http://paloaltoonline.com/square/print/index.php?i=3&d=1&t=21276


Town Square

In secret, school board weighs not cooperating with federal agency

Original post made on Jul 12, 2013

Palo Alto Board of Education members and their attorneys have discussed in closed session and in emails how they might challenge the legal authority of the federal Department of Education to impose on the district new policies on bullying and other issues and possibly even to conduct investigations, the Weekly has learned.
==B Related stories:==
Web Link - U.S. agency investigates peer sexual harassment at Paly
Web Link - Family files claim against school district
Web Link - Editorial: Some PR advice for school district, city


Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, July 12, 2013, 9:23 AM

Comments

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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 12, 2013 at 7:00 am

Thank you Weekly for uncovering this. I am astonished. The idea that our school board vice president Barb Mitchell is secretly trying to figure out how to keep the federal government from protecting students in our district is sickening. The fact that our school board president Dana Tom is misleading the public by mislabeling closed meetings is truly appalling. That they are using public dollars to pay lawyers to help them pull the wool over our eyes just gilds the lily.
This is a democracy. If the school board wants to plot resistance against civil rights they should be doing it in public, where we can all see and decide whether that fits our values and what we want for our school district. Doing this in secret is just reprehensible.
Mr. Dauber has this exactly right. Enough of cover-ups and falsehoods.


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Posted by really?
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 12, 2013 at 8:10 am

This is an amazing sentence: "[Barb Mitchell] asked what could be done to protect the district from 'expansive federal requests for information or investigations, and/or protections from subsequently discovered 'violations' unrelated to the complaint, or when there is no complaint at all?'"

Barb Mitchell is making the remarkable claim that the federal government does not have the authority to pursue violations of civil rights law affecting children unless they are told about it in a complaint. This is like a restaurant owner telling a health inspector that since the customer complained about dirty dishes, they can't write a violation for the dead rat in the corner. But this isn't about dirty dishes, it's about equal protection and equal treatment for all of our students. No wonder the school board wants to do this in secret.


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Posted by slow news day?
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 12, 2013 at 8:16 am

So, a board member asking about the district's legal position somehow becomes "planning in closed sessions to evade federal civil-rights law"?

"The possible strategy, a far cry from the cooperative and collegial relationship described by district officials and their attorneys in public session,"
Since the described "collegial relationship" was about completed OCR investigations and before this email was sent, that's a huge jump. You'd expect the editor to know this even if the poor level of journalism missed it. Come on, Editor, do your job.

"Ken Dauber, co-founder of the parent group We Can Do Better Palo Alto and a regular advocate of more transparency "

Really? Check out this thread Web Link Ken & WCDBPA appear to have an interesting interpretation of transparency.


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Posted by Ashamed of us
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 12, 2013 at 8:58 am

Does it matter whether or not the OCR has the right to make the district follow the law? Should we not want to follow the law and protect minority groups in this district?

Why not focus on solving the problems?


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Posted by support
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 12, 2013 at 9:01 am

I agree with the district's thinking. It is good practice to plan out every possible avenue and outcome. If my school board wasn't doing this, I'd be concerned.

I support PAUSD.


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Posted by Check Please
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2013 at 9:49 am

How much has been wasted in staff time and money spent on lawyers in an effort to avoid compliance on policies and training that would only benefit our students? Thank you Weekly for your report. Ms. Mitchell and Mr. Tom, please shut this operation down. You have both sworn an oath to uphold federal and state laws. Site autonomy does not apply to districts.


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Posted by Old Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2013 at 9:55 am

I agree with challenging the authority of any federal agency, that's called responsible citizenship. Want to screw things up, get the federal government involved.

If Paly needs a federal investigation I would assume schools in East Los Angeles would need NATO to get involved! It makes me wonder why anyone would want to be a teacher anymore. You have no authority and full responsibility for the short comings of bad parenting.

I also feel sorry for these kids once they get into the real world. I guess they can live with Mommy and Daddy to have their civil rights protected.


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Posted by saw this coming
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 12, 2013 at 10:11 am

The School Board is doing what it is elected to do.

I see no plans to "evade federal rights laws" as Ken Dauber reports, just questions for attorneys about what on the list of things that the OCR requires are within its legal authority to demand and what are overstepping/on a wish list.

The OCR is a governmental agency like the IRS. It enforces Congress' laws but it does not write them. At times governmental agencies get it wrong, which is why the business of tax litigation, where taxpayers fight the IRS' position, is thriving with courts often ruling in the taxpayers' favor and against the IRS.

Given the serious challenges made about the OCR overstepping its authority in 2011 in its peer sexual harassment guidelines, we will probably soon see a litigation bump with public schools and colleges winning against the Department of Education too.

One would hope that federal departments would be beyond reproach, but see the discussion in an earlier thread that shows that even the US Office of Budget Management is frustrated and doing what it can to curb other federal agencies' abuse of power.

Web Link

Web Link

The OCR's new "rules" set out in a letter quietly posted on the Department of Education website got no legislative or public vetting. Heck, the media didn't even notice it.

The OCR refused to put its rules through a normal, open process likely because it knew that in key areas it was overstepping its authority and would be shot down if it had.

The OMB knows what this does out in the field: "poorly designed or misused guidance documents [i.e., US agency guidance letters] can impose significant costs or limit the freedom of the public."

Thank you PAUSD School Board for independent thinking and working to fully understand the situation before acting.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2013 at 10:16 am

"I agree with challenging the authority of any federal agency, that's called responsible citizenship. Want to screw things up, get the federal government involved."

Apparently, the federal government screwed up by enforcing Civil Right in the South, or federal work place safety guidelines, or child labor laws, to name name just a few examples. If we let local governments ignore the federal government guidelines we still might have Jim Crow laws in some parts of the country, as well as some other practices we associated with countries like Zambia or El Salvador. As a matter of fact, the easiest way to screw up is for local governments to ignore the federal government guidelines.

The silliness of the anti-government types in this country would be laughable if it weren't so dangerous.


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 12, 2013 at 10:18 am

What is behind these federal "investigations" - the interest of the students or the interest of political groups like WCDBPA? Parents should go to Board meetings and look at the actions of the Board and some of the people claim they want something better - just look at the behavior and make your own decision.


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Posted by Thanks
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2013 at 10:18 am

This proves one more time how dirty our school district is. Thanks Palo Alto Weekly for bringing out the truth. Shame on our superintendent and school board.


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Posted by Never been more disgusted
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2013 at 10:20 am

The wheels came off this bus long ago, and we would never know it if not for the board and Kevin Skelly's incompetence, and some clever reporting by the Weekly. I love those of you who write in your support of PAUSD. I believe you do. But you don't support our kids, at least all of our kids. Our leaders need to make every decision for our kids. Barb Mitchell, Dana Tom, the lawyers, and Kevin Skelly appear to be working to fight OCR, the victims, and the Weekly, instead of using their energy to help children.

Folks, you need to know that PAUSD helped itself into this mess by not fixing its broken system. It lacks clear policies and procedures that are standardized at all campuses. At its best, this would be the site-based management that Skelly has sold you, but it's pretty much smoke and mirrors. Skelly's strategy was to promote site-based management as a way of distancing himself from culpability when things went wrong. It's a strategy that can work wonderfully in good times, but everyone knows that strong, hands-on leadership is required in difficult times, and these are the most difficult of times. Right now, teachers and principals are practicing CYA. Those that got out are the lucky ones at this point, including Phil Winston. The unlucky ones are the ones who have failed to take charge and responsibility, and that would be our board, Skelly, Charles Young, and the rest of them. They need to be pushed out. Barb Mitchell is focusing her energies on attacking everything and everyone instead of working to make things for our kids.

Thank you Weekly for excellent reporting, but I will add that PAUSD makes it all too easy for you. You are going to miss the board and Skelly and the others when they are gone, but we won't. Their time in PAUSD is over. Every reasonable person knows it, but they are going to stretch this out to get the most public money that they can. The bad part about the Weekly's reporting is that its truth has damaged the reputations of our leaders, which will make them fight and direct even more energy away at attacking their critics.


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Posted by slow news day?
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 12, 2013 at 10:27 am

"But you don't support our kids, at least all of our kids. "

I'm pretty sure I do far more to support our kids, all of our kids, than you do. Tally up your involvement with the kids in our schools and we can compare notes.


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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2013 at 10:58 am

This would be comical if it weren't so tragic. The incompetence, arrogance, and hubris of PAUSD knows no bounds. Good luck with fighting the Feds--when you piss off the Federal Government and they bring their full weight to bear, you get crushed.


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Posted by APR
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2013 at 11:02 am

This is an alarming headline that seems more incendiary than fair. Since our government can be officious and our elected officials can make mistakes or even be bad players the public needs to be able to rely on the press for honest reporting so that valid conclusions can be drawn. Are we getting that?


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Posted by Agree with Board
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 12, 2013 at 11:10 am

People ask about the hours spent on this kind of response, but a far more germane question is: How many hours have been spent responding to OCR demands for information that far outstretch the situations? How many hours have been spent responding to public records requests from this newspaper and the Daubers? How many hours have been spent NOT working on the core efforts of the district because OCR has a political agenda as revealed in many of its writings? I would have been disappointed had the school board NOT have been exploring these kinds of questions. I am astonished at the tone of this article and deeply saddened at the resources being directed AWAY from children due to the actions and accusations of just a few individuals. There are some 12,000 students in PAUSD. How are all of these things affecting the teaching and learning available for all them?


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Posted by recall
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2013 at 11:10 am

Finally they screwed up enough with redacting not only to reveal names of people at schools having issues, but to incriminate themselves. There should be a candle light vigil in front of each school board member's home. Remember victims, protect them, don't hide behind omission of truth and lies. Shame on all of you.

It is time to recall our Board. EB, how do we start this process?


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Posted by Now I've Seen Everything!
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 12, 2013 at 11:16 am

Old Palo Alto,

What you wrote about kids living with mom and dad so their civil rights would be protected is just reprehensible! We are talking here about students' rights to learn in school and become educated without having to fear for their emotional and physical safety! If PAUSD is not going to protect their rights to an education than I hope the OCR will!


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Posted by slow news day?
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 12, 2013 at 11:20 am

@recall
To start with you need someone to replace them. Lesser candidates have failed at the ballot box. Unless you're able to find better candidates, any recall will fail.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Raymond
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2013 at 11:23 am

Fast Lane to the Unemployment line. Throw the Bums out!


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Posted by Community Center parent
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 12, 2013 at 11:39 am

Those that say, "I support PAUSD (over federal investigations)" and those that accuse whiney kids wanting their privileged parents to protect their civil rights when there is reason to believe civil rights have been violated…are being short-sighted.

If you are sure your child is protected via your volunteerism in school or your cozy relationship with the school then I would truly be happy for you.

Civil Rights protect all children to have a minimum of rights and if you do not care about that for ALL children then EVERYONE's rights are at risk eventually. The best cities do not guarantee the best citizenship which I define as having a concern for the greater good. A very, very sad situation if the most privileged residents in this economic environment cannot care about the welfare of others.


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Posted by Tony Putulin
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2013 at 11:48 am

I also fully support PAUSD. It is rather obvious which side The Weekly is on. This smells of media sensationalism. It definitely caught my attention. It sells. Stop polarizing the community PA Weekly. You need to do more collaboration amongst the parties, not divisiveness.


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Posted by complain, complain
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2013 at 12:14 pm

I completely support PAUSD and the board members. I personally know all of the board members and believe that they are doing way more than any of the "back seat drivers" or the Weekly is doing to support our students.

Will some students fall through the cracks? Yes, they will but there is no way that the superintendent or the board members can possibly stop everything that may happen to 10,000 students. The best that they can try to do is find a way to support students. Parents need to be part of the equation as well. Got time to criticize; why not spend that energy in helping to find creative, positive solutions rather than spinning the story. It is getting really old to hear the bashing without offering anything to assist with the issues.


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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm

@Tony,

You don't help by characterizing this as "sides." Don't shoot the messenger; the Weekly's reporting has carefully reported what it has uncovered, obviously through a lot of effort, and they even make the source documents available to us so we can check their work. You don't help collaboration or reduce divisiveness by keeping things secret. The sooner the district's officials realize that the sooner we can focus on solutions and positive change. What we do need is less shouting on these forums and more discussion. It doesn't help for those who are concerned to simply call for heads to roll.


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Posted by slow news day?
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 12, 2013 at 12:22 pm

@Community Center parent
" The best cities do not guarantee the best citizenship which I define as having a concern for the greater good. "
Actually, your posts defines "best citizenship" as "let the government look after the kids interests".
Where do you think this district would be without the volunteerism and parental involvement in schools? Looking out for and after ALL the kids in the schools.
To simply disregard your responsibility to the kids in the district and say "the government should do it" is not supporting them.


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Posted by PA
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 12, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I support PAUSD as well. There seems to be a small, very vocal minority that will do
anything it takes to paint PAUSD in a bad light. This group unfortunately seems to
include some disgruntled lawyers. [Portion removed] if all of the negative behavior could be funneled
into something positive, this would be a better place.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Citizen
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2013 at 12:42 pm

This personal vendetta against the school board and district personnel has gone too far. When you use, not only families with real problems [portion removed], but also exploit the zeal for sensational stories of local press, and even involve government resources to pursue your individual [portion removed], you are creating so much damage. Careers, reputations, money needed to educate students - all wasted. And it has done nobody any good. Once again, I ask you to stop. [Portion removed] perhaps you could one day use your talents to actually do some good for students.


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Posted by Community Center parent
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Adobe-Meadows, you bring up the point about volunteerism and community involvement and I can say that I do more than my fair share, in time and financial contributions. Others do even more and I am grateful for their commitment. Our volunteer involvement does not change policy or governance that makes sure that PROCEDURES are followed to guarantee the rights for all. Principals in schools WERE NOT AWARE that they were supposed to record bullying/harassment situations and then follow-up with a resolution. These "situations" were (voiceless) children that fell through the cracks while Skelly could report that there was a major reduction in bullying instances. "Mishandling" and other reasons for overlooking violations are not corrected by volunteers.
Web Link
This is not about being divisive, it's about accountability and solutions for making sure this does not happen again to any child.


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Posted by Citizen
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2013 at 1:26 pm

No. It's about being divisive. If not, the emphasis would be on working with the school district, rather than attacking individuals who work for it.

Although there are cultural problems at Paly, they could be improved upon by a community willing to look realistically at the broad picture, rather than attacking a few individuals.

Although there are problems with bullying, and civil rights enforcement, these are complex, and to improve upon them would require a community willing to approach them constructively, without a singular goal of blaming a few individuals.

When you make it about attacking a few individuals, you distract the entire community from any effort that might be made to actually solve the problems.

Please stop the attacks, roll up your sleeves, as so many of us did to stop the suicide cluster, and get to work making a positive contribution. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by soccer mom
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 12, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Saw This Coming Wrote: "The OCR is a governmental agency like the IRS. It enforces Congress' laws but it does not write them. At times governmental agencies get it wrong, which is why the business of tax litigation, where taxpayers fight the IRS' position, is thriving with courts often ruling in the taxpayers' favor and against the IRS."

Let me understand this. You are comparing the appropriate response to a finding by the Dept of Education Office for Civil Rights to a letter from the IRS? Really? You probably see no problem with transfer pricing, the double Irish and all of the other shenanigans that Tim Cook peddled before Congress.

Sometimes the government actually gets it right. It is too bad that the .001% who are well represented in this community, on this forum and on the Board are steeped to the gills in anti-government rhetoric.

The OCR resolution agreed to by Dr. Skelly contains common sense remediation to the lack of a coherent District policy, complaint procedure, and training on disability based harassment. Has the Board provided any update to the community on the progress against each of the actions Dr. Skelly committed to? Not on any Board agenda I have found.

This is not a situation where lawyering up and fighting tooth and nail because you have the resources to do so is of any benefit to anyone. The resolution letter provided clear guidance on what needs to be done. As Dr. Skelly is fond of saying - just get after it. Implement the changes and report progress to the community.

Perhaps the District's new Communications Office can put a checklist up on the website with what has been done and what is left to do. Training admin staff. DONE - dates and person(s) accountable.

You don't have to be part of some "relentless" group looking to tear down the district to want to be informed on progress on this important issue.

Dana, Barb, Heidi, Camille and Melissa - what has been done and what is left to do to bring the District into compliance with the Resolution letter?



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Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 12, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I too support the PAUSD, and I'm pleased that the Board is willing to stand up to the OCR and its questionable and unproven legal theories and excessive demands. It's too bad the district made the mistake of posting these emails, and it's sad, but not unexpected, that the Weekly would publish confidential materials like these.

It's great to see more of the supporters of the district--those who helped elect our current board--being heard on this issue.

My kids, who had their problems with bullying as they went through the PAUSD, are bemused, but not amused, by these intemperate attacks on our hard-working school personnel.


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Posted by Hoe Dare They!
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 12, 2013 at 2:22 pm

How dare the School Board try to deceive and circumvent the Federal Dept of Education and the OCR! That boils down to denying students their constitutional rights!

Thank Heaven the Weekly has made this information public, because the School Board members will certainly be voted out in the next election. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Tony Putulin
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2013 at 2:29 pm

I am so pleased that the PAUSD supporters are coming out and expressing their opinions. I believe what is going on right now is an overeaching and overreacting on the part of OCR. There is also so much politicking involved on the part of some local community leaders. To put this whole discussion in perspective, we are are a whole lot better now compared to ten years ago. Can we do better? Yes, we can but not at the expense of some hidden political agenda. Honestly, I sincerely wish The Weekly could be a more responsible and accountable "messenger".


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Posted by PAUSD supporter
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2013 at 2:49 pm

I am a strong supporter of PAUSD. I give money to PIE, I volunteer at our school's silent auction and other activities. I show up in my daughter's classroom from time to time.
I am also a strong supporter of democratic institutions. That includes having elected officials who tell the truth to the public, who do the public's work in public, and who respect the rule of law.
That is not happening among our school district leadership right now. (And I am old enough to know that confusing love for an organization or community and blind loyalty to its current leadership is a very bad idea).
Barb Mitchell's view on federal authority to enforce our civil rights law in education does not match my own. I bet it doesn't match many people's. I also bet that is why she is trying to hide it from the public. But that is not what elected officials should do.
Dana Tom is telling the public that closed meetings of the school board are about one thing when they are really about another. That is not right. Closed meetings are intended to deal with specific legal cases, not to plot against federal authority or even to discuss how to deal with a federal agency. I think he is doing it because he doesn't want the public to know what is going on.
Kevin Skelly seems not to understand that the school district is a public agency and that he can't keep hiding things from the public.
I like PAUSD, and I love some of the teachers. I don't like Mr. Tom, Ms. Mitchell, and Mr. Skelly. I think they are doing a bad job.
I also appreciate the Weekly. Mr. Putulin's post does not address the accuracy of what the Weekly is reporting -- none of the "defenders" do that. He just wishes that our newspaper would report less controversial news. I am happy that we have a free press that will tell us the truth, even when our public agencies have decided not to.


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Posted by Are you kidding me
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 12, 2013 at 3:03 pm

You very small group of bitter people in Palo Alto, WCDB, etc... just don't get it! 95% of parents in Palo Alto find all of this stuff nonsense and not important at all. Now it is just becoming a big joke! and as usual Weekly is playing right into it.

If you have a problem with Palo Alto Schools send your kids to Ravenswood Schools or San Jose schools, get a dose of reality. Like I have said in past, to many intellectual minds with way to much time and ego on their hands. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Never been more disgusted
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Great to see so many "new" posters out there supporting PAUSD and criticizing those who would dare criticize the school board. Remind me to not teach that to my students. Thou shall not criticize your elected officials or you will be crushed! Or maybe I will continue to teach my students that their democratic duty is to criticize their elected and paid leaders to ensure that they are representing us. My union president may be silent right now, but I will not be. What the board, the superintendent, and other administrators have done is simply not acceptable. Oh, and if it helps you, I am not a member of WCDBPA. I'm just a Palo Alto homeowner and parent who has had enough. This district does not have my support.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jul 12, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Why are you people shooting the messenger like this? I think the Weekly is doing a fantastic job, amazing really for a local independent paper. I guess you think local journalism should just stick to real estate ads (your favorite section no doubt) and garage sales and report no news at all. This is first rate local journalism and I feel blessed to live in a place that has good reporting. I don't always agree with them on their editorials (for example, they are dead wrong on banning poor people from living in their cars and I was shocked to see them take such a view) and wrong on Maybell -- elderly people have to live somewhere too. They have become pretty NIMBY for me. But be that as it may, thank goodness we have a paper of this caliber.

On the topic, I see this very differently. It is not being unsupportive of the schools to want the district superintedent to do his job. It is the height of supporting our students to want them not to be raped, punched in the face, stalked, harassed, and bullied for their race, gender, or disability. Anyone who thinks otherwise is depraved and all this shooting the messenger is a big distraction from the real issue: how can we put this back on track and restore trust in our government officials?


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Posted by boscli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2013 at 3:24 pm

The board has virtually no chance of fighting the federal government on this. We will end up with the federal government crushing the school board. The board is terrified that the shameful conduct of the Superintendent and his staff, enabled through the unprecedented incompetence and hubris of the board will be revealed and that individual members of the board will become targets of lawsuits. This is really what's behind this shocking and embarrassing news.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jul 12, 2013 at 3:47 pm

@boscoli: The board is terrified that . . . individual members of the board will become targets of lawsuits. This is really what's behind this shocking and embarrassing news.

Too late for that. If they keep lying like this, it's only a matter of time. The only right answer is to come to Jesus now while there is still time. I would have thought Melissa was smarter than this. I guess Dartmouth really is a lesser Ivy.


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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2013 at 4:06 pm

"PAUSD supporter" You captured my feelings perfectly. We and will continue to be major donors to PiE and love our schools. That does not mean we can't also strongly disagree with the school board and administration for how they are behaving and the secrecy with which they are operating. Efforts here to blame the Weekly for what has really been an impressive amount of fair and accurate reporting of factual information is very disappointing for a community that should value the role of the press. I have not seen one poster cite a single inaccuracy in this story. If there aren't any, then why aren't we talking about the real issues of how our district is being governed?


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Posted by saw this coming
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 12, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Federal laws governing us are of a very high standard because they have gone through a thorough and lengthy public process. Letters from agency heads which tag what's in them "guidance," that perhaps no one besides the head of the agency and his/her secretary looked at, at times fall short.

All our school board is doing is its due diligence. Folks would be unhappy if it didn't because here some of what the OCR may require could involve a redirection of considerable resources, possible breaches of student privacy, perhaps a complete disregard of the victim's wishes, and may even involve a determination of guilt which denied the accused student his or her due process rights.

Take forcing a district to create a policy that requires investigations EVERY time it gets word that a boy harassed a girl or vice versa. If Student X reports that Student Girl was being harassed by Student Boy at Town & Country, should all three students be pulled out of class, mediation procedures implemented, parents (and police) called in even when Student Girl did not report it, has since shrugged it off and knows to avoid Student Boy forever more?

Slights must happen hundreds of times a year given the 2,000 students who interact at Paly 8 hours a day, on the campus, on the sports fields, at Town and Country and at parties.

Can you see all the resources that would have to go into tracking down students, how many classes would be missed, how uncomfortable it could make students who have problem solved on their own and, how it may even make it worse for all 3 because of the heightened attention drawn to the matter? Or what about, as a result of this strict policy, the new kind of harassment students will be able to anonymously inflict on others by making false claims?

All forms of harassment are serious and not something that should be taken lightly. It is just that Paly has systems in place for this already. Every student on campus has at least one adult to go to immediately if something is bothering him or her at school, at home, or even at T&C, and a guidance team and administrators on call almost 24/7 who will step in when needed.

All the student needs to do is talk to someone and, if he or she wants help, an entire support system will appear.

So what is the OCR asking that is different? If it requires the district to investigate every claim, it takes the student's wishes out of the equation and turns the district into "big brother" who must watch and intervene.

I am not prone to hyperbole, but that one requirement could turn monitoring students' interactions into the main business of our high schools.

And what happens if, after the district "investigates," the harassment at T&C doesn't stop? Will this rule open the district up to liability for not having investigated the right way? The OCR is completely silent on what a "proper" investigation would involve. How many lawsuits will be brought because of false accusations, violations of privacy, or even differences in opinion on how the investigation should have been run?

Does the Federal Civil Rights law say PAUSD "may" intervene or does it say, like people report that the OCR claims, it has to?

So that is where the district's attorneys will help. They will be able to answer whether the OCR guidance is what Congress intended.

If it is, the board will comply.

If it is not, the board will have interests to weigh and decisions to make.

There is nothing insidious or wrong with that.


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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2013 at 4:40 pm

@saw this coming,

Then why not be open about these questions/issues with the public? It's the secrecy that is so distasteful about all this, because now we don't know what else is being kept secret from the public. The board and administration has created so many doubts by not being forthcoming that their every action raises suspicion. Heck, they wouldn't even comment on all this once they knew it was going to be reported.


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Posted by Midtown Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 12, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Thank you @STC. I appreciate hearing a voice of reason.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 12, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"So that is where the district's attorneys will help. They will be able to answer whether the OCR guidance is what Congress intended.

If it is, the board will comply.

If it is not, the board will have interests to weigh and decisions to make."

Correct - and this discussion should, and under law, MUST take place in public session. The matter under discussion does NOT fall under any of the very narrow closed session exemptions of the Brown Act.


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Posted by soccer mom
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 12, 2013 at 5:02 pm

STC wrote "It is just that Paly has systems in place for this already. Every student on campus has at least one adult to go to immediately if something is bothering him or her at school, at home, or even at T&C, and a guidance team and administrators on call almost 24/7 who will step in when needed.

You must not be aware that there are two high schools in Palo Alto. Gunn does not have one adult to go to immediately since there is no TA program at Gunn. Another PAUSD Board folly. At Gunn, if a student has a problem they queue up with 300 of their peers in line for one of the overworked counselors.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Mike Tran
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 12, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Palo Alto schools, love it or leave it? No thanks. I pay a big mortgage and big taxes for these schools. These screwups and dirty tricks have to stop.


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Posted by saw this coming
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 12, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Paly parent,

I can't speak to what was discussed in closed session because I was not there. Nor was the Weekly. Think about it. If the Weekly was not at that meeting how does it know what was said there? Maybe the board decided against discussing it. Don't let the Weekly's headline writer fool you ("In secret, school board weighs not cooperating with federal agency"), the article makes it clear that this headline is just speculation.

The rules about closed sessions are in the Brown Act.

It is completely plausible that the board stayed within the confines of the Brown Act when it discussed in closed session, as Dana Tom said, two cases with significant exposure to litigation.

To determine "how" significant that "exposure" is, the discussion should have included Barb Mitchell's question - what the Civil Rights laws require and what they do not. It is logical that what happened in that room is exactly what the board said happened and Barb Mitchell's question came up because the litigants brought up OCR "guidance" as a reason for their claim. (Again it is PURE speculation by the Weekly and its experts when it suggests that the district discussed unraveling prior OCR agreements etc. there instead.)

I would be floored if the Brown Act only allowed closed sessions to discuss the facts of a case and required that all legal advice, legal deliberations and legal theories be shared with the public (and plaintiffs). That interpretation of the Brown Act would effectively rewrite other state laws and bar public agencies the right to attorney client privileged communications. That would not stand if challenged in court.

Secrecy relating to litigation is a necessary part of litigation and California laws support that.


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Posted by really?
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 12, 2013 at 6:27 pm

@"saw this coming"

As Peter Carpenter wrote, the Brown Act does not allow closed meetings except for some clearly defined cases. For the meeting in question, Dana Tom and Barb Mitchell (the board President and VP, charged with setting the agenda) told the public that the board was discussing two cases that they didn't identify, under a Brown Act provision that allows the board to discuss facts that if known to plaintiffs would increase the district's liability.

That is not what Tom and Mitchell actually planned to discuss, as the email exchange reported here makes clear. They actually planned to discuss whether the federal government has the power, for example, to protect students' rights when a violation comes to their attention in the context of another investigation (Mitchell thinks the answer is no, based on a constitutional theory that seems to originate somewhere in the space between the John Birch Society and the Tea Party).

Why didn't Tom and Mitchell tell the truth about the purpose of the closed meeting? Simple. There is no Brown Act exception for discussing whether to question federal authority to enforce civil rights law. If a board wants to discuss that, they have to do it in public, as Mr. Carpenter says. Since Tom and Mitchell didn't want to talk about this in public (because the public doesn't share Mitchell's theory that OCR lawyers are jack-booted thugs "strong-arming" the district), they lied about the agenda item. The one Brown Act exemption they picked is a good one because it doesn't require naming the case, which other ones do.

Lying to the public is bad (maybe worse than violating the Brown Act, which is pretty toothless), so they made sure that all of their communications on the topic looped in their lawyer, Chad Graff, so they could claim attorney-client privilege for their emails. (Graff, by the way, is from the firm of Fagen Friedman and Fulfrost, the same firm that the now-absent Laurie Reynolds came from. Reynolds distinguished herself by telling the public multiple falsehoods in a board meeting in September. Reynolds also described, interestingly, the process of negotiating the agreement with OCR as entirely amicable, in which the district actually wanted to agree to more than OCR wanted. That's the agreement that Mitchell is now describing in private as "strong-armed.").

With the closed meeting covered with a false description, and the communication covered by attorney-client privilege, Barb Mitchell felt comfortable writing things down that she hasn't felt comfortable sharing with her constituents. If district staff hadn't missed redacting one version of Mitchell's letter, they would have been home free.

Even so, Skelly and Mitchell demanded the letter back, even though it had already been published on the Internet. Is that because the letter breaks student confidences? Nope, no students mentioned. Is it because it mentions particular cases? Nope, no cases mentioned. Is it because it describes facts that would increase liability if known to plaintiffs, like the meeting notice said? Nope, no facts mentioned. Is it because it reveals the board president and VP lying about the purpose of a closed meeting, and the VP advancing a hostility to federal civil rights law that won't play well in Palo Alto? Bingo.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 12, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is the Attorney General's guidance on Closed sessions:
"There are three types of "notice" obligations that accompany the conduct of a closed-session
as a part of a duly noticed meeting. First, each item to be transacted or discussed in a closed
session must be briefly described on an agenda for the meeting. (§ 54954.2(a).) Second, prior
to adjourning into closed session, a representative of the legislative body must orally announce
the items to be discussed in closed session. (§ 54957.7(a).) This requirement may be satisfied
by merely referring to the relevant portion of the written agenda for the meeting. However, the
Act contains specific additional requirements for closed sessions regarding pending litigation
where the body believes it is subject to a significant exposure to potential litigation. (§
54956.9(b)(3).) Third, once the closed session has been completed, the agency must reconvene
in open session, where it may be required to report votes and actions taken in closed session.
(§ 54957.1.)"

"In the case of pending litigation, the legislative body must make
reference in the agenda or publicly announce the specific subsection of section 54956.9
under which the closed session is being held. (§ 54956.9(c).)"

"Oral Announcement Prior to Closed Sessions
In addition to the agenda requirement for regular and special meetings, the Act requires
a representative of the legislative body to orally announce the items to be discussed in
closed session prior to any closed-session meeting. (§ 54957.7(a).) This requirement
may be satisfied by referring to the item by number as it appears on the agenda.
However, such a referral usually would not be sufficient in the case of a closed session
concerning significant exposure to litigation.
Pursuant to section 54956.9, a closed session may be conducted in order to permit an
agency to receive advice from its legal counsel. When the impetus for such a closed
session is the agency's exposure to potential litigation, the Act carefully regulates the
circumstances under which a closed session may be called, and the types of
announcement which must accompany such a meeting. (§ 54956.9(b)(3).) These
required disclosures may be made as a part of the written agenda or as a part of the oral
announcement made prior to any closed session. These requirements do not mandate
disclosure of privileged communications exempt from disclosure under the Public
Records Act. (§ 54956.9(b)(3)(F).) A summary of the disclosure requirements
surrounding closed sessions based on an agency's exposure to potential litigation is set
forth below.
• Where the agency believes that facts creating significant exposure to
litigation are not known to potential plaintiffs, the facts need not be
disclosed. (§ 54956.9(b)(3)(A).)
• Where facts (e.g., an accident, disaster, incident, or transaction) creating
significant exposure to litigation are known to potential plaintiffs, the
facts must be publicly stated on the agenda or announced. (§
54956.9(b)(3)(B).)
• Where the agency receives a claim or other written communication
threatening litigation, reference to the claim or communication must be
publicly stated on the agenda or announced, and the claim or
communication must be available for public inspection pursuant to
section 54957.5. (§ 54956.9(b)(3)(C).)
• Where a person makes a statement in an open and public meeting
threatening litigation, reference to the statement must be publicly stated
on the agenda or announced. (§ 54956.9(b)(3)(D).)
• Where a person makes a statement outside of an open and public
meeting threatening litigation, the agency may not conduct a closed
session unless an agency official having knowledge of the threat makes
a contemporaneous or other record of the statement prior to the
meeting. Reference to the statement must be publicly stated on the
agenda or announced, and the record must be available for public
inspection pursuant to section 54957.5. However, the record, or the
disclosable part thereof, need not identify the alleged victim of unlawful
or tortious sexual conduct or anyone making a threat on their behalf, or
identify a public employee who is the alleged perpetrator of any such
conduct, unless the identity of the person has been publicly disclosed.
(§ 54956.9(b)(3)(E).)
C. Report at the Conclusion of Closed Sessions
Once a closed session has been completed, the legislative body must convene in open
session. (§ 54957.7(b).) If the legislative body took final action in the closed session,
the body may be required to make a report of the action taken and the vote thereon to
the public at the open session. (§ 54957.1(a).) The report may be made either orally
or in writing. (§ 54957.1(b).) In the case of a contract or settlement of a lawsuit,
copies of the document also must be disclosed as soon as possible. (§ 54957.1(b) and
(c).) If final action is contingent upon another party, the legislative body is under no
obligation to release a report about the closed session. Once the other party has acted,
making the decision final, the legislative body is under an obligation to respond to
inquiries for information by providing a report of the action. (§ 54957.1(a).)
With respect to litigation, approval given to the body's legal counsel to defend, to seek
or refrain from seeking appellate review, or to appear as amicus curiae in any case
resulting from a closed-session meeting held pursuant to section 54956.9 shall be
reported in open session. (§ 54957.l(a)(2).) The report shall identify the adverse
parties and the substance of the litigation. Where the body has decided to initiate
litigation or intervene in an existing case, the report shall indicate that fact but need not
identify the action, the parties, or other particulars. The report shall specify that once
the litigation or intervention has been formally commenced, the body must, upon
inquiry, disclose such information, unless to do so would jeopardize service of process
or existing settlement negotiations. (§ 54957.l(a)(2).)"

**********
This topic clearly does NOT meet the closed meeting exemption standard and the manner in which the topic was discussed did not conform to the Closed Meeting notice and reporting requirements.


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Posted by Commission member
a resident of Southgate
on Jul 12, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Thank you, "really?" and Peter Carpenter for making this situation clear. The closed meeting violated the Brown Act. Usually, unless a board member is willing to come forward and speak about what was said, it is hard to make out violations of the closed meeting exceptions. This case is unusual in there being documentary evidence of what was actually discussed, in the inadvertent email release.
"really?" is right that the Brown Act is hard to enforce even with evidence of violations. Most of the "enforcement" comes from the scruples of agency board members and political implications of breaching open government laws.


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Posted by saw this coming
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 12, 2013 at 7:03 pm

To Really?

Your post is all speculation and no citations.

Isn't it defamation/libel/slander when you publicly (and repeatedly) accuse someone of lying knowing that you have no proof for your claims?

As for what the Brown Act says, it seems pretty clear that you and Peter Carpenter are not correct.

The reference in the Brown Act to "existing facts and circumstances" relates to what you look to to determine whether a closed session for "significant exposure to litigation" can be held.

As for what can be said once in that closed session, read the Brown Act and decide for yourself:

54956.9. (a) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent
a legislative body of a local agency, based on advice of its legal
counsel, from holding a closed session to confer with, or receive
advice from, its legal counsel regarding pending litigation [which includes "significant exposure to litigation"] when
discussion in open session concerning those matters would prejudice
the position of the local agency in the litigation.





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Posted by saw this coming
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 12, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Mr. Carpenter,

I am not tracking your logic and don't see how your cut and paste shows that anything wrong was done here.

FYI: The Brown Act was rewritten several times since what you present was published (2003). Many of the citations you provided no longer exist.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 12, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

None of the provisions of the Brown Act which I have cited have been changed. I challenge 'saw' to prove otherwise.

It is clear that this topic clearly does NOT meet the closed meeting exemption standard and the manner in which the topic was discussed did not conform to the Closed Meeting notice and reporting requirements. What is not clear about that statement?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 12, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" when discussion in open session concerning those matters would prejudice

the position of the local agency in the litigation."

This assumes that there is "significant exposure to litigation" and that was the subject matter of the discussion and yet the facts here make clear that the matter discussed was NOT litigation or threat of litigation but the desire of the board to simply find some way to avoid compliance with Federal law and regulations.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 12, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The Brown Act was rewritten several times since what you present was published (2003)."

Wrong - here is what the current Attorney General states:

"The Attorney General's 2003 pamphlet, The Brown Act, Open Meetings for Local Legislative Bodies, pdf summarizes the open meeting law for local boards and commissions." No caveats, no corrections, no changes.


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Posted by Gunn 90 grad
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 12, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Seems obvious that the closed meeting notice didn't match what Tom and Mitchell actually planned to talk about. That's dishonest. Usually when people don't tell the truth, it's because they have something to hide. What's in all the documents they didn't forget to redact?


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Posted by saw this coming
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 12, 2013 at 8:58 pm

What you cite is from a 2003 pamphlet written by the then Attorney General Bill Lockyer which says that it "is current through January 2003 with respect to statutes, case law, and Attorney General opinions." Web Link

There have been two Attorney Generals in California since Mr. Lockyer: Jerry Brown (2007-11) and Kamala Harris (2011-).

The Brown Act has been amended several times since 2003 too, most recently by Senate Bill 1003 in 2012.

The up-to-date provisions of the Brown Act are here: Web Link Note that there no longer is a section number 54956.9(b)(3) which is mentioned in the Lockyer pamphlet, for example.

By the way, your statement is clear, it is just that you don't provide anything that would allow anyone to see how you reached your conclusion. Hard to do that when there are no facts to go on, just speculation.


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Posted by John M Strong
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2013 at 9:03 pm

A community, is about its separates parts, cooperating to common purpose.
Seeking to make win, for all its parts. By best way known.

Barbara is my sister. There, I believe you cannot find malice.

I am a 1968 graduate of Paly.

I can say I have played both ways as to who was smart, fast, or a bully, in school days.

Young, I ran fast past a person of color, and destroyed the hot dog he was having for lunch. He sought redress, before I knew of the concept. We met in the hallway, and I lost. Bully? [Portion removed.] Learn early, or later!

I believe we learn by being there. End that with children, they must learn because it is real. Earlier the experience, better tools they can go ahead with...

So, flame me!



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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 12, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

NONE of the sections of the Brown Act that I have cited , which did NOT include 54956.9(b)(3) , have been changed.

"Saw" simply is tossing out a red herring - the Brown Act was violated and the board has acted inappropriately. It is now up to the citizens of the district to hold the board accountable.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 12, 2013 at 9:18 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Any citizen concerned with the board behavior on this matter should utilize the following section of the Brown act to obtain disclosure:

"54957.2. (a) The legislative body of a local agency may, by
ordinance or resolution, designate a clerk or other officer or
employee of the local agency who shall then attend each closed
session of the legislative body and keep and enter in a minute book a
record of topics discussed and decisions made at the meeting. The
minute book made pursuant to this section is not a public record
subject to inspection pursuant to the California Public Records Act
(Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 6250) of Division 7 of Title
1), and shall be kept confidential. The minute book shall be
available only to members of the legislative body or, if a violation
of this chapter is alleged to have occurred at a closed session, to a
court of general jurisdiction wherein the local agency lies. Such
minute book may, but need not, consist of a recording of the closed
session."


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Posted by Rose Mary Woods
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 12, 2013 at 10:48 pm

It is hard to believe that our superintendent and school board would attempt to mislead the public about what they intended to discuss in closed session. I am confident that the redaction of this apparently incriminating email was an inadvertant mistake. It seems much more likely that Super Skelly asked his secretary to highlight Barb Mitchell's sound and well researched challenges to federal authority. the secretary probably simply accidentally held down the black highlight key when she meant to use the yellow key. Claims otherwise are part of the conspiracy against our exceptional leaders perpetrated by nattering nabobs of negativity.


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Posted by Anonymous 4
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 13, 2013 at 12:47 am

Great to see that the school board and Skelly are growing a pair and are willing to challenge the feds. These investigations represent a broad expansion of the federal govt's authority, and there needs to be a check and balance here. I mean basing a federal investigation on reports in a student newspaper is over the top.


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2013 at 2:40 am

@Never been more disgusted - you wrote: "... My union president may be silent right now, but I will not be..." I hope you will not be silent, and that you will be heard. Wishing you the best of luck.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2013 at 5:53 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Paly Mother
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 13, 2013 at 8:19 am

I am appalled at the actions of Superintendent Skelly as well as our School Board. Skelly needs to be replaced ASAP. Hasn't he proven what a terrible superintendent he is? Skelly is [portion removed] and is failing our school system and its students. I also suspect, that in connection with the latest cover-up, which was thankfully uncovered by the Daily, which got a hold of the Federal communication to the PAUSD via the Freedom of Information Act, that there might very well be some connection between Paly's Principal Winston resigning in June and the events of this past winter, written about in Paly's student paper "The Culture of Rape" at Paly. Winston probably wanted to get out before his name was run through the mud on this one. When is a public meeting going to take place with the school board and the citizens/parents of this school district?

[Moderator's note: It was the Weekly, not the Daily, that uncovered this information.]


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Posted by saw this coming
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 13, 2013 at 9:13 am

Chris Kenrick and the Weekly Staff,

A couple of polite suggestions:

1. Consider printing a retraction in the next paper.

What I thought was just a sensational headline intended to grab readers' attention, I now see was repeated in your article.

Since your reporters were not in the closed session, references to what was said during that session is speculation. ("Palo Alto Board of Education members and their attorneys have discussed in closed session ... the Weekly has learned.") Emails written before the session are not proof of what was said in it.

2. Consider moving parts of this article from news to the editorial page.

Generally, statements like "it is unclear," "could be based on reasoning that if the district were to decide to," "it would appear," "another possibility is that the district is considering," and Ken Dauber's "it now appears that" are all followed by opinions and so are not news.

3. As a follow up story, readers might find a balanced article that addresses the following of immense interest:

- an overview of the rules of the publicly-vetted Civil Rights Act and its final regulations

- what the OCR is demanding and what the OCR is suggesting that our schools do and the sections of the Civil Rights Act and final regulations that are its authority for that,

- regulatory and legislative attempts to do the same that were rejected and so did not become law

- what options school districts have if faced with federal demands that are not supported by the law,

- the national controversy stirred up by Russlynn Ali's 2011 guidance letter (a call to former law professor Dr. Peter Berkowitz who is now at Stanford and Russlynn Ali's fellow law school alum Georgetown Constitutional Law Professor Jon Turley will shed light one side of that)

- the practical and constitutional implications (pros and cons) of Ali's guidance letter to both schools and their students

- the history of and reasons for the federal government stepping in and placing what was traditionally undertaken by parents and the community (church leaders and elders, scout leaders, police) on the shoulders of public school officials too,

- how much money the federal government gives schools to implement these mandates and how much schools spend on them,

- why transparency at the federal level is important and what the US OBM has had to say about that, past and present.

These are important, broad societal issues for our country and now, as we see, our local school district.

They are topical and deeply intellectual and would be of interest to the entire Palo Alto community, with or without children.

An article like that would undoubtedly be of interest to school districts across the US too as they grapple with the same issues and laws, trying to help youth through the very serious and extraordinary challenges that continue, unabated, to vex them: under-aged drinking, non-consensual sex, and bullying to name a few.


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Posted by Me too
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2013 at 9:25 am

May I add to "saw this coming" my own suggestions?

- A history of right-wing theories of the federal government as an alien force, from the John Birch Society to the Tea Party
- A history of local resistance to federal civil rights law in the South in the 1950s and 1960s.
- A review of Barb Mitchell's history of forwarding libertarian positions in our school district.
- A civics lesson in how agency interpretation and application of the law works in our governmental system.
- A review of the consistency since the Clinton Administration of OCR's interpretation and enforcement of disability-based harassment.
- A review of Barb Mitchell's questions in February about whether federal law requiring that districts provide special education for disabled children represents an unfunded and unfair federal mandate for local school districts (echoed by "saw this coming" above).

Thank you for your consideration.


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Posted by John W. Davis
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2013 at 9:33 am

It does my old heart good to read "saw" saying that we need to question " the history of and reasons for the federal government stepping in and placing what was traditionally undertaken by parents and the community (church leaders and elders, scout leaders, police) on the shoulders of public school officials too."

Back in the day, Saw's views were in accord with those of the majority of people where I grew up, and we did something about it. Schools can reject federal funding, they can reject state funding, and be free of these improper and overreaching federal strong arm tactics. In my state, we even closed an entire district and then reopened it as a private academy exactly for the reasons Saw articulates so well.

You can learn more about it here: Web Link

All it takes is the courage of the people to resist the tyranny of the federal government's abuse of the Spending Power. We need only to refuse the federal and state funds, and reform PAUSD as a privatized academy, as in Prince Edward County and then there is nothing they can do to us, outside of the requirements of the US and CA Constitution and some other federal and state laws. The strictures are fewer once we throw off the shackles of taking all that dirty federal and state money.

Education is a local matter best subject to local control. We don't need the feds to tell us how to do things here in our locality and we don't need their money if the price of accepting it is surrendering our liberty and sovereignty. Then we shall sing "The Bonnie Blue Flag" once more:

We are a band of brothers
And native to the soil,
Fighting for the property
We gained by honest toil;
And when our rights were threatened,
The cry rose near and far--
"Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star!"

CHORUS: Hurrah! Hurrah!
For Southern rights hurrah!
Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2013 at 9:40 am

If schools are a local matter that the federal government has no right to interfere with, then the federal government shouldn't have forced the Old Confederacy to implement school integration. The seeming adaption of extreme libertarian, anti federal government sentiments by the the PA school board is astonishing, alarming and a slippery slope that would devastate our school district.


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Posted by saw this coming
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 13, 2013 at 10:23 am

Me too and John Davis,

Sarcastic attacks to my post notwithstanding, all I am suggesting is that residents be given the opportunity to read an intellectual and balanced article (different from the "he said, she said whistle-blowing" reports of late) so they have context - historic, political, constitutional, financial, and practical - for what is happening in our schools right now.

You assume that my motives are bad (read, different from yours). Far from it. I suspect that there are very good reasons, for example, why the federal government needs schools to step in and help solve these problems. The interesting question in my mind is what put our country on this path. What changed that necessitated adding a stable partner, schools, to the mix - more single parent households? increased parental drug-abuse? high unemployment rates?

What comes to mind when people read posts [portion removed] is that all you can do to support your position is to discredit [portion removed] those you think disagree with you, because you know that the points they make or the information they call for will reveal that your positions are just opinions and without support.

The public has a right to information and context for lots of very sound reasons, including to help it draw its own conclusions.


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Posted by John W. Davis
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2013 at 10:47 am

Saw, I am so disappointed to see you backing away from your former fervid defense of the rights of localities to be free of the interfering, strong-arm tactics of the overweaning Leviathan. I had thought that you and I were sympatico based on your statements above that we need to curb "federal agencies' abuse of power." I was particularly enamored by your statement that "The OCR . . . knew that in key areas it was overstepping its authority," and that it should be "shot down" for its violation of local rights.

And of course, your objection that Title IX "turns the district into "big brother" who must watch and intervene" to stop students from harassing others -- I am in total agreement. Back in my day in the Old Dominion, I must say there were many an upstanding young man who would stand forward in defense of the flower of southern womanhood to ensure that the new students, forced upon us by Earl Warren, would not deflower or otherwise besmirch their honor. Locally we knew how to deal with those boys. But of course, once the feds got involved, we had mixing of all kinds and we were no longer permitted to stop it in the ways that we had used for centuries. We were emasculated by northern aggression.

That is why we must stand manfully forward now against Barack Obama and his desire to use the OCR to force all of us to abandon our local customs that have served us so well for generations. After I lost that important case in the Supreme Court, I returned my fee to South Carolina and declined to assist South Carolina in implementing the oppressive decrees of the federal government (I did keep the nice silver tea service though). Then I retired out here to California. My ears perked up immediately Saw, because I heard you singing my tune. Here let me play a few more bars for you:

As long as the Union
Was faithful to her trust,
Like friends and like brothers
Both kind were we and just;
But now, when Northern treachery
Attempts our rights to mar,
We hoist on high the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star.--CHORUS

First gallant South Carolina
Nobly made the stand,
Then came Alabama,
Who took her by the hand.
Next quickly Mississippi,
Georgia and Florida
All raised on high the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star.--CHORUS

Ye men of valor, gather round
The banner of the right;
Texas and fair Louisiana
Join us in the fight.
Davis, our loved president,
And Stephens statesman are;
Now rally round the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star.--CHORUS



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Posted by Enough already
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 13, 2013 at 10:48 am

The number of people who think the OCR investigations raise constitutional issues is very small. It does include 'saw' and Barb Mitchell. That's at most two people. I suppose you could add Chad Graff of Fagan Friedman and Fulfrost, although his comments read to me more like flattery of a client's wacky legal 'theories' than real agreement.
But let's hear from Mitchell and Tom directly. That seem to be under a self imposed gag order, but I think it's pretty clearly for an elected official to espouse views in secret that she won't own up to in public, even if they are extremist.


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Posted by Enough already
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 13, 2013 at 10:50 am

Sorry, the word left out of the last sentence of my post is 'cowardly'.


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Posted by Seen this before
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2013 at 11:07 am

@Saw this coming.
Your arguments for a fair and balanced analysis remind me of Barb Mitchell's first successful school board campaign in 2005. As I recall, TheWeekly asked Barb and other candidates their views on a hot topic at the time, whether "Intelligent Design" should be taught alongside evolution in our school science classes. My memory is that while her response evaded a specific answer, what she said revealed a structural vision that she has been very successful in achieving. She said that the decision on whether to teach Intelligent Design as science should be left up to the individual school administrators.
This delegation of critical policy to school sites, site autonomy, is what is at the heart of our present problems. However, we don't admit, or even discuss, the libertarian underpinnings of what most of us still think of as a "liberal" district. When she ran in 2005, Barb's political mentors advised her to drop her Libertarian Party political registration and she astutely followed that advice. Since then, with her effective leadership, our district has moved steadily in a libertarian direction, but without an admission or even a recognition of the underlying political philosophy. We now see our district consistently taking positions that challenge or defy state and federal laws designed to provide equal opportunity for all students. Is that the sort of school system that we want to have? What were our values during the decades when we earned our reputation for excellence in education and how have those values changed in our present era of greater pride in test scores?
These are important and legitimate issues that are overdue for an open philosophical discussion in our community. What are the core values of our school system and how are they manifested? I hope that The Weekly will not censure discussion. Rather than taboo, such issues should be transparent and central to our political discourse.


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Posted by saw this coming
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 13, 2013 at 11:19 am

Enough already,

Try giving the guys below a call to test out your theory that only two people wonder whether the OCR might be going a bit too far on some things.

From another thread:

"I guess the American Association of University Professors' concerns about how [OCR's] Russlynn Ali's letter violates due process is not of concern to you (reported in TIME magazine).

Nor are the same criticisms voiced by Georgetown constitutional law professor Jon Turley, a graduate of Ali's alma matter Northwestern Law School, who observed that the Ali letter forces schools to either (i) strip students and faculty of basic due process protections, or (ii) be declared discriminatory.

Or even Stanford's Berkowitz, who holds a JD and a PhD in political science from Yale University and reads the Ali letter as obligating schools "to curtail due process rights of the accused" and "institutionalizing a presumption of guilt." (Wall Street Journal)

These are just a few who popped up in a quick search. There are more."

You might also want to take a gander at the OBM, the federal agency which oversees all of the other federal agencies and reports to the President, as mentioned in a post above.

Web Link

The OBM report lists plenty of situations where federal agencies have overreached. Concerned, it issued lengthy guidelines to try to curb those practices.

Whether the same has happened with the OCR I do not know. But because serious constitutional questions have been raised by experts, and reported in reputable publications, about positions taken by the OCR in its guidance letter, it is wise for the board to check it out before responding.


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Posted by Almost done with PAUSD
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2013 at 11:23 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by insider
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2013 at 11:42 am

Phil Winston's departure was welcomed by nearly all PAHS teachers. Only thing better would be that it happened sooner. He made a mockery of school policies Re: cheating, grading, & attendance. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by John W. Davis
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2013 at 11:43 am

Saw--that's the spirit. We need more citizens like you, concerned with defending local sovereignty against the overwhelming force and power of the federal behemoth. Local schools should be run locally, by local conditions. This very idea that the federal government should take a hand or a role in education is an idea that is foreign to the American way of life. As I told the Supreme Court back in 1952, in the Palmetto State, they had experimented locally with mixed schools and found that they did not work. Our local experts declared that mixed schools had been "the most destructive experiment" ever in the history of the state. As I told the Court, "When South Carolina moved from mixed to segregated schools, it did so in the light of experience, and in the light of the further fact that it had been destructive to the public school system for fifty years after it was abolished."

I concluded my argument to the Court with this ringing indictment of federal power, which is as applicable today in California as it was in 1952 in Virginia and South Carolina:

"What is the great and national and federal policy on this matter? Is it not a fact that the very strength and fiber of our federal system is local self-government in those matters for which local action is competent? Is it not, of all the activities of government, the one which most nearly approaches the hearts and minds of people, the question of the education of their young?"

"Is it not the height of wisdom that the manner in which that shall be conducted should be left to those most immediately affected by it, and that the wishes of the parents, both white and colored, should be ascertained" before the power of the federal government imposes its will?"

You can read more of my honorable but unsuccessful effort here: Web Link

Barbara Mitchell s a true patriot. She is advancing the cause, a cause that many came to regard as a Lost Cause, but which is a cause for the ages -- the cause of liberty and freedom. Saw, I know you are on the side of liberty for the people. I have read your comments and the comments of the Hon. Ms. Mitchell and I know that you are soldiers in the battle to restore the Bonnie Blue Flag to its former place of honor.

Onward, Saw, we move with this cry: Thus Always to Tyrants! Turn down your federal funding, PAUSD! To quote the greatest Senator in the history of the great Republic, John C. Calhoun, "If this cause, that is dear to my heart, is doomed to fail, I pray Heaven may let me fail with it, while my face is toward the enemy and my arm battling for that which I know is right." Onward, Saw! Onward to glory!





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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 13, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

IF the school district wants to challenge the federal government WHY do they have to do it behind closed doors? Should not the taxpayers be allowed to be heard on this issue before the district starts down a very expensive and fruitless road.?


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Posted by John W. Davis
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Now Peter, I understand how you feel. Of course, we would all like to have an open society. But in order to protect and defend that open society, sometimes things have to be done in private. Unfortunately due to the repressive federal government, true patriots have to begin their movements in secret in order to protect them. For example, the Sons of Liberty had to have clandestine meetings. Later, of course, there were other things that had to be done secretly (Web Link) to defend liberty. These were the true patriots, the ancestors of both Barbara Mitchell and Saw -- fighting against the overreach and strong-arm tactics of the federals in enforcing the federals' own vision of "civil rights" against the wishes of the local self-governing sovereigns.

Even later still, came such important but secret organizations such as the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. Sov Com also had as its mission defending local rights against federal encroachment in the field of education. Although there were many high ranking and elected public officials in Sov Com, they met secretly and employed tactics that were not known to the public. This enabled public officials to claim publicly that they were cooperating with President Johnson and Attorney General Kennedy while secretly forming plans to engage in resistance. Back in my day, we called it massive resistance, but of course it's no different than the kind of resistance being mounted in Palo Alto now by Barbara Mitchell, patriot, and agreed to by the rest of the board. Unfortunately just as Samuel Adams had to lead a secret band of patriots out to Boston Harbor, Barbara Mitchell is leading her own little secret band of patriots too. Onward, Saw! Onward Mitchell! Sic Semper Tyrannis!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Casting the school board's discussion in closed session as to how to obstruct the federal government as a fight for liberty is hogwash. True patriots act in the open - only terrorists operate in secret. If you truly don't trust our democratic institutions then either work for constitutional change or leave.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 13, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Peter, I think you may be missing Davis' satire. I do agree with you about trusting our democratic institutions. What has happened here is as plain as day. Barbara Mitchell and Dana Tom didn't want to make their views on federal civil rights law public, so they decided to lie to the public about the purpose of a closed meeting to hide what they were doing. The fact that they violated the Brown Act is the least troubling part of that. Their contempt for our democracy is worse. Worst of all though is that they are trying to figure out how to keep our federal government from responding to violations of civil rights law involving our children and our students. That is really shameful.


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2013 at 3:01 pm

@Neighbor - I second. Here is to example of expressing opinions in other time, other place where the writer did not feel free to write directly. Link - Web Link
John W. Davis - Thank you for taking the time, especially when knowing that your thoughtful posts may not remain as you posted.


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 13, 2013 at 3:09 pm

I also agree all of the school board discussion should be in the open. However, I also think the newspaper should encourage transparency. What is the relationship between the Weekly and the Daubers? Also what this the relationship between Ms. Dauber and the OCR? Is Ms. Dauber directing the activities of the OCR or is there a real level of independence?
I doubt the Weekly is presenting an honest discussion - please prove me wrong if you can.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2013 at 3:10 pm

True patriots don't treat the federal government as an alien enemy invader from a far away galaxy. The federal government and all its branches are an organic part of the system of government our founding Fathers have devised. The federal government is not the enemy, contrary to the right wing and libertarian mindless demagoguery.
The fact that members of the school board in the most progressive city in one of the most progressive areas in the nation are planning to obstruct the federal government (in part to save their own skin) in a civil right matter is shocking and a throwback to anti federal attitudes in the South half a century ago..


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Posted by Duveneck mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 13, 2013 at 5:16 pm

I don't usually read these threads. I am amazed at how some people just won't admit any fault in our elected officials. Do you remember the famous Romney 47% comment at the private dinner? This is like that. Sometimes you find out that people are doing something different when they think they are not being watched, and you learn something from that.
Cast out the beam in your own eye before looking for the mote in the other fellow's. I am very sad to say that having the federal government looking into our situation seems right to me. It really doesn't seem that our district employees at least the ones in management positions are going to work every day and thinking about the kids.


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Posted by Gunn Class of 67
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 13, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Seem several issues:
1. Bullying incident: No adult witnessing bullying, ridicule, intimidation of students should walk by and ignore - silence is tacit approval - (sorry John Strong - accidentally ruining a hot dog is not bullying...). Under no circumstances should a teacher bully a student, alone or in front of others. Not appropriate to elaborate in this forum.
2. I've known Barb Mitchell personally - not professionally, for years. Her integrity, character and sense of fairness is impeccable.
Have been awestruck by Barb's strength, autonomy, devotion to her mother, siblings, husband and children.
Any suggestion of foul play is totally inconsistent with Barb Mitchell's character, integrity and commitment to equality.
Barb, passionate about the future of young people; sees education as the critical foundation providing maximum opportunity for our youth.
Without question, Barb's motivation is financial. To avoid years-long entanglement with notoriously abysmal federal bureaucracy; diversion of already sparse educational funds from students to attorneys is a financial nightmare, severely compromising student education.
Am sure she recognizes needed changes in district policy. If I know Barb, she'd lead the way to ensure justice for all.



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Posted by Barron Parker
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 13, 2013 at 6:13 pm

I'm sorry to disagree with my neighbor, but while Barb Mitchell might be a great member of her family, she's being a terrible school board member. Mitchell is working to keep the federal government from enforcing civil rights laws that are designed to protect our children. Think about what Mitchell is actually saying -- she wants to know if there is a way for the district to keep the federal government from noticing violations while they are here investigating other ones! She wants the district to back out of the agreements it has already made!
Mitchell is doing this in secret, and participating in telling the public falsehoods about what the board is actually meeting it about. Why? I suppose she believes she is acting for some purpose higher than the Brown Act, but it is also obvious from what Mitchell wrote and from her history that she is motivated by a political philosophy that is far outside the mainstream of Palo Alto. She knows that Palo Alto doesn't see the federal government through a Tea Party lens, so she's not telling her constituents the truth about what she is doing and why she is doing it.
As to the idea that Mitchell is trying to save the district money -- she has already taken us down the road of spending countless taxpayer dollars on a libertarian right-wing view of federal authority. If she succeeds in getting the district to abrogate its agreements with OCR and refusing to cooperate with the law, she is going to drive the district into years of ruinous and fruitless expense. This is a dead waste of money that has nothing to do with serving our students.
Again, if Mitchell's motives were so pure and her strategy so fantastic, why wouldn't she just level with the public? Instead of explaining herself, when her memo was uncovered she demanded it back and asked the Weekly to keep her secret.
My vote: keep Barb as a friend and neighbor. Fire her as a school board member.


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Posted by roll back the clock
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jul 13, 2013 at 6:30 pm

John W. Davis died in 1954 a few months after he lost the Brown vs. Board of Ed. Supreme Court case.

Whoever is posting with his name is rolling back the clock 60 years.


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Posted by What a scoop
a resident of University South
on Jul 13, 2013 at 7:36 pm

@Roll back
Thanks for your great sleathing. Clearly, the person posting as Davis is being disingenuous. I wonder what his purpose could be. thank god for the internets.


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Posted by slow news day?
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 13, 2013 at 8:37 pm

@What a scoop,
He's come back from the past to save us!


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Posted by saw this coming
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 13, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Barron Parker,

Complete and utter balderdash. You have 0 support for any of your conspiracy theories.

What you call secrets are confidential attorney client privileged communications in anticipation of litigation, all legal and legitimate, that were mistakenly shared by someone who is working overtime at his day job producing documents for voluminous Public Records Act requests.

What you call libertarian fringe views are shared by "mainstream" Democrats and Republicans in town too.

What you call disrespect for the law is a deep interest in wanting to ensure that we uphold our constitution and Congress' laws that protect the privacy, rights (civil and other) and interests of our students.

All of this has been explained very clearly and in greater detail in my previous posts to this and related threads.


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Posted by saw something too
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 13, 2013 at 10:12 pm

saw this coming,

Barron Parker has my support on ALL his/her comments (especially that it costs more money to skirt the law, at least in this case). I would not call them conspiracy theories.

Mitchell' written trail is news, but she asked as much during a board meetings. It may have been a duet with Camille Townsend, but the question was along the lines of "isn't bullying freedom of speech"?

or what your post refers to as MItchell's " deep interest in wanting to ensure that we uphold our constitution and Congress' laws that protect the privacy, rights (civil and other) and interests of our students."

Can you please explain how Mitchell can protect "rights (civil and other)" by seeking to not protect them?

If it's so hard to imagine the implementation of a sound bullying policy, or to have competent people at the district to responsibly manage these issues (on behalf of us taxpayers), maybe PAUSD can have a choice program. Pilot a school which observes federal laws.



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Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 13, 2013 at 10:23 pm

Is this why the district spent $130,000+ (salary + benefits) on a new PR person? So far, this hasn't been a great example of telling the story of public education.


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Posted by saw this coming
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 13, 2013 at 11:00 pm

SST,

I don't know how difficult it is to implement a sound anti-bullying policy. I've never tried. But if you doubt Barb Mitchell's word on that, ask the Acting Chief Attorney of the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights who reported to Dr. Skelly in May that the OCR needed more time to review the district's new proposed bullying policy because, even for the OCR, "reconciling state and federal requirements [relating to bullying] is a complicated task."

As for how Barb Mitchell is protecting students' rights, read my previous posts.

There I explain that US citizens are governed by laws (the Constitution and those passed by Congress) and by formal interpretations of those laws (regulations and court rulings).

What is at issue here is none of these; it is a letter written by a government official that had no review or blessing by the public, Congress, or the courts.

That letter has be harshly criticized by experts coast-to-coast for containing requirements that tromp on the constitutional rights of US citizens and reach far beyond what Congress intended when it wrote the Civil Rights Act.

Requirements in it that violate the constitution are illegal and would be illegal for school districts to implement and follow.

So that is what it sounds like Barb Mitchell is trying to determine - what in that letter is consistent with the US Constitution and Congress' Civil Rights Act, which the Board will follow, and what is not.

Can't make it much clearer than that.


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Posted by saw something too
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 13, 2013 at 11:53 pm

saw this coming,

Last I heard, if PAUSD had only followed it's existing policy, it would have averted this mess.

But you bring up the strategy of pretending to get stuck on "reconciling" state and federal definitions, to come up with the right one. It's so confusing.

I can make these issues clearer.

If you have money and big lawyers, and are powerful, or simply mean and tough as nails, you will get whatever definition you want, what is bullying, what is a civil right, what is policy, what is right, what is wrong. Your IEP will be embroidered on district napkins.

If you are not powerful, mean, loud, or connected, you will get the push around. Your IEP will be toilet paper. You could get scratched, pushed and bloodied an it will be someone else's freedom of speech.

After definitions are reconciled, what difference will it make if the spirit of the game is to still gamble?

Saving money by skimping where you can, and paying where you have no choice.

If nobody has thought of a better alternative than to play smart or dumb, we are really in trouble.


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Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 14, 2013 at 1:36 am

I think the small possibility of a snowballing federal witch hunt diverting focus and resources from the school district's primary job is something that should be prudently discussed. Since it isn't clear where this federal inquiry is going it should be discussed discretely. How many of you commenting here really believe the school board and administrators are hell bent on violating "civil rights" as opposed to educating children? That PAUSD has pervasive bullying that is far worse than school districts in other parts of the state/county? That a federal agency couldn't suck up a lot of locaI focus... doing more harm than good in its highly efficient efforts to help the few, or the one? Its really too bad the schools have become expected to be surrogate parents. I am years removed from primary school, but bullying was going on many years before I was born, and will continue many years after I am dead. The old strategies for dealing with it like sending a note home to the parents of the bully (and having them actually take action rather than supporting their child's "self esteem"), detentions, and expulsion for bad behavior now violate someone's civil rights too. sad.

Joseph N. Welch:
"You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 14, 2013 at 6:01 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I think the small possibility of a snowballing federal witch hunt diverting focus and resources from the school district's primary job is something that should be prudently discussed. Since it isn't clear where this federal inquiry is going it should be discussed discretely"

Wrong - the Brown Act provides no exception for a closed session to discuss "the small possibility of a snowballing federal witch hunt diverting focus and resources from the school district's primary job ". And what is the logical reason for hiding this discussion from the citizens - unless the district leadership knows something that they do not what the public to find out.


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Posted by palo alto native
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 14, 2013 at 7:48 am

Can anyone explain why there are so many kids with IEP's? There seems to be an alarming
number of kids in PAUSD that are under this federal protection? In the past I did not know
even one child with an IEP, today nearly 1/3 of my son's friends seem to have them. What is
going on?


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2013 at 8:02 am

> Can anyone explain why there are so many kids with IEP's?

How many such students are there? Does the PAUSD publish this number anywhere?


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2013 at 8:05 am

> True patriots act in the open - only terrorists operate in secret

Wonder in the person who posted this has ever read the history of the founding of the USA? Or maybe this person believes that our founding fathers were terrorists?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 14, 2013 at 8:17 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"> True patriots act in the open - only terrorists operate in secret

Wonder in the person who posted this has ever read the history of the founding of the USA?"

Yes, I am intimately familiar with that history and consider it irrelevant to this issue UNLESS the school board intends to overthrow the federal government - in which case the taxpayers who will be paying for that revolution need to be intimately involved.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2013 at 8:44 am

> consider it irrelevant ..

Then why bring it up?

By the way, does the Federal Government (in this case, the OCR) get to operate behind closed doors when it is formulating its strategies about dealing with situations? If so, why shouldn't the States?

It's quite likely the Brown Act is overly constraining at times like these.



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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 14, 2013 at 8:48 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"> consider it irrelevant ..

Then why bring it up?"

I didn't bring it (Wonder in the person who posted this has ever read the history of the founding of the USA?) up - Bob did. And I responded that the history of the founding of the USA was "it irrelevant to this issue UNLESS the school board intends to overthrow the federal government - in which case the taxpayers who will be paying for that revolution need to be intimately involved."


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2013 at 9:02 am

There are many problems with PAUSD going down the path advocated by Ms. Mitchell of challenging the authority of the federal government.

Mitchell evidently has persuaded PAUSD to challenge not only particular policy recommendations or remedies suggested by OCR (itself bad enough), but the entire authority of the federal government to enter into the sphere of school civil rights. As articulated by her surrogate, "Saw", Ms. Mitchell is questioning "what in that letter [the April 4, 2011 DCL on sexual violence] is consistent with the US Constitution and Congress' Civil Rights Act, which the Board will follow, and what is not," which it presumably will take upon itself to disregard.

Congress delegated to the Department of Education the authority to ensure that recipients of federal funds, which includes PAUSD, comply with the civil rights laws of the United States. (Schools that do not wish to accept federal funds still must comply with certain civil rights mandates, such as those by the US Constitution or Section 1983). This is called a "conditional spending" regime and means that in exchange for federal funding, the districts agree to follow the laws, regulations, and other requirements set by the Office for Civil Rights of the Department.

Under our system of federalism, following these rules and engaging with OCR is optional. If a district does not wish to follow them, it can merely stop receiving the federal funding. Therefore, no district is forced to do anything. It's relationship to DoE and to OCR is entirely voluntary. PAUSD opted into that relationship.

The idea that the Dear Colleague Letter offering guidance on how districts are to implement Title IX violates the Constitution or exceeds statutory authority is specious and is based on a fundamental misconception about the nature of Dear Colleague Letters and what the government calls "significant guidance documents."

The Department of Education has determined that the 4/4/11 DCL on sexual assault is a "significant guidance document." This means that it falls under the Office of Management and Budget's Final Bulletin for Agency Good Guidance Practices. Such documents are issued by OCR "to provide recipients with information to assist them in meeting their obligations, and to provide members of the public with information about their rights under the civil rights laws and implementing regulations" enforced by OCR. Dear Colleague Letters do not add requirements to applicable law, but "provide information and examples to inform recipients about how OCR evaluates whether covered entities are complying with their legal obligations."

Under the OMB Bulletin governing "significant guidance documents (see: Web Link) issued in 2007 under President George W. Bush, guidance such as the DCL are considered essential to the operation of government. Far from condemning such guidance, OMB found that there is "enormous value" in agency guidance documents. "Well-designed guidance documents serve many important or even critical functions in regulatory programs. Agencies may provide helpful guidance to interpret existing law through an interpretive rule or to clarify how they tentatively will treat or enforce a governing legal norm through a policy statement. Guidance documents, used properly, can channel the discretion of agency employees, increase efficiency, and enhance fairness by providing the public clear notice of the line between permissible and impermissible conduct while ensuring equal treatment of similarly situated parties."

In order to ensure uniformity and good practices, OMB prescribed procedures applicable to such guidance documents, including requiring an opportunity for public feedback on such documents. OCR met these requirements with the 4/4/11 DCL and it was lawfully issued as a helpful guidance document designed to ensure that schools understand that sexual violence is a form of sexual harassment. This determination -- that sexual violence, and related bullying -- is a form of sexual harassment prohibited by Title IX is a longstanding holding from court decisions. See, e.g., See, e.g., Jennings v. Univ. of N.C., 444 F.3d 255, 268, 274 n.12 (4th Cir. 2006) (acknowledging that while not an issue in that case, a single incident of sexual assault or rape could be sufficient to raise a jury question about whether a hostile environment exists, and noting that courts look to Title VII cases for guidance in analyzing Title IX sexual harassment claims); Vance v. Spencer Cnty. Pub. Sch. Dist., 231 F.3d 253, 259 n.4 (6th Cir. 2000) ("'[w]ithin the context of Title IX, a student's claim of hostile environment can arise from a single incident'" (quoting Doe v. Sch. Admin. Dist. No. 19, 66 F. Supp. 2d 57, 62 (D. Me. 1999))); Soper v. Hoben,195 F.3d 845, 855 (6th Cir. 1999) (explaining that rape and sexual abuse "obviously qualif[y] as…severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive sexual harassment"); see also Berry v. Chi. Transit Auth., 618 F.3d 688, 692 (7th Cir. 2010) (in the Title VII context, "a single act can create a hostile environment if it is severe enough, and instances of uninvited physical contact with intimate parts of the body are among the most severe types of sexual harassment"); Turner v. Saloon, Ltd.,595 F.3d 679, 686 (7th Cir. 2010) (noting that "'[o]ne instance of conduct that is sufficiently severe may be enough,'" which is "especially true when the touching is of an intimate body part" (quoting Jackson v. Cnty. of Racine,474 F.3d 493, 499 (7th Cir. 2007))); McKinnis v. Crescent Guardian, Inc., 189 F. App'x 307, 310 (5th Cir. 2006) (holding that "'the deliberate and unwanted touching of [a plaintiff's] intimate body parts can constitute severe sexual harassment'" in Title VII cases (quoting Harvill v. Westward Commc'ns, L.L.C., 433 F.3d 428, 436 (5th Cir. 2005))).

Despite the fact that courts have long considered sexual violence and related bullying to be a violation of Title IX in the school context, schools have been slow to implement appropriate policies. Therefore, in 2011, the Department issued a guidance document to assist schools in understanding the law, and the obligations that fall on recipients of federal funding in this regard.

These requirements may in certain instances exceed those imposed by courts in the context of lawsuits for money damages. For example, in a suit for money damages, a district must have actual knowledge of a sexually hostile environment, while OCR requires recipients of federal funding to act when they "know or reasonably should know." In many cases, this will be a distinction without a difference. In the case of PAUSD, the district did have actual knowledge via the Verde articles and the prior disclosures to teachers, counselors, the principal, and other district staff. Another difference is that OCR recommends that districts receiving federal funds use a "preponderance of the evidence" standard rather than a "clear and convincing evidence" standard for making determinations in sexual assault investigations, often another distinction without a difference.

But in every case, the decision about whether or not to follow OCR guidance is voluntary and with the district because the district always has the option to refuse the federal funding and go its own way.

Barbara Mitchell is advocating a third way, easily recognizable to those who have experience with far-right fringe interpretations of the Constitution. That is to assert that these requirements are "unconstitutional conditions" on the grant of federal money and that the district, in being required to comply with Title IX, is being required to do things in exchange for the money, that violate "state's rights" and local control.

Saw articulates this fringe theory when she says that the Dear Colleague Letter "tromps on the constitutional rights of US citizens and reach far beyond what Congress intended when it wrote the Civil Rights Act. Requirements in it that violate the constitution are illegal and would be illegal for school districts to implement and follow."

This is an argument with a long Constitutional history. It was advanced unsuccessfully in the 1920s against the Maternity Act, then against unemployment insurance, farm price supports and other programs of the New Deal in the 1930s. It gained new life when southern states, enraged by the federal government's use of conditional federal funding to enforce school desegregation in the 1960s, argued that it was illegal for the federal government, through OCR, to enforce civil rights laws on funding recipients. Such arguments have been repeatedly rejected by courts however that has not diminished their lustre for far-right fringe theorists.

Recently, of course, some of those far right fringe advocates have gained seats on the Supreme Court and that has breathed new life into the idea that Title IX is a particular problem. Chief Justice Roberts is known to be an enemy of Title IX, for example. Web Link

At their limit, of course, these arguments have been used to attempt to dismantle the entire U.S. Department of Education, a policy goal long on the wish-list of far-right ideologues.

So now the question is, should Palo Alto, California be a hospitable home for such arguments? Should Palo Alto Unified School District go to federal court arguing that it should not have to prevent, remediate, or address sexual assault and bullying based on sexual violence, but it should still be entitled to receive federal education dollars? That is precisely the argument that Barb Mitchell is suggesting, when she asks whether the district has a right to bar the federal government from ensuring that our students' civil rights are protected at school.

Why would we want to advance such an argument? Why would Palo Alto, California wish to become the test case for whether or not OCR guidance interpreting Title IX as requiring sound sexual violence policies somehow violate state's rights, the Tenth Amendment (never mind that the State of California will not agree), local control, or any other principle of right-wing legal theory?

Why we want Palo Alto to stand for the principle that sexual assault is a local issue and the federal government cannot require us to do anything about it, but must continue to give us the money regardless?

What is to gain here for our district? The right to continue to maintain a sexually hostile environment and to not implement sound policies in response to cases of sexual harassment? And how much of local tax dollars should be expended in payments to Fagen, Friedman and Fulfrost (Web Link) and their attorneys Chad Graff (Web Link) and Lenore Silverman (Web Link) in an almost certainly fruitless effort to overturn the US Government's authority to protect our female students from sexual harassment?

Once framed in this way it is obvious why this discussion is occurring in secret. The electorate of Palo Alto would not support a quixotic legal campaign in the service of right-wing, Tea Party-inspired quasi-constitutional theories. Nevertheless, that is the theory being advanced under the cover of closed meetings and redacted communications by this school board.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2013 at 9:06 am

> I didn't bring it

You inserted the word "terrorists" into the discussion. By the way, I suspect that the British did see the founding fathers as terrorists. It wasn't that long ago that George Washington was voted Britain's greatest military enemy:

Web Link

> in which case the taxpayers who will be paying

Someone always end up paying .. and it's not always the taxpayers. The American Revolution was heavily financed by bonds/paper that was purchased by wealthy individuals. Paper that the newly-minted Federal Government didn't seem to be all that interested in redeeming, if you happen to remember.

Where legal settlements are concerned, most public schools carry insurance for those cases where they have failed to comply with the law.

The Brown Act should be revisited every twenty years, or so, to make certain that it is helpful, and not hurtful.



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Posted by saw something too
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 14, 2013 at 9:08 am

Dan,

You are kidding right?

The district's "primary job" is to actually do its job.

Safety first. Nobody is asking the schools to be surrogate parents, anymore than drunk driving laws are expected to cure alcoholism. But laws aside, you would think there is a common sense expectation that MORE is done to protect particular bullying targets, instead of less.

The ultimate diversion of focus and resources is to serve the easier part of the job, educating students who are easy to keep safe or teach. For a public school, I'm not sure that is legal by federal or state standards, and these challenges that the board is engaging in are potentially a bigger liability.

If the board succeeds establishing a different standard for PAUSD, a big sign should go up at the enrollment office warning that different rules apply here.










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Posted by Barron Parker
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2013 at 9:27 am

Thank you whoever "forgot" to redact the Mitchell memo. The collection of posts above is a pitch-perfect example of what's going on here.

Bob says, "It's quite likely the Brown Act is overly constraining at times like these." Evidently Dana Tom and Barb Mitchell agree with Bob. That's why they felt entitled to lie on the agenda about the purpose of a closed meeting -- telling the public they were considering facts in two specific cases of litigation, and instead discussing whether to mount a campaign of resistance against federal civil rights law.

As the Weekly points out, Mitchell's "secret" memo (secret because she copied lawyers into it, thus giving it a privileged status), relies on half-baked misunderstandings of pending legislation in the Senate, and her belief that Palo Alto should be able to bar the federal government at the district border.

How do we know she intended it to be secret? Because she didn't title her memo "My Proposal to Invoke the US Constitution to Challenge Federal Civil Rights Law". Instead, she titled it "Privileged Attorney-Client Communication."

Has she shared her ideas on this topic with her constituents? No. Why not? Because this isn't Alabama. It's Palo Alto.

Why is the board willing to go along with wasting money on asking Chad Graff (Web Link) and Lenore Silverman (Web Link) of Fagen Friedman and Fulfrost (Web Link) to write memos humoring Mitchell's Tea Party fantasies?

This board and superintendent seem to regard the increase in property tax revenues as "mad money" to spend on public relations flacks, wacky legal theories, and probably other wastes of taxpayer money. Every dollar they are spending on this stuff is a dollar that isn't going into our classrooms to help our students. That's reason enough to toss out these folks.

Tom and Mitchell got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Their response to the Weekly: "Destroy the evidence, and don't write about what you know".

Talk about contempt for the law, the public, and our intelligence. Wow.


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Posted by saw something too
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 14, 2013 at 9:35 am


PA native,

"Can anyone explain why there are so many kids with IEP's? There seems to be an alarming

number of kids in PAUSD that are under this federal protection? In the past I did not know

even one child with an IEP, today nearly 1/3 of my son's friends seem to have them. What is

going on?"

I think some people get IEP's to simply survive the tough system that PAUSD is known for.
People with real needs who have money send their kids to private school, the district pays for others with real needs to go to private school too.

As you can see though, many of your friend's kids with IEP's are not that poor and maybe do not appear to have very severe disabilities, but their IEP's "guarantee" special accommodations going forward. More time on tests, more time on homework, things that could be adjusted without the need to have these documents. Just like not all kids with IEPs are alike, not all IEPs are the same, and teachers decide which ones will be respected. The worst must be the cases where a teacher does not care about the IEP and the kids have a real need.

IF PAUSD would spend the money it spends on lawyers to create an environment where learning is not a competition, maybe there would be less IEPs.




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Posted by WOW
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2013 at 9:39 am

WOW!!!! Their are some people in Palo Alto with way to much time on their hands!!! E.B etc... those postings gotta take awhile to post! I think I will go out and enjoy my life today, be grateful and control what I can control and understand that my job is to treat others the way I want to be treated and stay out of things I have no control over unless I want to run for school board or be part of solution with action.

A whole lot of CONTEMPT PRIOR TO INVESTIGATION GOING ON HERE for sure.

[Portion removed.]



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Posted by Barron Parker
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2013 at 9:51 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 14, 2013 at 10:00 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I found Edmund Burke's posting to be both thoughtful and very helpful - certainly a very good use of his time to better inform others.


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Posted by saw something too
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 14, 2013 at 10:24 am

Wow,

Thank you for the invitation to "stay out of things I have no control over unless I want to run for school board or be part of solution with action."

It actually does not take that much time to read or post here. It's not supposed to be formal, you just throw out whatever you think- up to you to check facts, and so forth. I think EB is providing input that could eventually lead to action.

You seem to agree there needs to be a solution, the next elections will be important, and likely whomever the Weekly endorses will be very important. I'm pleased they are reporting on these issues, and that there is a forum for the public to stay informed and engaged.





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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 14, 2013 at 10:32 am

PA Native - so many kid have IEP's because parents here can afford to send their kids for private testing (such as at Morrisey Compton) which provides them with the info to ask for and get an IEP.

Saw Something too - Its not just PAUSD that creates the competitive learning environment - for the most part its the parents (in elementary school) and the kids themselves as they get older.


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Posted by saw something too
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 14, 2013 at 10:56 am

paly parent,

"for the most part its the parents (in elementary school) and the kids themselves as they get older."

Very true, but many teachers (the bad ones especially in HS) play the game, and naturally favor the "winners." The winners are the better and perfect students because their parents or they do school on steroids, and these are the peaches to "teach". That breeds the competition in the kids themselves.

Normally bright or regular students could be made to look really stupid and bad in this environment, which again explains the IEPS. If you're going to be struggling, may as well make it official.




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Posted by three times is enemy action
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2013 at 11:19 am

@saw something too
The kids see their parents and peers as applying the most pressure to succeed. In the surveys the lowest marks wen to the following questions in this order:
1. I feel anxiety about getting into the colleges that I want to go to
2. I feel tremendous pressure to succeed academically
3. I feel anxiety about my workload at school
4. I feel pressure to take a challenging load of Honors and AP courses
5. My family expects me to attend a top college
6. My classmates and I compete to do well in school

You can include teachers in the blame for #3 but the rest are down to the parents.


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Posted by Wow!!!
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 14, 2013 at 2:09 pm

@Wow
Thanks so much for your sage advice on how we should use our time more wisely than participate in these discussion and that we parents and taxpayers should stay out of things that we can't control. Your advice to be grateful and enjoy our lives today sounds almost Zen-like if not for your very heavy use of exclamation points which are often used online as a way to elevate one's voice, if not expressing anger.
Your comments did strike me as remarkedly similar to some ramblings made by Super Skelly a few months ago in a missive that he sent to all parents in the midst of the last big OCR blow-up. Personally, I can go out, smell the roses, take a walk and then engage with others about serious issues that affect our children. [Portion removed.]
More seriously, citizens in a democracy have a variety of means to affect change outside of election cycles. Contrary to what you advocate, I would argue that responsible citizens have a moral obligation to have their voices heard when their representatives or leaders go astray, as appears to be the case here.
I thank the private citizens and the press who have done considerable research that has informed the rest of us. Keep up the good work.


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Posted by Wow!
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Exactly. You proved my point for me. [Portion removed.] PAUSD is a great district and will continue to be. Skelly and school board know this and will hopefully BE MORE TRANSPARENT and weather this storm.

Where are all the thousands of picketers demanding change outside the district office? Exactly, no one! Why? because overwhelming majority of PAUSD parents are very happy with the schools.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 14, 2013 at 3:04 pm

This scheme by Mitchell and Tom is unfettered libertarianism: Government is evil and corrupt, we are alone in this world, don't expect any help from others, it's survival of the fittest, only the strong survive.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2013 at 3:14 pm

May I ask why "Curious" thread was locked? link - Web Link
I am asking here since it seems to me that this thread is dealing with issues similar to the thread locked.
Curious - Thank you.


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Posted by three times is enemy action
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2013 at 3:55 pm

@village fool,
Probably because the thread was simply trying to be controversial.
It was already reported that the email was attorney-client privilege, which was why it was originally redacted.
First you criticize the district for letting client-attorney emails out and then you criticize them for redacting client-attorney emails. Makes that thread kinda pointless.


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Posted by Cato
a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Where does the money come from that will pay for the behavior of the Board of Education and the Superintendant regarding these civil rights issues? It comes from a slush fund raised from Utility Users Taxes that are paid into the City's General Fund and then laundered so the funds can be spent by the School District. Parents and grandparents with libertarian tendencies who take care of children in Palo Alto schools have steadily increased since the Utility Users Tax has supplemented the School District's budget. Maybe they will go away if the City does not renew its lease with the School District and spends the funds from the Utility Users Tax on City services. Why would the City Council want to continue subsidizing the libertarian behavior of the School District leaders and those leaders attitude about whether to enforce civil rights laws?


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Posted by saw something too
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 14, 2013 at 4:52 pm

three times,

Good teachers and good administrators have a way of touching students' academic experiences in extremely positive ways, regardless of whether the students are high achieving or not. Conversely, one bad teacher can hurt a large number of students, year after year.

As you describe, the atmosphere is toxic enough but it's not only #3 that can be attributed to teachers. #1 and #2 loop right back to the classroom, and the reason is twofold - grades, and perceived peer success. Both boil down to motivation, and if you have a bad teacher or a system that is catering to the top, you could be setting up the middle and bottom for failure.

Kids often say "the teacher doesn't like me" or "the teacher hates me" as a prelude to checking out of the class. I think it's because they did something to annoy a teacher who has no patience for imperfections (compared to all the perfect kids around). It becomes self-fulfilling.

There is an organization which resulted from the suicides a few years back, called Project Safety Net. The term "safety net" is what seems to still be missing for many kids. Why do so many students have to leave?

I do recall a push to value students for things other than academics. Get those non-high achieving kids to succeed in "other" ways. It's ok to support the extracurriculars, but the job is to actually educate in the classroom, and teach kids who are high achieving, and those who are not. Not outsource for the harder work.

Wow asked "Where are all the thousands of picketers demanding change outside the district office?"

Maybe the majority of families in the district do not have students with disabilities or kids who need safety nets. The majority could be fine.


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Posted by three times is enemy action
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2013 at 8:24 pm

@saw something too
See, this is what happens when you try to make the data fit your pre-defined outcome. 75% of students #1 - "have anxiety about getting into the colleges that [they] want to go to" and #2 - "feel tremendous pressure to succeed academically".
Based on your premis, that means 75% of students have teachers that have caused them to "check out class" or "lack motivation". Do you see where you're going wrong or do I need to continue?


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Posted by I LOVE THIS!
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 14, 2013 at 9:32 pm

If we fight the feds on their absurd overreach, it would be an outstanding example for the rest of the country.


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Posted by saw something too
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 14, 2013 at 11:45 pm

three times,

No, I am saying that the students who struggle are caught in a highly competitive system, not just because of #3 work overload, but because of the charged atmosphere proven by #1 and #2, and that (for struggling students) 1 and 2 loop back to teachers, if teachers are catering to the top tier. I made a distinction between good and bad teachers. You're forgetting to account the impact of good teachers.

the topic was why are there so many IEPs, as a poster asked why nearly a third of her son's friends have an IEP. I guess what I am musing about is that parents arm themselves with IEPs to protect their kids, but if we could add up all the IEPs and have quality teachers and classroom experiences that cater to these students, maybe there would be less IEP's.

I'm sure if I missed anything you will fill in what you think I am saying.




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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2013 at 5:47 am

I am confused - is it certain that the recent agreements with the OCR will be followed?


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Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 15, 2013 at 9:31 am

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

To village fool, on reading Ms. Mitchell's memo it seems that she believes that even the existing agreements with OCR were obtained under illegal duress, so according to that logic they might be abrogated. Since all of the discussion in the school board has taken place in closed session, I don't think we have a good answer to your question. Only two of the board members (Ms. Caswell and Ms Emberling) have publicly said that the district should cooperate with the federal government.
Taking a step back, as a longtime supporter of civil rights I personally am stunned by this development and not a little angry. I wonder where our other elected officials are on this question. I have not heard about them although I may not be seeing all of the coverage in the various local media. Supervisor Simitian is a former Palo Alto school board member who still lives in Palo Alto. Has he spoken out? Or Mayor Scharff?


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2013 at 10:56 am

village fool is a registered user.

Peggy Duncan, Thank you for your very thoughtful response. More than 3 months ago I called to form a Shadow PAUSD board, a very unusual suggestion. I could not foresee, then, the occurrences that presented themselves afterwords. Past events that happened prior to the info about the (first) OCR settlement had me estimate that independent investigation was not about to happen. I'll just mention now the CF carrier (that went the court way and national media way) and math teachers letter that was kept in the dark. Here is a link - Web Link. I will deeply appreciate any comments you may have should you decide to read.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 15, 2013 at 11:25 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

". I wonder where our other elected officials are on this question."

They are hiding in the shadows just hoping that concerned, angry citizens won't call on them to speak out on this issue - call them out!

. In a democracy we get exactly the kind of government that we deserve. Not holding the school board accountable for breaking the law and for deciding to challenge the federal government without having the courage to make that decision in public with public comment simply empowers them to continue the same behavior.


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Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 15, 2013 at 11:56 am

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

Thanks to both of you for your responses. I do agree with Mr. Dauber's point in the article. We would all be far better off with a public investigation and analysis than "hiding in the shadows" to use Mr. Carpenter's phrase.
I hope that everyone can see that we all have an interest in our democratic institutions functioning in an open and transparent way, even beyond the fact that breaking our public meetings law is unacceptable. I do not agree with Ms. Mitchell's perspective on the proper role of our federal government in civil rights law, but I can see from some of the comments on this forum that there are others in our community who agree with her, like "I LOVE THIS". Regardless, I would hope that she would have the courage of her convictions to have that discussion in public so that we can all weigh where we stand.
I do also hope that our other elected leaders weigh in, since the school board seems to have lost its way in a sense. I mentioned Supervisor Simitian especially because of his history on the school board and also I think he reflects a view that is closer to the mainstream of our community here in Palo Alto.


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Posted by jls mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jul 15, 2013 at 12:00 pm

jls mom of 2 is a registered user.

I don't know about Mayor Greg Scharff, he seems to have gone a little power mad himself lately (in a different way).

But I do know that Joe Simitian is a childhood friend of Barbara Mitchell, and that he endorsed her. Maybe he endorses her far-right views on the subject of schools, though I always had the impression he was a Lib Dem. Maybe he's a liberal Democrat when it comes to places other than Palo Alto but thinks that Palo Alto is special and the rules shouldn't apply here that apply everywhere else -- that seems to be a view that you hear around town, that civil rights laws weren't meant to apply to places like Palo Alto. When Simitian was in the Assembly he worked on bills with Russlynn Ali when she was at Ed Trust. But all politics is local and here in Palo Alto, Joe probably is for the status quo I'm guessing. Obviously there is no way he could go to Congress as a Democrat with those views.


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Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 15, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

I am a great admirer of Supervisor Simitian's. I have always respected his integrity and honesty and commitment to education and to equity for all children. I am sure that he will act on principle rather than personal ties. I don't think anyone has any evidence for suggesting otherwise.


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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2013 at 10:49 am

Eileen 1 is a registered user.

Regarding Supervisor Simitian: I have also respected him during the many years he has been in local politics. Because of my respect for him, and my desire to get some advice on what to do as a concerned citizen regarding the OCR report and the school district, I wrote an email to his office detailing my concerns and requesting a meeting. A week later I had not heard anything so I called his office and had a conversation with the woman who answered the office phone. She stated that the person who handled education issues for the Supervisor worked part time and was not currently in the office. She took my message and said someone would get back to me. I never heard back.

I was very disappointed because, like Peggy Duncan, I also assumed this was an issue that would be of interest to Supervisor Simitian. I believed that he could be helpful in convincing the School Board that a public investigation was necessary and that the community would be better served with greater transparency in the governing of the district. Apparently, this was not an issue that rated a response from the Supervisor's office.


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Posted by confused
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 16, 2013 at 11:59 am

confused is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2013 at 6:46 am

village fool is a registered user.

Here is a link to an older thread that had new postings regarding the issues discussed in this thread (new comments @bottom of page) -
Web Link

Also - The following is part of my comment here (Web Link):
"...As I often say, the community and staff take their cues from us in terms of how they relate to each other..." 9/2010
Given this past quote of the Superintendent which I provided above and in other threads, it seems to me that a clear statement may be called for...
A clear statement as to - What are the current educational values? It seems to me that it may be quite challenging now to understand the cues that are to be taken.


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Posted by Eileen 1
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2013 at 11:08 am

Eileen 1 is a registered user.

As a result of my post here yesterday Supervisor Simitian's office has contacted me and offered "to discuss this issue" with me.


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2013 at 12:08 pm

village fool is a registered user.

Here is a link to a new thread also dealing with the issues discussed in this thread -
Web Link


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2013 at 10:21 pm

village fool is a registered user.

@Never been more disgusted - Happy New School Year! Two long months ago you wrote :"...Or maybe I will continue to teach my students that their democratic duty is to criticize their elected and paid leaders to ensure that they are representing us. My union president may be silent right now, but I will not be." Your students are lucky. Wishing you, again, that your voice will be heard. All the best.


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Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 26, 2013 at 8:57 am

PalyDad is a registered user.

Village Fool -- so good to see you back here, even if only for a moment. As you know, we still have no accountability or transparency on the OCR complaints. The school board continues to meet in secret, still no public discussion of what went wrong or how to fix it. They've gone off on a weird tangent, sending the completed policy to the CDE saying (falsely) that OCR required them to change the Uniform Complaint Procedure AR. That didn't happen, but somehow the district got engaged in a process of revising all its policies (as if the policies were the problem). Now they have ratholed over the specifics of the policies, revised the UCP, which is fine -- it still complies with CA law, just has a higher level of detail -- but they haven't adopted it because they want it blessed by the Cal School Board Association (so that they can have the indemnity for legal fees, hilariously enough, that comes with that). Of course, if you don't implement the policy, that indemnity I am sure does not apply, so the whole exercise is ridiculous.

Meanwhile, the kids are no better off than they were three years ago, and parents have no idea what has happened.

In other news, the district hired a PR director -- you can see how well she is doing at her job by reading the story about minority achievement scores. Probably not worth the money. If you want a good laugh, you can watch the board hand this person her butt at Tuesday's meeting when she suggested that they provide more transparency and openness to the public by scheduling office hours and formal times when the public can drop in for office hours with board members. They looked at her like she had just pooped on the dias and then resoundingly rejected that idea.

The PR lady doesn't understand that they hired her so that they wouldn't have to do that! We got you so that the board wouldn't have to talk to the public anymore except to our PTA friends (as Camille bluntly stated). Actually Camille was funny -- she said she likes to go to the PTA coffees because "everyone" is there. Working parents are not at coffees during working hours, of course. But who cares about them? Are they on the PIE board? No. Why would we want to talk to them then?

Anyway, that's the news from Lake Woebegone. Miss you!


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Sep 27, 2013 at 6:25 pm

village fool is a registered user.

PalyDad - Thank you, I appreciate your very kind response. I'll be brief (and won't 'rehash' the reasons for my brevity, but here is a tiny sampling: Web Link , Web Link , Web Link ).
I'll just repeat my belief that nothing can change before a serious, independent investigation is undertaken to spell out loudly and clearly all that led to the current situation that you so nicely articulated - this is, sadly, just the tip of the PAUSD iceberg.
You are very welcome to email me - forvillagefool@gmail.com


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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2013 at 10:30 pm

village fool is a registered user.

@Never been more disgusted - three long months ago you wrote :"...Or maybe I will continue to teach my students that their democratic duty is to criticize their elected and paid leaders to ensure that they are representing us. My union president may be silent right now, but I will not be."
I wished you then that your voice would be heard. Was it?

Congrats for the new raise! It seems to me that the current successful negotiations were completed earlier this year than in previous years. Some cynics commented in other threads that this raise will ensure the "high ups" who do not practice personal accountability some peace of mind. I do not understand those cynics, as it is commonly thought that Palo Alto teachers enjoy great academic freedom. It seems to me that now that your union is done with the $ issues more time can be allocated to hear you. I do hope you are not the only one.
Wishing you all the best.