News

Paly teacher rebuked

Convoluted sexual-harassment case against Paly teacher lingers on, more than a year later

June 11 was a day of relief and closure for Palo Alto High School English teacher Kevin Sharp. Or so he thought.

Almost nine months since being accused of having an improper relationship with an 18-year-old former student by the girl's parents and later by her former boyfriend, Sharp met with then-Associate Superintendent Charles Young, school district attorney Chad Graff of the firm Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost and a union representative to hear the results of a three-month long investigation conducted by Graff on behalf of the district.

In a four-page summary of the probe, the law firm said it was "unable to conclude by preponderance of the evidence that any sexual harassment occurred at any point in question." And, the summary concluded, "We found the District complied with its responsibilities concerning the allegations."

To Sharp, a teacher in his mid-40s who has taught at Paly since 2004, it was a complete exoneration, according to his attorney, Jim Walsh. (Sharp declined to be interviewed for this story.)

"Mr. Sharp, a well-respected and experienced teacher at Palo Alto High School, has been the victim of false rumors and accusations. Baseless accusations of a former student's ex-boyfriend led to an unnecessary investigation, which then exonerated Mr. Sharp," Walsh wrote in an email to the Weekly on Sept. 9.

Walsh added in an email this week that Sharp was told on Jun 11 by both Graff and Young that it was then a closed matter.

But what Sharp couldn't have known that day was that the district's other primary law firm, Lozano Smith, would within weeks arrive at the opposite conclusion from Graff and issue Sharp a stinging disciplinary letter.

The district's "Notice of Unprofessional Conduct," dated July 21 and signed by Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Scott Bowers, stated that it was more likely than not that Sharp engaged in "grooming" activities with the student that "facilitated the consummation of a sexual relationship soon after graduation."

"The evidence leads us to conclude," the two-page notice said, "that the allegations have greater credibility than your denial."

"You have failed to meet your obligations to provide students with a safe educational environment and have exploited your position of power to establish the basis for a sexual/romantic relationship with a former student. Moreover, your behavior may have created a hostile environment for this and other students, negatively impacting students and may constitute a violation of the District's prohibition of sexual harassment."

The letter went on to direct Sharp to cease the conduct and comply with five "directives," including behaving professionally, maintaining a professional distance when interacting with students, not meeting female students off campus, limiting meetings with female students on campus to visible settings and not engaging in inappropriate relationships with students and/or former students.

"Should you fail to comply fully with the directives detailed above, the District may take other disciplinary actions against you, up to and including dismissal," the letter said.

Sharp, who was listed in district records last year as an 80 percent time teacher, did not return to the classroom with the start of school in August, and sources say he is currently on a paid leave of absence. Superintendent Max McGee confirmed Sharp is still on the district payroll but declined to characterize the current status of his employment.

The confusion created by the conflicting conclusions reached by the district's two law firms is but one of many twists and turns of a case that included a police investigation, two uncoordinated district inquiries and internal disagreements about how the matter should be handled.

A three-month investigation by the Palo Alto Weekly also has revealed basic internal misunderstandings of the district's legal obligations, district policies and appropriate standards of proof. It has also raised questions as to the actions and impartiality of Graff and the Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost law firm, which, according to the district, was paid approximately $50,000 for an investigation whose key conclusions the district appeared to reject in its statement of findings in the disciplinary letter.

Graff and his firm have been at the forefront of the district's controversial dealings with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, including two Title IX OCR investigations that remain open, one at Paly that OCR initiated in the wake of student-publication Verde Magazine's 2013 series on a "rape culture" and one at Gunn in response to a parent complaint about the school's handling of a sexual harassment case there.

Graff was also the attorney who worked most closely with the school board in June and July 2014, to research and prepare a letter, resolution and supporting documents that strongly criticized Office for Civil Rights investigative practices.

The Weekly obtained copies of documents relating to the Sharp matter through a series of Public Records Act requests of the school district beginning on June 19, after being contacted by the former boyfriend of the student. Before the district provided the primary documents, including the Graff report and investigative notes of Bowers, it gave Sharp and the student time to seek a court order blocking their release. Neither took such action. According to Walsh, however, Sharp had no idea at the time that a Notice of Unprofessional Conduct was in the offing.

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The allegations against Sharp were first brought to the district's attention on Sept. 22, 2014, by the parents of "Lauren" (the student's name was changed to protect her privacy), who turned 18 during her senior year. They informed Paly Assistant Principal Kathie Laurence that Lauren had told them of her consensual sexual relationship with Sharp, which had commenced a week after her graduation, according to documents provided by the district.

The parents later told Graff that Lauren said she disclosed the relationship to them because her former boyfriend, "Sean" (the student's name was changed to protect his privacy), with whom they were still friendly, had "threatened to tell them if she did not," according to the Graff report.

The parents said they wanted the matter addressed with as much sensitivity for their daughter as possible while still trying to prevent future similar instances of teachers becoming involved with students, Bowers' notes state. They also asked that Lauren not be contacted and that they be notified if it was necessary to interview her.

In Lauren's senior year, the parents said, Sharp had become her mentor. She had started spending time with him outside of school to "work on various things" before the school year ended, Bowers' notes state.

Through interviews with Sharp, Lauren, her parents and Lauren's former boyfriend by Bowers and attorneys with Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost, a conflicting picture emerges of the relationship that eventually led to Sharp's discipline.

Sharp denied that a sexual relationship with Lauren had ever transpired. He said that Lauren had been in his classes twice and he had worked with her on her writing, as he does with other students. He also shared his own writings with her, according to Bowers' notes from an Oct. 13 meeting of Sharp, Paly Principal Kim Diorio, Bowers and a representative from the California Teachers Association. Sharp said he and Lauren had met a few times over the summer and had socialized in public — meeting for meals and coffee, he said — but there was "no inappropriate relationship," and contact between them had since ended.

To Graff, whose investigation was conducted earlier this year, Sharp recalled Lauren as "outgoing" and as having a "lively personality," according to Graff's 13-page report, which was released by the district to the Weekly. Sharp recalled the subject matter she was interested in in his classes and what she excelled in but said he did not remember specifics about her work, the report notes. Her parents and one other student also recalled that Sharp gave Lauren feedback that they described as "distinctively glowing," according to the report.

Sharp did remember helping Lauren carry bagels from her car to a lunch-time club meeting on multiple occasions but said he had no memory of personally emailing her while she was a student or spending time alone with her in either his classroom or off campus, according to Graff's report.

For her part, Lauren was insistent that nothing ever occurred while she was a student to make her feel "threatened, objectified or unsafe," and she stated unequivocally that "at no time did Sharp act inappropriately toward her while she was a student," the report said.

Lauren would neither "admit nor deny" that she and Sharp had a sexual relationship after graduation and also "strongly and repeatedly objected to this line of questioning as beyond the District's interest and an invasion of her personal privacy," Graff's report stated.

A friend of Lauren told the lawyers that she saw Lauren and Sharp get coffee together, Sharp touch her arm lightly during an interaction at school, heard Lauren "inquiring as a friend about a potential relationship with an older person near the end of senior year" and saw her reviewing guidelines on sexual harassment "that seemed to be in the context of reviewing when such a relationship may be permissible" — all actions that took on greater meaning in hindsight, according to the Graff report.

According to Lauren's parents, their daughter and Sharp had "colluded in keeping [the alleged relationship a secret," Bowers' notes state. What was concerning to the parents was that "they were told that there have been other instances in previous years. Don't want it to happen again," state Bowers' notes, which also included a Sept. 26 meeting of the parents with Diorio and Bowers.

In her interview with Graff, Lauren expressed frustration at her parents' and former boyfriend's involvement, especially at the former boyfriend's and other students' roles in allegedly spreading rumors about the relationship, the report notes. She asked the lawyers to "consider the source of the rumor-making and the allegations."

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Under the law and district policies called Uniform Complaint Procedures (UCP) (See "Responding to sexual harassment: What the law says"), the parents' complaint should have been handled within a detailed investigative framework that requires an impartial investigation, written findings of fact and conclusions that must be completed in 60 days and shared with the complainant (in this case Lauren's parents). If the investigation finds a need for it, trainings of staff and/or students can also be required. UCP policies also require that complaints be logged in a public file (without identifying details).

These procedures were not followed in this case when the parents made their complaint, according to McGee, because the parents asked that Lauren not be contacted. State and federal law and district policies, however, do not contain such an exception even in cases where a complainant prefers there not be an investigation because policies are intended not simply to protect victims but also to ascertain if others might have been harmed or if a hostile environment was created, and if trainings may be necessary.

Instead, McGee said, the district treated the complaint as a personnel matter and had Bowers investigate.

The district notified police, which conducted an investigation that was closed last month after finding no evidence of a crime, in part because Lauren was over 18 at all times of the alleged relationship, according to police spokesman Lt. Zach Perron.

Even before Bowers contacted Sharp for the personnel investigation, Sharp emailed Diorio — on Sept. 26, 2014, the same day Lauren's parents met with Diorio and Bowers. He wrote that he "heard a story about" himself that she had also heard from a parent, according to emails released to the Weekly by the district.

"The only problem is that, like a game of telephone, it's not accurate," Sharp wrote, asking to talk further with Diorio in person.

Sharp expected he would meet with Diorio alone, but Diorio set up a meeting that included Bowers.

According to an Oct. 7, 2014, email to Diorio, Sharp indicated his discomfort at Bowers' inclusion. He then asked a representative of the California Teachers Association to join him at the meeting.

During this time, emails provided to the Weekly indicate, Diorio repeatedly asked for Sharp to be placed on paid administrative leave while Bowers' investigation moved forward, but she was rebuffed by Bowers.

"Still feeling like this teacher should be on paid leave, but I guess that's Scott's call," she emailed McGee on Oct. 7.

(Diorio declined to speak with the Weekly about Sharp or the investigation.)

Bowers, Diorio, Sharp and a representative from the California Teachers Association finally met on Oct. 13, 2014. Sharp denied acting inappropriately.

"Kevin feels he is extending himself to treat kids as people," Bowers wrote in his notes from the meeting. "Would never have extended himself for students as he did with (Lauren) if the to (sic) help was going to be misconstrued."

A month later, in November, Diorio reached out to Bowers for an update.

"Can we touch base quickly during the principals meeting tomorrow?" Diorio emailed Bowers on Nov. 3. "Do you have an update on KS?" She also alluded to concerns of Shirley Tokheim, the English department Instructional Supervisor and Sharp's immediate supervisor.

On Dec. 12, Diorio emailed Bowers to report on a call from a parent expressing concern about an unspecified "inappropriate movie" Sharp allegedly showed in class. She also asked Bowers if he had talked to Sharp and "put something in his file."

Bowers response later that day suggested that the personnel investigation was closed. The "district is not in a position to put anything in his file. We only have hearsay to go on. Sharp denied it and the former student will not talk with us," Bowers said in his email.

Lauren told the Weekly, however, that she became aware of the investigation in October 2014 from friends and actively tried to give a statement. She recalls sending emails, she believes, to Diorio and McGee, at least once in October 2014 stating that Sharp "had done absolutely nothing wrong" and offering to talk further. She said she was "horrified at the district's failure to look into my side of the story." She eventually gave her version of events in April or May in a phone conversation with an attorney with the Fagen Friedman law firm.

Bowers prepared no written summary report of his findings and conclusions, nor did Lauren's parents receive a report on the outcome of their complaint, as required by the district's Uniform Complaint Procedures policy (until finally presented with one on June 23 by Graff). (See "Responding to sexual harassment: What the law says.")

In February, Bowers' notes indicate he re-opened his investigation and interviewed three English teachers and two counselors between Feb. 10 and Feb. 25. He told the Weekly this was prompted by a former student's reports of rumors and concerns about Sharp after winter break.

Then, on Feb. 23, Diorio received a lengthy email about Sharp from Sean — also a 2014 Paly graduate and a current college student, like Lauren — an email that would change the course of the district's handling of the case.

Sean alerted Diorio to what he "perceive(d) as a severe failure of Paly's administration" — namely, keeping Sharp in the classroom despite being aware of the sexual-harassment allegations made against him months before.

Sean recounted the evolution of the relationship from his point of view, describing what he saw as Sharp's efforts to "groom" Lauren beginning in January 2014 while Sean and Lauren were still dating. Grooming behavior is defined by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights as "a desensitization strategy common in adult educator sexual misconduct." (See "Timeline of the investigation")

Sean expressed frustration that the adults in the situation, in his eyes, failed to take prompt and effective measures to address the allegations.

"It seems to me that when a sexual/romantic relationship is alleged to have occurred just a week after a student's graduation, it is very likely that that teacher was fostering an inappropriate relationship well beforehand with the intent for it to turn into something more," he later told the Weekly.

In his email to Diorio, Sean wrote that "from an outside perspective the district's response to this distressing revelation seems more like an effort to keep things quiet than to create a healthy environment for students."

He asked if there are policies in place that prohibit a post-graduation student-teacher relationship and urged the creation of a "publicly stated policy change regarding what sorts of interactions between students and teachers the district condones."

Sean's email seemed to reignite Diorio's concerns about having Sharp on campus. The same day, she emailed Bowers, McGee and Young to repeat her desire to put Sharp on administrative leave and "conduct a formal investigation by an outside party."

Two days later, on Feb. 25, according to legal billing records, Bowers and Young held a conference call with Fagen Friedman attorney Graff that appeared to set in motion another investigation of Sharp, this one apparently designed to meet the requirements of the district's Uniform Complaint Procedures and of federal civil-rights law Title IX.

As Graff and another Fagen Friedman attorney, Maria Asturias, geared up to conduct interviews and a full investigation, Bowers provided them with all of his notes as well as something that inexplicably was never referenced in Graff's final report: screen shots of text messages between Lauren and Sean that Sean had saved on his cellphone.

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One of the bigger mysteries in the school district's reporting on the allegations against Sharp is the lack of any mention of the text messages between Lauren and Sean — messages that strongly suggest that Lauren had more than a mentor-mentee relationship with Sharp.

The texts are striking because Sharp had denied to Bowers and, later, to Graff, that a romantic relationship had developed with Lauren.

Sean gave Bowers copies of the screen shots on March 10, after meeting with Bowers and Young a week earlier, emails show. Bowers told the Weekly that he forwarded them on to Graff.

Among the texts, which Sean provided to the Weekly and the Weekly authenticated by examining them on Sean's cellphone and confirming that the other phone number was that of Lauren's cellphone: In June 2014, just after Sean said he found out about the alleged relationship, he texted Lauren: "Normal 43 year old men do not want to pursue a relationship with an 18 year old woman."

Lauren wrote back: "It's a weird situation and I've acknowledged it ... I'm being cautious and taking into full consideration all the possible negative consequences."

The next day, June 23, she wrote to Sean to tell him it was OK if he wanted to talk to someone about what was going on.

"It's Kevin's own choice to f--- his life over, and I just want you to feel better," Lauren wrote.

The next day, on June 24, she wrote that she was seeing Sharp that night.

Other texts showed Sean and Lauren messaging each other about telling their parents about Lauren's relationship with Sharp and their mutual feelings about it and concern for each other.

The text messages were significant because they constituted the only physical evidence in an investigation that was otherwise made up entirely of conflicting statements of Sharp, Lauren, Lauren's parents and Sean.

Growing impatient with what he described as a "lack of momentum" in the case, on March 22 Sean took his story directly to McGee and all five school board members. He wrote that current Paly students had approached him to ask whether or not the rumors circulating were true "because they want to know if they should feel safe in his class." He reiterated that friends with information — whose names he'd previously given to the district — had not been contacted.

"Is the district really attempting to gather all the information it can?" he asked.

Only the board's newest members, Ken Dauber and Terry Godfrey, responded to Sean's email, he said. Dauber also eventually met with him in person.

"No student should feel any trepidation about stepping onto campus to take full advantage of the education available to her," Godfrey wrote in an email the next morning. "I really appreciate that you're willing to step up and speak out."

In addition to the text messages, another piece missing from the Graff report was any mention of an allegation against Sharp made to Paly administrators by a student in 2007. Evidence of any past instances of unlawful discrimination or other misconduct are among the factors that the district's Uniform Complaint Procedures indicate may be considered in a subsequent matter.

Bowers' notes and documents from the 2007 matter, provided to the Weekly by the district, include a memo from then Dean of Students Jerry Berkson stating the student reported that Sharp had acted inappropriately with two other students. The student's report raised sufficient concerns that the police were contacted.

Included in the documents was a summary of a telephone conversation with Perron, the detective who investigated the case at the time, dated March 18, 2007. The summary, whose author is not identified but Perron remembered as being either Berkson or Principal Scotty Laurence, describes Perron's conclusions that while there was behavior that raised concerns, there was no evidence of a crime.

According to the summary, police determined that at about 8 p.m. Sharp watched two movies with current and past humanities students. After midnight, according to the notes, Sharp went to a student's house to watch a third movie and then "drove some students to a student's house," "went inside house with kids" and "left after 10 to 15 minutes." A list of 11 items under a section entitled "Boundaries/Concerns" included "did not run it by supervisors," "did not invite all of the students," "appearance and perceptions of impropriety," "giving the kids a ride home," "has taken kids to a Buddhist temple in Mountain View to meditate" and "some of the kids smoked pot before the movies."

Palo Alto police eventually closed its investigation into the 2007 allegations, Perron told the Weekly, and Bowers said that no personnel action was taken with Sharp.

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The Graff report's conclusions, written up in early June, were far from clear.

On the one hand it stated: "A credible strong suspicion that a sexual relationship may have occurred soon after graduation, and a credible strong suspicion there may have been behavior or interactions that desensitized the student while she was a student to the potential of a future sexual relationship, raise serious concerns that justify continued proactive and preventative work by the District in this area."

But in making its judgment on whether it was more likely than not that these things transpired (the "preponderance of evidence standard"), the report says: "...it is not possible for us to reach a definitive conclusion regarding the nature of (Sharp's) relationship with (Lauren) after graduation. (Lauren's) strong reactions to our questions concerning the relationship between them, and her lack of denial of a sexual relationship after graduation, coupled with Parents' and (Sean's) credible and concerned reports that (Lauren) admitted a sexual relationship to them, create strong suspicions that an apparently consensual relationship may have occurred after graduation. (Sharp's) descriptions of their relationship seemed overly formal, and he denied even friendly interactions that were credibly observed by students and reported by Parents and students. (Lauren) however, would not confirm or deny that a sexual relationship ever happened, and (Sharp) denied that a romantic relationship ever formed. Accordingly, we do not have sufficient direct evidence to conclude that a sexual relationship transpired."

"...we are left with a credible strong suspicion that behavior between (Sharp) and (Lauren) was more friendly than either admitted during interviews, but the preponderance of the evidence does not support a conclusion that any behavior rose to a level of sexual harassment of (Lauren) or unwelcome behavior during the time she was a student."

The Graff report also contained criticism of Paly principal Diorio, although it did not mention her by name. "Based on the initial allegation, administrators considered a very serious consequence — paid leave — that ultimately was not warranted by available factual evidence, and additional steps were available, such as increased observations and communications with the teacher."

"Paly and the District must be prepared to take proactive, responsive steps to address and short-circuit rumors and enhance efforts to educate students and staff on the prevention and potential damage of rumors."

It is not clear how or when district officials decided to reverse the Graff report's conclusions and instead adopt a position that the preponderance of the evidence showed that Sharp did exploit his "position of power as a teacher to establish the basis for a sexual/romantic relationship with a former student."

According to Graff's billing records, he finalized his full 13-page report, labeled as attorney-client privileged, on June 2 and a shorter four-page summary on June 4. He briefed the school board on the results of his investigation via telephone at a closed session board meeting on June 9. Two days later, he met with Sharp to present him with the findings and two weeks later, on June 23, did the same with Lauren's parents.

Meanwhile, the district's primary law firm, Lozano Smith, prepared the July 21 Notice of Unprofessional Conduct to be issued to Sharp containing conclusions that conflicted with those of the Graff report.

McGee, Bowers and Louis Lozano, the partner overseeing his firm's work with the district, all declined to comment on when, how, why or who made the decision to issue the findings in the Unprofessional Conduct letter to Sharp. Bowers told the Weekly the "assessment of that didn't come through my office" and was done by the Lozano firm.

What is clear is that there was little or no communication or coordination between the two law firms. Lozano told the Weekly he didn't know about the Graff investigation or report until June 19, when the Weekly made its first Public Records Act request for all investigative documents. That was after the report had been completed and the results communicated to Sharp.

McGee told the Weekly this week that Lozano wasn't told about the Graff investigation because it wasn't a personnel matter and "it's not common practice to tell one law firm about another law firm's work." He said the Graff report was shared with Lozano once he was asked to help write the discipline letter to Sharp.

McGee and Bowers had no explanation for why the text messages were not mentioned in the report prepared by Graff. Graff and the Fagen Friedman firm declined to answer any questions about the investigation, referring inquiries to McGee. Even though Bowers had received the text messages from Sean in March, McGee told the Weekly he personally didn't learn about them until shortly before school started in August, and emails suggest the school board first saw them at their Aug. 25 meeting.

On Sept. 16, Dauber emailed McGee to urge him to amend the Graff report to include the text messages, a request McGee rejected.

"In my view," Dauber wrote, "your decision not to amend the Graff (Title IX) Report to consider all the evidence and weigh it accordingly leaves the district vulnerable to the charge that there is an unaddressed hostile environment at Paly that may violate Title IX," Dauber wrote. "This is because the district has concluded in the discipline letter that (Sharp) likely engaged in grooming, which clearly constitutes sexual harassment."

Dauber also expressed a "deep concern" that the discipline notice to Sharp "contradicts" the conclusions of the Graff report.

"The disciplinary letter concludes by a preponderance of the evidence ('the allegations have greater credibility than your denial') that (Sharp) did engage in grooming behavior of a student at Paly and that this grooming behavior 'facilitated the consummation of a sexual relationship soon after graduation,'" Dauber wrote. "That letter further concludes that (Sharp) "failed to meet (his) obligations to provide students with a safe educational environment."

"This conclusion (which seems to me well-supported) directly contradicts the Graff (Title IX) Report, which concludes that there is a not a preponderance of the evidence that (Sharp) either groomed the student prior to graduation, or had sex with her afterwards."

Dauber also criticized the district's initial response to the parents' complaint last fall, noting that there was no Title IX investigation at the time, and "no steps were taken to determine whether a hostile environment was created or whether any individual or systemic remedies might be required."

Within a few hours, McGee responded, writing that he "respectfully" disagreed with several of Dauber's conclusions. He declined Dauber's request to amend the report because "a majority of the Board has not directed me to do so."

In an interview with the Weekly, McGee said he didn't see the conclusions in Graff's Title IX report conflicting with the district's disciplinary letter to Sharp.

"It's not 'either or,' it's 'both and,'" McGee said. "I think the Title IX report had some valid recommendations and the disciplinary (letter), there was a rationale for that and that's word for word in the letter there. I don't think you have to pick either or."

"We stand by both," he added. "I think both were important."

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Paly Principal Kim Diorio said in light of the bigger picture at Paly in the last few years — the publication of Verde Magazine's "rape culture" series, the resignation of former principal Phil Winston following a sexual harassment investigation, the opening of an Office for Civil Rights investigation into sexual harassment — the school is due for more Title IX training and education.

"We just need to do more as a system and have hard conversations," she told the Weekly.

Diorio said she is currently working with McGee to develop specific Title IX training for Paly teachers and classified staff. She said they're considering an online course or using new "learning strands" — monthly meetings for teachers to dive deeper into campus issues ranging from homework to Title IX.

The school district as a whole is beginning to implement this fall increased training and education for staff around sexual harassment and assault, appropriate conduct between teachers and students and grooming behavior. On Sept. 24, Dora Dome, an Oakland attorney who provided the district's sexual-harassment training last year, led a training with the district's entire administrative team titled "Investigating Discriminatory Harassment Complaints," according to McGee.

This Tuesday, Oct. 6, Dome led a second session with all K-12 administrators called, "Talking to Staff about Appropriate Boundaries with Students." McGee said one of the high school principals suggested doing the same training with all high school faculty.

In a Sept. 23 meeting with high school principals, assistant principals and all of the instructional supervisors from the middle and high schools, McGee also spent time talking about sexual-harassment prevention, unbalanced sexual relationships, desensitizing behavior and the Office for Civil Rights' code of conduct, he said. An opening address that McGee is set to give at a districtwide professional development day today (Oct. 9) will also address these issues, McGee said.

At the start of this school year, Paly students received brief information about appropriate student-teacher boundaries during a Powerpoint presentation from Eric Bloom, the school climate TOSA (teacher on special assignment). One slide, titled "Student/Adult Sexual Harassment," included four bullet points on the subject, including, "creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational environment."

The presentation, sandwiched by other presentations on emergency preparedness and academic integrity, also covered student-to-student sexual harassment, rape myths, bullying and information about how to be upstanders.

"It's just one lesson out of the 180 days they're here with us," Diorio said. "We've done a lot of work with trying to help teachers feel more comfortable having these kind of courageous conversations in their classes and, if not through regular classroom curriculum, finding those teachable moments," she said.

The school board's policy-review committee will also this year consider a new, stricter policy around teacher-student relationships. The two board members who serve on this committee, Dauber and Vice President Heidi Emberling, first proposed at a May 5 meeting that the district amend its professional standards policy to prohibit all romantic or sexual relationships between teachers and students for a period of time after graduation to address the potential creation of a hostile educational environment for classmates or friends of an involved student.

Harold Freiman, one of the district's attorneys, attended the May meeting via speaker phone. He responded that there could be some "constitutional issues" around limiting relationships after graduation but noted that "there is always a concern about relationships that suddenly blossom immediately after somebody graduates."

Dauber asked at the board policy-review committee's Sept. 28 meeting that the committee consider at its next meeting two changes to the district's sexual harassment policy: an "anti-grooming" policy and a policy to ensure that the district's Title IX coordinator and related staff have training in Title IX's requirements and investigation procedures.

One of his proposed amendments would be to add grooming to the existing policy's list of prohibited behaviors that may constitute sexual harassment.

Emberling said at the same meeting that she and McGee will consider Dauber's proposals for the committee's next agenda.

School board President Melissa Baten Caswell, Emberling, Godfrey and trustee Camille Townsend declined interview requests for this story, referring them to McGee. Dauber expressed views that he also shared in his September email to McGee.

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Where the Sharp case goes from here is unclear. McGee would not say whether Sharp will resume teaching, and if so, at what grade level. Emails show he was granted a reduction to 60 percent time for this school year, but that was prior to the issuance of the discipline letter.

OCR recently asked the district for documents pertaining to the case, according to a oblique announcement made by McGee at the Sept. 28 board meeting, so further scrutiny is possible.

Meanwhile McGee and the board are in the middle of a search for a newly created position of inside general counsel, with the intention of having that person oversee all compliance matters and manage the more limited use of outside legal firms.

Publisher Bill Johnson and Editor Jocelyn Dong contributed to this report.

Related content:

Behind the Headlines: Weekly news staff talks about how Palo Alto school district responded to allegations of an improper relationship between teacher, former student

Timeline of the investigation

Responding to sexual harassment: What the law says

Editorial: A tortuous school inquiry

Comments

37 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 9, 2015 at 8:25 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Thank you for the above superb reporting on this delicate, complicated and difficult subject.


43 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2015 at 8:29 am

Here's a basic question: Why does PAUSD hire two external law firms to investigate the same complaint?


5 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 9, 2015 at 8:50 am

[Post removed.]


48 people like this
Posted by Thanks to Weekly & Kim
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 9, 2015 at 8:50 am

Thank you to the Weekly for your reporting. If it weren't for you, parents wouldn't know what is really going on in the district, and we would continue to hear that everything is just perfect while we punish the naysayers. Let's celebrate all our great teachers but let's be vigilant to ensure we have a safe and excellent educational environment. Kudos to Kim Diorio for her role in this, it's clear she was handling this correctly from day one, and shame on that law firm for suggesting otherwise.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 9, 2015 at 8:51 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


15 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 9, 2015 at 9:00 am

I would just like to comment that this type of thing probably happens a lot more than we know about. Not specifically at Paly, but in any school. Teachers and students are in a type of situation which is quite unique in society. Provided nothing happens during school enrollment then what makes this unusually "wrong".

I can't speak about specific "grooming" but that makes it sound like he singled her out and was waiting until after graduation to make his move. That sounds sinister. Most teachers don't carry on any type of contact with a student after school is out, let alone after graduation.

If it can be discovered whether the teacher and "Lauren" first met by accident or by design after graduation then we can fully assess the situation. If it was by design, then it was wrong. If it was by accident or happenstance, then perhaps this is just an innocent case of two adult acquaintances starting a relationship - something that happens all the time.


25 people like this
Posted by what?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 9, 2015 at 9:10 am

What I can't understand is the notion that Lou Lozano's law firm somehow read all the evidence in this case including the text messages and then issued a 45-day notice rather than 30 day notice to terminate. If Lozano did a "parallel investigation" then why didn't Lozonos' letter for Scott Bowers (interesting that Scott Bowers commented on the record [portion removed]) issue a termination instead of a warning.

Also, you report that Lozano received the Graff report "clearing" Sharp a full month prior to ghost writing a discipline letter. There were no parallel investigations at all. Lozano read the Title IX report and then over a month later he assisted McGee in drafting a discipline letter. [Portion removed.]

Something doesn't add up. I don't think this is the full story.

Why is this teacher not terminated?


18 people like this
Posted by HardConversation
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 9, 2015 at 9:15 am

[Portion removed.]

This entire story is disgusting, as is the district response. This guy should have been on admin leave pending the investigation immediately, and fired for sufficient evidence. Why wait for "preponderance of evidence"?

Is there no moral compass in this district?

[Portion removed.]


44 people like this
Posted by Truth and Reconciliation time
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2015 at 9:21 am

I would like to point out to McGee that this is the tip of the iceberg. He came into possession if a gilded Cadillac with a shady past and decided not to look into the trunk.

The cover up game did not work for Skelly and is likely to bite you worse, Max. If you make a concerted effort to change course and go for overt truth and reconciliation, and make honesty and doing the right thing a clear district value, no one is going to hold you responsible when what's in the trunk gets out [portion removed.] The danger of having too much power without checks along the way is this inclination to cover up - and inability to see what's coming, even if it's a giant.

It's not too late.


7 people like this
Posted by what?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 9, 2015 at 9:21 am

[Post removed.]


39 people like this
Posted by HardConversation
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 9, 2015 at 9:30 am

Here is what the school board needs:

Zero.Tolerance.Policy.


Sex with a student = fired.
Sexual harrasment = fired.
Grooming = fired.
Creating a sexualized environment = fired.

Failing to disclose any of the above = fired.
Finding a co-working doing any of the above - disclose, or fired.
Porn on your computer = fired.
Tweeting inappropriate to students = fired.

[Portion removed.]


47 people like this
Posted by casey
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 9, 2015 at 9:31 am

casey is a registered user.

Deeply appreciative of Palo Alto Weekly for its reporting. I'm sure that many other parents who received Superintendent Max McGee's e-mail last night were wondering what exactly transpired, since his e-mail was less than illuminating.

I think there are two issues that this episode raises. First, Superintendent McGee labeled this a "personnel matter." Yes, we want to make sure that the teacher abided by whatever legal restrictions are in place that regulate teacher-student relationships, and that the District fulfilled its obligations to fully investigate the allegations. However, it may be difficult to ascertain whether a law was broken in many instances, when the main parties in the matter are not fully cooperative.

Secondly, even if the teacher and student waited until the student had turned 18 and had graduated from the high school, this technical compliance with the rules demonstrates a fundamental lack of judgment on the part of the teacher that I'm not sure a training course could remedy. Even if it is legal, it is bad "optics" and can erode the teacher's command of the classroom, as well as undermine the trust that must exist between parents, teachers and the district.


25 people like this
Posted by what?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 9, 2015 at 9:42 am

@HardConversation

Actually a better question is why is Lou Lozano protecting the district and not the students. Because that is what happened when he issued a 45-day "notice to correct" instead of a 30-day notice of termination. Correct what? Please correct the fact that you had sex with a former student a week after graduation? How do you correct that [portion removed.]


19 people like this
Posted by Keith
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 9, 2015 at 9:43 am

After a mountain of data and lots of "strong suspicions", this could also go another way if anyone decides to pursue an unfair practices case against the PA Schools and the Paly administration. This finely detailed article depicts a teacher going well past acceptable boundaries with evasive response to allegations, but also shows how a poorly managed investigation with questionable personnel decisions leaves the city open for being a defendant in a potential labor lawsuit.


3 people like this
Posted by Student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 9, 2015 at 9:45 am

[Post removed.]


18 people like this
Posted by HardConversation
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 9, 2015 at 9:52 am

If I read the Lou Lozano interpretation here is the gist of it:


"Do anything to students, as the standard is only what could be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by preponderance of evidence in a hypothetical court".

So it goes - if you can get away with something shady up to that point, it's okay by Lou, okay with the Union, okay with the district. They will protect the perpetrators.


This creates an environment that operates NOT on the moral standards of the community, but rather only that which can be proven in court. Rape and sexual assault are notoriously difficult to prosecute, so we have set a very very low bar for behavior of our teachers.

A very low bar.

[Portion removed.]

How about we start firing people based on what a reasonable parent would do?

(and for they whining naysayers afraid of a wrongful termination lawsuit - so what? who cares if you get a few lawsuits [Portion removed.] I would risk a few lawsuits over the risk of what is happening here today)


39 people like this
Posted by Honeymoon over
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 9, 2015 at 9:55 am

My question is why Max is sending out misleading IC messages telling the community that a Title IX investigation cleared this teacher, when he said the opposite in a discipline letter. He had a board member telling him he needed to fix the Title IX letter and Max refused. Why? Because he needed a way to say both things at once, nothing happened and we disciplined him? Something smells. [Portion removed.]


56 people like this
Posted by Truth and areconciliation time
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2015 at 9:58 am

A longtime child advocate told me recently that any complaint that reaches the superintendent that falls under categories UCP covers, whether specifically called out as a UCP complaint or not, or on UCP forms or not, is considered a UCP complaint and the district is obligated to take it seriously and not just hide behind whether it was on a form or not. Usually part of discharging said obligation involves apprising parents and students of their rights. This vigilance means districts hear what they need to in order to err on the side of protecting students.

The superintendent has to report UCPs to the board. My recollection is that McGee has been reporting "none". If so, someone needs to look into this so that McGee can fix it and the district benefits from it and from scrapping the coverup culture. Can someone post a link to the new UCP? My experience of it is that it's written in such a way as to discourage any input, and leaves people with the impression that the form covers almost nothing and they have to have a law degree to make a complaint.

Complaints aren't bad, Max. In a properly fuctioning organization, you will get complaints. You should welcome them and treat them as the gift they are. They give you an opportunity to right the ship before someone yells "iceberg dead ahead!" Covering them up and not dealing with them, or intimidating people who make the complaints, or worse, creating such a hostile environment for those who complain that they leave the district or experience serious stress and depression because of it, or it hurts kids' education and lives - that's bad. Retaining or being uninterested in honestly seeing such behavior in employees, that's mega bad.

It's still not too late.


5 people like this
Posted by what?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 9, 2015 at 9:58 am

[Post removed.]


60 people like this
Posted by Adults
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2015 at 10:04 am

Why do all of the *adults* in this tale get to remain anonymous, except for Sharp?

I don't think it's unusual at all for a 40+ year old man to be interested in an 18 your old woman - it is quite normal in some cultures - though obviously frowned upon in this one. The bigger question to me is, why is an 18 year old woman interested in a 40+ year old man?

If the facts were simple and straight-forward we wouldn't need such a long article to convey the "news." From what I can tell from this article, the district acted appropriately, and it makes perfect sense that Sharp could be simultaneously found "not guilty" and also issued a warning. While is behavior may not have specifically broken any laws, clearly his judgment was questionable, hence the warning. But, it doesn't matter what the actual facts are now, Sharp will be tried in the court of public opinion, while all of the other players get to remain anonymous.


4 people like this
Posted by HardConversation
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 9, 2015 at 10:11 am

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by what?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 9, 2015 at 10:25 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by Huh?
a resident of Mayfield

on Oct 9, 2015 at 10:39 am


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19 people like this
Posted by Town Square Moderator
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 9, 2015 at 10:41 am

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.

The reason comments are being removed from this story is mostly due to them being disrespectful, vicious in tone or libelous. Please avoid personal attacks or characterizations of people and instead stick to reasoned and thoughtful opinion. Comments that fail to take that approach will be edited or deleted. Thanks for constructively contributing your thoughts on this sensitive subject.


60 people like this
Posted by 2014 grad
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 9, 2015 at 10:48 am

Being a friend of "Lauren" and a student of Mr. Sharp during my time at Paly, I know that she did occasionally talk about being attracted to him, wanting to meet up with him after graduation, etc. I also would not be surprised if they also talked and met up outside of the classroom context before the school year ended. That part is a grey area and probably not the best decision on his part, but what we have here is a situation involving two consenting adults, not one of any predatory nature. The main concern is that Sharp was "grooming" a relationship, but she was an active, conscious participant in the relationship. And honestly, seeing as she was a second semester senior with one foot out the door, Sharp would have had very little power/authority to leverage even if he wanted to.

I think a stern warning would suffice, rather than a tarnishing of his career as reputation. [Portion removed.]


25 people like this
Posted by Honeymoon over
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 9, 2015 at 10:54 am

@adults, the problem is that the discipline letter says that Sharp did exactly what the Title IX investigation says he didn't do beyond a preponderance of the evidence. The two documents use the same standard to assess the same allegations but reach different conclusions. Neither of them apparently mention the text messages? That evidence seems clear. Read the excerpt of Dauber's email to McGee. Why did McGee refuse to revise the Title IX letter? Was he trying to be able to tell parents that Sharp was cleared, so nothing to see here?


32 people like this
Posted by Honeymoon over
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 9, 2015 at 10:56 am

Meeting up before school is over is not a gray area. It's way over the line.


62 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 9, 2015 at 11:02 am

mauricio is a registered user.

I am just wondering what does a PAUSD teacher have to do to get himself fired.


37 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 9, 2015 at 11:16 am

Reason is a registered user.

@2014 grad writes: "...Sharp would have had very little power/authority to leverage even if he wanted to. "


That is simply untrue. Any teacher has the power to not pursue a relationship with a student. Any teacher knows such a relationship has career-implications, and would, with good prudence, shut it down.

To your point that she was also interested; so what? He has an obligation to treat her as a subject of education, not a subject of sexual pursuit.

It's his job.


8 people like this
Posted by parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 9, 2015 at 11:38 am

parent2 is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


38 people like this
Posted by MidTown Guy
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 9, 2015 at 11:47 am

MidTown Guy is a registered user.

How does one definitively determine that an action is "grooming." Is it ex post facto?
A retrospective analysis colored by confirmation bias? I don't see th e fairness of a "grooming
standard" that implicates all contact between a teacher and student that occurs outside of class.
Certainly this will chill efforts to give special help to deserving students outside of class.
Sounds like a witch-hunt atmosphere could develop whereby no one goes beyond the strict
boundaries lest they incur suspicion. Everybody loses.

On the other hand, we all know of popular, attractive teachers who flourish in the immature attention
of students struck by a bad case of worship. It takes a strong teacher to recognize and deflect this worship
sensitively without damaging the student. (Cf: Up the Down Staircase).


40 people like this
Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 9, 2015 at 11:48 am

True Blue is a registered user.

>> To your point that she was also interested; so what? He has an obligation to treat her as a subject of education, not a subject of sexual pursuit.

>> It's his job.

I haven't seen any proof that he did anything but treat her as a subject of education, or that he "pursued" her. What led to the eventual relationship (which is also hearsay since the primaries parties either deny or refuse to answer) is all speculation.

And why was "Sean" so determined to involve himself even after the adult woman said there was no issue? According to the article, he essentially blackmailed her into saying anything to her parents about it. I can't help but wonder why he didn't just move on with his own life.


29 people like this
Posted by Annika
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 9, 2015 at 11:50 am

Annika is a registered user.

To "Adults": Why should an 18 year old woman be attracted to a 40 year old man? One word: Power. An older "mentor" who singles out a young woman for praise and wants to spend time with her alone can be a heady situation for a young woman to deal with. Add in the imbalance of status in a teacher/student relationship and the young woman may fear retribution if she doesn't accept, or refuses, his advances. Receiving an unfairly lowered grade, being suddenly cut off from the coveted attention or being forced into doing something she doesn't want to do are very real possibilities.
Training and open communication are a good start. [Portion removed.] Though my teen is a boy, it hurts all our kids and society as a whole when bad behavior on this level is tolerated.


23 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 9, 2015 at 12:36 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

According to the [summary made of the] police report:
""
Sharp watched two movies with current and past humanities students. After midnight, according to the notes, Sharp went to a student's house to watch a third movie and then "drove some students to a student's house," "went inside house with kids" and "left after 10 to 15 minutes." A list of 11 items under a section entitled "Boundaries/Concerns" included "did not run it by supervisors," "did not invite all of the students," "appearance and perceptions of impropriety," "giving the kids a ride home," "has taken kids to a Buddhist temple in Mountain View to meditate" and "some of the kids smoked pot before the movies."
""

Why is any of that not grounds for dismissal? That shows evidence of grooming, and being too into "hanging out" with young kids.


6 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 9, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Honeymoon over - you say, "He had a board member telling him he needed to fix the Title IX letter and Max refused. Why? Because he needed a way to say both things at once, nothing happened and we disciplined him? Something smells. "

But the article has a different view - it reports that the majority of the board directed McGee not to amend the letter. It seems like the letter should have been amended, but the decision is on the board's shoulders.

""
Within a few hours, McGee responded, writing that he "respectfully" disagreed with several of Dauber's conclusions. He declined Dauber's request to amend the report because "a majority of the Board has not directed me to do so."
""


44 people like this
Posted by Roger Dodger
a resident of another community
on Oct 9, 2015 at 12:44 pm

Roger Dodger is a registered user.

Confirmation bias, hearsay, rumor, innuendo, unfounded "statements of fact" on an anonymous forum by people claiming to know the parties involved. (Right. I am friends with the Obamas and the Pope too. We are all besties...)

Lots of things are possible:

It's possible that this could easily turn into a witch hunt.

It's possible the teacher acted with very poor judgment, but no evidence exists that he violated any policy. It's also possible that he did absolutely nothing wrong (but it's a bit late for that possibility to have much of an impact here, since his career has already been pretty much destroyed by this story).

It's possible the ex-boyfriend has a very, very large and dull axe that needs some serious grinding.

It's possible the paper has a very, very large and dull axe that needs some serious grinding.

It's possible that some school board members have a very, very large and dull axe that needs some grinding.

It's possible that the 18 year old, otherwise known as AN ADULT, chose to pursue a relationship WITH ANOTHER ADULT at her own discretion. You know, the sort of thing that goes on all over the world, all the time, every day.

It's possible that the infantilizing of the 18-year old ADULT is doing nothing to promote the power and agency of women in our culture, but instead continues to reinforce the gender stereotype that women are delicate damsels who have to be protected.

[Portion removed.]

It's possible the school district fumbled this one in more than one way. (Imagine that.)

It's possible that there could be two different legal opinions about what happened. (Imagine that.)

Imagine all the possibilities.


26 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 9, 2015 at 12:44 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@True Blue - "I haven't seen any proof that he did anything but treat her as a subject of education, or that he "pursued" her. "

Late night movies at student's houses? [Portion removed.] Taking students to "meditate" - all that goes beyond normal classroom boundaries.


"And why was "Sean" so determined to involve himself even after the adult woman said there was no issue?"

Because he is a decent person who doesn't want to see a teacher abusing his position of power to groom future students for sex. And he probably wanted some payback as well for losing his GF. But whatever the motive, he did everyone a favor by forcing action.


27 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 9, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Roger Dodger - it is also possible that when teachers sleep with their students moments after graduation, it is because they started the relationship before graduation.

Let's just agree keep teaching and sex between teachers and students very separate, and get rid of teachers who can't handle that.


21 people like this
Posted by Rayme Waters
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 9, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Rayme Waters is a registered user.

The high school I attended also had this problem. A lay religion teacher (it was a Catholic girls' school) selected and groomed students and engaged in inappropriate relationships with students during and after their high school years. All of the girls knew about it. I witnessed him propositioing a friend and did nothing. It was uncool to tell.

Point being, this is a not a problem specific to PAUSD (nor is rape culture) we just have a more questioning parent population, better student journalism, and a quality local newspaper who does basic reporting work to uncover what the district tries to hide.

"Sean", in my opinion, was brave to bring this up multiple times when he was not listened to. It absolutely needed to be investigated. Also, Kim Diorio also tried to get Sharp placed on paid leave while they figure this out and for this, as a Paly parent, I am grateful. But for the men at the top, just as it was with Skelly and the Phil Winston disaster, I have very little respect or trust. They've blown it, again.


22 people like this
Posted by parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 9, 2015 at 1:18 pm

parent2 is a registered user.

Not all the men at the top "blew it." The one member of the school board who was willing to argue with McGee about the botched Title IX investigation is the one male member of the board, Ken Dauber.

The real question in my mind is what are the four women on this board thinking? [Portion removed.]


59 people like this
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 9, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Bru is a registered user.

This "pit-bull" like treatment of a teacher who by the testimony of
everyone involved broke no law, and there is no evidence other
than innuendo against him, is a travesty that could only occur
under the politically correct cover of anything to do with the
charged subject sexual harassment ... which was not proven, but
the mention of which flips people in to emotional mode so they
hardly can think.

To name and photo-identify someone to the whole town whose
only complaint against him was to make an immature boyfriend
jealous out of his mind is an abuse of institutional power.

Sure, the right thing to do in institutions, public, private or whatever
is to disallow any kind of action and make all interactions between
people robotic, cold and clinical, but people only behave and thrive
that way in the imaginations of bureaucrats. There is a natural
affinity between any student and a good teach, it needs to be there,
and yes, it is something that needs to be checked and handled
professionally on the teacher side.

It is so odd the way this is written, so long and disconnected that
the only thing that really stands out is the accusation, the name
and the picture. How unfair is that?

It really seems like someone has their own agenda and wanted to
do a real hack job on this teacher who possibly did step a little
to close to the line. But ignoring the age issue since this is an
arbitrary borderline kind of thing, what else is there in this case
other than the chance for Paly to pretend it is doing due diligence
to sexual issues by exaggerating this?

I have to wonder about who has the power and money to push
this out like this and question their motives ... it was so masterfully
played and constructed ... masterfully but wrongly in my opinion,
from what I have read here.

Is it the boyfriend? Is it the boyfriend's parents? Is it the girl's
parents? Is it a overreaching bureaucrat trying to push a
self-righteous agenda of their own? A collective decision by
the school to repair their image or make an example to use this
teacher to make up for their own past failings. All the possiblities
that occur to me just seem unfair and wrong.

[Portion removed.]


21 people like this
Posted by Annika
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 9, 2015 at 1:45 pm

Annika is a registered user.

Why the hyperbole (pit bulls?? ax to grind?) Let's stick to the issue of the teacher [portion removed] who is alleged by multiple people to have initiated and encouraged an inappropriate relationship with one of his students. This is a serious issue that deserves a reasoned discussion and action as warranted.


18 people like this
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 9, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Bru is a registered user.

>> This is a serious issue that deserves a reasoned discussion and action as warranted.

Annika, I never said or implied it wasn't serious, in fact I said the opposite.

I just get a vibe from you like this is SO SERIOUS that ever after no issue
has been found in one investigation that the man's name and photo should
be published and disparaging innuendos should be used to assassinate
character. Kind of like that old bind or asking someone when they stopped
beating their wife. Certainly not professional or a "reasoned discussion."

Do you think a reasoned discussion is better done here in the Town
Square in public or by those involved whose jobs it is, and if someone
doesn't like it they have the right to blow it up in public?

This is like the political strategy now of just throwing stuff at someone
and hoping it tarnishes their image enough to "take them out".

[Portion removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by Rayme Waters
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 9, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Rayme Waters is a registered user.

@parent2

you are absolutely right--Dauber does seem like the only awake school board member on this issue. I should have been more clear--when I said "men at the top" I meant Bowers and McGee.


5 people like this
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 9, 2015 at 2:18 pm

Bru is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


28 people like this
Posted by Nadine Gordimer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Nadine Gordimer is a registered user.

@ Bru

The facts from the story are that Lauren told her ex-boyfriend that she was having a sexual relationship with her teacher. The ex-boyfriend told her that he would tell her parents if she didn’t. The relationship began while she was Kevin Sharp’s student. Kevin Sharp was too clever by half in thinking there would be no consequences if he waited until the week after she graduated to consummate the relationship.

The parents complained to the district after hearing rumors that this had happened before to ensure that other students would not become sexual fodder. It turns out there had been a prior investigation of Mr. Sharp [portion removed.] Principal Diorio’s request to place him on paid leave while he was being investigated was denied. The district employed Chadd Graff of Fagen, Friedman and Fulfrost to do an investigation which exonerated Mr. Sharp. PAUSD paid FFF $50,000 for this investigation that ignored text message evidence that refuted the [portion removed] Mr. Sharp told during the investigation about the relationship. The ex-boyfriend then reached out to the school board. [Portion removed.] A disturbing sidebar is that while this was going on Camille Townsend lathered on praise of FFF at the June 2015 school board meeting in discussion of runaway legal fees. She extolled the valuable services we were getting for FFF’s $900,000 legal bill [portion removed.]

I agree with Rayme that rape culture and teacher grooming are not unique to Palo Alto. And I suppose cover-ups are not unique either. I had hoped that our district was moving away from the sweep it under the rug cover up mentality that prevailed under Dr. Skelly. I am deeply saddened by this story and the course our district leadership took. A huge shout out to Sean, Kim Diorio and Ken Dauber for their parts in looking out for our students.


30 people like this
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 9, 2015 at 3:07 pm

Bru is a registered user.

Nadine,

> The relationship began while she was Kevin Sharp's student.

Not saying that is untrue, but it does seem problematic as "relationship"
used in that context unfairly implies sexual.

> Kevin Sharp was too clever by half in thinking there would be no consequences
> if he waited until the week after she graduated to consummate the relationship.

And how would you know what Kevin Sharpe was thinking?

Did I misread something, but by the time this "consummation"
happened, the "woman" was both over 18 and not Sharpe's
student?

So, the recourse here is to call "whatever" took place between these
two, and I sure have no idea what it was, but it is emotionally and
contextually frames as the "crime" of "grooming".

I guess I must be crazy because I think this thing when looked at
objectively, the term "grooming" has no real definition ( see above )
except to make is seem like they can backdate what seems to me
like consensual behavior and frame it in an ugly way to where it
was not consensual or illegal or immoral or ... and here is the only
thing that rings partially true to me, not strictly professional.

I just think you use of the term "sexual fodder" is really loaded.
Does this girl think she was sexual fodder? What does that mean,
and do we want to have laws that people cannot make their own
decisions or mistake in life even if that was true. I just don't see that
as uniformly doable, so then when it is untilized it is always utilized
politically. That is what I got from reading this, which by the way is
the first I have read or heard of any of it.

> The ex-boyfriend then reached out to the school board.

I mean listen to this, the "ex-boyfriend reached-out" ... just reeks
of, sorry I cannot think of a better term than just - phoniness.

The language of this article and condemnatory comments really
seems very artfully contrived to damn this teacher. But it is not
the Town Forum that should have the right to damn anyone in my
opinion.

> rape culture and teacher grooming

Yeah, I see what you did there ... another step towards damnation,
conflating the previously ambiguously defined "grooming" word
with "rape culture" oooooooohhhhh! Whipping possibly nothing
into something that is capital crime. That is shameful and precisely
the reason this article should not even be here.


50 people like this
Posted by worth noting
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2015 at 3:09 pm

worth noting is a registered user.

The teacher used terrible judgment, but apparently didn't do anything illegal. Now, The Weekly, in true Weekly exhaustive fashion, is using this incident to tar everyone in the PAUSD it possibly can. You are throwing in the entire kitchen sink about past incidents that you have exhaustively reported in the past, even though there is no link to this story. There is no reason this story needed to have all that dragged up again. I would take your stories more seriously if you didn't seem to have such a strong vendetta against the district.


7 people like this
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 9, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Bru is a registered user.

>> A disturbing sidebar is that while this was going on Camille Townsend
>> lathered on praise of FFF at the June 2015 school board meeting in
>> discussion of runaway legal fees. She extolled the valuable services
>> we were getting for FFF's $900,000 legal bill [portion removed.]

Sorry I ignored that because I don't have any idea what it means or
how it is relevant. Maybe all the deletions.

I think if there is a good understanding that a story like this might
result in more deletions that comment, again, maybe it should not
be posted ???


35 people like this
Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 9, 2015 at 4:25 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

@Slow down:

>> "Late night movies at student's houses? [Portion removed.] Taking students to "meditate" - all that goes beyond normal classroom boundaries."

That was a wholly separate event many years ago. The topic, and my response, was about whether he had been "pursuing "Lauren."

@Nadine:

>>"The facts from the story are that Lauren told her ex-boyfriend that she was having a sexual relationship with her teacher. "

No, Lauren's ex-boyfriend SAID she said she was having a sexual relationship with Sharp (after he was no longer her teacher). That makes it hearsay, not fact.

Also, I wholeheartedly agree with Roger Dodger, that the knee-jerk reaction that this adult woman needs to be protected, even against her will (!) is demeaning to women.

So many people on this forum seem to think that only men can "pursue" and that women are simply victims of unwanted attention. Quite obviously, Lauren did not, and presumably, because she is not participating in the condemnation, does not agree that she was victimized.

I certainly don't want lecherous teachers trolling for unwitting students, but that is not at all what appears to have happened here.

Sharp *may* have exercised poor judgment (there is no proof), but he doesn't deserve all of this speculation and assumption about his motives or behavior. Neither does "Lauren" deserve to be treated like a helpless victim that she herself is not claiming to be.


22 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of another community
on Oct 9, 2015 at 4:49 pm

outsider is a registered user.

eeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!

No computers are available for low income students, but there are 2 law firms in place? what an embarrassment.

[Portion removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2015 at 7:42 pm

Paly Alum is a registered user.

Paly Social Studies teacher, Mr. Shreve, molested boys in the Paly Tower for decades but only served one year in prison in 1985:Web Link

This is public information and should not be deleted.


5 people like this
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2015 at 7:48 pm

Paly Alum is a registered user.

Mr. Shreve, registered sex offender:Web Link


12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Oct 9, 2015 at 7:50 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The original article presented a series of facts and it does not make a judgement about those facts.

It is perplexing that so many commentators presume otherwise.


10 people like this
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2015 at 7:52 pm

Paly Alum is a registered user.

Here is the link to the registry of Shreve:Web Link


24 people like this
Posted by Nadine Gordimer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2015 at 9:25 pm

Nadine Gordimer is a registered user.

@True Blue Here are some facts that are not hearsay.


"The allegations against Sharp were first brought to the district's attention on Sept. 22, 2014, by the parents of "Lauren" (the student's name was changed to protect her privacy), who turned 18 during her senior year. They informed Paly Assistant Principal Kathie Laurence that Lauren had told them of her consensual sexual relationship with Sharp, which had commenced a week after her graduation, according to documents provided by the district.

The parents later told Graff that Lauren said she disclosed the relationship to them because her former boyfriend, "Sean" (the student's name was changed to protect his privacy), with whom they were still friendly, had "threatened to tell them if she did not," according to the Graff report.

The parents said they wanted the matter addressed with as much sensitivity for their daughter as possible while still trying to prevent future similar instances of teachers becoming involved with students, Bowers' notes state."

Kudos to the parents for coming forward.






28 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 9, 2015 at 9:39 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@True Blue - Lauren told her parents she had a sexxual relationship with her teacher. That is not hearsay. The activities including drugs, movies in the evening are relevant because they show a pattern of inappropriate contact with students, and grooming activity. This isn't about protecting Lauren, that ship has sailed. This is about getting him permanently removed from the district so he doesn't have sex with more of his students.


15 people like this
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Oct 9, 2015 at 10:09 pm

Alphonso is a registered user.

"The parents said they wanted the matter addressed with as much sensitivity for their daughter as possible"

This story certainly failed to do that - it reads like a soap box episode. Yes I see facts but there is also way too much opinion and absolutely no regard for the young lady involved.


31 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 9, 2015 at 10:18 pm

Chip is a registered user.

The liaison between "Lauren" and Sharpe has been pretty common knowledge for a long time. Even though Sharpe has always denied any inappropriate activity, friends of "Lauren's" and her parents have heard a lot about it. Some of "Lauren's" classmates have discussed the situation with other PAHS teachers, expressing anxiety & confusion about Sharpe's activities.

Poor Bru, it's big of you attempt to defend Sharpe's actions, but you know not of which you write. [Portion removed.]

No teacher should do what Sharpe has done. No "teacher" who's so lacking in common sense or moral judgment should be on any campus. The principal has done her best, the school board should be replaced except for Dauber, and Sharpe should have been dismissed without pay. [Portion removed.]

"Chill Phil" Winston got a negotiated deal for transfer to a special ed classroom instead of being fired for sexual misconduct. Phil harassed adult staff as well as female students. Skelly managed to get himself moved up the Peninsula as superintendent in San Mateo. What does it take for a School Board to actually fire someone & not have to pay them?




18 people like this
Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 9, 2015 at 10:19 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

@Nadine,

Thanks, but I did read the article thoroughly. The only "fact" is that the parents said their daughter said she had a consensual sexual relationship. That does not make it a fact that there was a consensual sexual relationship, nor does it even make it a "fact" that Lauren actually said exactly what they relayed (ever play the phone game?). It is a fact, that the parents statement is hearsay.

@Slow Down,

FWIW, I almost always agree with your posts, but with all due respect, neither you nor anyone else knows what, or if, Lauren said anything to her parents about Sharp, and if she did say something about him, we don't know what. The parents may very well believe they are relaying a "fact," but all they are actually relaying is a belief or a perception at most.

Look up the Hearsay Rule. It is NOT a known "fact" that Lauren said she had a sexual relationship with Sharp. While it may actually be a fact, it's not a fact a single one of us can know as a fact.

The witch hunt needs to end.


6 people like this
Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 9, 2015 at 10:29 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


22 people like this
Posted by George Jaquette
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 9, 2015 at 10:30 pm

George Jaquette is a registered user.

Teachers have a great deal of power in their relationship with students. Subtle differences in treatment and in subjective grading have an immense impact.

Search online about Kevin Sharp, and you will find glowing student reviews:
"Mr. Sharp is the best teacher I've ever had. His classes are by no means easy, but he makes each period awesome. Classes are fun and I always leave feeling smarter, not bored to death.
I've had him for three years and had a sibling that had him for two years. He's an awesome guy, you're lucky if you get him."
"As a second semester senior, I would not go to school/sleep in every day, but I don't because I do not want to miss this class. Hands down the best class I have taken at Paly."
"By far the worst experience I had at Paly. This man is super insecure about himself so he'll call out/embarrass students who are quiet. Stay away from this guy. He is NO Mrs. Paugh for people contem (STET)"
"I had K Sharp this year for film comp and he is easily one of the best english teachers I've ever had, and he's always fun to chat with. He has lots of personality and is very easy to talk to."

So, the facts are few and the inferences are many. Sharp taught this woman in class. He apparently thought she was a good student, and spent more time with her than with other students. He likely gave her more attention because he thought she was a good student, and possibly had ulterior motives. As several people have pointed out, the vague definition of grooming leaves room for debate -- but it certainly seems like he exercised poor judgment.

Yes, the woman was an adult. Yes, she was no longer a student. But without question they met in an unequal relationship, wherein he had power over her future. The very short gap between no longer being a student and being in *any* relationship with a teacher shows the power of that relationship over the woman, and condemns the teacher for poor judgment.

Even if they did nothing sexual (perhaps they went to a Buddhist temple, perhaps they did yoga together – as another poster wrote, the parents’s re-telling of her relationship with Sharp does not make it fact, but rather is the definition of hearsay), this teacher has demonstrated that the lines that govern power relationships mean little to him. He has carefully colored outside of the lines, but in doing so has probably crossed moral lines that many of us consider important.

For anyone who has coached young kids, you know the power you have to harm or to help. There is no Hippocratic oath for teachers or coaches, but the first and foremost rule in most cultures rings true: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

If I believed that a 40+ year old teacher was grooming my daughter or my ex-girlfriend, I would have an axe to grind (heavy, dull, or otherwise). If my friends or close family had been abused by a teacher or by an older adult (male or female, priest or teacher), I would have an axe to grind (heavy and dull). I do not blame the actors in the play for the part they are delivering, any more than I blame the 18-year-old woman for doing what she chooses to do despite her ex-boyfriend's guidance and her parents' concerns. As many people have pointed out, Sharp and the woman are adults and neither has asked for this investigation. In the legal world. the ex-boyfriend and the parents have no legal standing -- so the case would be thrown out.

But we don't want to live in a legal world. Clinton's base defense of his actions rankled for many, and Sharp's evasive answers are similarly offensive. If the woman texted that Sharp was aware of the dangers, and took them (as implied in the article), he must feel that he has gotten the punishment he deserves (and arguably should not still be employed by the district).

I remain surprised how venomous an anonymous discussion can be, where so many pretend to have knowledge and connections that they are unlikely to really have. I don't know Sharp, don't know the woman or her ex-boyfriend, and I have no connection to Paly High -- but I enjoy reading, and could not just turn the electronic page on this article. I wish everyone could justify their emotional reactions better, as this is a more complex situation than most are willing to accept.

I am also surprised that no one has addressed the fact that Sharp is protected by a union contract, and that he was represented (appropriately) by a union representative in the first meeting cited in the article. I am not a lawyer, but union contracts are a huge impediment to firing teachers without clear and compelling evidence of unacceptable behavior. The preponderance of evidence doesn't matter, the likelihood of guilt doesn't matter, truly a smoking gun is necessary before you can fire a teacher. The superintendent, the principal, and the personnel leaders at PAUSD are very aware of the challenges in firing anyone, especially a well-loved (see student reviews above) teacher.

Through the thread, the motif of "the honeymoon is over" has been woven. Max McGee took this job a year ago, and from the timeline presented he was met with this charge about events that happened before his watch and with little concrete data to act on. It seems unreasonable to judge him or the Paly principal based on this case, even as we might question why two law firms are running the meter on the same issue without some reconciliation -- seems like bad management. Issuing an opinion that cherrypicks from the two conflicting opinions seems like bad judgment. But this is an issue full of grey areas, without the primary actors (Sharp and the Paly alumnae) given any time on the stage. We are left listening to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, rather than hearing from Hamlet directly.

My reaction: Sharp, as an educated adult, certainly knew the dangers and I hope knew better than to prey on students, even if he has learned how to walk the lines. The student should be allowed to move on with her life, without having her ex-boyfriend drag her back to the summer after she graduated. The ex-boyfriend has been an uncelebrated hero, but mostly because his efforts were unwanted (and unappreciated) by his ex-girlfriend. The parents seem to have acted to help prevent future abuses, a noble effort. As a parent, I feel their pain -- we all wish we could protect our children from these miserable experiences and we hate the predators that try to feed on our children. But their daughter is an adult, and she is free to make these bad choices, and it is NOT their fault. All we can do is equip our children for life's journey, we cannot protect them and guard them on the way. Our children will make mistakes, and it seems like this woman made a mistake and recovered from it quickly. It is perhaps time to help her move on, since Sharp seems permanently sidelined.

George


16 people like this
Posted by worth noting
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2015 at 10:55 pm

worth noting is a registered user.

@Alphonso

I totally agree with your sentiment. The Weekly clearly has a vendetta against the district and is now using this incident to further its agenda and once again pillory as many people at PAUSD as possible. Sadly, this time it involves an 18-year-old girl and her parents, who had actually hoped they could protect her when reporting the affair. However, once her ex-boyfriend called The Weekly, there was no hope for handling this in a sensitive manner.

I'm guessing it won't be long before The Weekly also runs Max McGee out of town.


8 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 10, 2015 at 12:24 am

Chip is a registered user.

@ George-

You don't know any of these people. I do know "Lauren" and her parents. My children know ex-teacher Sharp. You mistakenly assume that the girl-woman "made a mistake and recovered from it quickly." That is not true. [Portion removed.]

Stick to expounding on situations about which you actually have personal knowledge rather than speculating about people & situations about which you have no prior knowledge..


23 people like this
Posted by parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 10, 2015 at 12:42 am

parent2 is a registered user.

The damage that can be done by a predatory teacher can be very longstanding. I am not speaking here of Mr. Sharp but in general about predatory teachers -- and we don't know that Mr. Sharp is a predator of course. But predators can do real and lasting damage. The statute of limitations on sexual offenses against minors in California has been lengthened by statute to 10 years. So even if a victim of a situation like this when 18 years old still believes that this was an adult relationship or that she is somehow to blame, she may eventually come to the conclusion that she was victimized. Perhaps when she has children of her own and realizes just how young she really was and how inappropriate that teacher's attentions were. Just because she does not see the problem today, and does not sue her school today for exposing her to a predator, does not mean that sometime in the next 10 years she won't come to her senses, realize the issue, want to protect other children or pay for her therapy bills, and do it.

That's what happened in the Catholic Church cases and the end of that is nowhere in sight.

[Portion removed.] You have no idea how this story will end. Maybe some predators make their victims feel loved. I mean Warren Jeffs had like 50 wives so it's not like predators can't get married. But that is not the usual outcome.

[Portion removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 10, 2015 at 12:46 am

True Blue is a registered user.

@Chip:

"girl-woman?" Really? She can vote, is legally responsible for herself, and is easily forced to completely support herself, but you can't let go of the term, "girl." She is not a child! [Portion removed.]

The parents don't have to accept their daughter's choice [portion removed], but if they want to have a strong relationship with their daughter, I would recommend they stop fighting it and focus on their relationship with "Lauren," no matter whom she is seeing.


13 people like this
Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2015 at 1:34 am

resident3 is a registered user.

True Blue,

Not sure if you have heard about the level of immaturity that exists amongst college age students or about the undeveloped cognitive and emotional factors which are sort of "all over the map" for many persons of this age (18 and so forth)- female or male.

Members of this age group are known to have issues about good choices.

Your idea that the expectation for this age group is that they are actually "adults" is a stretch. It should be required to have parents involved in issues about choices, and instead of "accepting" some unusual choices, what else are parents for if not to be able to step in?

Now - about the maturity level of the other adult in this situation.

Seems like there are some questionable choices that the older adult made here, and the implications of this older person's maturity level in this case has implications about professionalism and lack thereof.

I would not call this older adult a "significant other" in the life of the much younger adult. Unless we are talking about a sect in the Appalachians.


16 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 10, 2015 at 1:38 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

@True Blue - I didn't say it was a fact, I said it wasn't hearsay. The parents are reporting what their daughter told them first hand, by definition that is not hearsay. Note that Lauren won't deny they had a sexual relationship. Regardless, this isn't a trial, and he isn't going to jail, but there is more than enough information to justify firing him, and any parent would be crazy to allow their child in his class.


15 people like this
Posted by True
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 10, 2015 at 2:28 am

True is a registered user.

Could this be why my daughter's male teachers are leaving after school instead of helping her with the subject? They are both poor instructors so there are lines in Tutorial, yet they refuse to stay after school to help.

Aren't teachers supposed to be available for students? Even professors have office hours outside of school hours. How can our children be denied extra help if they need it?


20 people like this
Posted by parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 10, 2015 at 8:38 am

parent2 is a registered user.

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”
― Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents: Volume 1

Parents, teachers, and community members who believe that this alleged conduct is a problem must come forward now and demand that the district terminate this teacher and report him to the proper credentialing authorities.

[Portion removed.]

Parents, students, teachers, and other community members must speak with one voice: NOT IN OUR SCHOOLS.




15 people like this
Posted by Angie Baker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2015 at 9:23 am

Angie Baker is a registered user.

McGee seems totally out to lunch. How can he "stand by" two letters, the investigation and the discipline letter, that say exactly the opposite things? Not either/or but both/and? That makes no sense, he sounds beyond bewildered. Certainly not clear leadership.


18 people like this
Posted by Roger Dodger
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2015 at 9:52 am

Roger Dodger is a registered user.

In painful and difficult circumstances we all strive for an easy answer, a one-size-fits-all response that will tidily deal with the issues at hand and wrap them up into a neat little package that can then be disposed of. This is a complex and multi-faceted story with a lot of angles and many players on the stage and off. Hence George Jaquette's very apt metaphor that we are stuck listening to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, because the main players are no longer part of the drama here. If you are familiar with "Hamlet" you will know how muddled things quickly became when we rely on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and that it what is happening here. You also know how badly things ended for a lot of the players.

[Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment.] There are structures and guidelines in place for dealing with this sort of issue, and while it is admittedly difficult to fire a teacher without a "smoking gun", you can rest assured that this particular teacher's career has been effectively destroyed by this story; he will almost surely never set foot in a classroom again.

Above all else, a lot of people have lost sight of the fact that the young woman is now an adult and WAS an adult when the allegedly consensual relationship occurred, and that she reacted vehemently against a violation of her privacy and an intrusive investigation of her life by the newspaper when this story gathered steam [portion removed.] She is an adult and was an adult when this relationship occurred and thus it's NO ONE ELSE'S BUSINESS. Those words may fall hard on some ears here, but that's just tough. It's why the PA Police declined to pursue the matter further. That part of the drama is over.

And in the end, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead too.


23 people like this
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 10, 2015 at 10:52 am

Bru is a registered user.

>> Above all else, a lot of people have lost sight of the fact that the young
>> woman is now an adult and WAS an adult when the allegedly consensual
>> relationship occurred, and that she reacted vehemently against a violation
>> of her privacy and an intrusive investigation of her life by the newspaper
>> when this story gathered steam

Being dragged into the public space unnecessarily and discussed [portion removed]
in Palo Alto Online because someone did not like the official result has done
more damage to these ADULT people than any good or justice that might
result from it or the incident itself.

These are adults, and no matter how close to the line they got, when they
are on the right side of it and there is no proof of crime, let people decide
and live their own lives, make their own mistakes and not humiliate them or
try to ruin their lives and careers. This is disgraceful.

If the story was different, my post would be different, but it is not, it is what
it is.

Yes, in situations like this, and they happen all over, in business, work,
wherever, things can go sideways fast, that is why we have regulations and
rules, but it seems to me that the main way things went sideways here
was the interference of disapproving others [portion removed.]

I can't blame anyone for what they think or feel, but manipulation of
institutions and appealing [portion removed] in the "media" is not good
citizenship in my book no matter how self-righteous someone might
feel about it.

Kind of reminds me of a song I heard when I was a kid.


Harper Valley P.T.A.
Jeannie C. Riley

I wanna tell you all a story 'bout a Harper Valley widowed wife,
Who had a teenage daughter who attended Harper Valley Junior High,
Well her daughter came home one afternoon and didn't even stop to play,
And she said."Mom I got a note here from the Harper Valley PTA."

[Portion removed due to copyright violation; please post a link not the full text.]


10 people like this
Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2015 at 11:16 am

resident3 is a registered user.

Bru,

Everything going on amongst "adults" in a school setting matters.

It is both the responsibility of the younger adult (18 ish) and the older adults (40 ish) about what they are doing on school grounds. But the older adult (a teacher nonetheless) should be a tad more mature.

Helping the younger adult carry bagels from the car on various occasions is something I would bet hard money is not done by random people in these kids' life. Requires a text, and some serious interaction because last I heard both teachers and Seniors are busy people. These are not random encounters.


3 people like this
Posted by Town Square Moderator
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 10, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.

For the record, below is the statement sent to district parents by Superintendent Max McGee late afternoon on Thursday, Oct. 8th before the story had been posted but after the Weekly went to press. Coverage of it was therefore not included in the story. The district has not made any public statement since the story appeared.


Good Afternoon,

I am writing today in advance of a story regarding a staff member at Palo Alto High School that will appear in the local media within the next day or two. While this is a personnel matter, and I can only share limited information in order to reassure you that we are on top of this situation, I would like to share the following facts:

Last year, in response to questions about a teacher's behavior that arose as a result of a conversation with a parent of a former student (A) who has since graduated from the District and a letter from another former student (B) who had at one time been close to student A, the District conducted an internal investigation into a staff member's alleged conduct and commissioned one of our law firms to conduct an investigation.

The investigation concluded there was not "sufficient direct evidence" to support the first allegation and the "preponderance of evidence" did not support the second allegation. Although the evidence did not support findings of illegal conduct, as a result of questions raised by the investigation, PAUSD issued a 45-day disciplinary notice to the staff member warning about unprofessional conduct.

No student prior to or following the issuance of this notice has come forward to allege that he or she has directly experienced or witnessed unprofessional conduct by this teacher.

The 45-day notice is a written warning to the credential holder that any unprofessional conduct may result in dismissal from the District. This is a mandatory process prior to the dismissal of a teacher for unprofessional conduct under the California Education Code. If the employee engages in unprofessional conduct during the remedial period or even after the remedial period expires, then the district can proceed with dismissal charges based upon specified unprofessional conduct.

A local newspaper has filed several Public Records Act requests which were compiled and provided to the paper based upon the advice of our attorney.

Student B also responded to the interview requests from the local newspaper.

The District has both volunteered and proactively reported all of this information to the Office for Civil Rights. They were appreciative of the outreach.

The Staff member has been on leave since the beginning of this school year and, we understand, will be on leave at least through the remainder of the first fall semester.

I assure you that we take all allegations of misconduct by our employees very seriously. We are continuing to work closely to resolve the issues, and we are actively reminding all of our staff of the professional standards of behavior. There is nothing more important to us than to ensure the safety of all students. We have already instituted additional training measures with administrators and are following up with faculty and staff training as well.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support.


Glenn "Max" McGee
Superintendent


10 people like this
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 10, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Bru is a registered user.

resident3
>> It is both the responsibility of the younger adult (18 ish) and the
>> older adults (40 ish) about what they are doing on school grounds.
>> But the older adult (a teacher nonetheless) should be a tad more mature.

I'd totally agree with you on that.
But as I push this around in my mind and talk about it with
people I know some other things also come to mind.

I know a non-local teacher who told me about the rules, and how
when a teacher in her school had an affair with a minor they were
arrested and convicted for a crime, and I have no problem with that
and it is the right thing to do. But because similar situations are
similar - but not the same - some people are not happy with the
distinctions drawn and go out on their own to destroy the distinction
and conflate the situations with emotion and innuendo.

In this case no necessarily to support the spirit of the law and
the regulation, but to enforce their ideas or enjoin the right of
adult people to make their own decisions ... using the force or
the institution or public attacks.

I wonder if this happened in, say, Foothill or De Anza which would
be a very similar thing, but without primarily minors on campus
if the situation would be the same. But in the Jr College scenario it
would not be so amenable to distortion because everyone would
be adults and in a high-school there are primarily minors. I also think
the "line" is the difference between someone almost 18 and someone
over 18 ... is very close to arbitrary. Serious, but still arbitrary.

I am sure to some concerned the distinction of high school and jr.
college or college would not matter. [Portion removed.]

I have no dog in this race, so to speak, and the reason I even posted
on this subject is because when I see clever propaganda points
I just like to point it out to encourage critical thinking [portion removed.] Like, wait a minute,
slow down, let's talk about what are the real facts and issues here.



29 people like this
Posted by worth noting
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2015 at 1:02 pm

worth noting is a registered user.

Totally agree with @Rodger Dodger and @Bru

The Palo Alto Weekly clearly has a vendetta against PAUSD [portion removed.] In any other reputable newspaper, this would have been a short article. But instead The Weekly launches a "three-month investigation" runs an exhaustive story that finds no laws were broken and then embarrassingly posts a 30-minute navel gazing video having themselves talk about how they discovered the truth. Give me a break. A responsible paper would have investigated, realized there was very little there, and then run a short story on the incident. It really saddens me that The Weekly has our administration and the principals of our high schools chasing down all these red herrings when they have a truly important job to manage and educate 12,000 students. How can our school leaders possibly do their jobs with these constant grossly exaggerated hyperbolic distractions being thrown at them by The Weekly?


27 people like this
Posted by Angie Baker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2015 at 1:06 pm

Angie Baker is a registered user.

Actually it's pretty clear that Title IX was violated, at least by the district not investigating the first complaint and then not considering all the evidence in the report. As to whether the teacher committed a crime, that's not the standard for violating Title IX or being disciplined or fired.


19 people like this
Posted by Nadine Gordimer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Nadine Gordimer is a registered user.

One of the things that is very puzzling in this story and of concern to me is the marked difference between Chadd Graff’s Title IX investigation that exonerates Mr. Sharp and the disciplinary letter provided by Lou Lozano. According to the story “McGee, Bowers and Louis Lozano, the partner overseeing his firm's work with the district, all declined to comment on when, how, why or who made the decision to issue the findings in the Unprofessional Conduct letter to Sharp. “

I reread the story with this in mind and discovered the following timeline and perhaps what may have triggered the disciplinary letter.

Below are quotes taken from the timeline (1) accompanying this story and the story(2) on this page:

“June 2, 2015: Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost attorney Chad Graff sends Young a report detailing the findings of the firm's Title IX investigation, which concludes based on a preponderance of the evidence that Sharp did not engage in grooming behavior nor have a sexual relationship after graduation, "although there are strong and supported suspicions of such a relationship." The firm also concludes that the school district complied with its Title IX responsibilities concerning the allegations.” (1)

“June 11, 2015: Graff meets with Sharp, a union representative and Young regarding the results of investigation.” (1)

“Walsh [Sharp’s attorney] added in an email this week that Sharp was told on Jun 11 by both Graff and Young that it was then a closed matter.” (2)

[June 19, 2015] “The Weekly obtained copies of documents relating to the Sharp matter through a series of Public Records Act requests of the school district beginning on June 19, after being contacted by the former boyfriend of the student.” (2)


“July 21, 2015: Sharp is sent a Notice of Unprofessional Conduct, signed by Bowers, that states it is more likely than not that Sharp engaged in "grooming" activities with Lauren that "facilitated the consummation of a sexual relationship soon after graduation."”

Although there is no proof and requests for comment were denied by Bowers, McGee and Lozano; I can’t help but wondering whether Lozano was called in response to the Weekly Public Record Request. I guess we will all have to draw our own conclusions on that.


6 people like this
Posted by Nadine Gordimer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Nadine Gordimer is a registered user.

One more quote from the story for the timeline in my above post:
June 19, 2015:
"Lozano told the Weekly he didn't know about the Graff investigation or report until June 19, when the Weekly made its first Public Records Act request for all investigative documents."


2 people like this
Posted by pasta514
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 10, 2015 at 3:34 pm

pasta514 is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


21 people like this
Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2015 at 3:43 pm

resident3 is a registered user.

The Post reports that there were other indications about the older adult hanging out with students in a way that would not be exactly usual.

I'm not in favor of accusing someone unfairly or abusing their rights, but what are the laws about wrong doing and not being able to catch someone "in the act" of something that is illegal, involving minors?

These things happen behind closed doors, and with all the power games previously mentioned. That is OK as long as the adult is not caught???

One thing is a few kids saying that the teacher makes bad jokes, another is to say the person is hanging out with students in a way that was worth telling on that adult (as it was told to a school Principal a few YEARS back). The Post story is like wow, Yuk, gross, cannot believe it.

If the district only responded to such concerns only after the Weekly investigation, it is not good.


19 people like this
Posted by Angie Baker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Angie Baker is a registered user.

Nadine, interesting. I wouldn't say that Graff exonerated Sharp. In fact, the report calls the parents and Sean credible, and finds Sharps statements to be at odds with credible observations from others. What is most strange about this report is actually that it finds a lot of evidence to support a preponderance decision, but doesn't. Instead it says that it can't be established definitively. But that's a much stronger standard. Another way in which the report probably violated Title IX.


37 people like this
Posted by southville
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 10, 2015 at 7:42 pm

southville is a registered user.

I have a daughter. Based on what I have read, there is no way I would want her to be in this guy's class.

While once in a blue moon, a young student and teacher may have true "romeo and juliet" love, the preponderance of cases are an impressionable young person and a teacher who willingly takes advantage of the situation.

This is why a cooling off period, like the 4 year gap, is an important safeguard.


25 people like this
Posted by frustrated mom
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 11, 2015 at 5:59 am

frustrated mom is a registered user.

Ms. Camile,Heidy, and Melissa, and Mr. Magee:
Are you still wondering why OCR is in our town, and it seems like is here to stay? I do not know what it took for Mr. McGee and the rest of the board members to decide that the least thing they could do was to turn themselves to OCR. I hope Ms. Camile does not have any questions about the big necessity to have OCR in town. In fact we need an OCR extension right there at the school district office. They would do a better job than Mr. Young (I am so glad he lefty) and the PAUSD's law firms that are getting our students funds for helping to cover up the so many flaws of PAUSD
Please stop blaming the weekly and parents who went to OCR as the last resource to get help for their children. If the former board members and the ones who have been there for a while would have done their jobs right No OCR investigations would have been conducted, and our school will still be popular, the student enrollment would have not decreased. It took so long to get rid of our so irresponsible school superintendent, and I was very happy when McGee came aboard because I had big hopes on him to change the way our school officials work (doing nothing when there are complains), but now reading this article and the letter he sent to us parents, I am really disappointing. Here we go again, another super that wants to get his salary by trying to minimize the issues. Now I know why the rest of the board members wanted to get rid of our only responsible board member Ken Daubber. Too bad thay they cannot do it because it was found out that the other board members brought up to get him out or stay away from this issue did not work. Mr. Ken Dauber, I think that we should made an statue of you to give you the honor you deserve for standing up for our kids. The rest of the board members should apologize to you because you are really looking for the students' academic, social and emotional health of our students. If the rest of the board members do not stand up for our kids, they should leave their seat for someone else who has the kind of guts that Ms. Daubber has.


7 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2015 at 7:35 am

outsider is a registered user.

how is it that this administration does not follow protocol and has no consequence for it. Locking gates is important. The ones leaving it open for friends should have quite a bit of the blame. I thought gates were "locked" at this school.


8 people like this
Posted by parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 11, 2015 at 8:07 am

parent2 is a registered user.

@frustrated mom wrote: "In fact we need an OCR extension right there at the school district office."

*drops mic*


22 people like this
Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2015 at 8:18 am

resident3 is a registered user.

According to the Graff report,

The teacher "volunteered that several teachers at Paly are married to former students"

Is this true? Is this being used to sell these set-ups?

Also in the Graff report, "one female teacher who considers (the 18 year old student) a friend and has kept in touch following graduation asserted that if anything happened of a sexual nature between (the 18 year old student) and (the older teacher) following graduation, it was likely because (the 18 year old) was interested in exploring a relationship.

I would say that the female English teacher who considers the 18 year old a "friend" needs some training herself. Surprising that this female English teacher does not understand the vulnerability of this age group, and how messed up some kids can be during the stressful times of Junior and Senior year. We all get that kids this age look for thrills, but that does not mean teachers or other adults are supposed to be "the" thrill seeking.


15 people like this
Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2015 at 8:44 am

resident3 is a registered user.

Apparently the teacher is a former Paly student.

I'm beginning to wonder if this didn't contribute to the blind eye from Paly staff about the 2007 reports from students about this teacher.

And unfortunately, the line "i also went to Paly" is probably very convenient in "grooming" if it happened.

Sad


22 people like this
Posted by Nadine Gordimer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Nadine Gordimer is a registered user.

@ Angie
Thanks for correcting my statement that Graff’s report exonerated Mr. Sharp. It was Sharp’s attorney who made the claim that the report exonerated him. In rereading the story a few more details about the report popped out. First, that the statements by Lauren’s parents that were supported by text messages were not sufficient in Graff’s opinion to take action against the teacher. Second, Graff omitted the text messages from his report in addition to the prior 2007 investigation of Mr. Sharp. Third, the report seems to chide Principal Diorio for overstepping her bounds in asking that the teacher be placed on administrative leave during the investigation and goes further to state that Paly needs to be proactive in quelling rumors among staff and students.

Here are the direct quotes from the story:

The parents later told Graff that Lauren said she disclosed the relationship to them because her former boyfriend, "Sean" (the student's name was changed to protect his privacy), with whom they were still friendly, had "threatened to tell them if she did not," according to the Graff report.

*****
During this time, emails provided to the Weekly indicate, Diorio repeatedly asked for Sharp to be placed on paid administrative leave while Bowers' investigation moved forward, but she was rebuffed by Bowers.

*****
One of the bigger mysteries in the school district's reporting on the allegations against Sharp is the lack of any mention of the text messages between Lauren and Sean — messages that strongly suggest that Lauren had more than a mentor-mentee relationship with Sharp.

*****
The text messages were significant because they constituted the only physical evidence in an investigation that was otherwise made up entirely of conflicting statements of Sharp, Lauren, Lauren's parents and Sean.

*****
In addition to the text messages, another piece missing from the Graff report was any mention of an allegation against Sharp made to Paly administrators by a student in 2007. [The Daily Post published a story on 10/10/15 about the 2007 complaint. The Post story states, “two students told then dean of students Jerry Berkson that Sharp engaged in inappropriate behavior with students”. The allegations included [portion removed.]

*****
On the one hand [Graff’s report] stated: "A credible strong suspicion that a sexual relationship may have occurred soon after graduation, and a credible strong suspicion there may have been behavior or interactions that desensitized the student while she was a student to the potential of a future sexual relationship, raise serious concerns that justify continued proactive and preventative work by the District in this area."

*****
The Graff report also contained criticism of Paly principal Diorio, although it did not mention her by name. "Based on the initial allegation, administrators considered a very serious consequence — paid leave — that ultimately was not warranted by available factual evidence, and additional steps were available, such as increased observations and communications with the teacher."
*****
"Paly and the District must be prepared to take proactive, responsive steps to address and short-circuit rumors and enhance efforts to educate students and staff on the prevention and potential damage of rumors."
*****
[After taking into account the statements of the parents and the boyfriend and with Sean’s text messages in hand Graff concludes] “we do not have sufficient direct evidence to conclude that a sexual relationship transpired."


23 people like this
Posted by Angie Baker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Angie Baker is a registered user.

@Nadine,
The question this raises for me is, did Graff suppress the text messages in order to be able to conclude that there was no need for Title IX remedies at Paly? That is consistent with his using a higher standard, certainty rather than preponderance of evidence, than is required under the law. It certainly raises the question about whether Graff was trying hard not to find a violation and at whose direction?


Like this comment
Posted by Ben Lenail
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 12, 2015 at 10:44 am

Ben Lenail is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2015 at 2:07 pm

outsider is a registered user.

A staff room is needed at Paly. Too many teachers are thinking they are autonomous and can do as they please as they are in their own little offices. This would have been noticed earlier if there were groups of teachers getting together. I know the teachers who are working their butts off at tutorials and grading papers on time would certainly at least give the ones who refuse to be there at tutorial dirty looks. Also, teachers taking vacations might be called "gold brickers" - Teachers spending evenings with students or opening classrooms after school hours would surely be gossiped about or reported by the group if enough of them noticed and talked about it. There is a certian amt of accountability at other schools in teacher's lounges but not at Paly as they do not really even know each other. This school seems to think it is a small private, Ivy league and if they went to Paly, they are acting like they are part of a protective sorority or fraternity type mentality. It reminds me a great deal of the catholic schools we avoided for this reason. Paly is a public school and they do need the OCR to keep telling them how to behave. Kids need to know their rights at this school because they can not really trust teachers or admin. to follow protocol or state standards. They should also know they can file complaints for others if they see violations in curriculum or title 9 or general civil rights.


27 people like this
Posted by Leslie Shen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 12, 2015 at 3:37 pm

Leslie Shen is a registered user.

There's no proof. Until there's overwhelming proof, he's blameless in my book. Or is there no more justice anywhere?

I hope we all have enough common sense not to believe everything we hear. Anyone can say anything about anyone else, at any time; that doesn't make it true. To me, this looks like one jealous boy going to extreme lengths to carry out a personal vendetta against a normal, honest teacher.

If you start off on the assumption of guilt, then all the details will look, to you, as if they point to guilt. Apply some healthy skepticism, though, and the narrative doesn't hold up. THINK about it; don't just accept it and go parroting it to everyone you know as if it were gospel. That kind of brainless behavior is precisely how lies turn into rumors, and rumors turn into allegations that ruin the lives of unsuspecting people who are just doing their jobs.

There are many conflicting forces in this town, and each has its own motives. Think: What do district administrators want? What does the School Board want? What does Ken Dauber want? What does the Palo Alto Weekly want? Which parties are in league with each other? In what ways might calling this teacher guilty benefit the goals of each party? I sense something political churning under all this. I think this unfortunate employee has been caught in a perfect storm, and is being used as a scapegoat.

Palo Alto has become so fanatical that I'm afraid to even email my former teachers, let alone visit them, to thank them for their dedication, lest they be punished for "grooming" me. Should all male teachers refuse to be mentors to all female students, then? Never give any help, never support anyone in their endeavors, never show any care or basic human decency? I can tell you for sure that if the outstanding male teachers who taught me during my 10+ years of school in Palo Alto had been forced to worry about whether their mentoring could be perceived as "grooming," the quality of my education would have suffered immeasurably. I would have felt less accepted as a young woman, not more accepted -- because under such a policy, I would have felt like a liability.

Even if you've already decided to believe there was wrongdoing, remember that allegations are not evidence. [Portion removed.]

No matter what opinions you may have formed privately, there simply isn't enough evidence. So as far as we know, the teacher is blameless. And since he is, as far as we know, blameless, then we should be getting very angry about how people in charge have treated him.


15 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 12, 2015 at 6:01 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

"Even if you've already decided to believe there was wrongdoing, remember that allegations are not evidence."

Allegations are, of course, evidence. If you think the teacher is blameless, then you are accusing Lauren, or her parents, of lying and making this up.


19 people like this
Posted by meenfdlk
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 12, 2015 at 10:11 pm

meenfdlk is a registered user.

If she was over the age of consent and she was not his student at the time, then there is absolutely nothing wrong happening here and we should leave these two consenting adults (and the teacher's reputation) alone.


13 people like this
Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 12, 2015 at 10:41 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

>> "Allegations are, of course, evidence. If you think the teacher is blameless, then you are accusing Lauren, or her parents, of lying and making this up. "

Lauren has never made an allegation!

Lauren's parents probably repeated what they *thought* they heard from Lauren (or just what they heard from ex-boyfriend - who really knows), which is hearsay. Those are also not allegations!

The only "allegations" are from the ex-boyfriend [portion removed.]


23 people like this
Posted by Roger Dodger
a resident of another community
on Oct 13, 2015 at 5:47 am

Roger Dodger is a registered user.

@Slow Down: I think you may want to do a little brushing up on the difference between allegations and evidence. The two are most decidedly NOT the same thing.

An allegation is a statement or claim of a fact by a party in a pleading, which the party claims to be able to prove. Allegations remain assertions without proof, until they can be proved.

Evidence is anything that serves towards showing any statement about reality to be true or false.
Inference is the process by which if certain statements are true or false, certain other statements may be determined to be true or false.

There are TONS of allegations flying around like chaff in the wind right now about this case. There is VERY LITTLE in the way of actual evidence.

There are also a lot of people who seem perfectly content to tar and feather people in the court of public opinion based on hearsay, rumor, and gossip.

Can you say "Scarlet Letter"?


23 people like this
Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2015 at 8:39 am

resident3 is a registered user.

Well well, pretty soon here we may have an advocacy organization for Teacher/consenting adult student love.

Different strokes for different folks

[Portion removed.]

These people who never grow up are a menace, and even more of a menace is the peanut gallery saying it's legal, so no problem. Double standard to ask of students to understand boundaries, when adults do not get it.


18 people like this
Posted by Roger Dodger
a resident of another community
on Oct 13, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Roger Dodger is a registered user.

@resident3:

You may not agree with people who see no issue if the two adults involved had a consensual relationship, but that does not mean that they constitute a "peanut gallery" or somehow make them a "menace". On the other hand there are a lot of people on this forum who have jumped to conclusions, made wholly inaccurate and false statements and allegations, and are willing to believe what anyone says on an anonymous online forum - they may in fact be the real menace. But as hard as it may be for you to accept, there were two adults involved in a consensual relationship here about which NONE of us has any significant knowledge, nor should we, since it is none of our business (nor is it the business of the PA Weekly). Those are the FACTS, and that is the LAW.


40 people like this
Posted by Angie Baker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Angie Baker is a registered user.

Actually, we have a teacher whom the district concluded groomed a student while she was in school in order to facilitate a sexual relationship post graduation. There is substantial evidence of that, including text messages and a finding that the teacher lacked credibility. The post graduation sexual relationship is important as evidence of the alleged grooming before graduation.

Some people are fine with grooming, flirting, intimacy with a student so long as she is 18. But it violates the district standards of conduct and almost certainly Title IX. Students have a right to be free of teacher sexual attention while they are students.


4 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 14, 2015 at 10:08 pm

Chip is a registered user.

[Portion removed] [I]t's reasonable to think that overtures to this union began before graduation. Do brand new H.S. graduates suddenly decide to have sex with an immediately former teacher? What responsible teacher responds favorably to such an overture?

To all the defenders who claim the teacher is being persecuted unfairly, I remind you that there are verified text messages, never deleted and not been published which did confirm the nature of the pre-graduation relationship.

It's not unusual for a teenage girl to develop a "crush" on a male teacher, especially one who's writing a novel. Fantasies of being his muse, perhaps? According to a lot of fiction & romantic movies, a sophisticated, artistic older men are much more alluring to very young women than callow male schoolmates. Yes, it was decided no crime was committed. Does anyone actually believe that the teacher in this case has common sense, used good judgment or displayed any emotional maturity in this case? I don't. He was flattered by adulation from a student. Sounds like there's an ego issue which doesn't belong in any school system.

Sharp will now have more time to work on his novel & perhaps have gotten additional material to use as a result of this. [Portion removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 14, 2015 at 11:10 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

@Chip:

>> "Since [portion removed] have admitted that the sexual aspect of their relationship began about a week after graduation,"

That is untrue - neither said that. If you believe otherwise, please present EVIDENCE.

>> "To all the defenders who claim the teacher is being persecuted unfairly, I remind you that there are verified text messages..."

What exactly do they text messages say? As far as I know, they have not been released to the public, so the content is hearsay. All we know is someone's interpretation of the messages. (Hint: seems most people involved want to blow things up as much as possible)

How do we know that "Lauren" was not the pursuer and Sharp the "pursued?" Witnesses have clearly indicated that "Lauren" was interested in Sharp.

To ASSUME the older male was the aggressor and the younger female was the "victim of unwanted attention" is completely naive in today's world, and a sexist view of how the world works today. Sure, let's keep treating young women like they are victims, and maybe we can get them to keep acting like they are.

[Portion removed.]

"Freedom of the press" means PAO can ruin a man's life without a second thought. Not a great use of the 2nd amendment, IMHO.


7 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 14, 2015 at 11:40 pm

Chip is a registered user.

@True Blue
Read the summary statements of the interviews of faculty & staff @ Paly for your requested evidencem - published last week.

<< How do we know that "Lauren" was not the pursuer and Sharp the "pursued?" Witnesses have clearly indicated that "Lauren" was interested in Sharp.>> I didn't say that she wasn't. Reread what I wrote. Nor did I say the attention was unwanted. That's your inference.

What I do state is that society a more mature level of behavior is expected from a 43 year old than from an 18 year old. There's also some level of "in loco parentis" expected from teachers as they relate to their students. Sharp violated that responsibility.

So you have a daughter? Is she, was she, or will she be a high school senior? Do, did, or will you support a like relationship for her with one of her teachers?



5 people like this
Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 15, 2015 at 12:54 am

True Blue is a registered user.

>> Read the summary statements of the interviews of faculty & staff @ Paly for your requested evidencem - published last week.

Right, I knew you couldn't produce any EVIDENCE.

>> So you have a daughter? Is she, was she, or will she be a high school senior? Do, did, or will you support a like relationship for her with one of her teachers?

Multiple daughters, actually. Whether or not I would support a relationship with a teacher is irrelevant - no relationship has been proven or characterized by the most relevant witnesses - the two whom are "accused!" My objection is the rush to judgment with facts not in evidence.

Have you considered the possibility that Sharp was simply mentoring a promising student and she developed feelings and began fantasizing about him, through no fault of his? What if he actually never did anything but mentor her, and the rest was her fantasy, as supposedly reported to her ex-boyfriend (who "confides" about a new relationship to an ex-boyfriend anyway - maybe she just wanted ex to quit bugging her). What real PROOF is there, that Sharp did anything untoward, much less "groomed" her?"

[Portion removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 15, 2015 at 1:00 am

resident3 is a registered user.

True Blue,

"To ASSUME the older male was the aggressor and the younger female was the "victim of unwanted attention" is completely naive in today's world, and a sexist view of how the world works today. Sure, let's keep treating young women like they are victims, and maybe we can get them to keep acting like they are."

Seems like you are making some assumptions of your own. At least in my case, I have no reason to believe that the attention was wanted or unwanted by the 18 year old.

My point is not about aggression but more like annoyance. Annoying that the schools suck the air out of students' time and then also want to impose socially? Adults need to leave these kids in peace. It's the power issue.

And adult 40 + year olds, who consider an 18 year olds' attention romantic, you would be taking the attention (and yourself) way too seriously. This is not even a gender thing. A female teacher with an 18 year old (guy or girl) with a crush is not a signal for the adult to act upon.

Most people get that, is there no training about this anywhere?

Anyway, true blue - if you think this is a romance and so cool, why are you so upset that it's an accusation. Sounds like you consider it all a badge of pride.


6 people like this
Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 15, 2015 at 1:27 am

True Blue is a registered user.

@resident3:

I have no idea how you are drawing your conclusions, but I do understand that these online forums force people to communicate in a medium far from productive.

Agreed this is not a gender thing - it's flawed information collected from an 18 year-old, against her will.

I didn't draw any conclusions about the 40+ year-old teacher's reactions or behavior, I simply offered an alternative viewpoint - what if the 18 year-old created this "relationship" in her mind and spoke of it as though it were real, while the teacher did absolutely nothing wrong?

I *never* said the 40+ year-old considered the attention romantic, I said it was possible he never even considered it at all, because he was unaware of it.

>> Anyway, true blue - if you think this is a romance and so cool, why are you so upset that it's an accusation. Sounds like you consider it all a badge of pride.

What the heck? When and where did I say this "romance" was so cool? I'm pretty sure my point is what if there is no romance, except in the 18 year-old's head. The rest was pure conjecture to respond to "Chip" about whether or not I had daughters and how I would handle it.

Please, read posts multiple times if needed, before you insert your own ideas which are not even remotely suggested by the poster.

This sounds harsh, but I am not angry and I harbor no ill will, other than that toward people who are quick to convict with no evidence or even two sides of the story.


16 people like this
Posted by Lucinda
a resident of University South
on Oct 15, 2015 at 10:51 am

Lucinda is a registered user.

@Chip--Your comment that a teacher is "in loco parentis" is very apt. In fact a teacher is legally a mandated reporter, that is, required to report any evidence that child abuse may be occurring in any environment--home, school, sports etc. For a teacher to be involved in grooming a student, which Angie Baker above correctly notes as PAUSD findings, is a double betrayal of the student's rights--once in breaking the laws that govern teacher behavior, and again in doing exactly the opposite of protecting her from sexual abuse.


3 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 15, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Chip is a registered user.

@True Blue
>>Right, I knew you couldn't produce any EVIDENCE.

The "EVIDENCE" was produced according to the original article published on 10/9. The link posted with this thread is not the only one published. Beside PAonline.com, the story appeared in 3 other papers. One of the sites discussed the investigation & subsequent interviews of PAHS English dept. members. Maybe it's been removed? It was there last week & I read it. You didn't. Do your own search.


2 people like this
Posted by True Blue
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 15, 2015 at 6:28 pm

True Blue is a registered user.

Why should I search to support your claims? Without a credible source they are just your interpretation or idea, not fact. If you want your statement to be taken as fact, provide credible sources. Doesn't matter to me whether you are taken seriously or not.


14 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 15, 2015 at 10:35 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@True Blue - If they had a sexual relationship after graduation, regardless of who was the aggressor, he needs to be fired. "Lauren" per the Fagen report (link below), told her parents she had a sexual relation. "Lauren" did not deny having a sexual relationship to the district. That's enough evidence for a firing. This isn't a trial. it doesn't need to be beyond a reasonable doubt (though it is).

Web Link


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