Christina Schmidt and Mary Vincent: Volunteering to be part of the solution


This story is part of an in-depth package of stories on the subject of bullying in Palo Alto schools. For links to all the stories, follow this link.

The Office for Civil Rights report inspired Palo Alto special-education parents and Community Advisory Committee members Christina Schmidt and Mary Vincent to research and prepare their own presentation for school decision-makers on the topic of disability-based bullying and lessons learned from the federal report.

Armed with large binders and handouts, Schmidt spoke at the Walter Hays and Duveneck elementary schools' site councils in April, with Vincent joining her for the Duveneck meeting. The two parents also met this spring with PTA Council leaders and Duveneck staff serving on the school's Social-Emotional Learning Committee. Schmidt said she and Vincent hope to be a "part of the solution" that includes addressing the needs of all children, especially those with disabilities who are more vulnerable to peer victimization and harm.

Schmidt begins her site council presentation with a careful review of the facts in the Office for Civil Rights report, line by line.

"There is a lot of misunderstanding based on a lack of grounding in the report," Schmidt said. "There is a great opportunity to use the information in the report to improve the schools and community."

The two volunteers also provide a list of resources about best practices for bullying-prevention programs and intervention strategies.

Schmidt and Vincent are enthusiastic advocates for building a transparent, easily navigated system for bringing complaints about bullying and harassment issues.

"Information has to be visible," Schmidt said.

Part of their work has been to collect anti-bullying posters and public-service announcements for possible use at the schools. They both also advocate for more training "across the board for everyone who interacts with kids."

Schmidt and Vincent share a belief that the district needs more central direction and monitoring of schools and are glad to see the movement now in that direction. With school autonomy, responsibility can be "too diffused" and accountability too difficult, Schmidt said.

Schmidt's and Vincent's fall agenda includes speaking to other site councils and leaders across the district. They also would like to see information on this topic featured in the back-to-school packet and envision fall parent-education events rolling out the district's new bullying policies and procedures, once they are finished and approved by the Office for Civil Rights and Board of Education.

Schmidt also served on the task force of the district's new "Safe and Welcoming Schools" initiative and advocated consideration of an independent ombudsman to review complaints about bullying.

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Like this comment
Posted by Good Luck
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jun 14, 2013 at 9:27 am

Good Luck to them working with school officials. They will be dealing with strong walls that cannot hear, see, nor feel the pain that our students and parents experiencing bullying feel, and these walls cannot be broken. They only pretend to bend, but then back to that a strong "wall". Thanks for trying. Remember they will be working with katherine Baker, yes the very same person who failed to protect the student's rights. Now she is educating parents and leading these Safemeetings as a member of the Welcoming Schools "Safe Welcoming Schools task force". Those meetings will be a waste of time as long as she and Damian Huertas are members.

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Posted by God is on their side!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 15, 2013 at 12:08 am

God bless any and all parents who are stepping in to try and help facilitate change. We cannot give up hope that this community will wake up and see the light. I just hope that no child is seriously injured either by bullies or at their own hand before we really listen up and make some changes.

Christina and Mary: I admire and respect you for stepping up and doing what needs to be done. Maybe Ken Dauber and WCDBPA will be a source of help to you as well. They seem to have had it right all along and seem to be tirelessly and ceaselessly working behind the scenes to affect change. Thanks to you Daubers and WCDBPA! The OCR presentation was very illuminating. I just wish that Kevin and Camile had stayed home so that all the parents who may have wanted to speak could have done so without any fear of retaliation.

Like this comment
Posted by Me Too
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 15, 2013 at 12:26 am

To God is on the other side,
Thanks for bringing out the fact that Kevin and Camile were there. That was awful, but it worked for them, there were parents who wanted to ask questions, but once they saw Kevin, they backed up. He is so tall, he stands out. He should have stayed home, but I guess he had some intimidation to do, and he did a good job.

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Posted by Duveneck Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 17, 2013 at 1:12 am

Bravo, Christina and Mary! I was disappointed to read the officials were trying to downplay the issue of bullying and the subsequent Office for Civil Rights investigation. So glad that you raised the visibility of the issue again and are lighting the way for all. Transparency is what is needed. Let's get this ombudsperson on board. . . .

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Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2013 at 7:17 am

Thank you, parents volunteers!
As to the ombudsman - Will it be a paid potion? if so - who will pay? PAUSD? Salary, health, retirement? To who the ombudsman will report?
I can not see how an ombudsman can be independent if it will be a paid position, and salary and benefits will be coming out of PAUSD budget, or controlled by PAUSD officials.
The following is copied from - (Web Link), ombudsman in organization: "... Many private companies, universities, non-profit organizations and government agencies also have an ombudsman (or an ombuds office) to serve internal employees, and managers and/or other constituencies. These ombudsman roles are structured to function independently, by reporting to the CEO or board of directors, and according to International Ombudsman Association (IOA) Standards of Practice they do not have any other role in the organisation..."
Will the ombudsman report to PAUSD Board? Superintendent?

Like this comment
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 17, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Hmmm. A Federal regulatory body is giving a single briefing, and posters above claim that the Superintendent and a school board member shouldn't be in the audience to listen.

And if they weren't there, the very same posters would no doubt claim that it was a travesty that the leadership wasn't there to listen to the information.

It is actually quite tiresome to take the time to even participate in such a biased discussion, but silence might be misconstrued as support...

Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jul 18, 2013 at 11:16 pm

I asked above, a month ago - "...Will the ombudsman report to PAUSD Board? Superintendent?"
I am more convinced than before that my doubts raising this question had solid grounds.

Like this comment
Posted by What time is it?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 20, 2013 at 5:26 pm

The most recent revelations that the district is blocking OCR from interviewing students at Duvy should give Mary and Christina some pause. While the district is telling you that they want collaboration they are proceeding behind closed doors to obstruct a federal investigation and spinning to poison the relationship between parents and OCR with Barbara Mitchell planting thefalse suggestion that OCR is goig t interrogate your kindegartner. Something must be done. Mary, Christina, others who organized the OCR event help us. What about the kids who are being bullied? Is there nothing we will do for them? What about the Duveneck child who was bullied? Are we prepared to just forget him? The whole cmunity has to support that child and put the district on notice that they cannot obstruct the investigation. We need to know the truth And OCR is our only way to find out.

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Posted by Thanks
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Sorry for you ladies sooner or later you will be finding out that taking to skelly and the board is like taking to the hand, they will try to keep you busy, just like they did with the counsiling system and Gunn (nothing), but they kept pretending they will do somenthing about it. Thanks for you hard work, time and dedications to this issue.

Like this comment
Posted by JLS mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 7, 2014 at 5:24 pm

JLS mom of 2 is a registered user.

How sad that the district had the CAC as an ally and partner and now has alienated them completely with the districts defensive, bumbling, and litigious strategy. Cutting Angela off was the last straw. This district is run by nincompoops.

Dauber, Vincent, and Schmidt for school board: putting kids first.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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