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About this blog: There are few issues more controversial and emotionally charged than education in Palo Alto. For this reason, I have chosen to write under the pseudonym Edmund Burke. Burke was an 18th century philosopher, statesman, and political...  (More)

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Palo Alto?s New Two-Tiered Bullying Policy: Will Kids Fall Through the Cracks?

Uploaded: Nov 18, 2013
Palo Alto Unified School District is considering adopting a complicated set of new policies and complaint procedures for bullying. As the Weekly reported last week, these policies were developed in conjunction with federal civil rights investigators in the wake of a finding by the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights that the district failed to respond properly to complaints of disability-based bullying.

The new policies are in many ways a vast improvement over the district's outdated policies governing complaint procedures; discipline; discrimination; hate-motivated bullying; and sexual harassment, which are conflicting and, as OCR found do not implement the law correctly.

However, some concerns remain. The policies create a complex, two-tier system of procedures in which children who are the victims of "regular" bullying are accorded lesser protections than those who are bullied based on a "protected" characteristic (i.e., disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics).

The California School Board Association recommended strongly against using a two-tier system, and the federal Office for Civil Rights also frowned on Palo Alto's proposed policy after reviewing it. However, Palo Alto went ahead with the two-tier framework.

First Tier. In PAUSD's proposed policy, children who are bullied based on one of the traits listed above will receive first-tier protection. Their claims are investigated and documented by the district Compliance Officer under the Uniform Complaint Procedure (UCP). The UCP is a procedure mandated by the state that every school district must follow in handling certain kinds of complaints, including complaints of discriminatory bullying.

Under Palo Alto's revised version of the UCP, any school staff member who witnesses or otherwise learns about any alleged act of harassment based on a protected status is required to report it to the principal within one school day. The principal must then forward that complaint to the District Compliance Officer within two days so that it can be documented and investigated. Parents must be notified. Parents and students can also file written complaints directly with the Compliance Officer.

State law requires that records must be kept of UCP investigations and resolutions, in part so that districts can be audited to ensure that students are protected from discrimination. Districts must investigate promptly, protect the confidentiality of victims, allow the complaining party to meet with the investigator and present evidence and information regarding the alleged discrimination, respond within 60 days, issue a written decision that includes specific elements such as findings of fact and conclusions of law, and inform complaining parents that the decision is appealable to the California Department of Education (CDE).

Palo Alto's new UCP also incorporates aspects of federal law. It provides that the Compliance Officer must meet with the victim and his or her parents, and then interview a host of relevant witnesses including the accused student, his or her parents, all witnesses, and "anyone mentioned as having relevant information," and review all notes, records, and statements related to the case. Interviews of the alleged victim and perpetrator are to be conducted separately, and confidentiality is protected. Even if the victim does not want to file a complaint, the district may be required to investigate in order to protect the safety of the school environment. The Compliance Officer must determine whether interim accommodations are necessary to protect the victim and address the effects of the bullying during the period of the investigation, and must address the need for longer-term accommodations in the final written decision.

The many procedural protections of Palo Alto's new UCP are intended to ensure prompt, thorough, and equitable resolution of discrimination complaints as required by law.

Second Tier. By contrast, students who are bullied based on a non-protected status, or who are bullied for no reason at all, are handled under the second-tier rules. They will receive far less procedural protection in Palo Alto. Their complaints will be handled under a brand-new process, drafted earlier this year by district lawyer Dora Dome, called the "Site-Level Complaint Investigation Procedures."

This includes children like Rebecca Sedwick, the 12-year-old Florida girl pictured above who took her own life after she was severely bullied by classmates over a period of more than a year. Rebecca was not bullied due to being a member of a protected class but was reportedly singled out by another girl because they liked the same boy.

One example of the reduced protection under the Site-Level procedure is that district staff are not required to report incidents of bullying that they learn about. A teacher who receives a bullying complaint is not specifically mandated under the "Site-Level" procedure to report that complaint to anyone. In fact, staff are only required to report the most serious instances of abuse, and only then if they have directly witnessed them.

To be clear, this means that under the district's new bullying policy, a teacher can be fully aware of bullying that is happening in his or her classroom but does not have to alert the principal or the parents involved if the bullying does not appear to the teacher to be especially severe or based on a protected characteristic.

The Site-Level procedure provides that any member of a school community may "file" an oral or written complaint with the school's principal (The treatment of email is not mentioned even though it is likely the medium for a great many bullying complaints.) As noted above, there is no requirement that staff report complaints to the principal, or notify parents. Principals who receive complaints are to notify parents and begin an investigation as soon as possible, and issue a written decision within 15 days. There is no requirement that the principal interview anyone (but if the alleged target and accused student are interviewed, they must be seen separately). Both parties have the right to appeal the decision to the district's Student Services Coordinator, Brenda Carrillo, within 15 days. However, there are no guidelines for conducting the appeal or criteria for the decision, there is no deadline for Carrillo to issue a determination, and there is no right to appeal to CDE.

According to Dome, this differential treatment of bullying victims depending on their race or disability or sexual orientation is perfectly legal. And in fact, both federal and state law currently place great emphasis on ensuring that our schools are free of discrimination, including bullying based on discriminatory motives.

Anti-Discrimination Law. Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits race, color, and national origin discrimination in schools receiving federal funding.Other similar federal laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, and disability. The State of California also has an extensive statutory framework prohibiting discrimination in education, including Seth's Law, which addresses discriminatory bullying similarly to federal law but extends that protection to more categories such as religion and sexual orientation.

There are good reasons for this focus, given our country's history of discrimination and cruelty toward minorities and women. Research indicates that disabled children, for example, are
two to three times more likely
to be the victims of bullying than non-disabled peers.

Gay youth also appear to be
bullied at far higher rates
than their non-gay counterparts. 61% of LGBTQ youth reported feeling unsafe in their school environments and 44% reported being physically harassed due to their perceived sexual orientation. Meanwhile, a 2006 Massachussetts survey found that gay students were more than twice as likely as non-gay students to attempt suicide.

These statistics suggest that there is a legitimate basis for focusing the law's attention on discriminatory bullying. That could change in the future as research reveals more about the incidence and impact of bullying across demographic groups, but at this time the law simply does not provide the same level of protection from "ordinary" bullying that it does from disability or gender harassment.

But that does not mean it's a good idea for schools to incorporate this difference into policies. California law specifically allows districts to utilize the UCP in cases where it is not mandatory such as "ordinary" bullying.

Just because something can be done does not mean that it should be done. And in this case there are good reasons that it should not.

Next: Why the two-tier bullying policy will cause kids to fall through the cracks.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 12:34 am

What's amazing about this situation is that with hundreds of thousands of words written, and spoken, about bullying at the PAUSD, we have yet to be offered any real evidence of just how big a problem bullying is.

There is data on the California Department of Education web-site (2011-12) that shows that one student was suspended for this offense, and five other students were somehow involved in bullying, but not in a way that resulted in suspension, or expulsion.

So--it's a real shame that we don't have some sense of whether there is a big problem on the PAUSD campuses, or if this is really just a tempest in a teapot.

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 12:42 am

@Edmund Burke - Congrats!
May I suggest to check a past known case, maybe one that the OCR checked, or other, and see if a system operating in an atmosphere where best practices are the "law", a theoretical environment without fear of retaliation, an environment where accountability and transparency are valued and practiced by all, would have been found at any fault? Bullying happens, the responses (or lack or responses) were the issues.

And - I have posted the following here - Web Link
I found the following pretty intriguing:
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke.
"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am still intrigued. Sadly, it seems to me that both quotes are not disconnected from the issues you discussed above and in many other threads.

Posted by Barron Parker, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 8:07 am

Thanks for this informative blog. I hope schoolBoard members are reading!

Posted by HS, a resident of another community,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 8:44 am

I don't understand this at all...Bullying is bullying and the pain experienced by those kids is just as bad no matter what the reason. They should all be protected at the same level. What kind of message does that send to the kids in the second tier...We don't care about your pain as much?

Posted by Palo Alto Grandma, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 9:11 am

This is UNBELIEVABLE. Bullying is bullying. The damage caused by bullying is not any less if a child does not have a disability. The perpetrator is not less guilty if the target child does not have a disability. It doesn't matter how many cases have happened. Even ONE is too many! It's time for a letter to the school board members.

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 10:16 am


The incidence of bullying in PAUSD is average for comparable schools -- around 30% of students report experiencing bullying in the elementary schools,slightly more in middle school, and then the rate drops off in high school.

The California Healthy Kids Survey asks about bullying. It reports that for Palo Alto elementary schools in 2009-10 28% of teachers and administrators surveyed thought that bullying was a moderate or severe problem, and this number went up to 31% when asked about special education specifically. See: Web Link

Elementary school students surveyed in 2009-10, 33% reported verbal and 38% reported physical harassment "some or most of the time." 13% reported hitting someone else 2 or more times, and 20% reported spreading mean rumors at least once in the past year. See: Web Link

I have to break this into multiple posts because paloaltoonline is telling me there are too many urls in this post. That is an annoying bug, editor.

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 10:17 am

Among middle school students, 26% reported discriminatory bullying, and 33% reported any type of bullying whether discriminatory or not. 19% reported mean rumors were spread about them 2 or more times, a very high and alarming 24% reported having sexual harassment (sexual jokes, comments, gestures made at you) 2 or more times, and 17% reported being made fun of based on looks. 28% reported being physically assaulted 1 or more times, and 14% reported being afraid physically: Web Link

In 2011-12, Jordan Middle School reported similar figures: 18% of students reported mean rumors, 17% reported sexual harassment, 11% reported being made fun of (all 2 or more times); 32% reported being physically assaulted at least once, and 18% reported being afraid of being beaten up. 26% reported discriminatory harassment, and 32% reported any bullying. See: Web Link

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 10:18 am

Part 3

District wide, 36% of middle schoolers reported being bullied during the past year, including 24% who said it was for a discriminatory reason. 15% reported experiencing sexual jokes/comments/gestures as a form of harassment 2 or more times. Web Link

Based on these surveys a couple of things jump out:the amount of bullying appears to be stable and average; discriminatory reasons appear to lead compared to "no reason" bullying but overall bullying is quite prevalent; physical violence and sexual harassment have such high numbers over time that they should be a focus of prevention.

How "bullying" is measured is the subject of this interesting article that was recently published in the Weekly: Web Link

The reporter concluded that: "A Weekly analysis of the Reality Check data obtained from the school district shows that of the 2,174 Palo Alto middle school students surveyed in fall 2012 who were asked about being bullied once or twice (or more) in the past 12 months, a total of 48 percent reported verbal bullying; 38 percent social bullying; 22 percent physical bullying; and 15 percent electronic bullying."

Bob, you may find it surprising that the rate of bullying in PAUSD appears to be average for a school district of our size, income, and other characteristics. 30% is around the national average for similar districts. One thing that would help to bring the rate down would be to implement evidence based prevention programs rather than allowing each site to select its own programs without providing any evidence of efficacy. This is a waste of taxpayer money and it is yielding results that we do not measure and cannot evaluate.

Posted by mom of quiet kids, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 11:59 am

Both of my children are quiet and well behaved. Both of them were constantly forced to sit next to children with severe problems with self-control through out their entire PAUSD elementary school experience. We were constantly told what little "darlings" we had - and the teachers were all so "grateful" they could count on our kids to tolerate this outrageous behavior. My children were SPIT ON, PUSHED, SHOVED and when they stood up for themselves the teachers would say things like "Oh, gee, you're such a nice little girl and I can't imagine you mind sitting next to **** who just blew his nose on your sweater and dumped water on your backpack." The message was clear - "you're kids are fine, so they don't deserve to sit in peace and learn."

We pulled both of them and now their attending a fabulous private middle/high school where ridiculous behavior and bullying are not tolerated.

I urge anyone with well-behaved kids to pull them out of PAUSD. Read the book QUIET - if your kid falls in that category, then PAUSD is not going to educate your child - all their going to do is make sure your child learns that their feelings don't count - good behavior is rewarded by being stuck next to children with serious issues. Save your child - pull them out! It's worth every penny and the school my children attend offers wonderful financial aid. Smart, quiet kid = private school. Let PAUSD roll around in it's own muck.

Posted by Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Why would we want a more complicated policy that doesn't protect all kids and that runs against the recommendations of other experts? Doesn't make much sense.
How much have taxpayers paid to lawyers to dream this up?

Posted by Edmund Burke, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Edmund Burke is a registered user.

@Paly parent

It is hard to know precisely what has been paid to lawyers for this. Our annual contract with Fagan, Friedman, and Fulfrost, the firm of Laurie Reynolds is in the area of $150K. Reynolds herself bills at around $270 per hour and has likely spent many hours negotiating with OCR at first during the period involving the complaint (August 2011 - December 2012) and then in the aftermath when she attempted to shut down public discussion of the matter. See: I would estimate that at least $50K of FFF billings since 2011 are attributable to this matter.

At approximately the time that both the Weekly and the public rebuked Reynolds for what the Weekly called "obfuscation" Dora Dome entered the picture as yet another outside counsel. Her billing rate is not known and I have seen no contract for her discussed in public. However, it is hard to see how the number of hours of drafting and negotiating reflected in the many policies, Guidance Memoranda, and Notices could be less than $10K or $15K and that seems low to me.

FFF is still cc'd on Dome's correspondence with OCR which suggests that sadly the district is paying two different lawyers and firms to handle this matter and paying both to review and comment on the same documents.

PThe money that is being handed over to outside counsel would be better spent on having a part time inside counsel who manages both compliance as the new District Compliance and Title IX officer, and ensuring that our policies and practices are up to date. Inside counsel would not be merely reactive but could be proactive in determining how each site is complying and whether additional education is needed. PAUSD would be very well-advised to eliminate the PR officer and replace her with a true Compliance Officer who is also inside counsel.

Posted by I am thankful, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I am so grateful that this website or blog. It does give a chance to express how we fill in a way that no one is going to take retaliation against us for speaking up. I am concern about some kids being mainstream especially when a behaviorist services is not put in place. Wait a minute, the behaviorist who spoke at the special education report meeting last month, he one who trains the teachers on what to do when serious issues arrive is not even credentialed. She was an aide in a special class not long ago. How is the district going to make sure that the special ed kids going to full inclusion is going to be successful for both the teacher and the student? How can we do it if we do not even have a experienced and credential behaviorist to support both students and teachers? I do feel bad for the smart ones too, because the class is going to go at a lower pace, and feel bad for the teacher especially if is new to the profession, and bad for both regular and special ed parents, because now they are stack and cannot do anything about it, but pull the child out of the district. But the one I feel for the most if the child, because many times students are put there without even asked, and even if things are not going well, they pretend they do. PAUSD has to make sure that all support needed is in place for bot parties involved in the inclusion process. Are we there yet? Are we just streaming kids to make it look like we are doing a great job, and that we are not isolating those students. I think is too early in the process for full inclusion. I am a parent with special needs and I am not happy when they do mainstream my child but no support in place, the damage is not just for the special ed kid, but also for the teacher and the rest of the peers. I think that was part of the bullying issue in the first case. I heard that the parents wanted and aide to protect the child and the district did not listened. Special ed. Parents, make sure that you do come and observe your child being full included put yourselves in the place of your special ed. kids and also on the teachers shoes. Do not harm your child more. Being special ed. kids is already a big thing to deal for a child, do not give them more staff to deal with it if not needed. Ask for support, for both the teacher and the student.

Thanks Edmundo for giving us this opportunity to express ourselves hopefully the district will not know who we are. I felt bad reading that at the last meeting the special ed parents poured themselves out when an employee was there translating. They should had hired a neutral person to come and translate. There were parents from Barron Park who wanted to say something, but they kept quiet because they do not want to be retaliated agains.

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm


There will be future posts on this blog about special education and what the district can and should do to address the many issues currently existing for special education parents in PAUSD. I hope you will be a regular reader and contributor to this forum. Many parents need help understanding the many laws that govern special education such as the IDEA, Section 504, and others. Inclusion is an interesting topic to explore. I hope to at some point do a live webchat to answer parent questions (but not provide legal advice of course). But at least, I will ask parents to email me questions or post them anonymously and I will do my best to address them.

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 5:42 pm

@Edmund Burke - Thank you!
May I suggest to consider adding a link to this blog to the Schools & Kids category (Town square)?

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 6:16 pm

"We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish"

Isn't this a bit ironic for an anonymous blog?

Posted by concerned, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Me thinks you protest not being a lawyer just a little too much! It\'s amazing how much you sound like one. [portion removed]

Posted by Terman parent, a resident of Terman Middle School,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Thank you for this clear explanation. I am puzzled though why Palo Alto wants to adopt a two tiered process? It seems fraught with potential problems. For example, how can principals even be sure why a child is being bullied without investigating? It seems backward. The fact that the state association of school boards recommends against it is a real red flag. The school board usually follows the state school boards association very closely.
I am looking forward to your next post on this topic. My own opinion is that we should want a system that is as simple as possible and that gives every child equal protections and rights in our district.

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 10:55 pm

@Edmund Burke - may I ask why part of \'concerned\' \'s post was removed? I agree that comments that may violate the privacy of children, families and bloggers who choose to post anonymously should be removed.
Another thread addressing the question of your anonymity was locked, fast, and made available only to those who log in. That proved to stop the discussion. I have listed few samples of editing/censoring(?) here - Web Link

I think that your choice to post anonymously is a legitimate point of discussion, you actually addressed that above. You are in good company, Jane Austen and Steven King, just to name a couple.

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 19, 2013 at 11:36 pm

That post was edited because it attempted to guess at my identity. Although in general I avoid editing and believe in a free exchange I have decided to protect anonymity of myself and other posters. I feel that I gave fair warning of that above in the description (and it violates the site's terms of use as well).

Thanks for your suggestion earlier to take one of the publicized cases and show how it would have come out differently under the new policies if they were applied. There are some complexities and concerns about protecting identity. But I think that could be very educational for people to see.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Nov 20, 2013 at 12:04 am

So, let me understand your previous comment. You are editing comments to this blog not according to any journalistic standards, but according to your choices of what constitutes appropriate comments? Please point to how "Concerned's" comments violated terms of service.

This goes to a larger point. You have consistently asserted points of law. Now you claim to have only a layperson's knowledge. Which are we to believe?

Posted by village fool, a resident of another community,
on Nov 20, 2013 at 5:23 am

@Edmond Burke - few questions, if I may.
1. Do you know when PAUSD learned of the State Verification Review?
1.1 Am I correct to assume that you learned of this process on Oct 28, responding online to a commenter noting a compliance review, asking the commenter for details?

2. Was it reasonable for the general public to expect a prompt notice/announcement? Such announcement seemed to be a reasonable expectation after realizing that the OCR came to investigate, and settlements were drafted.
I want to thank, again, the family who came forward to the weekly with the OCR agreement.
2.1 If public announcement/notice was a reasonable expectation, and if PAUSD knew about the Verification Review before the Oct 8 board meeting, do you think that that board meeting was an appropriate time/place to let the public know? During that board meeting, several district officials addressed the board regarding Special education.
BTW - "Let\\\'s cheer" reported her/his impressions from that board meeting, noting Ms. Gaona Mendoza addressing the board. That thread was locked, completely.

(My apologies if my questions above relate to information you shared already).

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Nov 20, 2013 at 7:12 am

This is an interesting and informative post and discussion.

Is there any compilation of data or experience that classified and counts bullying of various types that would justify this two-tier model? I've always thought that protecting individuals differently based on something a group experiences for the most part does not work and often undercuts the very thing it is there for - like the people who write the law intend to undercut or mock it. Instinctively I don't agree with it, but what do the numbers say about how much bullying of each type exists, and which are the most serious in terms of their effect of difficulty in managing?

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Nov 20, 2013 at 7:15 am

I've asked it before when the redesign came out, and now I also have to ask again ... why can we TRACK/follow the regular posts and news stories, but there is no link to be able to TRACK/follow blog post discussions?

Posted by Bill Johnson, publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly,
on Nov 20, 2013 at 9:33 am

Bill Johnson is a registered user.


We're working on this and should introduce it shortly. It's a bit more complicated because we want to give readers the opportunity to either follow a blogger or to follow a specific blog post and comments. You are absolutely right that we need this feature. Thanks for your patience.

Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Gunn High School,
on Nov 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Wasn't the initial OCR investigation and Skelly's adoption of the resolution agreement completed one year ago. What has happened in that year with regard to the actions that Dr. Skelly committed the District to perform? Training? Handbook updates? Is the District waiting on the development of this policy which now appears to be mired in debate? Is the Distict at risk for non-compliance with actions which Dr. Skelly bound us to in signing the resolution agreement? What is happening at the school sites? Sounds like there has been no change.

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 20, 2013 at 10:53 pm

@Gunn Parent

The OCR investigation of the complaint regarding disability-based bullying at Terman ended in a letter of finding of noncompliance with federal civil rights laws on December 26 of last year (2012). It did not however become known to the public until it was published in the Weekly on February 8, 2013: Web Link

In terms of the Resolution Agreement that PAUSD entered with the district it's many provisions are still unfulfilled. The district was to prepare a Notice to parents and a Guidance Memorandum to guide staff conduct but neither of these have been completed. PAUSD chose instead to enter into a lengthy process of developing policies which then will be described in the Notice and Guidance document. Contrary to what Dr. Skelly reported last night at the board meeting the delay was not entirely due to OCR or to other agencies but in part to the fact that the district endeavored (and is still trying to do so, per this blog post) to develop unique policies that suited its own desires rather than to use simpler policies that complied with the law. Some of the aspects of these customized policies are good, such as incorporating procedural requirements from federal law into the UCP. Some are not as good.

For example, the district actually wanted to force all complaints, including those of discrimination, into the "Site-Based Investigation Procedure". When that was rejected, it then tried to merely "offer" the UCP to discrimination victims, and entice them into its "SIte Based" investigation procedure by offering them a shorter timeline to resolution (but one which did not comply with state law). It appears that these were not approved by OCR because after months of drafts between February and August 2013, OCR made very substantial edits to PAUSD's proposal that did not contain this feature any more.

In another example, the district wanted discrimination complaints that are submitted in writing to go to an "informal" process at the site-level that did not comply with the UCP, and it tried several different drafts of that even though the UCP provides no opportunity for written complaints of discrimination to be resolved in any informal, non-UCP process. In what appears to be a compromise, OCR's edits to the policies retained a short 10-day informal process for written complaints with the written consent of the complainant, but only for 10 days and with logging and documentation of complaints. There are now procedural features that OCR appears to have inserted in the policies so that the district could have the informal process while still protecting rights under state law. This is apparently the outcome of a lengthy negotiation process.

All of this wrangling took time, and of course taxpayer funds were expended to pay outside counsel to painstakingly draft and redraft these policies, participate in conference calls with OCR and the district staff and so forth. And it does not appear from Dr. Skelly's prepared statement to the board last night that this process is yet at an end.

So when Dr. Skelly asserted last night that the reason for the delay was that "district does not control the timeline" and the delay was due to OCR and CDE, that was not a full description of the situation.

In response to the question about training, the district has had training sessions but these would seem to be problematic as they could not have trained staff in policies that did not yet exist. It would have been impossible to train staff in how to implement the bullying policy we did not have or the modified UCP that we have not yet adopted. The staff was instead trained on the basics of the law. This is fine, and worthy, but perhaps premature given the state of unfinished policies.

I doubt that PAUSD is in any trouble with OCR over the speed of its policy development. OCR is engaged with the district in a process of bargaining and negotiation. While that is ongoing and the district is in good faith negotiation over these policies i doubt there is any risk that they will be cited for noncompliance.

The real question is what is happening in the interim at the sites. Are new complaints developing due to the lack of clear direction that is still the status quo as the policies are developed? There, the answer seems to be yes. There have been two new complaints of disability-based bullying and a compliance review of sexual harassment at Paly that have triggered at OCR since the time of the OCR Settlement Agreement. Whatever the outcome of those complaints, it is certain that the unsettled state of the policies and guidance for staff is unhelpful to parents and to staff.

One complaint, at Duveneck school, resulted in the principal sending an email to the community that risked revealing the identity of the family involved and drew a rebuke from OCR that reminded the district about rules proscribing retaliation. The lack of clear procedures and policies is a detriment to the welfare of our children, particularly our vulnerable children.

It is unknown what triggered the state verification review by CDE of the district's special education programs that began last week. Although the district received notice of the verification review two months ago and knows why the review is occurring it has not informed the board, at least not in public, and has not informed the public directly. Perhaps these issues are entirely unrelated, or perhaps there is some connection.

The sooner this is resolved so that everyone has the transparency and clarity required the better.

Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 20, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Wow, you certainly speak lawyer. How is that?

Posted by Skellytons , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 20, 2013 at 11:19 pm


So delighted to see that you have started this much-needed blog. I would hope that all the parents of our precious students read it.

I have come to rely on you as the definitive source of factual information about what's happening. I am impressed with the depth at which you have analyzed this information and the skillful way you have laid it out for us to peruse.

Keep up the good work! I look forward to your future postings.

Posted by Hooray for E.B!, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 21, 2013 at 12:03 am

To Parent:
Hello There! Edmundo Burke is a very educated and smart person.The fact that he chose this name tells leads me to believe that. I like this blog. Hopefully we will have less deleted posting than in the school district related articles.

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 21, 2013 at 12:26 am

@villagefool wrote:

@Edmond Burke - few questions, if I may.
1. Do you know when PAUSD learned of the State Verification Review?

2 months ago. Dr. Skelly received a letter from CDE informing him of the review. He has not released that letter to the public or discussed this letter or the reason for the review with the board at a board meeting. The first mention of the review that he makes to the board in his Weekly memo seems to have been this week on Friday after the meeting had already taken place. He did not tell them the reason for the review but called it an "opportunity."

1.1 Am I correct to assume that you learned of this process on Oct 28, responding online to a commenter noting a compliance review, asking the commenter for details?


2. Was it reasonable for the general public to expect a prompt notice/announcement? Such announcement seemed to be a reasonable expectation after realizing that the OCR came to investigate, and settlements were drafted.
I want to thank, again, the family who came forward to the weekly with the OCR agreement.

Yes, it certainly should have been disclosed to the board and the public. More importantly the reasons for the review should have been disclosed to the board and public and discussed by the board in an open session at the time of Holly Wade's recent presentation on special education. It is just unreasonable to host an entire staff presentation for the board that made no mention of the fact that the district is undergoing a state audit due to suspected possible noncompliance as indicated by one or more of the three factors listed here:Web Link

2.1 If public announcement/notice was a reasonable expectation, and if PAUSD knew about the Verification Review before the Oct 8 board meeting, do you think that that board meeting was an appropriate time/place to let the public know? During that board meeting, several district officials addressed the board regarding Special education.
BTW - "Let\\\'s cheer" reported her/his impressions from that board meeting, noting Ms. Gaona Mendoza addressing the board. That thread was locked, completely.

Yes, I do think so. Palo Alto appears to have been notified of the verification review in mid September. At that time if Dr. Skelly did not understand the reason for the verification review he should have asked CDE to clarify it. That is minimally what would have been appropriate. It appears to be part of a pattern of dealing with oversight investigations that he did not have a public disclosure of this. Whether he told board members out of public view is another question that we cannot answer. However if he had told them then not only his failure to ensure it was in the staff presentation on special ed, but also the board's failure to bring it out in questions or to be curious about it are both problems.

These are excellent questions. Thank you for raising them. I will post in the future about the CDE review.

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 21, 2013 at 7:33 am

@crescent park anon

The post above as well as my comments replying to Bob indicate that both nationally and in Palo Alto there is more bullying, probably much more, happening for discriminatory reasons. Disabled and gay students seem to be targeted at high rates. Male students who are not gay seem to be bullied by slurs that are homophobic, which would still be discriminatory bullying. And female students often are bullied with a sexual harassment component by being called "slut" and so forth.

This is the best reason to reject the two-tiered approach -- it will lead to categorization errors in which bullying that is actually gender motivated, or discriminatory is misclassified by a teacher or administrator by accident and handled incorrectly.

I will be covering this in my next post. Please check back and let me know your reaction and if it answers your question.

Posted by ParentOfVictim, a resident of Jordan Middle School,
on Nov 21, 2013 at 9:57 am

Aside from the obvious unfairness of any two-tier system (separate but equal?) I think the major drawback with this system is that the Board is building a system which PREVENTS them from gathering useful statistics, incident rates, severity indicators, etc.

By hiding this problem at a site level, the District is never notified, and the Board has no insight into the real state of the problem in our schools.

It actually prevents them from having the data needed for follow-up, and ongoing management. That's not very smart.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 21, 2013 at 12:40 pm

"Edmund Burke" has answered my question about how much "bullying" there is in the PAUSD with data that has previously been presented to the community, and by-and-large demonstrated to not be very reliable.

The idea that student opinions constitute real evidence to the extent of bullying in this school system, or any other, is difficult to accept as sacrosanct. Moreover, the Wellness Survey is not an official government survey, is it?

It would be hard to believe that any student, or their parents, in the PAUSD could provide an accurate definition of "bullying". Given that students are not accountable for their opinions--it\'s hard to believe that they won\'t say anything that comes to mind.

It seems that the PAUSD has now created a standardized form to report "bullying". It\'s not clear at the moment if the PAUSD will be treating these forms, once completed and submitted to the PAUSD for action, will be treateed as public records. Hopefully they will, but it would be no surprise if they don\'t.

If students, and parents, are not willing to document this behavior to the school administration, what hope is there for more administrative action against the people accused of this behavior?

Sorry--EB, but this claim of 30% of the students have been "bullied" is hard to believe. (By the way, was their 100% participation in this survey? If not, then you need to normalize your percentages to a 100% basis.)

Posted by denese, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Nov 21, 2013 at 12:49 pm

A tier system for bullying will be a recipe for disaster. Bullying is bullying regardless.

Posted by just somebody's mom, a resident of Gunn High School,
on Nov 21, 2013 at 3:00 pm

So there are first and second class victims, and an accepted segregation of these innocents by PAUSD?

Since we moved here 9 years ago I sensed this was true, but now I see it actually is ... institutionalized prejudicial treatment of victims who are CHILDREN and who are legally supposed to be protected within mandatory school attendance hours that our tax money pays for ...

We need to contemplate/consider this very carefully as it reflects on the mental health of the entire PAUSD community.

Are the bullied/victimized children in this district by being put into two tiers?

Is the PAUSD bullying/victimizing them again?

Posted by Thankful, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 23, 2013 at 8:29 pm

@ I am Thankful -
1. '...behaviorist who spoke at the special education report meeting last month, he one who trains the teachers on what to do when serious issues arrive is not even credentialed'
-You are correct. The 'behaviorist' has no credential and no license, and is not a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA), the standard for behavioral work. Anyone can say they are a 'behaviorist', the title means nothing. Likely Special Education prefers to hire untrained contractors since it is cheaper and Special Education has control. Federal IRS guidelines defining contractors vs. employees look at contractors as independent, possessing the required training, obtaining their own oversight via memberships, certifications, licenses and providing their own supplies to work independently. As such, they do not go through PAUSD competitive hiring process or meet hiring qualifications as teachers do.

Since only licensed or Board certified behaviorists need to meet ethical and training requirements for licensed and Board certified behaviorists, there is no way for teachers and parents to seek help if PAUSD unlicensed contractors are ineffective or violate a standard. Because they are not licensed or supervised by any entity, PAUSD contract behaviorists do not have to meet the guidelines of any entity. No complaints or questions can be made to any oversight entity, since they do not have to meet standards of any entity.

2. "How is the district going to make sure that the special ed kids going to full inclusion is going to be successful for both the teacher and the student? How can we do it if we do not even have a experienced and credential behaviorist to support both students and teachers?"
-Good Question. It has not been possible for teachers and parents to find out who supervises someone under the title of behaviorist in PAUSD - "behavioral TOSA," "behavioral coach". Special Education does not respond to requests for behavioral contact information, supervision, qualifications, etc. Teachers and parents are only given an e-mail for the Behavioral TOSA. In terms of evidence for their qualifications, there is a video at a Board of Education meeting about the TOSA's making their own logo. Lovely, but in the mental health field, most providers are happy clearly present their qualifications.
This is not to say District behaviorists in their many forms are not helpful. Some may be effective and gifted with disabled children, or maybe they are not. Noone knows as they are not accountable.

3. "...when they do mainstream my child but no support in place, the damage is not just for the special ed kid, but also for the teacher and the rest of the peers. I think that was part of the bullying issue in the first case."
-You are correct, mainstreaming without providing appropriate behavioral support has harmed the special needs child, the teacher who tries to teach the child along with a whole class of other students, and the other children who witness and lose educational hours because the teacher has to handle problems never trained for. Special Education policy is that children must first mainstream, then must fail in mainstream before behavioral help will be provided.
The Special Needs children are the subject of bullying and other safety risks, but Special Education has worked to remove them from IEPs and prevent the use of aides or pull outs by specialists trained to teach them. Hours of qualified specialists at neighborhood schools have not been increased since putting more children into the schools. Although Special Education reported to the Board of Education they trained all the teachers to deal with the children mainstreamed, this is not the case. Only some of the teachers have received this training, and for the past two years teachers have told us they received no training nor help from Special Education. Special Education prefers to ignore reports and complaints of children needing help until it is a crisis.
It is the PAUSD teachers left to handle it all. They are to be thanked.

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 23, 2013 at 9:52 pm


This is not an issue I am familiar with. I found this, which is the California Association of Behavior Analysts. This appears to be the main California certification organization. Their website states that the credential (which is I think what you reference) is the Board Certification in Behavior Analysis. "The BCBA certification is an increasingly recognized credential. This certification is recognized by the State of California, Department of Developmental Disabilities with regards to practitioners who provide behavioral services. In addition, an increasing number of regional centers and school administrators are stipulating that those who provide behavioral intervention to their consumers and students must hold this certification."

Web Link

Is this correct?

Just so that I understand, are you saying that PAUSD has no standards requiring its behavioral analysts to possess this minimum certification? What credentials are they required to have? Your post makes it sound as if they are required to have no training or credentials at all, but surely that is not correct. Can you point me to anything such as a job posting that would help to support this.

It's not that I don't believe you, but it is difficult to imagine that our district would hire an individual with no training or credentials at all to work with our most vulnerable students.

How many behaviorists are there district wide? Who are they? Where do they work? What is their training? Are their resumes available?

Can you give more information about what a behaviorist does in PAUSD? Do they have direct student contact or do they advise teachers or both? How are they supervised? How are they selected?

The CalABA site says that "an increasing number of . . . school administrators are stipulating that those who provide behavioral intervention to their consumers and students must hold this certification."

Do other area schools require this certification? More information would be appreciated.

Your obedient servant,


Posted by Thankful, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 24, 2013 at 12:06 am

You raise some really good questions, partly because parents have tried to get these answers from Special Education but cannot. Your questions deserve thoughtful answers, but here is some basic information. Issues related to behaviorists are part of many Palo Alto line threads, especially on bullying and following the Dr. Wade Board of Education presentation on Special Education Review.
Anyone can call themselves a "behaviorist". The term actually has no single meaning.
A BCBA is certified by a Board after rigorous training including academic coursework, passing an exam, and thousands of supervised hours. The CABA site it an excellent source. Insurance companies require "behaviorists" be supervised by a BCBA or licensed psychologist such as an M.F.T. Some require supervision by a Ph.D. in psychology. BCBA is recognized as the certification qualified to manage autism cases. Although a person working as a behaviorist may have related education experience, that is no assurance of appropriate training. Many people working as behaviorists have bachelors in psychology, but that is not enough to qualify as a BCBA or work independently with autism. Training in psychology may have little direct relationship to working with children with autism. Often it is immediately clear that a report is not done by someone not properly trained in the field.
Behaviorists without licenses are Para-professionals. They cannot bill insurance directly. They should not be managing cases or working without supervision. Para-behaviorists are not teachers, although some TOSAs have teaching credentials. Para-behaviorists are supervising credentialed teachers. PAUSD told some families this year that paras will now teach disabled children since they don't want to do specialist pull outs by credentialed special education teachers. The risk is that paras are being used instead of credentialed teachers and instead of properly trained and certified behaviorists.
PAUSD uses a variety of behaviorists under various titles and sources, behaviorists, behavioral services, safety training, behavioral coaches, behavioral intervention coaches. Look through the Warrants (list of payments)each month and you will see a mix of many types of behaviorists, behavioral services, psychologists. While many districts hire agencies who provide therapists and aides and supervision and documentation, PAUSD does not. They may hire contractors.
Realize behaviorists may be left alone with non verbal children, may restrain them, provide "safety training" to others involving physical methods of controlling a child. They have enormous influence on if a child leaves mainstream classroom, is in a special education classroom, has to attend a residential facility. They may write behavioral intervention plans that are the only protection from children being expelled from schools by well meaning but untrained staff not educated in how to deal with the child of special need's mind. Their observations, data to be taken following scientific principals, can be used to deny a child special education and behavioral plan protection.
How they are supervised in PAUSD is an excellent question. Parents have tried for years to get information about qualifications, supervisors, phone numbers, how to complain, request help, express concerns about services or lack of hours being filled. It is difficult, if not impossible to get this information.
Behaviorists are associated with the field of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), the only scientifically accepted therapy for children with autism. But PAUSD says they no longer provide ABA therapy. Thus, the services of their behaviorists do not have to be supervised and there is no oversight. All children in every PAUSD school are effected by PAUSD behaviorists, because they work with both disabled and non-disabled children, advise teachers on methods to handle a child and recommend school and program placement. Special Education has begun training TOSAs, teachers with teaching credentials, as behavioral coaches. Again, information on their training, supervision, effectiveness can't be obtained. Their work looks like ABA, but PAUSD says they don't perform ABA. So the critical question has to be: if not performing ABA, what are they doing? What are the guidelines, evidence basis, scientific support of effectiveness, supervision, safeguards? All their work may be scientifically based and effective and the staff wonderfully trained and supervised with the greatest of safeguards and service. If you can get them to provide the information on the way they use public funds and safety of disabled children, that would be wonderful.

Posted by Behaviorists , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 24, 2013 at 1:28 pm

The PAUSD term 'District Behaviorist' can mean anything. This person does not have to be licensed, certified, nor credentialed. Currently in PAUSD contract behaviorists are the Supervisors of other District behaviorists and train TOSAs (teachers who are instructional behavioral coaches.) A District BCBA should not be overseeing all cases. However, that may be contract person. We don't know of any parents who have been able to locate a District BCBA. If any parents know, can you please post it?

A helpful site about what BCBA and behavioral therapists are:
Web Link

Guidelines for which tasks should be performed at level of provider:
Web Link

PAUSD says it does not perform ABA, so there is really no entity it's practices fall under.

In California, the California Board of Behavioral Sciences licenses behavioral providers. This includes interns in the fields. Web Link
However, behaviorists for autism are not included in whom the BBS licenses:
"The BBS is responsible for consumer protection through the regulation of Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT); Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW); Licensed Educational Psychologists (LEP); Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCC); MFT Interns (IMF); Associate Clinical Social Workers (ASW); and Professional Clinical Counselor Interns (PCCI) in the State of California. It is one of the boards within the California Department of Consumer Affairs."

Separate from PAUSD, there are BCBA Boards and insurance guidelines to safeguard behavioral service clients. A licensed psychologist or Ph.D. in psychology can supervise behavioral cases. While technically allowable, many licenses do not train strongly to deal with autism, such as a licensed vocational counselor. Also, good practice is that behavioral supervision takes many hours and includes regular 1:1 contact with the child in their setting. Keep in mind the District works with children as young as Age 3. Behaviorism is also an evidenced based practice that would require time and ability to conduct frequent science based evaluation. If there is a single BCBA who is an employee of the District, they could not likely adequately supervise all the cases in the District. A very large part of being a BCBA is to analyze and calmly and diplomatically handle all forms of problems, such as child not progressing, parent complaints, teacher concerns, safety issues, performance problems of behaviorists who frequently have little training. As with any mental health service, families and teachers should have a person to address concerns instead of only the behavioral para involved with the problem. The general guideline for parents is to discuss issues with supervisors and the BCBA. There is a chain parents can talk to. M.A.s and Ph.Ds in Education and SLP are not qualified and should not be supervising behaviorists, even if they work in the Special Education Office.

BCBAs can prevent inappropriate treatment and use of methods that lead to failure for the child and teachers. Efforts should be made to minimize failure and disruption to school life and to safety of staff and other children while ensuring the other children can receive their education. Children who were requested receive behavioral help but later end up in more restrictive settings, or who end up needing increased services after a crisis or series of crises (violence to self and others, extreme disruption to class, failing academics, inability to interact with other children and teachers appropriately, running out of classroom, hiding, safety dangers. The fact that PAUSD places so many children in residential treatment programs after failing in their schools indicates lack of competence in evaluating and providing, supervising and managing appropriate behavioral services the first time it is needed.

Posted by Behaviorists - PAUSD, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 24, 2013 at 1:36 pm

It is hard to find much about behaviorists on PAUSD web site. A PAUSD job description for Special Education Instructional Attendant (whom Special Education commonly refers to as Aides)indicates that the Instructional Attendants are supervised by credentialed teachers. Credentialed teachers are the professional, attendants are paras. The post also describes the Aides interaction with behaviorists,

"Where appropriate, employees in this classification will receive training and indirect supervision by District Behaviorist or District BCBA and familiar with behavior management procedures."

Some of the Instructional Attendant tasks related to behavioralism are:

"Assist in the management and shaping of student behavior through the use of positive reinforcement strategies;"
"Maintain student discipline in the absence of the teacher;"
"Collaborate with support staff to model and implement effective behavioral support strategies"

The job posting pasted below for reference is available at: posting:Web Link
To assist a certificated teacher(s) in the instruction and supervision of an individual special education student by assisting with instructional support and child care activities and prescribed specialized one-to-one and/or small group services. Employees in this classification receive direct to general supervision from a certificated teacher(s). Where appropriate, employees in this classification will receive training and indirect supervision by District Behaviorist or District BCBA and familiar with behavior management procedures. This job class provides responsible support and follow-through activities as specified in the student?s Individual Educational Plan (I.E.P.). The work location for this position will take place at multiple school sites during the course of the year.

Some helpful descriptions can be found under PAUSD Special Education Programs and Services Web Page: Web Link

This is the specialist who supports the students and school staff with behavior plans, functional analysis, and creating/modifying behavioral structures for students."

"Alternative Settings
Special education instruction may also occur in settings other than classrooms where specially designed instruction takes place, (e.g., home instruction, residential placement)."

"General Education Program
A student with special needs can be placed in a general education classroom with necessary support services to ensure that his/her educational needs can be met in that setting."

School web sites connect psychologists and behaviorists in the same sentence and under their Counseling departments at the schools. However, the duties of the two fields are not the same and require different training. According to PAUSD Counseling Services web site, counseling services are provided by interns under licensed supervision. (Note: PAUSD has more counseling agencies providing interns and licensed supervision to schools than listed on their web page. This gives schools and parents some degree of choice in finding the best provider for a child. Again, these are not behaviorists.)

The Counseling web page indicates "...American School Counselor Association National Standards in the academic, career, and personal/social domains are the foundation for this work."
However, there is no indication for behaviorists working under any guidelines.

Web Link
"...American School Counselor Association National Standards in the academic, career, and personal/social domains are the foundation for this work."
"K - 5 Counseling
Elementary schools participate in a counseling support program staffed by intern counselors under the supervision of licensed psychologists. With parent permission, counselors work with students for a number of social and emotional needs that may be affecting their learning.

6 - 12 Counseling
Intern counselors under the supervision of Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS) provide support to students. With parent permission, they work with students individually or in groups.

Three Session Referrals
Counselors, administrators, and psychologists may refer students and their parents to local therapists for additional support. Three counseling assessment sessions are provided at no cost to families."

Noticeably absent from PAUSD web site are more detailed information about their behavioral practices.

Behavioral-ism could be an area where there are gaps in regulations and license requirements. So in PAUSD, they provide the service, but they may not have much in related safeguards. It would seem like families and teachers cannot go to State licensing officials because they are not licensed by the State, and also cannot go to BCBA certification boards because they are not certified by these Board(s?), and also because PAUSD does not perform ABA or use staff who require certification or licenses. It is one way to do things, it does not meet high standards of practice and professionalism. Do you know of any other board or entity families can look to get help or information?

Posted by Edmund Burke, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 24, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Edmund Burke is a registered user.

@thankful and Behaviorist

Thank you for these informative posts. I attempt to answer your questions below:

Q. @thankful says that "PAUSD told some families this year that paras will now teach disabled children since they don't want to do specialist pull outs by credentialed special education teachers. " @Thankful furthermore says that "Parents have tried for years to get information about . . . how to complain, request help, express concerns about services or lack of hours being filled. It is difficult, if not impossible to get this information." In addition, @behaviorist states that some children may have been placed residentially or otherwise not been placed in the least restrictive environment (LRE) due to the failure of the district to provide needed services or to providing them by a non-qualified teacher.

A. Some of your concerns, if accurate, could allege violations of the IDEA. Specifically, your posts suggest that services that are listen on an IEP are not being implemented; that there is a lack of qualified staff (if noncredentialed behaviorists are "teaching" special ed students), and that these actions may have resulted in denial of FAPE or of LRE.

These issues appear to fit within the parameters for a "compliance complaint" to the California Department of Education (CDE), and/or a due process action. Both can be filed at the same time, but because they cover the same issues, the CDE would typically defer action until the due process hearing concludes. According to the district's lawyers, Fagan, Friedman and Fulfrost, a state compliance complaint to CDE can be seen as "a cheaper and more efficient option for raising violations of the IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act." See Fagan, Friedman & Fulfrost, IDEA Survival Guide, at 1.5.1 (2008).

According to the law, a compliance complaint to the CDE may be filed when anyone (the complainant can be anyone -- it need not be a parent -- alleges a violation of state or federal special education laws. In the hypotheticals suggested by your questions, parents could allege that their child is not receiving the services provided on the IEP ("concerns about services or hours being filled") or about lack of qualified staff (noncredentialed behaviorist is "teaching" contrary to state or federal law), or because a student ended up denied a FAPE in the least restrictive environment due to failure by the district to provide needed services in the IEP. According to Fagan, Friedman, "As long as the complaint alleges non-compliance with federal or state law it will pass muster" and both of these examples are given in their manual. See id, at 1.5.1.

A complaint must be filed within 12 months of the alleged illegality. However, according to Fagan, Friedman, a longer period may be considered in cases of ongoing violations or where you are requesting new services to compensate or correct the harm that was done by the legal violation. See id. Within 60 days of receipt of the complaint, CDE must initiate an independent investigation, and give you the opportunity to offer additional information in support of your complaint, and issue a written decision. See Cal. Ed. Code Section 56043

Filing a complaint is very easy. Here is a link to information about filing, and a link to a complaint form: info website

complaint form

You do not need to use this complaint form, but your complaint must include the following information:
1. Statements that the school district or public agency violated special education law within one year prior to the complaint being filed
2. Facts on which such statements are based
3. Signature and contact information for the complainant
4. Child?s name, address, and school if alleging violations that are child specific
5. Proposed resolutions

You also have the right to file for a due process hearing due to the same alleged violations. That is more complicated to carry out but can also be effective. If you are interested in knowing about due process hearings, please post back and I will do my best to point you to the relevant resources. Many parents file simultaneously for due process and a state compliance complaint, however, it is likely the case that most would have an attorney before filing due process and an attorney is unnecessary for a CDE complaint.

If it is the case, as both @thankful and @behaviorist indicate that parents have been complaining for a long time and still have not received any district response, then perhaps some of the above information will prove useful in obtaining an independent investigation and decision within 60 days on the use of behaviorists, the provision of behavioral therapy, enforcement of services on an IEP, and other issues related to compliance with state and federal special education law.

It is well worth noting that the district is currently undergoing a compliance verification review by CDE. Such a review may have been triggered by complaints of this sort as compliance complaints are one of the three bases on which CDE decides to conduct a verification review. See: link

I believe this addresses your request for information on "any other board or entity families can look to get help or information?" Please let me know if this is of assistance or if you need more information. You may email me at However, it is beneficial to others in the community to see the information as well so I encourage you to post here.

The materials available on this blog are for informational and educational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. I am not an attorney. You should contact a licensed attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.

Posted by I am Thankfull, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Nov 25, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Thanks to all of you who addressed my concerns. I remember being at an IEP at Jordan, there was a young man who I thought it was a student, he was not really siting down at the table, but in a corner table, when I asked the principal and rest of IEP members who he was, they told me it was the new hired behaviorist. For a whole year the district did not hire a behaviorist even though it was a class for emotionally disturbed children. The young man, just said hello, and never spoke again. He never got to know my child because he was hired one year after my child enter this classroom. I do not know if he was good or not, or he was licensed. It is ironic to open a therapeutic class for students with behavior problems and not to have a behaviorist in the classroom. I does not make sense. The district tries to save $$ by opening their own therapeutic class, but in no way can be compared with the real therapeutic classes. All they are doing is tried to save $$ by not having to pay the private schools. Also the teacher did not have any licence to work with emotionally Disturbed children. This is something that can be added to the special ed. credential. Same thing with Autism. Now the law says that special ed teacher who work with autistic children must have an added credential or otherwise be reassigned. Is your child autistic? Does his or her teacher had added a autism authorization to her special or regular ed. credential? This went into effect on the month of October. If I was you I would find out. This is another issue we must address at our school board meetings, since they are not addressing it.

Posted by Maybe?, a resident of another community,
on Nov 26, 2013 at 9:26 am

Maybe the two-tiered system exists because of how hard it is to discipline students for anything in this district? The "second-tier" allows admin to go easier on bullies and shield the district from the ensuing rabid parent fall-out ("What?!?! My child a bully?! Suspension??! You'll hear from MY LAWYER!") without resulting in an OCR violation. It's time we risk the right law suits and protect students.

Posted by Behaviorists - PAUSD, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 29, 2013 at 11:41 pm

@I Am Thankful "Now the law says that special ed teacher who work with autistic children must have an added credential or otherwise be reassigned. ...This went into effect on the month of October."
Do you have any information about this law? PAUSD Special Education Teachers, Resource Support Teachers, Behaviorists (who have told parents they are teachers) definitely do NOT all have the added autism credential.

@Edmund Burke - Re: the link you provided for Behaviorist Web Link">Web Link
It lists CalABA's function:
"We are the primary clearinghouse for research and training in behavior analysis in the Western Region of the United States."
and also
"The Guidelines may be referenced in complaints alleging violation of Section 6 of the BACB's Disciplinary and Ethical Standards; these Guidelines, however, are not separately enforced by the BACB."
It sounds like it has little enforcement teeth. Still, it does provide professional standards and guidelines. PAUSD's adherence to them is doubtful, individual behaviorists even worse.

Looking at the Guidelines, they emphasize that parents and children ARE clients, and that they have responsibility to act in the best interest of the client and ultimate service recipient (child), not just the school district who pays them.
They also emphasize Behaviorists have a proactive responsibility to know the guidelines, ensure clients receive AND understand information about what they are doing, and that it is the behaviorist's have responsibility to resolve confusion, keep ethical standards, provide data - not the client, parent

Guidelines for behaviorists include:
limit their work to their competence, not represent self as having training or certification beyond what they have,
report ethical violations of other behaviorists,
maintain data, provide data when requested,
avoid harmful practices, use least restrictive practices,
avoid ethical conflicts,
ethical supervision standards,
provide credentials when asked,
explain their work to client in language they understand - regardless if client does not not initially understand, what is happening,
provide client with procedures to complain

Sections of Guidelines:

The behavior analyst has a responsibility to operate in the best interest of clients.

2.01 Definition of Client.

The term client as used here is broadly applicable to whomever the behavior analyst provides services whether an individual person (service recipient), parent or guardian of a service recipient, an institutional representative, a public or private agency, a firm or corporation.

2.06 Rights and Prerogatives of Clients.

(a) The behavior analyst supports individual rights under the law.

(b) The client must be provided on request an accurate, current set of the behavior analyst's credentials...

(d) Clients must be informed of their rights, and about procedures to complain about professional practices of the behavior analyst...

6.06 - Conflicts with Organizations

7.01 - Affirming Principles
7.03 - Being Familiar with These Guidelines
7.04 - Discouraging Misrepresentation by Non-Certified Individuals

8.01 - Ethical Violations by Behavioral and Non-behavioral Colleagues

Web Link">Web Link

Posted by Behavioral Warrants, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 3, 2013 at 12:12 am

@Burke - Your question about how much Special Education spends for behaviorists is impossible for the public to know, since it is 1) opaque and 2) spread over many categories of staff. There are Contract Behaviorists, psychologists, and TOSAs (credentialed teachers with some behavioral training but NOT licensed and NOT certified to do autism behavioral work directly with children).
There are behavioral consulting costs below for TOSAs, but actual TOSA costs are likely much higher since they are paid teacher salaries and benefits.Instructional Attendants (para's working as aides) also provide behavioral work (see job posting, above), but are employees.
Behaviorists - the term can mean anything. PAUSD hires many contractors related to Behavioral work. It is unclear if they have licensed or have credentialed supervision, if they adhere to any professional or ethical guidelines or provide a client complaint process. Within PAUSD, families are not provided with supervisor contact information and reporting structure. The fear with Special Education hiring contractors is contractors do not need to meet the same high standards as PAUSD employees and are not managed or supervised by the District. There is a risk a department hires only the people they like and who support their wishes for children, instead of having the professional independence demanded by the situation.

PAUSD Counseling Services Department overlaps with some behavioral work, by necessity as the two cannot be completely separated. Counseling Services uses school psychologists, interns, and outside contractors and agencies for services. These staff and agencies have licensed supervision and are licensed by the State of California. They post the organizational guidelines they adhere to on the PAUSD website. Services which might often be seen as behavioral work such as social groups can be led by psychology interns, and TOSAs. Speech Language Pathologists also provide social skills services.

It is patchwork system. It can be unclear to families who does what, and services can be duplicate. Often instead of carrying over what works from year to year, the entire process starts new each school year, at a tremendous cost in time, money, and teacher difficulty. It is unclear if behavioral services for a child in need are coordinated or supervised. For example it can be difficult to get even the dates groups are offered and what is taught, even when families know the child is enrolled.

Here are some payments from the October, 2013 PAUSD warrants (payments) submitted to the Board of Education. This is only for October, 2013 and is not complete. There are other warrants that may relate to behavioral work. Many warrants list "purpose" as "contracted services", and some list "school consulting", "professional development"," "coaching". It is hard to know what they relate to.
The complete Warrant list can be found at:
Web Link
Business Services says the public can view warrants by appearing at the office, or requesting them in an Excel format. Why the public must make a special request to obtain the information is questionable.

October Warrants with a form of "Behavioral" in the warrant's "Purpose" section:
PO140503 BEHAVIOR INTERVENTION Sub total: 1,787.50
PO140399 BEHAVIOR SERVICES Sub total: 2,490.00
PO140269 BEHAVIOR SERVICES Sub total: 867.00
PO140222 BEHAVIOR CONSULTATION Sub total: 1,475.00
PO140254 BEHAVIOR SERVICES Sub total: 2,070.00
*Note - previous warrant listed and cancelled on page 6o. Re-listed on page 128.
PO140670 BEHAVIOR THERAPY Sub total: 4,626
*Note - Appears to receive highest payments from PAUSD.
Also warrant for supplies to Behavior Therapy provider above. Contractors generally provide own supplies, since independent business.

Special Education Consultants
PO140070 CONSULTING:INCLUSION TOSAS Sub total: 5,850.00
PO140633 SPECIAL ED CONSULTING SVCS Sub total: 2,400.00
*Note -Town Square posts expressed some opposition to Special Education hiring Ken Ferro as a mediator when he is paid by Special Education
*Note - Uncertain if this "Document Review/Case Analysis is legal related or other

PO140138 ATTORNEY Sub total: 1,604.00
PO140418 LEGAL SERVICES Sub total: 32,401.52
PO116347 legal Sub total: 45,839.00

Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 3, 2013 at 12:36 am

This is absolutely fascinating, thank you. My reaction is: who are all these people and what requirements are there to ensure that they are properly trained and credentialed to work with our most vulnerable children?

My second reaction is: Fagan, Friedman received $32,400 in October alone.

The district must stop the noncompliance that leads directly to runaway legal costs. These dollars could have been better spent on qualified behaviorists or on other classroom needs for special education students rather than on negotiating with the state and federal government investigators from OCR and CDE. That is a big amount of money, particularly when compared with that spent on behavioral therapy. If even half of that total is unnecessary it would be a big increment over what is currently being spent on behavioral therapy.

Posted by Behaviorists - PAUSD, a resident of Addison School,
on Dec 3, 2013 at 2:30 pm

I wonder how much it all adds up to in a year. I wonder how they measure effectiveness or success and failure. The system operates on an extremely expensive crisis model (report a child is doing fine until a crisis), then address crisis but not root problem, such as bullying.

It is a big question how much the system really costs, paying for untrained behaviorists, crises intervention, then paying for school psychologists, more behaviorists, emergency meetings, putting a child back on an IEP or getting them what was needed all along, and the cost of all the people who have to get involved in crises. The costs to society are great.

Ironic, all the presentations - Special Ed Review, SPSS, stress how PAUSD constantly assess, measures, evaluates if kids are learning, and makes rapid adjustments if not. Except they don\\\'t do that for Special Education students, who would benefit from it most. If a student has an IEP, they will say measurement means working on the goals they write very vaguely in IEPs. Special Ed fights to have the fewest and the least measurable goals possible, and tell parents they are doing them a favor.

Training - They get pretty much none. A day or two here or there, and some say they learned to treat autism "on line", or training days that includes new employee orientation at the same time. Special Education told the Board of Education aides were trained in summer for "Full Inclusion from Day 1", but since they hadn\\\'t hired all of them until after the school year started, it is hard to see how that was physically possible.

A few days training or a consultant training a TOSA is really close to zero in the real world of psychology and autism treatment. We are in a two-tiered school system. The lack of qualified vetted staff would never, ever be allowed for general education students. For Special Education children, they can just say they fail because of a disability and can\\\'t be taught. The same behavioral problems repeat over and over, and it is much more costly in the long run than doing the right thing at the right time. Removing a child from an IEP and then putting them back on requires repeating the testing and evaluations previously done. That costs money. Paying for outside schools costs money, for the parents or the District. Moving a child to a residential facility costs money. A lot more than doing the right thing from the start.

Special Education has taught the Board of Education to blame costs of inefficient management on kids being mentally ill, to mix all disabilities together as the same and to say all Special Education kids are costing the District so much money they cannot be educated. Not teaching a child to read costs a lot more.

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