officer (Charles Young?) is strictly liable or needs to be fired. It is silly to suggest that it does.

That fact of life - that not all employees do their job perfectly - is well-known to attorneys and allows them to swoop in with indignation and Pollyanna-ize the world as one where everyone BUT their opponent is perfect.

Does that absolve the district if mistakes are made? No. But what is rare here are not that an employee wasn't perfect but that someone decided to complain to the OCR.

Within their right to do, but most would not complain unless they wanted leverage for a financial demand that has not been met. That is because the OCR findings don't result in private damages and so do not help the family's finances.

If the complainant is the family it is often told by a civil rights attorney that the bad PR that the child's lawyer will be able to generate from the OCRs involvement might get them something the district initially felt was overreaching and it could ill afford.

If the complainant is someone else, they typically have an ax to grind on another matter and want the district to know that they are willing to go to great lengths to generate pressure on the district to get their other, often unrelated, demands met.

Most parents in the district understand that a school district is not an evil corporation with deep pockets. It is run by humans and its "profits" are their tax dollars which the district must devote to paying attorneys when complaints are made to federal agencies.

Frustrating as it can be, they opt to be part of the solution and work or network with others to help solve a problem so that the district's money can be spent on the children in their kid's classrooms instead of on legal fees.

Or they opt to transfer their child to another public school district that better meets their child's needs.


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Posted by Voter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 8:32 am

Clarifying, you have not clarified. Is there a point in that drivel above? Your next assignment is to rate the effectiveness of Kevin Skelly's leadership, Charles Young's competence, and the board's integrity. Think short answer, not essay. I give you an A for effort and an F for content. More words didn't translate into a better post.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 8:38 am

"confusion has posted another large number of outright falsehoods. Rather than take them one by one, which is time consuming for me to write and for the public to read, I will just say in summary fashion that every factual assertion in "confusion's" post is inaccurate.

The job of interpreting the law is delegated in our legal system to administrative agencies such as DOE. Judges are required by law to defer to the agency interpretation unless it is so unreasonable or implausible that it is arbitrary and capricious. Typically this is a very high standard. There are different deference standards depending on the type of agency action but judges almost always defer to the agency that is charged with interpreting and enforcing laws. So you are wrong about that. It is a basic error of understanding our legal system.

The Uniform Complaint Procedure is highly specific. I suggest you use Google to read the law rather than continuing your uninformed posts.

All of your assertions about why people complain to OCR are incorrect. In fact, there are many complaints. Complaints are not that rare. What is rare is a complaint that results in a finding of noncompliance with the law. That is what happened to PAUSD. That is because most districts when confronted with a valid complaint choose to settle the matter quietly through entering a Resolution Agreement prior to the conclusion of the investigation. That is what PAUSD did in the complaint about its lack of legally sufficient 504 procedures. It settled the matter within 4 weeks. In this case, PAUSD did not settle the matter in a warm and wonderful collaborative happy time despite its lawyer's false claims. PAUSD resisted the findings, resisted the proffered terms of the Resolution Agreement and never provided services to remediate the victim's harm for over a year. Only 1% of complaints of disability harassment over the past 4 years have resulted in a finding against the district. We are in that 1%.

As to your casting of aspersions on the motives of complainants, your post exemplifies the kind of petty social retaliation that people fear when they make complaints. You speculate incorrectly and publicly about their motives. Some people are altruistic and want to make things better for everyone and that is why they file complaints. Some people are desperate to get needed help for their child. Those are not bad motives -- they are good motives.


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Posted by clarifying confusion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 9:25 am

Again, I am not saying that the district did no wrong, that a child was not bullied, and that nothing should be done about it.

On my last point about transferring to a new school:

California Ed Code 46600(b): "A pupil who has been determined by personnel ... to have been the victim of an act of bullying... shall, at the request of the person having legal custody of the pupil, be given priority for interdistrict attendance ..."

The OCR Findings state that the child's family anticipated that the child would be bullied before enrolling at the middle school because students who had taunted that child in elementary school would be attending that school too, but sent the child there anyway.

After an unhappy year at the school, the family asked for a transfer which the district honored. Nothing in the OCR findings indicate that the child experienced bullying at the new school.

Web Link

But after the transfer and the OCR Agreement which would put the district in full compliance with the laws if followed, the family was still unhappy and pushed for the district to pay for placement into a private facility if what people read on this website can be believed.

If the family was acting purely out of altruism, why wasn't it happy after it got what it asked for - a transfer and OCR agreement?

If the family thought that the whole district was poison, why did it ask the district to pick up the bill for a private school instead of seek a transfer to MVLA or another public school district as the law allows?





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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 9:40 am

The family did not "send" the child to the middle school, the district did. The rest of the facts, timelines, and other information in your post are incorrect. The district was required by the terms of the OCR agreement to ensure an appropriate placement and evaluation, a step that did not happen until after the case became public. The case dragged on from the time of filing in August 2011 until February 2013 without an appropriate placement being provided. The one thing that your post exemplifies is the great ignorance on the part of the public about such matters and thus the great need for transparency on the part of the district in how such cases should be handled.

There is a connection between the lack of special education 504 procedures (OCR Case #2) and this case (OCR Case #1). That bridge is formed by fear of retaliation. Parents fear complaining because they fear that they will be denied accommodations, an IEP, services, or other special ed needs in retaliation for complaining. In a procedureless world, the arbitrary power of the principal and teacher are magnified. That is why procedures matter. They are not excess bureaucracy. They are the system by which a fair and impartial treatment of every citizen is assured so that all can rest confident in their rights.


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Posted by clarifying confusion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 10:15 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 16, 2013 at 10:20 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Recuiter
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2013 at 10:23 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Voter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 10:52 am

Thanks Burke for finally getting down to what matters: telling a victim to transfer is indeed sickening. That word sums up how I feel about those we are paying and those we have elected to be responsible for our children. The ghost of Richard Nixon has almost taken over Kevin Skelly, PAUSD: love it or leave it.


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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2013 at 10:57 am

I have been following this issue since it was first reported on in the Weekly in mid-February. Since then I have done some investigation of my own. I have read the Weekly and an untold number of comments, I have read coverage of the issue in other newspapers, I have met with people knowledgeable about the district, and I have spoken with people who know the family. Naturally, I also read the 10 page OCR report. My interest in all of this is that I believe a moral and ethical community stands up for and with it's weakest members. That's it.

@ Clarifying Confusion

I can't tell if you are saying that the family should have moved out of the district to get better services, or if they should have requested that the child attend a different school district while the family remain in Palo Alto? In either case your assumption seems to be that cost is not a factor. That "we" all have the money to either pick up and move or to get our child to another city every day to attend school.

I don't think this family's goal was to have their child attend a residential private school - I think this is what the district's treatment of them and their child finally resulted in. How would you feel if your child was treated so poorly at school over several years that he/she was no longer able to be served in your local school, but now had to attend a boarding school? Don't you think you might miss having your child at home?
If you attended the school board meetings, or even read the newspaper accounts of these meetings, you would know that this family is not a typical Palo Alto family. They do not have great resources. I believe the district felt free to treat them with such dismissiveness because district personnel believed they had nothing to fear from them.
They felt sure this family had no power or influence.

The family appealed to the OCR because they could think of nothing more to do to get help for their child. Fortunately for this child the OCR found that the district had FAILED to protect her civil rights, but that didn't mean that the PAUSD immediately put her into an appropriate school setting. No, the child was not placed until February 13th, 2012. One day after the first public school board meeting since the PA Weekly came out with this story.

@Clarifying Confusion

If you are "not saying the district did not wrong" then what are you going on about? It appears to me that you are trying to blame the victim in this story. Somehow implying that the families motives in appealing to the OCR were suspect. From my perspective you are Causing Confusion.

Others are writing here that bullying happens and families should teach their children not to do it. That's true, but it is not the issue that is confronting our community right now.

In my opinion the issues are:

1: The individual school and the district did not protect this child's civil rights when they had ample knowledge of the problem.

2: The Superintendent did not inform the board that he had signed an agreement with the OCR.

3. Even now that this case and the ensuing OCR report have come out, the board and the superintendent are not putting together an independent committee that would investigate how this happened.

If Palo Alto really is a progressive community that stands up for the disadvantaged that
we claim to be, this story is not going to go away until the district leaders and their supporters start being honest and stop trying to diverst our attention from their failures.


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Posted by Just another teacher
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2013 at 11:03 am

I love teaching in Palo Alto - it's the best job I've ever had. I feel honored to teach a lot of very bright and talented students, and I am grateful to be paid well and to enjoy good benefits. But I have to say that I am appalled at the hostility of some of the comments on this thread. We wonder why there is such a huge bullying problem in our schools - we need look no further than the voice of this community itself, a portion of which is perfectly content to come onto this forum and engage in the most ridiculous sort of name-calling and (in some cases) anonymous ridicule.

Kids will be mean - this is part of adolescence and growing up. We work hard against that tendency every day in our schools. Not every case of kids being mean is bullying. I try my best in the short time I have with them every day to teach them, and to model for them, kindness and thoughtfulness and compassion, as well as the nuts and bolts of our subject. I have them in my classroom four hours per week, which works out to somewhere in the neighborhood of 160 hours in a year. The rest of the time they are presumably being fed, clothed, housed, and given emotional, psychological, and (perhaps spiritual) guidance from the *most important adults in their live, namely, their parents.* From the looks of this forum some of the less fortunate ones are getting an entirely different overt/covert message from the attitude and behavior of some of those adults in this community. It's a bit disheartening, to say the least. :-(

I won't dispute that Skelly and other admins at the DO have done a poor job of communicating and handling the incident that resulted in the OCR intervention. But I do feel that a lot of the more scathing criticism is poorly thought out at best and, while the critics seek change they do little to advance the cause of actually resolving these issues, and in some cases just seem to think that new personnel will somehow "solve" this problem. *The real teaching about bullying, being kind, and caring for others despite differences begins in the home.* And it could be modeled in public too, including on places like this forum. We can continually reinforce it in the schools and we do, but if they're not seeing it at home, and instead sitting down to dinner with parents who bully each other or their kids, or proudly talk about how they bully their employees or coworkers or their kid's teacher to get what they want, then sadly our influence will probably have less of an impact..... The kids see it in public, and it filters to them too, including from places like this forum, where they see that it's perfectly OK for their parents to be nasty toward the teachers and other people who run the schools. This is the behavior that is being modeled for them. Yes, in fact, we can do better.


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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2013 at 11:05 am

I hope people realize that they can register with Palo Alto Online with any name they choose. Village Fool, for example, could be your registered name! That way when a thread is closed down to all except registered users you will still be able to comment. I have now registered under the name "Eileen 1" if this thread is closed I will still be able to comment using my "Eileen 1" registered name.


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Posted by Voter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 11:19 am

Just another teacher, I truly hope you are not just another teacher because your passive aggressive post reeks of hypocrisy. This is democracy, it's for adults, it gets messy, so get in the game. Taking a swipe at we can do better was weak, which is why I hope you are an outlier. If you want to take the high road, then do it because your post didn't accomplish that, it actually was representative of the so-called bullying among adults that you supposedly offended by.


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Posted by Michael Priesty
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2013 at 11:29 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Ivans fan
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 16, 2013 at 11:38 am

Editor what's your issue with satire? Recruiter's post was funny and made a strong point without being pedantic. You shouldn't ban humor as a genre from these forums. It's enjoyable to read and nice to see creativity. Some of the best political commentary such as that of Molly Ivans is sharp edged humor. Don't ban it. We like it.


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Posted by Anonimo
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 11:41 am

I am disappointed that the teachers and PAEA leadership have not made a statement or revealed a plan or suggestions on both confronting bullying in PAUSD and working as a district team to respond to it. Teachers lose me when they say responding to bullying is the principal's responsibility only. It is the entire staff's responsibility. And we in the community realize that we all have a part as well. I see that Teri Bakdwin is asking teachers to approve a district offer of 4.5% raise this year, and while that is important, we really have yet to hear from PAEA or the principal's non-union, PAMA. We are thirsty for real leadership.


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Posted by Just another teacher
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2013 at 11:47 am

It's telling that when I suggest the parent community could do better, that I am immediately attacked, accused of being a shill, called a hypocrite, and accused of bullying. This is exactly the sort of behavior I was pointing out as problematic in my post. Criticism is not bullying; I am not indicting all the critics - if you go back and read what I said, I do not dispute that Skelly did a poor job of this. That is hardly the hallmark of a district shill.

But when you model scorn and derisive name-calling for your children, your behavior IS part of the problem, and no amount of dissembling will change that.


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Posted by Voter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 11:47 am

Editor, thank you for not deleting my posts-yet! I can't blame the Weekly, it's their site and they get to make the rules.


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Posted by Ivans fan
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 16, 2013 at 11:55 am

Voter I agree I just think satire should be allowed. Satire is one of the few weapons of the weak. Why ban it?


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Posted by Voter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Just another teacher, my focus is not you as a person who feels he or she is being attacked. I have no pity to offer you. I'm not even focused on bullying, it will continue to occur as a part of educating children. My focus is on the response of personnel we pay and elect to educate and care for our children. My opinion is that Kevin Skelly should be put on immediate administrative leave. Some agree with me, some don't. I also believe that Charles Young should be fired before the end of the school year. These are the top two administrators in our district, yet their performance is now where near top two.

Getting back to you, your latest post is less passive aggressive and now just lashes out at other posters. They are the problem, they are modeling scorn, their behavior is the problem. Now that you have revealed that you are a teacher, I have an expectation that you will be part of the solution and you will take responsibility to earn the money you are paid.


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Posted by Just another teacher
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2013 at 12:18 pm

@ "Voter" - I am calling attention here to behavior, and the models it presents to the children of this community. It's a lesson we utilize in our classrooms, e.g., when a child is misbehaving in the classroom, it's not *the child* I have a problem with, it's the child's *behavior.* I'm not looking for your pity, and I grant you the full right to your opinion. I have some problems as well with the way Skelly and Young and others handled this. The district has a lot of improvement to make in this area. But my larger point remains. When parents model poor behavior to their children, it's a BIG problem.

Rest assured that I work hard to resolve these issues every day in our school, and I am worth every penny you pay me. And thank you. If you look back to my first post, you will note that I made a point of expressing gratitude for being able to do the work I do.


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Posted by Voter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] I am not assured about you or Skelly. This is a crisis in leadership and how PAUSD functions. There is one thing I'd like you to reflect on: you are a paid member of the district, these issues are part of your paid responsibility. I accept mine as a voter and a parent.


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Posted by Just another teacher
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2013 at 12:51 pm

@"Voter" - "There is one thing I'd like you to reflect on: you are a paid member of the district, these issues are part of your paid responsibility."

If you look back to my original post, you will find this statement: "We work hard against that tendency every day in our schools. Not every case of kids being mean is bullying. I try my best in the short time I have with them every day to teach them, and to model for them, kindness and thoughtfulness and compassion, as well as the nuts and bolts of our subject."

I hope you can take reassurance from reading this again. I take this responsibility very seriously.


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Posted by Silence Dogood
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2013 at 12:51 pm

teacher -- no children are reading this forum I am sure. Parents have a right to some adult talk in an adult political forum where sometimes they might say some criticisms of those who serve them. Your comments serve only to try to shame people out of their political views. If you had been there at the time of the Revolution we would still be British because it would be "bullying" to criticize the king. Perhaps you would have been one of the people who thought Dr. King and Diane Nash were bullies too. Poor Selma. The people have a right to redress of grievances.


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Posted by Nobody else
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 16, 2013 at 12:56 pm

The only person who actually thinks bullying is not a problem in PAUSD is Kevin Skelly. Even when confronted with evidence, even when reprimanded by the Feds. Geez, someone pull off his blindfold so he can see the door as he exits.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 16, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I actually think Teacher has a point. Or, rather, the point s/he's making connects to a concern that I have. While our anger and frustration causes us to vent, that same venting makes the issues harder to solve.

I pointed out in another thread that one of my issues with Skelly and co. is that he tends to treat us as students--the angrier and more vituperative people get, the more he retreats to an attempt at "classroom management".

You don't have to agree with Just Another Teacher's take on matters, but I don't see that what s/he wrote merits the response here. I don't see it as "passive-aggressive" (a term that gets misused all the time) and I don't see any particular reason, at this point, to assume s/he's a sock puppet. That comes across as an attempt to undermine his or her credibility while not actually addressing the point s/he's making.

I will agree with teacher that we, the parents, are responsible for how well-behaved our kids are. I also agree that the behavior we model for them is critical.

I also agree with many of the posters here that the district fell down on the job regarding the incidents with the bullied students. I agree that the district has an ongoing issue with bullying--particularly in the middle schools. I think the district has failed to deal with the well-known effects of overcrowding, intense competition and inadequate supervision in the schools.

The relentless anger and accusations may be completely justified, BUT I don't think it's effective, in that it seems to be leading to even more secretiveness from the district bureaucracy and the board. It further breaks down trust. As another poster pointed out in the Mah thread, the tone of the fighting around the schools alienates a lot of people. As a result, I think they disregard it. Unfortunately, that means we have weak candidates and board members who get re-elected over and over and the situation doesn't improve. By which I mean, the board and the super tend to be reactive instead of pro-active--problems that could have been averted and can be readily anticipated aren't dealt with until they hit a crisis point.


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Posted by Anonimo
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 1:19 pm

OhlonePar, if you're angry and frustration, that's your problem. I'm not either. PASUD violated the civil rights of a child and our superintendent and his associate superintendent had a major fail, in fact, the appearance is that they did not tell the board or me, the public, the whole truth. Any reasonable person would agree that this information affected the public's view of the superintendent's and the distric t's performance, and perhaps more importantly, it likely affected the November election. An apology is simply not sufficient. It's time to clean house. One doesn't need to get angry or frustrated to do that.


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Posted by mom of HS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 1:20 pm


just another teacher,

So, I think the humor can sometimes be a little mean, but this is among adults, and the satire is very much a reflection of the material Skelly delivers.

I still object to Skelly's "vanguard" statement and believe he should apologize. There is nothing that justifies such a comment, and it is actually scary that the guy believes what he is saying. If you consider me hostile because of my being appalled at what he said, then there is not much we will agree on.

The bulk of the comments here, like Eileen and Edmund Burke are very much to the point. I would say attacking them is unnecessary.


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Posted by mom of HS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 1:29 pm



Ohlone Par, and just another teacher

Your points about parental role in bullying are exactly what the OCR wants you to acknowledge! Adults have the responsibility to teach kids about bullying. And that includes school administrators, teachers, staff.....

As far as the legalese, Edmund Burke points out the advantages for schools having a structure in place to discourage bullying

"That is why schools have to have complaint procedures -- it is as much to protect the school district as the child. Switching hats for a moment and giving a defense perspective, the district needs to have strong reporting and investigation procedures in place so that it can ensure that in every case responsible officials know and investigate impartially and take action to prevent further harassment. Otherwise, in the absence of proper procedures and reporting protocols, cases can fall through the cracks, principals can be incompetent, and the district can be exposed to a cascading series of complaints, enforcement actions, and even private lawsuits for money damages. All that is avoidable with proper complaint, investigation, and reporting protocols."

THere is not that much to disagree on, except how you hold people accountable for promoting a culture that is honest, open and transparent, so that we can actually follow laws instead of hiding and spinning.





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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm

"There is not that much to disagree on, except how you hold people accountable for promoting a culture that is honest, open and transparent, so that we can actually follow laws instead of hiding and spinning."

Exactly. Now if all of us who feel this way will come to this week's School Board Meeting. They meet for a public meeting Tuesday, March 19th at 6:30 pm at the district offices, 25 Churchill Avenue.
During the Open Forum period use your 3 minutes to get up and ask that a committee comprised of board members and some impartial community members be appointed to investigate this failure and determine what steps the district needs to take to regain the community's trust. There was clearly a system wide failure here to protect a child's civil rights. We need to continue to make the point that we expect the district to provide a transparent form a leadership. The board and their superintendent must stop patting us on the head and assuring us that they are doing all they need to do in this best of all possible school districts.


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Posted by clarifying confusion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 3:17 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]



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Posted by Just another teacher
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2013 at 3:26 pm

@"Silence Dogood" - I am not trying to silence or shame anyone, and I am not sure how my pointing out the responsibility of parents to model good behavior to their children somehow makes me into some sort of segregationist King George III, but I certainly respect your right to your opinion.


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Posted by Friend of family
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 16, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Confusion , Please stop posting and speculating about the child and family and placement. It is harmful. Thank you.


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Posted by mom of HS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 4:07 pm


clarifying,

You seem to be saying that PAUSD simply does what other schools around the country do -"pushing back for picking up the tab on assisting children with disabilities." Except we did the upgraded version which is also getting an OCR citation.

I can't imagine there isn't a better way to operate than to have this wink wink arbitrary way to push back on families. It hurts kids, it exposes the district, and likely costs more money.





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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2013 at 4:09 pm

@Causing Confusion

I agree with "Friend of Family" Please stop your speculation about why the family did what it did.

Please try to focus on the issue at hand:
Why did this situation get to the point that our school district was found out of compliance by the OCR? Why didn't our leaders come to an resolution with the family before their hand was forced by the release of the report to the Weekly and the public's outrage expressed in these posts and at the board meeting of February 12th?

As to the costs involved - this situation is going to cost our district quite a bit of money, even if the family chooses not to sue. As a taxpayer I am filled with fury that the district chose to disregard this child's plight in the hopes that they could spend less on the problem. The result of the Superintendent's decisions throughout this situation has caused the district to be responsible for paying for a residential program now when they could have solved this problem before it got to this point. And, it is very likely that the district will now be sued and that will cost us taxpayers far more than it would have cost to deal with the problem collaboratively with the family in the first place.

Please address your cost concerns to the correct entity. It is the district leaders who put us into this fix, not the family.


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Posted by clarifying confusion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Eileen 1,

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

There are always two sides to a story and there are always important facts that the public does not now and, no matter how many times you ask for an independent investigation, will never know because of student privacy laws. Perhaps those facts if known would make the district look far worse than we could ever have imagined or perhaps it would make the district look better. We do not and will not ever know.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by A new low
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 16, 2013 at 6:39 pm

This must be the bottom.


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Posted by parent of HS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 7:14 pm

clarifying,

Based on your explanation of the tactics that schools around the country are using to fight families with disabled kids, and your assertions that PAUSD does the same, I can't imagine there are only 2 sides of the story. The OCR has already offered another side of the story, PAUSD signed an agreement with them.

At any rate, if the case is supposed to make PAUSD look good, then Skelly went to a whole lot of trouble to hide documents from the board.


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Posted by Skellytons in the Closet
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 7:19 pm

@clarifying confusion: I agree with "a new low". Your ability to change the facts is astonishing! I think you should examine your conscience the next time you post such atrocious misrepresentations of the facts. Why don't you say something that is honest about how we got here and what we are going to do to go forward.

Our district cannot afford to continue on this course and our students truly deserve to have the administrators and Board protecting them. So far the Board has shown a lack of willingness to get to the bottom of this whole scandal; however, given that there are parents who want answers and will not be satisfied with the same old same old we the voters, taxpayers and parents will prevail. You are fighting a losing battle which it should be obvious to you that you cannot fix. A well crafted (in your mind) pile of lies will not fix this. We all want answers.

Please cease as you are hurting the family of the student in the OCR case and all the others in the district that have been treated badly. The 25 Churchill gang is doing a good enough job of that without your help!


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Posted by Amazed, not confused
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2013 at 7:36 pm

I am also offended by the statements made by "clarifying confusion". It is shameless and callous to make uninformed accususations toward victims rather than focusing on correcting the deficiencies of those who have been determined to be at fault by the US Dept of Justice.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 16, 2013 at 7:37 pm

I am wondering why the board is not voting for an investigation. People posting want it, community is asking for it, the newspaper had an editorial for it. parents want to lnow that their kids are safe! What's the harm if they're not hiding anything? Isn't it starting to look fishy? And no I'm not in WCBB but maybe I will be soon.


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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2013 at 7:51 pm

@ Parent, a member of the Paly Community

I completely agree with you - why isn't the board voting for an investigation?

I challenge anyone reading this thread to commit that they will attend this Tuesday's board meeting and ask the board to vote to form a committee to investigate the district's handling of this case.

I will be there. Please post here that you will come too.


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Posted by village fool
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 8:41 pm

@Editor - why did recruiter's post disappear? even fact of posting? no trace, now. Why were my complements deleted? no trace of my posting earlier today.
@Recruiter - I thought your posting was great. Reminded me of brilliant Cardinal. Sadly, due to the nature of this issue your posting do not get the laugh it deserves. I wish I could laugh.
@A new low - I wish this was the bottom. I wish the bottom, as I understand it, will present itself-overcome silence, fear. I wish the bottom, as I understand it, is not the lowest. At this point - I can not be sure.
@Eileen1 - Thank you for looking into this. As far as I recall you mentioned that your kids graduated. Edmund Burke explained nicely- fear of retaliation will hold current parents from registering, even registered name as mine. One shared experience of info being hacked. Most likely fear will hold from talking @board meeting.


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Posted by mom of HS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Eileen 1,

The board has made it clear they are not voting for an investigation. They are instead hiring a PR officer. Unless someone has better news, it appears it has gone to business as usual.

The do-nothing bunch will continue to warm those seats, self-congratulate, until they expire or we vote them all out. Luckily there are enough people in real jobs doing the daily business of the district, and at least we know the Principals have been OCR trained. If they are smart, they will not rely on the district alone to handle bullying.

Meantime,

I hope Ken Dauber will consider running again and sit right next to Camille Townsend.


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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2013 at 9:25 pm

@ Village Fool

Are you saying people won't register under an assumed name because they fear the Weekly's database will be hacked and someone will find out who they really are?

Has the database ever been hacked?

Weekly Editor, Could you comment on this, please.

Concerning people speaking at the board meeting. Yes, my kids have graduated. Surely there are some other people out there like me who no longer have kids in the district who would be willing to speak. I am begging them to step forward and say something in public. As Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797) said " The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

There must be some parents in the district whose children are not receiving any special services who would be willing to speak out. By the way, you don't have to have children of your own to care about how our children are treated or how our tax dollars are being spent. In my opinion, anyone who is a resident of Palo Alto or owns property in Palo Alto should feel entitled to come to the board meeting and ask for an independent committee to investigate this situation.


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2013 at 10:05 pm

@Eillen1 - about info being hacked - I shared comment posted in a thread I started trying to figure out reason for not registering. Responses about fear of retaliation just reinforced the gut feeling I had up til then. You can see responses - Web Link.
Please feel free to contact me - forvillagefool@gmail.com


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Posted by Another Teacher
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2013 at 10:16 pm

I am no relation to "Just Another Teacher" and have no idea who he/she may be. But I can assure you that many of us who teach for a living share his/her opinions on this subject. I think he/she put it very respectfully. Parents should set a good example for their children. And yes, we know for a fact that there are school kids (mostly in high school) who are reading our posts.


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Posted by mom of HS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Another teacher,

High School students should learn about the issues being discussed here. I suggest they read the posts form Edmund Burke and Eileen. When a student shows up in these town online threads, I have noticed people respond positively and welcome student opinions. And they don't shy away. Some of the best input has come from students in some threads.

Reality - there is frustration about this topic, not easy to cherry coat it. If a student is reading, best to double-check the facts in other ways, talk to their parents, teachers, and form a personal opinion.

There is a "Report Objectionable Content" option which you or anyone can use. Editors are pretty good about it.



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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2013 at 11:43 pm

Here is a case that has some highly analogous aspects to the PAUSD case. It may help to illuminate the law of discriminatory harassment and what is meant by "deliberate indifference." In this case, from the Second Circuit, deliberate indifference was shown in part by the fact that the compliance officer did not investigate the harassment despite receiving numerous complaints about it:

"Finally, despite the District's present argument that it did not know its responses were inadequate or ineffective, a jury reasonably could have found that the District ignored the many signals that greater, more directed action was needed. For example, although Stoorvogel, the school officer charged with investigating Title VI complaints, knew that Anthony was being harassed, she elected not to investigate, which might have prompted
an earlier and adjusted administrative response." (p.40-41)

Web Link


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Posted by JustAnotherParent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2013 at 8:46 am

@JustAnotherTeacher two points to correct:
A) you spend 4 hrs/week with my child, BUT my child also has 6 other teachers. Count homework, sleep and preparing for school, and you quickly find that school is a bigger part of my childs life than you portray.

B) While you may model good behavior ( thank you) and I model it at home; not every teacher does; nor do all the principals/admin. Some teachers are quite cruel or just indifferent to the children around them.

For this reason we as parents need to see better procedures & and need to see them implemented. It is hard to have confidence that our kids will be well cared for when there is no admission of the basic responsibilities and problems.

I urge you to use your role model position to call for responsibility and improved process around the mistreatment of our children by others in your organization. It would mean a lot to us parents.

Thank you for your comments, and for your work as a teacher.


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2013 at 9:05 am

@JustAnotherParent - Thank you for your comment! I think it is interesting to notice that teachers' participation in the latest OCR/bullying related threads is by far less noticeable than teachers' participation in the threads related to pay raise.
Surely - salary is extremely important, and the teachers must be very busy.
I want to think that by-standing is/was never modeled by any teacher. As the teachers posting on this thread indicated - kids pick adults's behaviors extremely fast.


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Posted by Paly teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 17, 2013 at 9:33 am

I would love my students (I teach social studies) to read these Town Square forums. It is hard to get past the abstractions of civics to the idea that real politics mixes passion, conviction, facts and argument in a way that is often uncomfortable. Please don't muffle your voices on behalf of students. One of the great treasures of American democracy is the right and responsibility to speak the unvarnished truth.


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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2013 at 10:23 am

@Paly Teacher

Thank you so very very much for your comment. I completely agree with you.
How fortunate the Palo Alto community is to have you teaching our high schoolers Social Studies.

I hope that our high school students are paying attention to this issue. The recognition of an individual's civil rights are a way in which this country protects it's citizens from discrimination. Definitely something every high school student should realize is an ongoing topic of discussion and not merely something in their history books.


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Posted by Voter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2013 at 10:30 am

Many of the above postings have increased my optimism that the paid personnel, from the custodians to the Superintendent to the board members, can fix this badly broken system. By no measure does the money flowing in equal the quality going out. Teachers are apparently going to receive a 4.5% raise, but they have produced 0.0% increase in creative, novel, or effective plans as a union to address bullying districtwide. We are a unified district, not a collection of fiefdoms run by an overly-aggressive group of PAEA group thinkers, or a handful of organized helicopter parents. The big difference in responsibility is that teachers are being paid to be the front line of defense when it comes to bullying. A poster correctly noted that teachers are very present online when it comes to more money, but they do very little to organize and step up for children in this case of bullying. What have they done to unify a message against bullying AND demand that the board cleans house by removing Kevin and Charles? Their lack indicates that they are beholden to Kevin and Charles. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] The PAEA have incredible power as a union and is a potent force in PAUSD politics. They make sure that student work and student assessment is never tied to measuring their effectiveness, which is why we parents can only judge a teacher by gossip and rumor, which is both evil and ineffective, or by teachers such as the posters who claim that they are teachers and tell us to be assured and rest assured that they are effective.

This is your moment! To teachers, this is your moment to stand up alone or together to support our children by presenting your plan to address bullying. Then present your vote of no confidence in the superintendent and the board. You have to admit that this is not about the we can do better folks or people with an axe to grind. PAUSD has really screwed this up. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Now, before you get hurt by the criticism above, remember that you are okay, you are not demons, I don't want to demonize you. It's just that there is a significant percentage of bad teachers, just as there is a significant percentage of bad superintendents, associate superintendents, board members, principals, and yes, even parents. I don't see how any rational person, or poster, can criticize or demonize or generlize any of the above groups. Right now, we need PAEA to help us. It looks like you'll get your raise, so now you can swing your mighty weight for the good of our children. That needs to be focus of who we hire to replace Kevin and Charles and the current board.


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Posted by Anonimo
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2013 at 10:37 am

Voter, great post, prepare to be deleted. We are also at 100 posts, so they should be locking down the thread today. Don't worry, each article about the PAUSD generates 100 posts. When they don't hit 100, that is how you'll know Skelly, Young, the board, and their law firms, which you and I pay for, have won.


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Posted by Just another teacher
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2013 at 11:31 am

"PAUSD has really screwed this up. It is a laughingstock in educational circles."

I'd like to see you cite a source for this claim.


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Posted by alex
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2013 at 11:33 am

Bullying is a fact of life. Probably all mammals, at least, do it. You can't stop it. It happens to adults and children equally. You could teach how to handle it, but the hysteria over bullying is just that, hysteria.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by skellytons in the closet
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2013 at 11:57 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Also
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2013 at 12:06 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Voter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Just another teacher, keep quoting my posts because at least I can read what gets deleted.


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Posted by But
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 17, 2013 at 12:36 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Almost done with schools
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Sad to say, but, all in all, we are glad that we'll be completely done with PA schools in less than a year and a half, as our last child graduates.

I agree with some of the teachers posting here, BTW.

I will be particularly glad to be done with both the rampant (and largely unaddressed) bullying (we had our share of it) AND the toxic behaviors and attitudes of so many parents.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 17, 2013 at 2:06 pm

In defense of the Skelly administration, I have seen a HUGE reduction in the staff members that bullied children. I have also seen a big increase in positive role models and principals with a positive attitude.

An ongoing theme here is that ADULTS need to model the appropriate behavior. This applies to all levels of adults from parents to teachers to administration. In my experience, some of the most appropriate behavior regarding bullying has actually come from fellow students defending a child that has been bullied by either standing up to the bully and telling them their behavior was wrong or by befriending the child in question (or both).

Some basics -
Kids are sometimes mean. Especially middle school age kids. Compassion is tough and should be encouraged.
Parents in PAUSD are often very competitive, this does not always leave room for compassion toward those viewed as "less capable". This is especially true on completive sport teams.
Teachers are human. They are sometime less tolerant than they should be (although it seems like these teachers are slowly but surely leaving).


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2013 at 5:49 pm

The Zeno case from the Second Circuit that I posted earlier is very interesting in light of the facts in the PAUSD case that are publicly known. Here is the link to the case for anyone interested in reading along: Web Link

This case involves racial harassment rather than disability based harassment but the law is not different in any way that is relevant here. In this case, the facts showed that the school responded with disciplinary action in every case. Students were suspended and disciplined on a frequent basis. However, those responses did not end the harassment. The district was aware that the harassment had not ceased but it delayed in implementing any district wide response. Furthermore, the named district compliance officer never investigated because the school was handling it. In addition, the parents frequently emailed the superintendent and other district-level officials who either never responded or never met with her. As the citations below show, this is a perspective that is widely shared among US Courts of Appeals. In sum, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that:

"Responses that are not reasonably calculated to end harassment are inadequate. See, e.g., Vance v. Spencer Cnty. Pub. Sch. Dist., 231 F.3d 253, 262 (6th Cir. 2000) ("Where a school district has actual knowledge that its efforts to remediate are ineffective, and it continues to
use those same methods to no avail, such district has failed to act reasonably in light of the known circumstances."); Doe v. Sch. Bd. of Broward Cnty., 604 F.3d 1248, 1261 (11th Cir. 2010) (endorsing Sixth Circuit's approach)."

While many cases address delays preceding a school's initial response, once a school
is aware of its ineffective response, a delay before implementing further remedial action is no less problematic. See Wills v. Brown Univ., 184 F.3d 20, 26 (1st Cir. 1999) ("[E]vidence of an inadequate response is pertinent to show fault and causation where the plaintiff is claiming that she was harassed or continued to be harassed after the inadequate response."). At some point after Anthony's first semester, the District should have done more, and its failure to do more "effectively caused" further harassment. See Davis, 526 U.S. at 642-43."

As noted in my post above, one of the key pieces of evidence that the district should have done more, and that its failure to do more enabled the abuse to continue was that it did not train students, faculty and staff, and did not initiate a district level response despite having legal obligations to do so and having a designated compliance officer.

The facts in the PAUSD case that are publicly known and posted on the Weekly's website are in some ways worse. There is little evidence that the school took effective disciplinary action. As in Zeno there was no effective intervention. As in Zeno, there was no training for students, faculty, or staff. As in Zeno, there was a district compliance officer who failed to investigate. And, as in Zeno there were messages sent to district officials that also did not result in aid, as when the Director of Special Education turned down the school's request for an aide, by stating the bullying was the site's responsibility and not special education's. Thus, it appears that PAUSD may have some things in common in its response to the district in Zeno.

In Zeno, the plaintiff was awarded $1.25 million by the jury but that was reduced to $1million by the judge.This case was decided in 2011, so it seems that these responsibilities were clearly established, at least in the Second Circuit, at that time. This isn't a Ninth Circuot case. Still, food for thought there.


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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2013 at 6:26 pm

I took the time to read the Zeno vs Pine Plains Central School District document that Edmund Burke provided a link to in his post this morning and that he refers to in his most recent post above.

I find it quite ominous in it's implications for the Palo Alto Unified School District. I encourage everyone to read it. I am not a lawyer and I found most of it to be very understandable. At the very least Superintendent Skelly and his staff have put the district in an extremely compromised position in terms of their response to this child. Since it is also on the record that the family approached the school board with their child's problem, common sense would say that there is more than enough liability in this case to go around.

This is very very sobering on many many many levels.


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Posted by again
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 17, 2013 at 9:03 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by So It Will Cost Money
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2013 at 9:08 pm

But I thought I heard the PAUSD district's attorney saying at the board meeting, that the OCR investigation would not cost the district any money. So I guess, she was wrong because the parents of the victim could take them to court if they want to, just like Zeno did. I wish PAUSD officials would have protected the child when she was harassed that would had saved us a lot of money, money that could had been used on hiring more teachers or tutors to help those who are behind the bench marks.


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Posted by So It Will Cost Money
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2013 at 9:13 pm

I think many people who have a heart care. Do not speak for others. Speak for yourself. I care. I care for all children. Sad to hear that from coming out of you, a rich and educated person, but heartless:(. This is not about elections. They are over. It is not time to move on. The time to move on, when this issue gets taken care off. I am thinking that you probably are a mature person and have no little ones in the district. Maybe yours do not have a disability, but there are many who do, and for those I care. I care for the ones who suffer in silence. I wish you did too.


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Posted by I wish I may, I wish I might
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 18, 2013 at 4:46 pm

I wish that Kevin Skelly could be forced to watch the DVD, "Bully". Maybe then he would get a clue about what bullying does to a kid.

I hope someone will force him to read the NY Times article from a couple of weeks ago about the boy who was beaten so badly he slipped into a coma, and when his brainwaves stopped, his parents had his life-support system disconnected.

Dr Skelly is too disengaged to hold the job he somehow magically has kept. Firing him would greatly reduce the chances of lawsuits.


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Posted by I wish I may.....
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 18, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Having read the web link on the Zeno case in NY, I see a lot of similarities to several cases of bullying in the PAUSD over the years. Cases where the kids, and sometimes parents, complained repeatedly and were ignored. Most kids saw the futility and stopped complaining or even telling their parents, out of shame and fear of retribution. It seems that unless a child has an ultra-rich and powerful parent who can and will sue or damage careers, the situation is hopeless ( which can lead to violence against peers, by peers, or against self).

It seems that PAUSD needs to punish the staff members, including Kevin Skelly, who turned deaf ears. That seems to be the quickest way to prevent lawsuits and appease the victims' families.

My son and some of his friends, male and female, have been victims, so I know this has gone on unresolved for at least ten years.


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Posted by Jordan Dad
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2013 at 11:24 pm

It looks like the focus by the school district administration continues to be on providing legal protection for themselves rather than improving the situation for the students. Do they not care about the students' safety? I realize that our schools may not be worse, on average, that those in most other school districts. But does that mean that we should just let the bullying situation continue as-is and focus only on how to report incidents, rather than how to reduce them?


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Posted by disappointed
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2013 at 6:14 am

Jordan Dad,

It will be interesting to see what policy and message the district will have on April 9th. I agree with you that it would make sense that foremost is student safety.

Skelly said this is "complicated" because "Foremost is that bullying is a dark part of our collective human nature and a hard problem both on an institutional and an individual level."

The only dark part is Skelly's and the board's leadership on this topic. And of course, the handling of the bullying of the young girl, which brought about the OCR violation.

Different from parental modeling at home, schools are operating sub-climates in which kids will behave according to laws of the land in school. Unless adults in the school have a hand in school climate, kids will fill in. Skelly, Tom and the ladies on the board struggle too much with their policies and message as a district, I'm glad they don't actually have to run a school.


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Posted by Zeno
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 7:16 am

The facts in the Zeno v. Pine Plains case are horrible – including death and rape threats over 3+ years, a violent act that rendered a student unconscious, several police interventions needed to protect the student, and 30-50 family calls for help. The response by teachers, the principal and superintendent was anemic and narrow and continued to focus on student suspensions well after it was aware that the suspensions were not working; one of the suspensions was of the student who was discriminated against and not the harasser.

The award in Zeno was based on:
- the "pervasive atmosphere of racism" at the school even when the student was not present,
- "the ongoing and objective offensiveness of the student-on-student harassment" that continued for 3+ years unabated, and
- the school district's "deliberate indifference to discrimination,"
all which caused harm to the child.

Pine Plains, New York is a very small, rural, almost entirely white low-to-moderate income town with one main street running through it, surrounded by forests, near the Catskills. There is one public high school in Pine Plains which enrolls about 100 students per grade.

The Superintendent involved in the Zeno case is still the superintendent. The principal no longer works there.



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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 7:34 am

When one does not have the law on your side then you can always argue the facts. In this case, "Zeno" looks for things in the facts of the Zeno case to argue that it is different from the case at hand. That is not typically what courts do. It is what defense lawyers who have a weak hand do.

What is relevant in Zeno is that the school took disciplinary action in every case. If the response of the Pine Plains school was anemic then response of PAUSD was comatose. Even though the Pine Plains district took disciplinary action against the responsible students, it still was found liable for being deliberately indifferent for many of the same failings that occurred here: no district level investigation by the compliance officer, no disability harassment training (remember the principal who said she didn't need that because she was "very sophisticated") and no response from the superintendent who was repeatedly contacted over a long period of time.

The court in Zeno holds that the school was deliberately indifferent because once it realized that its interventions were not working it was required to try to do more. As in Zeno, PAUSD had notice that its interventions were not working. It was also required to do more without delay. Whether it did enough or not is a fact question. I don't have any idea what the record would ultimately show. But it certainly won't be enough to talk about how PAUSD is a wealthy suburban district and that was a poor rural one.

If anything that only harms PAUSD. Why can't we do better than a rural underserved district? Most districts who received findings of noncompliance with the law over the past four years for disability harassment have been poor and rural like Zeno. Why can't one of the richest communities in the world do better? Not for lack of resources. Not for lack of education. Not for lack of experts. This makes it look like a lack of will which is not exactly how you would like to stand in relation to the facts.

There's no way to know how this would come out before discovery which might never occur for a lot of reasons. But reading the cases is obviously educational for the community so that we can understand what we did wrong and why it is so important to fix it. It is certain that our new Public Information Officer will not be giving this kind of information.


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Posted by Paly mom x2
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 19, 2013 at 8:53 am

My son back in 09 when he was 12 and in 6th grade at Jordan had a sluiced attempt at school on school grounds ... With a yard duty a few feet away and when kids asked aren't u going to do anything ... The yard duty froze and put their head down ... The school had no idea what to do ... Grant it this was during the height of the suicides by train .... They were literally reading off a paper on what to do ... After multiple psyc evals it was determined his suicide attempt was because of bullying he was suffering at the school some of which was physical in nature earlier in the week .... He also was a special Ed student


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Posted by Zeno
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 9:09 am

Edmund Burke,

Each case has different facts and facts matter a lot when determining if a law has been broken.

One huge fact in Zeno was that suspension was the only tool the principal used to fight racism in his school. The principal, the official whose job it is to oversee the operations of the school and who has wide-discretion to come up with solutions, was passive, blamed the victim, and refused to think outside the box, telling the family that he would only think "short term" to help the child.

In the OCR findings, the PAUSD principal appeared to have done a sub-par job when he/she was first made aware of the situation. But a few weeks later the principal engaged; she met with the students involved, offered counseling to help the child, and was open to providing the child an aide. Near the end of that same school year, the family stopped sending the child to school until a new school was assigned. A week after the student stopped coming to school the district agreed to a transfer.

Pine Plains only had one high school; had there been two or more high schools in town would a transfer to a different school after 6 or so months of other efforts failed have stopped the bullying and been enough to avoid liability?

Lesser-to-not important facts in Zeno: The involvement of the compliance officer and superintendent appeared to be asides in Zeno, to both the court and the school board. Not mentioned in Zeno were district policies that were not followed or were incomplete.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 9:43 am

This is an interesting discussion. However you are incorrect about your understanding of why the Second Circuit found that the district was deliberately indifferent in that case. Whether or not that precedent will apply here and to what extent is not clear. But what is clear is that the Second Circuit held that when whatever it is that the school is doing to stop the harassment is known to be ineffective it must without delay do more.

It is also clear that the district's failure to have its compliance officer investigate in accordance with law and policy was a key factor in its determination of deliberate indifference.

If I were you I would talk about how the cow is a different color as well. But it's still a cow.


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Posted by Zeno
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 10:23 am

Edmund Burke,

Put 10 lawyers in a room to analyze a case and you'll get 20 different opinions. That's why we have judges - to make unbiased and studied determinations.

So while you think I am incorrect, you don't know nor do I for that matter.

I agree that improving and following policies that protect students from harm should be at the top of the district's list. Where we differ is that I do not cast blame and I reserve judgment on wrongdoing and the likelihood of a $1 million award until I know ALL of the facts and, even then, read the judge's opinion.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 10:31 am

"Put 10 lawyers in a room to analyze a case and you'll get 20 different opinions."

It depends on who else is in the room. If it's the Boardroom at 25 Churchill and they are giving misleading or false statements of fact in order to help a client appear to be in the right then probably yes. If they are giving an unbiased opinion and they understand what they are talking about and have a good legal education, then no.


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Posted by Zeno
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 10:53 am

Edmund Burke,

The law is never black and white and great lawyers are able to take the same facts and mold them to fit either side of a dispute. You, I surmise, know that.

Again, I reserve judgment until I know all the facts. You probably should too given that there is no other way to know what is "misleading or false."


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 11:00 am

There actually is a way to know what is "misleading or false." That is to compare the statements of fact to the documentary record, as the Weekly did in the case of statements made to the school board and public by Laurie Reynolds, district counsel from Fagan, Friedman, and Fulfrost. Many of the statements made by Ms. Reynolds were objectively false. When she was confronted about that by the Weekly, Kevin Skelly instructed her not to answer the paper's questions but merely to state that her firm did not comment to the media.

Web Link

So it is possible to know some things without a trial. That's why we have a free press.


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