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When Palo Alto students are discriminated against

What the school district is obligated to do

The Uniform Complaint Procedure (UCP), as outlined in school district policy, must be used to investigate and resolve complaints alleging (1) unlawful discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, intimidation or bullying, and retaliation, or (2) violations of other state and federal laws and regulations. Below is an abbreviated explanation of the requirements, and view this timeline for the procedures.

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• While policy designates the associate superintendent for educational services (currently Markus Autrey) as UCP compliance officer, Chief Student Services Officer Holly Wade currently fills that role. That officer and any other employees designated to investigate or resolve complaints must be trained and knowledgeable about federal and state anti-discrimination laws, investigating and documenting discrimination complaints and the legal standards for reaching decisions, and other applicable laws.

• The compliance officer must log all complaints received and record actions taken by the district in response.

• Any student, parent/guardian, third party or other individual or organization who believes that he/she or another student or group has been the subject of unlawful discrimination or who has witnessed such conduct may report the conduct orally or in writing to any school employee or administrator. This notification is supposed to trigger a UCP investigation.

• A staff member who witnesses or receives a report of discriminatory conduct must report it within one school day to the principal, regardless of whether the victim has filed or wants to file a report. A school administrator who receives a complaint of discrimination must send it to the district compliance officer within two school days. The officer must launch an investigation within five school days.

• After a report is made, the principal and/or compliance officer must determine whether interim measures are necessary to prevent or address the effects of discrimination during the investigation, such as placing students in separate classes. Interim measures, the policy states, "will be implemented in a manner that minimizes the burden on the individual who was the target of the discrimination."

• With the consent of the subject of the complaint and his/her parent/guardian, the principal can opt for an informal resolution, but this process must be completed within 10 days of receipt of the complaint. The complainant and/or his/her guardian can terminate this process at any point. The principal must document and notify the compliance officer and the complainant of the outcome of an informal resolution in writing.

• All complaints alleging unlawful discrimination, on or off campus, must be investigated and resolved within 60 calendar days of the compliance officer's receipt of the complaint. This timeline can be extended for "good cause." If an extension is needed, the complainant must be notified and provided an explanation.

• At the conclusion of an investigation, the compliance officer must prepare a written report of his/her findings and send it to the complainant.

• Complainants have the right to appeal the district's decision within 15 calendar days to the California Department of Education. The district must provide information about how to file an appeal.

• After an investigation has concluded, the compliance officer must make follow-up inquiries to see if there have been any new incidents or retaliation and must record this information.

• Students who are found to have engaged in discriminatory conduct may be subject to discipline, up to and including expulsion.

• Documentation of complaints and their resolutions will be maintained by the district for a minimum of two years.

Rules for handling complaints of non-discriminatory bullying:

• Complaints of bullying of non-protected classes of students must be investigated and resolved within 15 school days of receipt of the complaint. At each school, principals must document all complaints of bullying, whether reported orally or in writing. Documentation of complaints and resolutions must be maintained for two years.

Related content:

Palo Alto bullying case renews concerns over district's response

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