Federal investigators found insufficient evidence to support a conclusion of racial discrimination in the case of a Palo Alto middle school minority student who was searched by school officials in November 2012 after a substitute teacher accused the student of stealing $20 from her purse.
In a letter dated June 14 and released by the school district Tuesday night, June 18, the federal Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights said it could not establish a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by a "preponderance of the evidence" after conducting interviews with the student and school staff and reviewing documents provided by the district and the student.
Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin. In its complaint, the family asserted their child was illegally singled out because of the student's race.
According to documents obtained by the Weekly, the district acknowledged that two minority students were questioned and searched after the teacher said they were the only two who had access to the locked classroom and the purse after the teacher gave them the key to return to retrieve a notebook.
The missing $20 was not found after searches of both students and their school lockers, and neither student was disciplined, according to the documents.
The Office for Civil Rights letter, with extensive redactions made by the school district to protect the privacy of the student, noted that the middle school's administrators had conducted nine searches of students of various races and national origins during the school year.
Superintendent Kevin Skelly reported on the Office for Civil Rights conclusions during his update at the beginning of Tuesday's regular school board meeting.