National group invokes Palo Alto school resolution

Resolution criticizing Office for Civil Rights cited by lobbying group aiming to stop 'federal intrusion' into local schools

The Palo Alto school board's strong criticisms of how the federal Office for Civil Rights went about investigating cases of bullying in the district are being trumpeted online by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) as part of its political lobbying to curtail what it says is "federal intrusion" into local schools.

The NSBA's top legislative priority, according to its website, is passage of legislation to stop the Department of Education from "overstepping its authority" and "to address federal intrusion in local school district decision-making and policymaking" under the Obama Administration.

The NSBA website excerpts a Palo Alto Weekly story and quotes the June 3, 2014, memo written to the Palo Alto Board of Education by board President Barbara Mitchell, Vice President Melissa Baten Caswell and Superintendent Kevin Skelly that refers to the national legislation and advocates passage of the board resolution.

The resolution, which contains a long list of grievances the district has with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, will be voted on at the school board meeting Tuesday evening, June 17.

The House bill (H.R. 1386) being advocated by the National School Boards Association and referenced in the colleagues memo was introduced in February 2013 by Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Illinois) and is co-sponsored by 42 other Republicans and one Democrat.

As described on the NSBA's website, the goal of the bill "is to ensure that the benefits of local school district governance are not eroded through activities by the U.S. Department of Education not specifically envisioned by Congressional legislation."

The bill has not moved since being introduced, but the NSBA has been asking local school boards to urge their local members of Congress to support it.

Last Tuesday, the day the Palo Alto board discussed its resolution, Republican Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) introduced the same bill (S. 2451) in the Senate. According to an NSBA press release, the bill would "curb overreach by (the Department of Education) on issues that impact local school districts unless specifically authorized in federal legislation."

The NSBA's website suggested the following "talking points" for local school board members:

• The U.S. Department of Education has taken action to reshape the educational delivery system in recent years. These actions have often affected local policy and programs in ways that are beyond the scope and intent of federal authorizing legislation.

• These federal actions often place a significant financial and manpower responsibility on local school boards.

• The actions also limit the flexibility of local school boards to make decisions that serve the best interests for their local districts.

• NSBA drafted a bill to address such federal intrusion in local school district decision- and policy-making (S. 2451 and H.R. 1386). Please contact your members of Congress to ask them to support this bill.

Related materials:

Analysis: Palo Alto school board set to vote on challenging OCR (June 14, 2014)

Editorial: A sadly misguided board (June 6, 2014)

In unanimous comments, school board challenges federal agency (June 4, 2014)

School leaders fire back at feds (May 31, 2014)

Out of the shadows: How a federal investigation is changing the way Palo Alto schools respond to bullying (June 14, 2013)

Feds: School district violated student's civil rights (Feb. 8, 2013)

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

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Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2014 at 6:53 pm

Well .. maybe Palo Alto is the center of the universe after all.

So what does our local Congressional Rep have to say? Or what does Nancy Pelosi want her to say?

Can't wait to see how this plays out.

Like this comment
Posted by Had it up to here!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2014 at 7:22 pm

This is just another slap in the face to families who thought they finally had someone in their corner. Barb Mitchell is abusing our parents' money for her own political ends.

I think parents should start a recall of this board to show we are against this - or a petition rebuking the board, that we send to the congresspeople...

Like this comment
Posted by watching
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2014 at 7:57 pm

from a related thread, Edmund Burke shared the following -

"The statute authorizing OCR to enforce the civil rights laws duly passed by the United States Congress does not limit that enforcement to specific complaints. OCR has broad enforcement authority and may, on its own initiative, launch a compliance review. Media coverage is one of the ways that OCR may receive information about a compliance issues. Another way that OCR may determine whether a compliance review is justified is by having repeated contacts with the same district that indicate that the district leadership is not committed to enforcing the civil rights laws.
From the perspective of the Congress of the United States, the interest of the United States is in ensuring that its funds are spent correctly. "

Reading the NSBA website, there appears to be a question about the term "enforcement" - be it tied to funding, or not, and what specific powers the Department of Education has versus local boards.

I agree this will be interesting to see how it plays out. Hopefully it will be good for everyone.

Like this comment
Posted by Real Democrat
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 16, 2014 at 8:37 pm

It's no surprise that Barb Mitchell and Melissa Caswell who are Republicans, would use their office to aid the critics of the Obama administration and the cause of civil rights.

What's surprising it that Heidi Emberling is going along with this. She was supported and endorsed by progressives and the Dem party. Doesn't she know that? Is she so naive as to believe she can support a Republican attack on Obama and on Arnie Duncan and then get Dem support again next time? Inhofe? Seriously?

Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 16, 2014 at 9:30 pm

@Real Democrast - Maybe Heidi Emberling is actually taking a stand for what she thinks is in the best interest of PAUSd and its students, not sucking up to Arnie Duncan.

Like this comment
Posted by Resolution
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 16, 2014 at 10:41 pm

PAUSD Board of Education's proposed Resolution cites an NSBA presentation criticizing OCR. So it is not surprising NSBA would pick up articles citing it as a reference.
Still, it's unlikely most PAUSD citizens think they are paying property taxes for their school District to protest OCR or national lobbying.

Proposed Resolution:
"We are not alone in our concerns regarding OCR investigation practices. The National School Boards Association's (NSBA) General Counsel presented in April on OCR overreach at the Council of School Attorneys Seminar and continues to monitor OCR investigation practices while being a
resource to attorneys representing school districts. NSBA advocates legislation (H.R. 1386) to support local school board governance and flexibility and states: "The expansion of federal intrusion on public education in recent years has impacted local policy-making in ways that impose unnecessary rules, conditions, and restrictions, as well as significant costs, on local school governance."

Like this comment
Posted by Real Democrat
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 16, 2014 at 10:46 pm

For God's sake people, NSBA put Chad and PAUSD up to this at their April shindig. Duh. Our board is being used as a pawn in the right-wing conservative NSBA war on the Obama administration. Mitchell is happy to go along for that ride. But is Heidi really that dim that she is willing as a Dem to get on board with Inhofe -- a climate change denier with a 0% score from gay rights organizations who is against abortion rights and the guv'mint?

PAUSD is LITERALLY exhibit A in the right wing war on Obama's education agenda thanks to Mitchell and Skelly.

You do know that "local control" and "federal encroachment" usurping local control are dog whistles for segregation don't you? And that the NSBA was formed in reaction basically to Brown v. Board of Ed in a wave of school board associations forming across the former confederacy in the 1950s? And that California School Boards Association doesn't endorse this Republican legislation?

But don;t let the fact that this is Republican legislation stop you PAUSD. Please, go on.

Like this comment
Posted by Had it up to here!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2014 at 3:50 am

Interesting, but costly and not where we should be focusing our time, attention, and money in a school district. There was no OCR overreach in our district, the OCR was a last resort for some of our families in the face of sometimes far worse practices by our own district people.

They say People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Here's hoping our district people finally get that.

(Heidi Emberlibg is a good person but not exactly strong enough to stand up to the others.)

Like this comment
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 17, 2014 at 8:57 am

Why does the support of right wing issues surprise us? Mandy Lowell, wife of Charles Munger, Chair of the Santa Clara County Republican party was a key contributor to the campaigns of Camille Townsend and Melissa Baten-Caswell. Barb Mitchell was also listed as a key contributor to the campaigns of Melissa, Camille AND Heidi Emberling. The only candidate who did not accept money from Mandy or Barb was Ken Dauber.

Web Link

As a community we vote overwhelming Democratic, but we have allowed right wing money and influence to dominate in school board elections. We are now captive to an agenda that does not reflect the politics of the majority of our community. We have allowed this Board to waste money on legal fees and stall any forward movement on improving our counseling programs and putting in place practical policies to address bullying and harassment.

The PAUSD Board does not reflect the values of the community. It is time that they be held accountable not only by the Weekly but by the voters.

Like this comment
Posted by Next Phase
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 17, 2014 at 9:15 am

If this goes forward expect to see NAACP, ACLU and other civil rights organizations getting involved in PAUSD. Stanford is right across the street, how stupid can they be. We need our democratic lawmakers to speak out against this as well. We're not an island as Mitchell and others would wish, we're part of and subject to the jurisdiction of the state and federal governments. It's just sad that our school board is basically saying they don't give a damn about students and their civil rights.

Like this comment
Posted by watching
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2014 at 9:35 am

Had it up to here!

"Interesting, but costly and not where we should be focusing our time, attention, and money in a school district. There was no OCR overreach in our district, the OCR was a last resort for some of our families in the face of sometimes far worse practices by our own district people."

I agree with you that it's insult to injury that the board is excited to take this challenge to the OCR when it has failed to demonstrate, transparently, that families do not need to go to the OCR as a last resort. The drill in PAUSD is that individual families manage to work through weak complaint procedures, most manage to resolve their problems (some with expensive lawyers), but the district has consistently failed to step up their game to improve practices.

Yet, while the OCR can make this an ugly situation for the district, in a way the community is failing to hold the board accountable for the better practices that the OCR is asking for.

I disagree with the partisanship and the bitter fighting that has been happening on these threads to make political points either against or in favor of the Obama administration. Or about individual employees of the district or board members. There is no win with that because it again takes the focus away from the real problem.

The community should hold the board accountable for improved complaint procedures, and especially what kind of supports are provided to victims. A related thread brought up the point about the district is now hiring intern social workers to work with troubled cases. That's pretty much insane to use interns. Where is the scrutiny on that? The hardest cases deserve the highest paid and most qualified staff.

The OCR can only help so far, the board can distract only so far. The community and the new Superintendent will need to clean up.

Like this comment
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2014 at 10:30 am

This could get Palo Alto some great national scorn. In terms of ridicule, it could even outdo the attempt to ban frowning at town hall meetings.

Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 17, 2014 at 11:48 am

I really don't know much about the merits/demerits of the issue. However, I think I am aware that the PAUSD is not free to divulge what it has learned about individual cases...while the parent(s)/supporters are allowed to complain in public. Is this true? If so, PAUSD has one hand tied behind its back in a legal/public relations alley fight. Is this fair?

Like this comment
Posted by It's about values
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 17, 2014 at 11:50 am

I see that the renowned Senator Inhofe from Oklahoma is now taking up this effort to reign in OCR. It's about time Palo Alto aligns itself with great thinkers like the senator. Thank you PAUSD Board.
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2014 at 12:51 pm

> As a community we vote overwhelming Democratic, but we have allowed
> right wing money and influence to dominate in school board elections

So, what do you think we, as a community inclined to voter overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates can do to squelch this float of money from the "Vast Rightwing Conspiracy" (Hillary's term, not mine)?

Should we begin to set the ship-of-state right by passing resolutions at the PAUSD and City of Palo Alto government level that Republicans, Libertarians and non-aligned people are not particularly welcome in this community--which is heavily Democrat?

Should we press the Legislature to find ways to outlaw any political parties other than the Democrat party? Certainly clearly the boards of all opposition would make your life, and your vision of life, easier, wouldn't it?

Would be interested in your views about how we can rid our community of these horrible people.

Like this comment
Posted by Watching
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2014 at 1:18 pm


"Would be interested in your views about how we can rid our community of these horrible people."

Without violating Civil Rights of course :)

More seriously, the PAUSD community is very diverse (more so than any other community), and creating a division about who is on what side can only go so far. But it's good to have people passionate about either side. What's incredible is that school complaint procedures can generate sides.

Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 17, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Aren't PAUSD Board of Education trustees supposed to be non-partisan? All this politicalization speak on this thread troubles me. Stick to the issues, not your favorite punching bag, be it Hillary or George W. Bush...

Like this comment
Posted by LCAP
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 17, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Social Work Interns in LCAP - Details from LCAP in 6/17/2014 Board of Ed Packets to hire social work interns:
10.4 Provide services to promote student engagement and attendance (e.g. create a process or program that aims to identify "outside of school" issues that affect "in school" performance
Salary for Social Worker $100,000
Interns $30,000
(Newly approved funding***
through General Fund)

The Intern expenditure is under "Professional/Consulting Services And Operating Expenditures", so it will be hard to tell what it is for in a budget.
from: § 15497. Local Control and Accountability Plan and Annual Update Template
Web Link, Section 3: Actions, Services, and Expenditures
Page 48-page 49
Board of Ed Packet,Under VG, Action 23, Page 213 of Board of Ed Packet, (Page 49 in LCAP)

LCAP Board Policy and Legal Fees -
Also in LCAP, Legal Fees to be spent to develop Board policy on parental disruption. What disruption? Disruption to Board of Education meetings? Disliking what citizens say? Little girls speaking at Board Meetings? Better to communicate than spend money on legal fees for a Board Policy.
● A Board Policy about parental disruption and
harassment needs to be drafted.
Superintendent Feedback
Duly noted. Tabitha Keppeler-Hurley has begun
review of potential language and has sought
legal counsel in this area
from: LCAP Comments, 5/7/14, Notes for Superintendent Feedback, Superintendent Feedback, at Web Link, Board Packet page 223

Like this comment
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 17, 2014 at 3:04 pm


I am not in favor of passing resolutions or "ridding our community of these horrible people." I am in favor of an informed electorate.

I appreciate the Weekly's story on another thread which asks potential school board candidates their views on the upcoming Resolution. Dauber and Dalma had a clear position, Foster and Godfrey declined to state their position.

I also appreciate the Weekly's reporting on who is providing funding to each candidate. I provided a link to an article detailing the principle fund sources for each candidate in my earlier post.

I share the concern of "anonymous" about the politicization of a local Board. The political ideologies of the Board Members have shaped policy recommendations impacting our schools and children and has wasted scarce resources on legal fees. The electorate has a right to know the political affiliations of the Board Members since they are making policy which aligns to their beliefs and affiliations.

Like this comment
Posted by Watching
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2014 at 3:34 pm


This may be too much to ask, but can you explain what LCAP and the Local Control Funding Formula is?

This may be a long shot, but it sounds like LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan) requires "accountability" as part of the picture for funding, and the Local Control Funding Formula. Accountability in a variety of forms, student engagement among them.

From the state's stated goals in LCFF, student outcomes - in particular those of students in the achievement gap - appear to be a priority. So, the interns sound like an inexpensive way to make sure kids are going to school, engaged, and meet the LCAP guidelines.

Funny that "parental disruption" is discussed as regards LCAP, since usually parents are disruptors because their kids are not engaged, or have something to complain about. It will be interesting to see the new potential language that has been sought out for this "area." With the district getting feedback from parents in constrained surveys, further interpreted by themselves, and shutting down parents, this is not looking too good.

I didn't like the little girl being set up at the board meeting, but I hope that will not be an excuse to not have a real complaint process which ultimately should be used constructively, not defensively. Board meeting theater should nto be the complaint process either.

Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 17, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Its funny how only the "other side" is politically motivated. So many people here living in their own bubbles. Warning: sarcasm alert. I am in favor of an informed electorate ... as long as they can be informed in such a manner as to always agree with my viewpoint and elevate my personal axe grinding to the highest level of importance. If I myself am not informed on a particular issue, I can just comfortably use my proxy ( government is inherently good, OCR must be in the right , government is inherently evil ..., that person is a (fill-in the blank) Republican/Democrat/Communist/Capitalist/Christian/Muslim/Vegetarian so their motives and policy prescriptions must be evil.)
In the grand scheme of things, my son, who attends PAUSD, is doing fine. The biggest asset the district has is the families/parents who care passionately about their children's academic education and are willing to take responsibility for it. The rest is a sideshow.

Like this comment
Posted by Watching
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Well, the board has voted. The OCR is being challenged on their practices and procedures.

I learned something interesting - the timeline of having the OCR investigating a school is in government years, not in silicon valley minutes. So, lawyers and the media are probably the only winners during an investigation.

The best audience speaker was LaToya Baldwin-Clarke. Brought it back to the issue of protecting students vs resolving issues for adults.

It would be good for the focus to be on what the Board repeatedly acknowledged - PAUSD improvements. Are complaint procedures on bullying and harassment published yet?

Like this comment
Posted by More News to Come
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2014 at 12:16 am

And this is the begining of more publicity to the OCR cases. I thought PAUSD was complaining about the media. Well from now on this case is turning into a national news not just local. In a way it will be good to let more states know what is going on here in our small quiet and sophisticated town.

Like this comment
Posted by GloriaR
a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2014 at 1:28 am

Teaching children about kindness and tolerance should help combat bullying. Kids can learn from songs, like “Be a Buddy, not a Bully” on YouTube:
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Watcher
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 18, 2014 at 9:10 am

Saw part of the BOE meeting on this issue, and while some of the discussion was self-serving, overall I think the trustees put my concerns to rest. This resolution expresses a point of view without altering any actual rulings, resposibilities, etc. Emberling's take-down of this particular article was an appropriate response to sloppy reporting on the issue as well.

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

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