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Report: District failed to follow law, policy in sex-assault case

Incident reflects 'systemic concerns' about district's Title IX response

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Students hang out at Palo Alto High School, which has been roiled by reports of student sexual violence over the past several months. Palo Alto Weekly file photo.

Watch a discussion about this issue on Behind the Headlines.

A highly critical report released Wednesday afternoon details how Palo Alto High School and district administrators repeatedly failed to properly respond to a student who reported she had been sexually assaulted at Paly in 2016, illustrating an organization unable to comply with federal and state laws and its own policies.

The report, which was prepared at the request of the Board of Education by law firm Cozen O'Connor, was released even as the trustees met to discuss the fate of several employees involved in the case in closed-session performance evaluations.

Two Cozen O'Connor lawyers nationally known for their work around federal gender-equity law Title IX examined the district's response to a female Paly freshman's report in October 2016 that a male junior had forced her to perform oral sex on him in a campus bathroom. The freshman eventually withdrew from Paly, her mother said in previous interviews with the Weekly, due to distress stemming from the alleged sexual assault. Several months later, a juvenile found the same male student to have sexually assaulted a Menlo Atherton High School student off campus. The public disclosure of these incidents in media reports this spring sparked community uproar over the district's handling of student sexual violence.

The report from lawyers Gina Smith and Leslie Gomez faults in particular Superintendent Max McGee and former Title IX coordinator Holly Wade, who left the district at the end of the last school year. McGee and Wade "failed to exercise sufficient oversight of the District's compliance responsibilities under Title IX, state law and Board policy," the lawyers wrote. (The report itself identifies administrators by title and not name.)

"This lack of oversight is particularly concerning given the context at the time, which involved an ongoing OCR (U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights) investigation where the District, and in particular, PAHS, were subject to a several year inquiry into how they responded to Title IX complaints," the report states.

Smith and Gomez found "systemic" problems with how the district handled the female student's case -- from poor, and in some instances nonexistent, record keeping and a neglect to communicate sufficiently with either the female or male student or their parents, to a failure to launch a required Title IX investigation and not investigating a potential pattern of behavior by the male student.

"While school administrators took timely action to respond to the (female student's) report, they did not provide the (student) with the full range of procedural options available under Title IX, state law, Board policy and administrative regulations," the report states.

The report notes the lawyers were not asked to make any determination about the facts of the incident itself, but rather administrators' handling of it.

The report is based on the lawyers' interviews with current and former administrators at Paly and the district and a review of available documents related to the incident, including handwritten notes, letters, timelines and other materials compiled by administrators; text messages and email correspondence; records of phone calls and text messages; court orders; student education records; a previous report conducted by an external law firm; the Uniform Complaint Procedure (UCP) reporting form; and mandatory child abuse reporting. The female student declined to participate in the investigation. The report does not say whether lawyers spoke directly with the male student.

How Paly leaders responded

While the report identified plenty of missteps by Paly administrators, their initial response to the female student's report was prompt and compliant, the lawyers found.

Administrators conducted an initial, "limited" investigation and put in place interim and ongoing remedial measures to support the female student, as well as imposed "protective measures" for the male student. The male junior was also disciplined for "related conduct" with the female student, but not for the specific incident she reported, the lawyers found.

Administrators also immediately reported the incident to the Palo Alto Police Department and later that evening, to Santa Clara County Child Protective Services, according to the report.

Paly Principal Kim Diorio and two unnamed assistant principals informed Wade about the incident the same day they learned about it, the lawyers found. (Three assistant principals who were involved in the case are not named in the report; Paly employed four assistant principals in 2016 -- Jerry Berkson, Vicki Kim, Adam Paulson and Kathie Laurence, who is now principal of Gunn High School.) Within 24 hours, as required, Diorio also notified McGee, who "identified the potential need to pursue a UCP and took steps to ensure that the Title IX coordinator had been informed," the report states.

Beyond that point, however, Paly administrators repeatedly failed to comply with board policy and federal and state law.

School administrators did not conduct a "thorough" interview of either student involved that would have allowed them to "evaluate issues of consent, the potential impact of a power differential between the parties based on age, grade or status, or the welcomeness of the conduct," the report states.

They did not complete their investigation, which also did not constitute a formal investigation as required under the Uniform Complaint Procedure, the lawyers note in the report. Nor did administrators notify the student and her family of their right to file a complaint under the district's UCP, according to the report. The student and her family were not provided written notice of the outcome of any investigation, according to the report.

And while Paly leaders took "immediate steps" to address reports that the female student was being bullied as a result of the incident, they failed to consider whether "the conduct could potentially constitute harassment, retaliation, or the continuation of a hostile environment under Title IX," the report states.

No one informed the female student or her family of their rights to protection against retaliation at school, according to the report.

The bullying incident also revealed a lack of coordination and communication among the administrators, the report states. The assistant principal who dealt with the bullying situation didn't share the information with the assistant principal who had overseen the school's response to the sexual assault. The same assistant principal also did not direct the harassed student to Wade.

The report also illustrates a culture in which staff not only failed to but even resisted keeping records of Title IX incidents at Paly.

"Based on training and practice, a common practice was to communicate by telephone or text message to avoid creating documentation that could potentially be publicly released," the report states.

While administrators shared information at team meetings and some kept personal notes or records, "there were no efforts," the lawyers found, "to maintain centralized records or consistent documentation that would inform future steps or allow the institution to track patterns or identify potential retaliation or harassment." Staff who kept personal records did not share them contemporaneously with Wade.

Staff members also did not document interviews with law enforcement in this case, as required by board policy.

Only the wellness center, where the female student reported the incident, maintained "detailed and contemporaneous notes," the report states.

The district's role

At the district level, Wade bears the brunt of the report's criticisms. Despite being explicitly tasked with the responsibility, she neglected to conduct a legally required Title IX investigation to determine whether the female student was experiencing a hostile environment at Paly. She did not speak directly with either of the students involved, nor their parents, to inform them of their rights under district processes.

The Uniform Complaint Procedure requires the district's Title IX coordinator to give a student who has filed a complaint the opportunity to describe what happened, identify witnesses and provide evidence and information. It also requires the coordinator to interview any individuals who might have relevant information; to review available records, notes or statements and to prepare a written report of findings.

"Here, none of those steps occurred," the lawyers wrote.

Wade also neglected her charge as the district's Title IX coordinator to oversee all complaints by "deferr(ing) to the administrators on site to investigate and evaluate the appropriate institutional response," the report states.

"Once on notice, the district had an independent obligation to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred in light of its Title IX obligation to resolve all complaints promptly and equitably and to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students. This obligation exists whether or not the complainant makes a complaint or asks the institution to take action," the report states.

The lawyers found that Wade sought outside legal counsel in this case on the appropriateness of offering the female student a UCP. The advice she received not to offer the UCP process "appears to contradict Title IX, Education Code and UCP requirements," the report states.

When a Paly assistant principal notified Wade that the female student planned to withdraw from the district, Wade again said that the school did not need to offer a UCP.

While the district later opened a UCP investigation, "the nearly five month delay" to do so "does not constitute a prompt response" to the female student's report, the report states.

Wade's failure to keep proper documentation of this incident also significantly impacted her "ability to effectively track and monitor patterns, climate and culture," the lawyers wrote.

(Wade has since been replaced by an interim Title IX coordinator the district hired from Cozen O'Connor. The lawyers note that since the start of their investigation, the district has taken steps to address "deficiencies," including this appointment, increased staff training that took place this summer and relevant policy revisions.)

The report also highlighted an administration that did not connect the dots that continued to unfold in the case. After the school district was notified that the male student had been found in juvenile court to have committed a felony charge — oral copulation by force, violence, duress, menace or fear — that December for assaulting a female Menlo-Atherton High School student in October 2015, administrators again failed to consider this information as part of a larger picture. (The report does not specifically call out a Jan. 31 juvenile court notification the district has said it received but rather "additional information" provided by external authorities in February.)

In a section titled "Evaluation of Risk," the lawyers state: "The district did not properly investigate to determine whether the additional information provided by the external authorities involved on- or off-campus conduct by the (male student); whether the conduct was connected to a PAHS student; whether the conduct may have had continuing effects at PAHS; whether as a result of the conduct, the Respondent may have represented a danger to persons; or whether the additional information presented a potential pattern of conduct that may warrant further action or triggered obligations" under board policy on student suspension and expulsion.

The district also "had no protocol for the tracking and monitoring of information received from external authorities, or compliance with directives from external authorities," the report states.

Many of the report's observations are corroborated by the Office for Civil Rights, whose recent yearslong investigation into sexual misconduct allegations in the school district also found repeated violations of Title IX.

The federal agency reviewed documents related to this case as part of its ongoing monitoring of the district, according to the Cozen O'Connor report. The agency likewise found that despite a "prompt" initial investigation, notification of law enforcement and imposition of remedial measures for the students, the district failed to inform the student and her family of her rights under the UCP -- first when the incident was reported, and again when the student notified Paly that she planned to leave the district.

Support for and opposition to administrators

The Cozen O'Connor lawyers last week presented to the school board in closed session a "detailed, annotated working chronology" of the district's response to "enable the board to consider and evaluate personnel issues related the facts gathered in this matter."

On Wednesday, the board convened to discuss the performance of McGee, Diorio and the other Paly administrators involved in the case, Before the board went into closed session, however, several parents spoke both against and in support of Paly's principal.

A father who said his daughter was assaulted on the Paly quad in 2015 -- a case Cozen O'Connor is also investigating separately -- struggled to hold back tears after a Paly staff member defended Diorio's "character" and "integrity." The Weekly is not identifying him to protect his family's privacy.

"My daughter was assaulted," he said. "To hear people say that Kim acted with character and integrity ... is offensive. She did ignore us."

He urged the board to consider the law firm's report not in a vacuum, but against the backdrop of other numerous other Title IX reports the district has received in recent months.

The Paly staff member, Carolyn Benfield, said of the seven principals she's worked with over 18 years at Paly, "There's never been a principal more dedicated to the safety of our kids than Kim, no one who has made such a positive change in the culture at Paly."

"I would hope that a person's character, integrity and history of their actions and many good works would be the greatest determining factor in their employment," she said.

When the board came out of closed session after four hours, board President Terry Godfrey said the trustees took no reportable action.

Public meeting: The school board is holding a special public meeting to discuss the Cozen O'Connor report on Thursday, Sept. 21, from 4-6 p.m. at the district office. According to the district, the meeting will be televised by the Midpeninsula Media Center.

Read the full Cozen O'Connor report here.

The Palo Alto Weekly has created a Storify page to capture ongoing coverage of sexual misconduct in the Palo Alto school district. To view it, go to


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46 people like this
Posted by Kathy Jordan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 20, 2017 at 10:57 pm

What the report fails to mention is the power of the site within PAUSD; that site autonomy is a cherished practice. As such, the site, Paly, would resist having someone from outside the site come in and scrutinize their work. This was called out in the OCR letter of findings, March 8, 2017, as the previous Title IX officer, Charles Young, was ignored and left out of the loop in many of the incidents investigated by OCR. On the District's July 11, 2017 log of UCP complaints/incidents, approximately 2/3 were being investigated at the site. Why is that when you have a Title IX compliance officer hired for just this purpose, to investigate Title IX incidents? Could it be because the sites prefers it that way? To assume that the culture and balance of power has suddenly changed and that Holly Wade as Title IX officer would have the power to just step in over at Paly and dictate how things would go seems a bit naive. While she may have held the title, could she really exert the power that that title connotes, given Charles Young was unable to do so? From what we know about this Oct. 11, 2016 incident, the incident was reported at the site, the investigation took place at the site, communication with the victim's family took place mainly at the stie, any remediation was decided and administered at the site and any discipline was decided and dispensed at the site. Kim Diorio is the principal at the site, Paly. The majority of the responsibility for this incident's handling must reside with her, in my opinion.

45 people like this
Posted by Pink Slips for All
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 20, 2017 at 11:48 pm

This is a good summary of Paly's role in this incident: "Beyond that point, however, Paly administrators repeatedly failed to comply with board policy and federal and state law."

Not that they made an oversight in one area. They repeatedly failed to comply.

Report also states, "Based on training and practice, a common practice was to communicate by telephone or text message to avoid creating documentation that could potentially be publicly released,"

Those instructions come from the top, in this case, Diorio.

I agree Benfield that "a person's character, integrity and history of their actions and many good works would be the greatest determining factor in their employment," And using that as an example, we need a clean slate at Paly.

As for the bullying of the victim after the assault. The immediate steps taken by the Assistant Principal were to "admonish" those involved. So, the students that bullied a sexual assault victim received a strong warning? That's sending quite the message.

Sounds like Diorio's message is being heard by all of her Assistant Principals.

49 people like this
Posted by Experienced PAUSD parent
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Sep 21, 2017 at 2:57 am

Diorio was trained in counseling and is not a strong enough personality to be a leader. [Portion removed.] We need someone who is productive and will work on school stress and the rampant sleep deprivation that's a result of inefficient teaching, students taking too many AP classes, the school start time too early, and the unavailability of teachers staying after school. They should cap the number of APs allowed; those who disagree can leave the district.

[Portion removed.]

Diorio and McGee should sit in on some classes for a month, including AP scIence and AP math classes. They should also study for the SAT and set aside time for an extracurricular. Let's see what grades they get (no tutoring allowed). Only then, will they have some idea of the life of a Paly student. Right now, they are clued-out.

3 people like this
Posted by Time to change
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 21, 2017 at 6:43 am

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by ooooooh, It's Obama's fault
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 21, 2017 at 6:55 am

[Post removed.]

47 people like this
Posted by the public in public education
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 21, 2017 at 8:07 am

This finding needs highlighting:

"Based on training and practice, a common practice was to communicate by telephone or text message to avoid creating documentation that could potentially be publicly released," the report states.

In others words, Paly staff who the Cozen lawyers interviewed admitted that getting away with obfuscating is common, embedded in staff training, and embraced by those who evaluate your job performance i.e. it's systemic and comes from the top.

Old news: Keeping secrets in a public school system is not a "best practice." The public's right to know how public employees, paid with the public's taxes, are doing the public's work is absolutely clear: "secrecy is antithetical to a democratic system of ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people.’" Web Link

People fear a paper trail when they KNOW they have something to hide.

Evasion tactics are included in staff training when bosses want to send the message that not getting questioned and caught is more important than following the rules.

All I can say is Paly, how could you? That paper trail, that you promoted be avoided, would have alerted someone that the young woman with the sexual assault claim needed much more help than Paly Assistant Principal 1 was giving her. And it would have saved Paly families from having to bring in lawyers to uncover what you worked so hard to hide from us.

6 people like this
Posted by phew
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2017 at 8:22 am

At what point do these become personal liability and not district liability.? Kids will need special training also. They should always have witness and document all meetings in writing with their teachers. It is a good skill.

48 people like this
Posted by Yes, let's follow the rules
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 21, 2017 at 8:45 am

TL;DR: Less picking and choosing which rules get followed and to whom which consequences are doled out. Less treating teenagers like adults with no supervision or consequences. Protect them by following the law.

Suggestions: Close the Paly campus. No more free prep periods for students to wander the halls--Preps only at the end of the day and they can leave campus immediately. No open Flex--one classroom and not the MAC or the Quad. Students need to wear IDs and have a bathroom pass if they're out of class. Empowering campus supervision to monitor the halls. Lock the single stall bathrooms during class periods. Have an actual attendance policy aligned with ed code. No more favors for high-powered or aggressive parents who are angry a suspension will show up the transcript. Let them sue--if it's a rule and it's broken, clear and reasonable consequence as determined by ed code and board policy. Better yet, identify the rule and the consequence for breaking it on the website and make it standard across all schools. And yes, follow the letter of the law and not just the spirit. PAUSD has a responsibility to prevent in addition to respond. Less foisting this off on the parenting/community--that's not going to change. Make it less possible for students to commit crimes on campus--and that's what this is.
That's what the site can do. The district admin can support them by backing the site up when parents pressure them in response to the rules being followed. The board can back the district by not pushing them to overlook certain rules when their constituents pressure them in response to the rules being followed.

27 people like this
Posted by Campy fan
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 21, 2017 at 8:58 am

This gives context to what Kim Diorio shared with the Campanile reporters about this investigation before school got out:

“’there has been a lot of misinformation reported,’ said Paly Principal Kim Diorio. ‘… information that is not true.’”
Web Link

Paly, you need to accept responsibility for this. You were right to cite FERPA to protect students' privacy but how could anyone get to the truth on everything else when Paly's staff actively hid it?

48 people like this
Posted by THIS IS CRAZY!!
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 21, 2017 at 11:23 am

Why are these people still employed?

Now that we have "confirmation" of what we already knew, from the legal consultants about what didn't happen to protect this victim. It's time for action.

Get rid of them all, I say, and I mean all of them...including the one who's now the principle of Gunn, who may have been one of the Asst. Principals in this report. These failures relate to a 'Culture' of total mismanagement at Churchill and PALY Management. Who knows how many more instances and victims there may be as a result of the FAILURE of following the right procedure. What exposed minor would want to report a crime to their school after seeing how the school so poorly handled this one?

The board needs to step out of their little shells and start slamming the hammer.......Pink slips....

BTW, When is Board re-election? I think we all need to take note.


47 people like this
Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 21, 2017 at 12:43 pm

It's time for McGee and Diorio to go. They can't even perform the most basic function of their job-to protect our children.

30 people like this
Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 21, 2017 at 12:45 pm

To me the last line of the story says it all: "When the board came out of closed session after four hours, board President Terry Godfrey said the trustees took no reportable action. "

Over the last many years, we have seen district administrative staff actively and passively ignore laws and board policy. The reason for this is pretty clear; they know that there will no consequences to them. Firing individuals will have little effect unless a broader shift in PAUSD culture follows. One that emphasizes transparency and accountability, not passing the buck and obfuscation.

13 people like this
Posted by Stew Pid
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 21, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Ah well. Maybe we could engineer another raise screw up for all the folks who did such an admirable job here.

50 people like this
Posted by Steve Flanders
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Steve Flanders is a registered user.

When Republicans attack public education, my hackles go up: education of all our citizens is absolutely necessary for the survival of our republic and the only way to assure that education is through a robust and well-supported public education system.

And yet, when I read stories like this, I cringe. Here, in a nutshell, is everything wrong with how public education is administered in the United States: incompetent, half-assed politicians being put in charge of educating children. The PAUSD has a fairly easy job, at least in terms of public school districts in this country taken as a whole: their student population is intellectually- and financially-advantaged, the parent population has a high regard for education, and the community will support any bond measure that includes the words "school" or "library" in it. Yet they still find ways to turn their work into a Keystone Kops comedy that isn't funny. First Skelly, now McGee: no one learns that slow-rolling investigations, issuing blanket denials of allegations of incompetence and misfeasance, and protecting the district by hiding behind privacy laws intended to protect students DOES NOT WORK.

Admittedly, Diorio and her vice-principals have a difficult job. But they have continually opted to circle the wagons, deny, delay, and obfuscate instead of promoting the interests of the students. The Board needs to clean house, starting at 25 Churchill and continuing through at least the Tower Building at Paly. Declare the district broken, reassign everyone above the teacher level to temporary assignments in the district offices, and only place those who can demonstrate that they have either (1) never been involved in a student misbehavior report or (2) have taken all the affirmative actions they could to address that report. Prove they can be trusted with the health (let alone the education) of our community's children.

33 people like this
Posted by Common Practice
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2017 at 1:04 pm

From the article: "The report also illustrates a culture in which staff not only failed to but even resisted keeping records of Title IX incidents at Paly. 'Based on training and practice, a common practice was to communicate by telephone or text message to avoid creating documentation that could potentially be publicly released,' the report states. While administrators shared information at team meetings and some kept personal notes or records, 'there were no efforts,' the lawyers found, 'to maintain centralized records or consistent documentation that would inform future steps or allow the institution to track patterns or identify potential retaliation or harassment.'"

Many parents know, from experience, that the district has a common practice of not creating paper trails about anything that seems potentially threatening. This is not just at the high-school level. It begins in elementary. Parents experience it commonly when they never hear back from a teacher or principal via email. When parents are actively or passively discouraged from communicating via email, they need to be suspicious about what's really going on.

29 people like this
Posted by Assistand Principals
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 21, 2017 at 1:26 pm

Why are the assistant principals not being identified by name? The public is owed the transparency of knowing exactly who was involved, who did what they were supposed to do and who did not. Particularly in light of the fact that one of these assistant principals is now the principal at Gunn! We have a right to know if Kathy Laurence was one of the assistant principals involved in this case. And we have a right to know what her involvement was!

Why is there still so much secrecy?!

22 people like this
Posted by Appalled
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 21, 2017 at 1:40 pm

""Based on training and practice, a common practice was to communicate by telephone or text message to avoid creating documentation that could potentially be publicly released," the report states."

Administrators have taken a decision at some point to not leave a paper trail. and, this has been baked into their training.

Who can naively not think this is not for CYA purposes?!

Their first priority is to protect themselves. How can we trust these people with our kids?

8 people like this
Posted by Open Meetings
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 21, 2017 at 1:59 pm

Are Board of Education Meetings audio-recorded, when they are not televised? If yes, how can the public obtain them? Are these recordings posted on the PAUSD web site or Media Center web site?
Many recent Board of Education meetings were not televised - Board Retreats, Board Emergency Meetings, Board Policy Review Committee.
I was surprised to learn before and after Board Closed Sessions, there are public sessions. These are not recorded unless they happen to be captured as part of a regular Board Meeting, which only happens when regular Board meetings happen to follow Closed sessions. Until Palo Alto Online publicized it, I never knew the public could comment on a closed session topic before the Board went into the closed session.
District staff must be making audio recordings of meetings to compile the Minutes. How can the public obtain recordings of all Board meetings?

9 people like this
Posted by retired guy who follows the schools
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 21, 2017 at 2:04 pm

It's good to call a spade a spade, but the opposite is true too.

Unless I'm completely mistaken (completely possible!), isn't it important to remember that the Paly bathroom incident in question has been identified by the District Attorney as neither an attack or harassment or an infringement of rights but as simply "consensual underage sexual activity"?

Now, I guess the D.A. could be wrong, and I guess issues of he-said-she-said, and issues of consent, are terribly hard to untangle, especially when it comes to impressionable teenagers (not to mention college students!), but shouldn't we venture some faith in what the official fact-finders have found?

I'm concerned that, if we talk about a downed tree-limb as if it were a whole hurricane, we do a disservice to everyone involved, including the "victim" and the "perpetrator," school officials, and especially ourselves.


Moderator's comment: The DA made no pronouncement about this case, which the law prohibits because it was a juvenile matter. However, the obligations of law enforcement (police and DA) are distinct and unrelated from those of the school district. Law enforcement responsibility is to determine whether a crime has been committed and the DA must then make a judgment as to whether it can obtain a conviction with the available evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

The school district has a separate legal duty to investigate any report of sexual harassment or sexual assault, interview victims, witnesses and suspected perpetrators and make a determination as to whether the educational environment has been impacted for the victim or anyone else and whether steps can be taken to prevent future impacts such as bullying. A school district is also required to make findings upon concluding its investigation and provide a full report to the victim and alleged perpetrator. This is regardless of whether a crime may have occurred.

The requirements for an investigation kick in the moment a school official learns of an incident and it must be fully completed and documented, regardless of whether a sexual incident on campus is thought to be an assault or consensual, and must take into account factors such as the power imbalance between victim and perpetrator.

23 people like this
Posted by Bad Dog
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 21, 2017 at 2:18 pm

@retired guy who follows the schools
Yes. You are mistaken about the DA and you are Wrong to characterize the victim the way you have..

35 people like this
Posted by Dismiss!
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 21, 2017 at 2:49 pm

McGee and Diorio should have been summarily dismissed within 24 hours of when the School Board received this report!

There were many, many calls for their dismissal at the end of the last school year, but they were given the benefit of the doubt.

That doubt has been erased by a third party, and it is time for McGee and Diorio to leave post haste!

No pension, no golden parachute! What they both did was negligent, unethical and criminal.

13 people like this
Posted by Assistant Principals
a resident of Gunn High School
on Sep 21, 2017 at 3:08 pm

(Fixed the typo in my screen name - but I'm the same as "Assistand Principals").

I read somewhere on this forum that McGee's contract states that no matter what his contract term remains the same, which suggests the board cannot just fire him. I have to believe there is some general clause in employment law for gross negligence or illegal behavior or something. Any employment lawyers want to chime in?


Moderator's note: McGee's contract provides that if he receives a satisfactory performance evaluation his contract is automatically extended out for another year, meaning that it would always expire four years out. If he receives an unsatisfactory evaluation it is not automatically extended. You can access his contract at Web Link

There are provisions for terminating the superintendent, both for cause, which requires no severance, or for no cause, which entitles him to six months severance.

1 person likes this
Posted by Wondering
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 21, 2017 at 3:23 pm

[Post removed to protect the privacy of the juvenile victim and perpetrator.]

28 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 21, 2017 at 3:27 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

I've been saying it for years-the PAUSD is rotten to the core and beyond repair by the locals. The California department of education must dissolve it, take it over for several years and reform it.

46 people like this
Posted by safety
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2017 at 3:44 pm

@yes let's follow the rules.

You have great ideas. Run for the board next time! With uber and texting and legalized pot, I think it is time to look more closely at actually keeping kids in class and taking roll and closing campus. This campus is too open to the outside public and they have been pretty lucky, but it should be looked at for safety reasons. The new flex is great. good response to the problem.

4 people like this
Posted by mismatch?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 21, 2017 at 4:05 pm

A few weeks ago Paly students asked Dr. McGee to predict what the Cozen attorneys would find.

Here is his response:

"I think everybody did the best job for the students that they were trying to do.

I think what the investigation will show is that there was a lack of coordination between school and district, certainly a lack of coordination between school and outside sources, such as the police … and a lack of documentation in some cases.

We’re changing some systems now. We’re hiring a special coordinator as a full-time job – compliance officer– who can really help coordinate this and make sure the investigations get done properly and make sure there are written notices sent out on time.

So I think people were doing the best they could with what they had, but they did not have enough knowledge, they did not have the organizational structure that enabled them to coordinate with one another and also with the police and outside world — the juvenile court system, other schools. "

Web Link

27 people like this
Posted by The PAUSD 5
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2017 at 4:57 pm

After the release of this report and the recent failure to reopen the contract negotiations with the teacher's union costing the district as much as $6 million in unplanned raises and bonuses, and lord knows how much in legal/consulting fees, there can be no doubt that the following people should no longer be working in PAUSD:

Max McGee
Scott Bowers
Kathy Mak
Kim Dioro
Holly Wade

Bowers and Wade are gone already, McGee on his way out after this year. So terminate Dioro and Mak, and pursue all Legal action possible against Bowers, Wade, and McGee to deny them any ongoing pension or benefits due to the damage & cost they have incurred on the district. I am literally sick to my stomach that these incompetents will receive pensions & benefits at further cost to the taxpayers.

5 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 21, 2017 at 5:56 pm

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

29 people like this
Posted by wha'appened?
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 21, 2017 at 6:17 pm

"The lawyers found that Wade sought outside legal counsel in this case on the appropriateness of offering the female student a UCP. The advice she received not to offer the UCP process "appears to contradict Title IX, Education Code and UCP requirements," the report states."

So, did Palo Alto lawyers get this wrong? If the district employees are following the advice from the district's lawyers then it is the lawyers who should be under the gun for this.

6 people like this
Posted by hiding....
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 21, 2017 at 6:20 pm

Interesting that the investigation doesn't mention the board's role in all this. Makes you wonder if they were explicitly instructed to exclude the the board.

7 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 21, 2017 at 7:12 pm

The board adopted important policies to address the significant shortcomings of the district regarding sexual harassment and compliance with Title IX. To his credit McGee supported thiese changes. Despite commitments and claims by the superintendent, we now understand that the district administration, and school leaders at least at Paly, did never came close to implementing those policies.
This is a huge failure of McGee's leadership and is consistent with his tenure, good values and a huge disregard for adequate management. The superintendent is the only employee who reports to the board. The board's options are to exceed their proper role and participate in administration, cause McGee to improve his performance, or change replace the superintendent. They should not do the first option and second one appears to have gotten worse rather than better.

10 people like this
Posted by kids
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 21, 2017 at 8:20 pm

@ wha happened
Before receiving a credential in CA, there is extensive training in mandatory reporting. Every teacher on staff and staff are mandatory reporters. Besides getting some better forms to put the report on, Kim did everything correctly and is earnestly working hard to gain trust while she is managing her family and entire job. I would trust her 100% to fix this and to go forward gracefully.

7 people like this
Posted by Concerned person
a resident of another community
on Sep 21, 2017 at 8:20 pm

Who will actually want the job as PAUSD superintendent or Paly principal if we fire McGee and Diorio right now and keep dragging this out? Not saying they don't deserve it, but that removing them could have unintended consequences.

In my opinion we should channel this energy into supporting the effort to find a better superintendent, not to get rid of one that is already leaving at the end of the year. Think long term, people.

21 people like this
Posted by BP
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 21, 2017 at 8:34 pm

Why did the board hire outside lawyers to investigate in the first place if they aren't going to take action?

Now they have the report to fire all involved (McGee, Diorio). They don't need to be the "bad guys" making independent, hard decisions, just point to the lawyers' report.

When have you heard of such systematic, and institutional problems, yet no action take? Is PAUSD now the educational version of the Veteran Affairs Department?

10 people like this
Posted by Leadership?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 21, 2017 at 9:47 pm

Obviously the teachers will support Diorio. Sh has no control. They can do what they want. There's no one making them work hard and holding them accountable. How many days in a school year is she gone at a conference? Don't most people love having that boss that's always off on a trip and telling you to not work too hard?

15 people like this
Posted by Andrea Wolf
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2017 at 10:13 pm

Nowhere in this report are the teachers criticized for how they handled their interactions with the student.

I was at the Board meeting this afternoon and I saw concerned teachers coming to tell their Board that they supported the Principal Dioro, and they all had compelling reasons for their support. The students also spoke quite movingly on her behalf. I don't see your comments as being at all helpful. Are you saying you think the school would work better if the teachers did not respect and support their leader? Are you saying that you do not believe that it is important for leadership to attend conferences and be exposed to new ideas and new ways of doing things? Or, are you just taking this opportunity to bash the teachers because you can?

21 people like this
Posted by Log
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 21, 2017 at 10:55 pm

The teacher's behavior at the Board meeting left me with less, not more confidence in Paly than before. This was a meeting to present a report, but the commenters derailed it into a termination hearing for a principal. Their comments, however heartfelt or accurate, were off topic and belonged in a different meeting. The teacher's tone showed that the weaknesses and errors the report uncovered did not matter to them, that the sexually attacked child did not matter to them, and that making the school safer did not matter to them. Only the teachers feelings about a principal mattered to them. The teacher's comments showed an incredible lack of empathy or caring for a child who was sexually abused. The meeting left a strong sense that Palo Alto High School is not a safe place for any student. The teachers will attack you if you are sexually abused.

9 people like this
Posted by Jordan/Paly parent
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 21, 2017 at 11:34 pm

One comment about Kim Diorio. She is not perfect but none of us are. She is a busy mother of young children and a principal of a large school. But my experience with her (two kids at Paly) was very positive, she took time to communicate to address concerns and meet. Above all, she seemed to be a person that listens and cares and facilitated solutions through communication.

At the time I took it as given that a principal of a school should be someone that listens and cares. But now I really appreciate it: Looking at Jordan's current principal, at Jordan's last year principal, and worse of all, at Kim's predecessor.... If this is the pool of candidates we are extremely lucky to have Kim. I would not risk rolling the dice again.

16 people like this
Posted by Paly Alum 80s
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 22, 2017 at 1:54 am

@Yes, let's follow the rules: You must not have had children attend Paly lately. It's a rigorous curriculum, much more difficult than back in the day where we could do the minimum and get an easy "B" grade. I have two who have graduated from Paly recently. They only took 3 AP classes each and are happy now in their reputable, private colleges. However, they were severely unhappy and stressed during their years at Paly due to the academic workload. We never needed tutors back in the day, but my children needed tutors even for some regular lane classes. Most teachers did not reply to emails, and many were disorganized. There was one great math teacher who said she would always check emails after school since she had to leave school at the bell. They had some great teachers, but it's the bad ones that ruin the year and they had their fair share of those too. The teachers need to realize that students have 5-6 other classes with homework too. My children's professors are much better than any AP teacher they had. AP = college level? No way. AP= less teaching, figure-it-out-on-your-own and good luck on the test = highly stressful.

No, a closed campus would NOT stop sexual assaults and the idea is ludicrous. This is not an inner city school where students have behavioral issues. There isn't even any bullying (besides academic bullying from a certain culture). The student who assaulted has a particular personality unlike most other Paly students. Don't punish the whole student body for his lack of conscience. The open campus allows students the freedom to take a welcome break, either at home or at T & C or elsewhere. They need their prep periods. With such a rigorous curriculum, give them a break!

@Jordan/Paly parent: Glad to hear that Diorio treated you well. From what I hear, she never answers emails, not even an acknowledgement. As you mentioned, she is a mother and we need someone who can continue to devote hours to Paly after school too. Winston answered all emails and really cared about the students but had other issues.

13 people like this
Posted by keen
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2017 at 7:43 am

This is a controversial subject and the teachers on both sides need to keep it out of their classroom totally. I would hope that kids will not be recruited in and used as pawns either way. IF they want to educate them, then they need to read the entire actual report. Please. This should have been taken care of when it happened or at least before the school year started. Again, the adults at this school have put the problems they created for themselves front and center and squarely on the backs of the families they are serving and now it is seeping into instructional time and bleeding into their psyche and no matter how you feel, it is wasting time and positive energy.

2 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2017 at 10:09 am

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

4 people like this
Posted by Esther Warkov
a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2017 at 1:06 pm

There's an innovative (free) video that parents and students can use to ensure Title IX compliance over time Web Link. Lots of national experts interviewed by high school students, nicely produced in SF. It includes a wonderful scene with San Francisco Unified's Title IX Coordinator. You can find links to all the experts in the YouTube description box. SSAIS, a national nonprofit, would like to work with Paly students --and other schools--to implement anti-sexual harassment/assault campaigns. All materials are free. Contact us at Thanks!

8 people like this
Posted by A former parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 24, 2017 at 8:37 pm

I recall Gunn being a closed campus in the 70's and this worked great. Lots of lunchtime clubs and activities. Very good memories!
Phones and social media are poison in some high schools of today.....
Paly was an open campus more recently during our time there, I was powerless but disagreed with this. Less lunchtime on campus activities, naturally.

8 people like this
Posted by Bad for years
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Sep 26, 2017 at 6:21 pm

We've lost great principals because of the union, but we have to keep the lousy ones because they have served the teachers before the students, including $6 million worth of raises to all teachers, including the ones whose classrooms we don't want our kids in.

Like this comment
Posted by Rebecca, Please Stop
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 26, 2017 at 7:34 pm

Hey @Bad For Years...

The principal didn't approve the raises. And the principal doesn't teach classes. If you've run out of negative things to say, it's okay to stop posting.

5 people like this
Posted by Parents with two PALY girls
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 17, 2017 at 5:27 pm

What concerns me is lack of ethical responsibility as a principal to report the incident to the parents, teachers, and students when it occurred in Oct, 2016.

Kimberly Diorio's email to PTSAececboard on 5/12/2017 after the news broke:

"We are also considering hosting several student meetings on campus within the next
week or two. Our Wellness Center is hosting a workshop during Flex on Tuesday, May
16th on Sexual Assault awareness and we have PAPD talking to seniors during Flex about
turning 18” from a legal point of view. I think both of these sessions will tie in nicely to
the concerns people are feeling."

Shouldn't these be done right after the first assault and once every year since?
An actress puts on the shows in time; a good principal would care about our daughter's safety given the fact
that they handled a separate sexual assault on Paly quad (Web Link) in 2015.

4 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 17, 2017 at 6:40 pm

Please note that these events were not done as a response to the news, they were already planned. Diorio did nothing.

Also note that they handled the 2015 assault more poorly than the 2016 assault. Neither would have come to light had it not been for the young women speaking up. Paly administrators and PAUSD made a distinct effort to keep these events as quiet as possible.

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