Town Square

Grierson Admits Another OCR Investigation - Denies Fault

Original post made by PA Dad on Apr 15, 2013

In a letter to parents, Principal Chris Grierson of Duveneck Elementary tonight told parents that his school is the latest target for investigation of violations of federal civil rights law. However, he attempts to deflect blame by asserting that the OCR is simply responding to the national debate on bullying.

After the two recent federal findings of fault on the part of PAUSD, and the admission by our Superintendent that he hid the results from the Board, it is unlikely that the United States Department of Education chose to investigate Duveneck Elementary just to address "...a national rally cry on the issue of bullying."

Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, shame on you. Thrice?

At least Principal Grierson has invited everyone to come hear him tell his tale:

"Also, please feel free to join us at the next Principal's Coffee on Wednesday, April 17 at 8:00 AM, and our Social Emotional Learning Committee Meeting April 29 at 2:45 PM, where we will discuss a broad range of topics on student and campus safety.

Respectfully yours,

Chris Grierson
Duveneck Principal"

As so many public officials fail to learn, it isn't the crime -- it is the cover-up that gets them in the end.

I look forward to thoughtful comments by some and angered screeds from others. Perhaps parents and victims in the Duveneck community will come forward as well.


Posted by Jls mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 15, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Jls mom of 2 is a registered user.

What on earth is going on with Kevin Skelly? How could he have let it come to this a third time?! And how could this district have possibly have thought that the thing to do is to send out a denial? Really? Blame it on zeitgeist? How about blaming it on your compliance officer who doesn't not seem to have a clue what "compliance" means. PAUSD needs to clean house. No PR officer can fix what ails this district. Did the board know? If so why didn't the board inform the public at the last meeting ? Does anyone even have any energy left to be angry? My kids need to be protected from an environment where disabled kids are bullied. What is happening in this town?

Posted by Peggy Duncan, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 15, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

The federal government investigates complaints, not "rallying cries". So far the school district has chosen denial and delay in response to these issues. Sometimes that works, but usually it just makes matters worse. The school board seems unable to act decisively. It's clear that we probably have a systemic problem. Can the district leadership navigate through this without fundamental changes?

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2013 at 9:47 pm

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After the info about the first OCR investigation became public, many called for an objective investigation/external audit checking the systemic issues enabling all that went wrong. All that went wrong - including the fact that the info became available only because the family provided the info to the Weekly. Seems that such investigation is not on the agenda anymore. I started a thread a while ago- Web Link Seems to me that such objective investigation is crucial, regardless of the results of latest OCR investigation mentioned above.

Posted by Eileen 1, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 15, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Eileen 1 is a registered user.

Yes, an outside impartial review of our school district's management around these issues is essential. We now know that three schools have been investigated by the Office for Civil Rights. Are there more that we will hear about in the future? How can it be that a community with our resources, both financial and intellectual, is being run by a group of people that cannot even manage to comply with federal standards regarding the protection of a student's civil rights?

It is a travesty that this is happening in Palo Alto. Nothing that the district's soon to be employed "Communications Officer" can say will rectify this situation.

Perhaps now the School Board will do the right thing and put together a group of impartial community members to look into the district's problems with compliance. I believe that Sandra Pearson, former Principal of Paly, would be an excellent choice to be on this investigative body.

Posted by Spectator at Large, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 15, 2013 at 11:59 pm

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Eileen: Couldn't agree with you more. The investigation's time has come. We can't afford to not know what is causing all of this trouble.

I am not surprised that this occurred at Duveneck though as my own child was bullied right out of that school. We never looked back and were delighted with the social/emotional atmosphere at Ohlone. I was appalled with the competitiveness at Duveneck. I feel that competition is bred into the children by their overzealous parents. I also feel that some of those parents are bullies themselves.

What has happened to my once more civilized school district? This community is not what it used to be.....and now we have to worry about the "rape culture" at Paly. When will this all stop? We need a complete overhaul and it can't come soon enough. It should start with removal of Skelly and his right hand man (on administrative leave) until we figure out what went wrong. Skelly cannot be allowed to lie to us any longer.

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2013 at 11:45 pm

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@editor - curious to understand why this thread was made available only to those logged in, while a parallel later thread, dealing with this issue which was posted by the editor is open?

Posted by PA Dad, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 21, 2013 at 8:08 am

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Posting here for a couple of reasons. The other thread has become too long and second, most of the comments there miss a key point.

This is not an issue of bullying, this is an issue of violations of State and Federal law. And the law is clear that two individuals are personally responsible for compliance. The Superintendent and the Principal. Kevin Skelly AND Chris Grierson.

So while bullying, mismanagement of funds, weak oversight, conflicts of interest, violations of privacy, and some truly awful other district employees are bad, the United States Department of Education has concluded that sufficient cause exists to investigate actions taken under our policy of site control by Principal Grierson and others.

Note that Skelly said he had no further information, but that Grierson took the time to issue essentially a press release to admit the Federal government was investigating HIS school and to deny blame.

So while many fish may be rotting in PAUSD, and while Chris Grierson may be a fine and upstanding young man, the fact remains that HIS SCHOOL is the target of a Federal investigation. Not of bullying, but of violating Federal laws, regulations and codes.

Site control and the California Education Code are clear about who is responsible for the safety of our children. Not Charles Young, but Kevin Skelly and Chris Grierson.

Posted by Eileen 1, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 21, 2013 at 9:34 am

Eileen 1 is a registered user.

@PA Dad
I agree with your comments. I think it is extremely important to focus on the fact that this is not about bullying it IS about a violation of state and federal law. It IS about a failure to protect the civil rights of our communities children.

The reason Charles Young is at fault in this mess is because he is the "Compliance Officer" for the school district. His job is to make sure that the schools comply with the state and federal law. He is the district officer who should have been involved with the individual schools - ensuring that they were following the law.

I urge you to come to the next school board meeting, this Tuesday, April 23rd at 6:30, and address the school board directly. Take your 3 minutes during the open forum section on the agenda and tell them that you want an investigation into this mess that will finally reveal to the community how the district got to the point that it failed to comply with the Office of Civil Rights. If more people would actually come to the school board meeting and speak their minds on this issue the school board would have to act. Or, look even worse than the do now.

Posted by isez, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 21, 2013 at 11:14 pm

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[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Don't speculate. Bullying is not easy to curb. Physical bullying, yes, a child was kicked out of school. Emotional bullying, NO. How do you stop children from spewing out mean words? How do you stop a child with a bad attitude from rolling their eyes or looking a person up and down?

We are at Duveneck, on our 8th year there. We have had issues with bullying and have spoken to teachers and administration and the issues were resolved.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Parents will complain about anything. Palo Altans complain too much. We are not an inner city school. Our children are safe at Duveneck.

Posted by jls mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 21, 2013 at 11:20 pm

jls mom of 2 is a registered user.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] We're not an "inner city town" and you just bullied the family that filed the complaint. People in the "inner city" (and I guess that is some kind of codeword for race) don't have the kind of bullying issues we see in high income places like Palo Alto and Saratoga. Bullying, as distinguished from other kinds of lack of safety, is not necessarily tied to income. We don't have gangs and guns. But we do have suicide, drugs, rape, and bullying. Palo Alto, you are not special. Frankly I'd take an "inner city" community over this snobby, self-satisfied town any day.

Posted by isez, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 22, 2013 at 12:47 am

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[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] A public School of Nirvana does not exist! "Suicide, drugs, rape, and bullying" is at every public high school. People seem to forget that PAUSD is a public school and there are rules the administration has to follow. They can't just kick out a student without proper documentation. Take your child to a private school if you don't appreciate PAUSD.

I have four children and have witnessed some of these parents, and YES, some ARE crazy. They yell at administration, they threaten lawsuits, or their children provoke bullying and they fail to see it. If parents would approach administration in a professional manner, they will see results. AT WORST, go to the school and watch your kid all day. I did this and the bullying stopped after a few days. There is no rule against a parent visiting campus. It's called "volunteering."

Posted by Spectator at large, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 22, 2013 at 6:30 am

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@isez: r u serious? "If parents would approach administration in a professional manner they will see results" [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] If the administration would do things professionally we wouldn't be in this huge mess.

What makes you think that everybody can just pick up their kids and send them to a private school?

BTW, There is one public school in Palo Alto that I believe volunteers are not allowed in. That one is the, "homework in kindergarten" school. When I visited that school several years back, I was told that volunteers and parents in the classroom were looked at at as a disruption. In retrospect I believe that school is a feeder school into the more high-pressure secondary schools in our district. I can't afford to send my children to Private schools. That is why I am striving to help improve the public schools that we do have in our district.

I will no longer sit back and watch our students suffer. Your attitude of resignation is truly stunning!

I have been a mere spectator for far too long. I will be at the next board meeting in the public forum letting people know how I feel about all the missteps that are happening in our district. Our kids deserve way better!

Posted by Chris Zaharias, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2013 at 7:10 am

Chris Zaharias is a registered user.

Principal Grierson has shown himself to be an especially kind, thoughtful administrator every single time I've interacted with him. Given that these are for now accusations and not something more, he has my full support, and presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

To those condemning him before the process plays itself out, you're... bullying.

Posted by isez, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 22, 2013 at 10:57 am

isez is a registered user.

@Spectator at large: re your statement, "What makes you think that everybody can just pick up their kids and send them to a private school?" Because Palo Alto houses are worth $1 million plus. Why do people think they are entitled to live in Palo Alto if they cannot afford it? Why live here if one is scraping to pay the mortgage or rent each month with no leftover "fun" money or money to save? How is this any different than being poor? Is this good for children if they cannot engage in extracurriculars or learning experiences due to finances? There are plenty of towns which are less expensive. And I've met these people. Guess what? They are happy and live in larger houses than most Palo Altans. Why does everyone want so stubbornly to live in Palo Alto if they can barely afford it? Big egos chasing an unattainable dream.

Bullying will never completely end in any public schools due to parenting differences; those who think they can extinguish all bullying are the ones who believe racism will end too and MLK's dream will come true. And as long as there is one child who is bullied, there is a parent ready to attack the school district.

Our students are hardly "suffering".

Posted by jls mom of 2, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 22, 2013 at 11:40 am

jls mom of 2 is a registered user.

Chris, I can appreciate what you are saying about Grierson and the fact that these are complaints not findings (as yet). However, you are not really addressing the fact that another poster called the complaining parent "crazy" repeatedly. Nor is it "bullying' to state that some parents have had their confidence in Chris Grierson perhaps shaken by the new complaint.

Calling people "bullies" for being upset about federal civil rights complaints does nto make sense to me, sorry. Even given the fact that these are only complaints that have not yet been proved or disproved, the fact that a situation got so out of hand that it resulted in a federal complaint is a concern for the parent community of PAUSD. The reason that this keeps happening is that the district and Duveneck have no lawful or appropriate policy for addressing complaints.

Further it takes no lawyer to tell you that given that the last complaint was valid in part due to the fact that PAUSD has no effective policy, and that it still has no effective policy, and did not have one during the timeframe of this complaint, that this complaint will likely be valid too at least as concerns that issue. Whether or not the rest of the facts will be proved remains to be seen but one thing we know for sure is that we had no policy governing complaints based on disability harassment at the time that the facts in this new complaint unfolded BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE ONE TODAY.

I think therefore it would be best to refrain from calling people bullies for being concerned about what is happening at Duveneck, just as it would be best to refrain from passing judgment on Grierson. On Skelly and Young I think it is safe to pass judgment as we already have a record to judge.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]