Palo Alto's new bullying policy set for approval

Board of Education ready to culminate months-long effort to revise district's handling of bullying cases

The Palo Alto Board of Education Tuesday effectively gave its stamp of approval to the district's revamped bullying prevention policy, adding it to the consent calendar – reserved for items routinely approved -- for its June 3 meeting.

The board's discussion of the proposed policy, which has been developed over the past 18 months, focused on making sure the proper tools are provided to school administrators to evaluate alleged cases of bullying.

One key issue the board discussed related to whether the student with the bullying complaint belongs to a legally protected class, such as a person with disabilities, or is non-protected. The proposed policy only covers cases of bullying of non-protected-status students.

"One of the things that we struggled with was how can we make sure when a complaint of an alleged bullying situation comes in that it's fairly vetted on whether it's a protected class or not and the people that are doing that vetting – principals and their staff – have the proper tools so they can be consistent and they can be fair," board Vice President Melissa Baten Caswell said.

Superintendent Kevin Skelly responded that the district has provided "lots of training" so far on identifying students who fall into protected-class status and will continue to do more once the policy is approved.

The board in February approved policies for how the district will respond to complaints of bullying from protected-class students. Those complaints are to be handled by district-level administrators. Under the proposed policy for non-protected-status students, school staff -- rather than district staff -- would investigate the complaints.

Other board members also expressed concern that each bullying complaint that is addressed under the new policy be properly documented and passed along to the district level.

"I just think there should be something about that documentation being passed along to the student-services coordinator or something because it is important that we have a district-level understanding," board member Dana Tom said. "It would be sensible to have a report on that. ... We can always ask for reports on whatever we like; the more important thing to me to ensure we get in here is that it gets communicated."

Skelly suggested modifying the language to indicate copies of all documentation be passed on to the coordinator of student services to compile district data.

Board President Barb Mitchell and other members asked how quickly the necessary resources and tools for staff, parents and students will be available after the policy is put into place. Skelly said if the board approves the proposal on June 3, information can be put online as soon as the next day.

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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 21, 2014 at 10:50 am

I like the father who recently filed a restraining order against a 6-year-old that was bullying his 5-year-old daughter. It seems like that tactic drove the message home very well to the school. I had not considered that option in the past, but I think parents should consider it if the schools continue to lack enforcement of anti-bullying policies. The restraining order also coverd the bully outside of school, which is nice. Why should our kids not get the same protections adults can access?

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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 21, 2014 at 9:32 pm

JustMe - Sure that makes sense - let's all file restraining orders against all of the naughty 6 year olds - an excellent use of resources! [Portion removed.]

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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 21, 2014 at 10:03 pm

The kid was known to kick her in the face and threaten to slit her throat. How would you suppose the younger girl would react to that, just blow it off? she did not feel safe in school, she went from loving kindergarten to hating it because of this bully. What would YOU do, wag your finger at him and say "naughty naughty" like the school did? How can you let anyone, ANYONE!, screw up a young child like that. The restraining order was filed as a last resort, and it worked. How badly do you want to let your kids get abused before you take action lime that?

Of course, if you are a bullying type, you might have a problem with an effective solution to bullies. I have no sympathy for them.

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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 22, 2014 at 9:04 am

Your example is rather extreme and that example would get significant attention at school. Most bullying comes in "fifty shades of grey" and an objective resolution is what is needed in most cases. We faced a couple examples of bullying outside of school as our kids grew up and in both cases the bullying was stopped by simply having a discussion with the parents - in the presence of the child we explained the the offending behavior in detail and asked that it be stopped. We live in a community and we can talk with each other - if we can set aside our smart phones for a few minutes. I don't think bullying each other through the courts is the best solution.

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Posted by Laura's Mom
a resident of another community
on May 22, 2014 at 9:43 am

If all bullying issues could be resolved that easily, then we’d have very little of it going on. I’m very happy to hear that it was that easy for Alphonso to resolve, but I do not believe that is the norm. And I disagree that the schools would pay significant attention to extreme cases. Unless they are forced to deal with it, they’d rather not. And maybe if they handled the less extreme cases from the start, they wouldn't turn to extreme cases.

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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 22, 2014 at 10:30 pm

My family is friends with a family here in Palo Alto that has been fighting with the schools to do something about the bullying their child has been enduring.

Anyone who thinks that the teachers and schools will do their duty and stand up to bullies is living in a pretty nice fantasy land. They didn't when I was in school, they didn't for my daughter (in fact the teachers were more of a problem than a solution,) and they are not doing it now.

Policies are nice, but they are only as good as those who enforce them. Teachers doing their duty? Why? They can't be fired for not doing it, and doing it is a lot of work.

Didn't we just have a news story where a bullying victim recorded an egregious incident and the school staff, instead of standing up for the victim, forced her to erase the recording? Can't fire them, can't lynch them, how do we deal with the school staff when they are that bloody wrong?

Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 22, 2014 at 10:35 pm

Oh, and for the record, due to the bullying and school staff at Jordan, we rescued our daughter and home schooled he instead. She is finishing her junior year in HS and has just been accepted into the National Honor Society. She has a list of accomplishments and achievements that are amazing, and she is now shopping for colleges. This is NOT the track Jordan had her on, and when she tried Paly it is NOT the track they tried to force her to.

Can't fire them, can't lynch them, gotta just get away.

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Posted by We, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2014 at 11:05 am

We rescued our daughter from Walter Hays, where she was bullied by some minority boys for having long, blond hair and big blue eyes. We put her in a Catholic School where she was tested and placed one grade higher than she had been on at Hays!

PAUSD thought that being bullied for being blue-eyed and blonde was a non-problem. The staff at Hayes did not recognize that she was bored at school, either. Now she loves school and gets straight As, among classmates a year older than she is.

Sometimes, you just gotta leave!

Like this comment
Posted by 50 shades of shut up
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 24, 2014 at 10:12 pm

[Post removed.]

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

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