News


Administrators who handled Paly sex-assault case ID'd

School board members express frustration with staff still failing to comply with law, policy

Watch a discussion about this issue on Behind the Headlines.

At the Palo Alto school board's first public meeting about a just completed law-firm investigation into the district's response to an October sexual-assault case on Thursday, trustees expressed their disappointment at the district's continuing lack of progress on Title IX issues while Palo Alto High School staff turned out to support a principal they fear could lose her job as a result of the case.

At the standing-room-only meeting, the lawyers from Cozen O'Connor publicly and for the first time named four Paly administrators and two district leaders involved in the case of a female freshman who reported to school staff that a male junior had forced her to perform oral sex on him in a campus bathroom last fall. A draft report on the lawyer's findings, released Wednesday afternoon, had not named any of the administrators involved.

The assistant principals identified by the numbers "1," "2" and "3" in the report were identified Thursday as Vicki Kim, Jerry Berkson and Kathie Laurence, who is now the principal at Gunn High School. The other administrators involved are Paly Principal Kim Diorio, Superintendent Max McGee and former Chief Student Services Officer Holly Wade, who served as the district’s Title IX coordinator at the time. Wade has since left the district.

For the first time on Thursday, the lawyers revealed the tension that occurred between Paly and district staff over the case, describing how Kim repeatedly asked superiors, including Wade, if the school should offer the female student the option of filing a complaint under the district's Uniform Complaint Procedure, which they were required to do.

Lawyers Gina Smith and Leslie Gomez said Wade told them she consulted with a district attorney, identified as Dora Dome, who advised that no Title IX investigation was necessary. Assuming Wade's version of what she told Dome is accurate, Dome's advice went against board policy, state law and federal anti-discrimination law Title IX, Smith and Gomez said Thursday. (Board members agreed, at the suggestion of trustee Todd Collins, to look further into the advice given and consider whether a legal claim against Dome is warranted. The district no longer uses Dome, who was hired to assist with trainings required by earlier Office for Civil Rights resolution agreements and the development of district policies. She is not employed by the law firms that perform the bulk of the district's legal work.)

The district was in fact "in practice," Smith said, "of not offering a UCP and responding at the site level."

The Cozen attorneys also cited Diorio for neglecting her responsibility as principal to inform the female student and her family of their right to file a complaint under the district's procedure.

In addition, under Diorio's leadership, a "longstanding" practice -- initiated by "prior district-level employees," including Wade, but openly communicated at principal and cabinet meetings -- continued of avoiding written documentation that could be released under a Public Records Act request, Gomez said. Staff members instead communicated about this case via text message and kept personal handwritten notes or notes on their iPhones, the lawyers said.

There was "fear and the distrust that things would be released," Gomez said, and "also some concern about distrust of the board at various times."

The attorneys credited the first two staff members who responded to the student -- Claire Gleeson, an instructional aide, and Jonathan Frecceri, then Paly's mental health coordinator -- for responding promptly and as required. When the student first reported the incident to Gleeson on a Friday afternoon in October, Gleeson immediately took her to the wellness center, where Frecceri spoke with her and then notified Kim and a school resource officer. Frecceri, who no longer works at Paly, maintained "thorough," contemporaneous notes of what happened throughout the afternoon and into the evening, Gomez said.

Several weeks later, Laurence, too, responded promptly and appropriately to the female student's report that she was being harassed by other students as a result of the incident, the report states. But despite being aware of the previous sexual-assault report, Laurence did not communicate with Kim, Diorio or Wade about the harassment, according to the lawyers. She did follow up with the female student about a week later, but did not inform Kim or Diorio about it nor document the conversation contemporaneously.

And when Laurence was copied on an email that described the female student's intention to leave Paly because of the impact of the incident and "subsequent rumors," Laurence again did not share information about the harassment she had responded to, Smith said.

As their report also stated, the two lawyers repeatedly laid blame at the feet of Wade, who they said despite sending out staff memos and other communication about the district's Title IX obligations, repeatedly failed to meet those obligations herself in this case.

And while McGee initially recognized the potential need for a UCP and communicated this to Wade, it does not appear he followed up on this request.

"The authority and the burden of initiating UCP investigation sits at the district level and sits with the Title IX coordinator," Gomez said.

The Paly administrators, despite their initial responsiveness, also failed to complete a required investigation or formally determine if the incident itself had taken place, the lawyers found. Administrators did not take steps to evaluate issues of consent, the "welcomeness" of the alleged conduct nor a potential pattern of behavior by the male student, they said.

Notes from interviews with the students and witnesses were also not made contemporaneously — akin to attending a lecture and writing down notes about what the teacher said when you get home, Gomez said.

A public comment from a Paly staff member, Diorio's assistant Carolyn Benfield, also revealed that top school and district administrators, including McGee, had not received Title IX-specific training until May of this year, after this case came to light publicly.

In an interview after the meeting, McGee told the Weekly that while all administrators had received required, "generic" sexual harassment training that touched on policies relevant in this case, the May training was their first in-depth, dedicated session on Title IX requirements and investigations.

School board, community react to report

McGee, whose own future in the district has been the subject of several closed-session evaluations over the last week, acknowledged the missteps in this case and promised future accountability.

"This specific incident was indicative that our district was not at the level of legal knowledge, awareness, safety and accountability where it should have been at the time and where it must be," he said. "I make no excuses."

He noted improvements that have been made in recent months, which were also acknowledged by the Cozen O'Connor lawyers: increased Title IX training; a new online anonymous reporting option; a new system for logging and tracking UCP complaints; the intention to hire a full-time, dedicated Title IX coordinator; the hiring of trained, outside investigators for "complex and serious allegations;" and district-level personnel changes, among others.

Some school board members expressed disappointment at the district's inability to make progress on Title IX issues, despite being under federal investigation for similar missteps for the last four years. This case indicates that the school district still lacks necessary protocol and coordination in this area, they said.

"I really believe that people want to do the right thing but wanting to do the right thing and having a system to make sure the right thing happens no matter what, even when mistakes are made, are different," said trustee Melissa Baten Caswell. "To me this is a challenge we have in a lot of areas, not just this."

Vice President Ken Dauber said that the district has not only failed to create a "culture of compliance," but staff members have not had sufficient practical experience with compliance, leading to with happened in this case: a path paved by good intentions that resulted in a failure to do what is required by law and policy.

"When students experience harassment or discrimination, staff have not had access to an ongoing set of practices that if they enact those practices, the right thing will happen," Dauber said. "Instead, what we see in the report is many staff members … draw on their own good intentions to make decisions that are often right (and) sometimes wrong from the perspective of the law but it doesn't guarantee students what they're entitled to under federal law and under state law and board policy, which is a consistent outcome that ultimately leads to the remedies that they need in order to pursue their educational program."

Trustee Jennifer DiBrienza asked the lawyers -- whose practice is dedicated to examining the institutional response of school districts, colleges and universities to Title IX issues -- what steps other institutions have taken to be successful in this area, beyond the expected steps of increasing training and revising policy.

"What are we missing?" DiBrienza asked.

Smith said schools have established a centralized, clear protocol: when a report comes in, its documented and immediately shared with the "core individuals who have to make decisions" on next steps. All action is documented in real time and shared via platforms like Google Docs or Excel spreadsheets, she said. The lawyers repeatedly stressed the importance of documentation and standardization for ensuring accountability.

Compliance is also viewed not as a box to check off, but a cultural commitment at those institutions, Gomez said.

With a detailed report of the district's failures in this case in hand, it's now the responsibility of senior leadership to enact those kinds of practices and promote that culture, trustees said.

"I understand that the personnel implications of this loom large for many in the room," Dauber said, "but I think that the real focus of this is understanding how to do better at this work as an organization and how to have a school district that really protects students by living the practice of compliance."

This responsibility also falls on those who sit at the dais, Collins said -- both the board and the superintendent.

"It's that 'tone at the top' about ethics and values that tells the people in the organization what's OK, what's expected and what's not. That tone at the top is set by the people at this rostrum," he said. "I think we need to change the way we address things and make sure we establish a tone at the top that is consistent with the kind of outcomes that our students deserve."

In public comments, close to 20 Paly teachers and students repeatedly defended their principal and administrators. They credited Diorio with a dramatic culture shift at Paly in recent years — from a school where student streakers were a regular occurrence, creating a hostile environment, to one where they said students and staff feel safe and supported on campus.

"Paly is a new school because of Kim's leadership," said English teacher and instructional supervisor Shirley Tokheim. "Kim is beloved at Paly and I am with her."

Paly senior Noga Hurwitz told the board that under Diorio's leadership, streaking has been "virtually" eliminated and conversations about mental health put at the "forefront" of school culture. A student journalist, she said Diorio has "committed to transparency" with Paly's student press.

Another student described how after going through a "hard time" her freshman year, Diorio repeatedly checked in with her and "made me feel safe again at Paly."

Other longtime teachers described Diorio one as an effective, compassionate leader being unfairly attacked for her role in this case. Many in the audience rose out of their seats when Paly teacher Josh Bloom asked everyone who supports Diorio to stand up.

Only a few parents spoke critically at Thursday's meeting, calling for accountability for the administrators involved.

"I've sat in this room for many hours over the past few years listening to the board discuss issues with compliance with Title IX and yet here we are again," said Andrea Wolf. "My observation leads me to believe that a failure to actually perform the basic requirements of one's role is common at the district level. I would like to see this change."

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 storify.com/paloaltoweekly.

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Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Comments

11 people like this
Posted by Bogart
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 21, 2017 at 11:27 pm

I'm shocked, shocked!


67 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2017 at 12:26 am

The start of the article says 'In addition, under Diorio's leadership, a "longstanding" practice -- initiated by "prior district-level employees," including Wade, but openly communicated at principal and cabinet meetings at Paly -- continued of avoiding written documentation that could be released under a Public Records Act request, Gomez said. Staff members instead communicated about this case via text message and kept personal handwritten notes or notes on their iPhones, the lawyers said.

There was "fear and the distrust that things would be released," Gomez said, and "also some concern about distrust of the board at various times."'

Yet the reaction is that the administrators have "Good Intentions", that the Principal is "Transparent". This is talking points of a political campaign. How can it be transparent, or good intentioned to hide information from the Board, who are elected to represent the public?

[Portion removed.]


87 people like this
Posted by BP
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2017 at 12:27 am

"What are we missing?" DiBrienza asked.
Smith said schools have established a centralized, clear protocol: when a report comes in, its documented and immediately shared with the "core individuals who have to make decisions" on next steps. All action is documented in real time and shared via platforms like Google docs or Excel spreadsheets, she said. The lawyers repeatedly stressed the importance of documentation and standardization for ensuring accountability.

Are you telling me that the brilliant minds in the PAUSD administration and high school administrators have not been able after 4-5 years to come up with an Excel spreadsheet listing all the reported sexual attacks and harassment???? HOW EMBARRASSING.

As the lawyers stated, the culture and goals of PAUSD administration were to PURPOSELY NOT document, even though they KNEW they were suppose to. There is never enough training for people who refuse to follow the law in the first place. They knew what was suppose to be done, BUT THEY PURPOSELY OBSTRUCTED JUSTICE!!

This whole McGee/Wade/Diorio mess makes me disgusted with the leadership in PAUSD. [Portion removed.]


75 people like this
Posted by BP
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2017 at 12:40 am

Amazing, the only people who actually did their jobs correctly were the first 2 Paly staff members that were contacted by the girl. Somehow, these "junior" staff members knew the correct things to do and did it; yet the more senior people involved like the vice principals, principal, and PAUSD supervisor couldn't do their jobs? They need more training on how to handle sexual harassment complaints? MORE TRAINING? [Portion removed.]


36 people like this
Posted by Amazed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2017 at 1:15 am

Reminds me of the school district in the East Bay that deleted its entire history of all emails on all email servers and claimed they had no backup so they could have absolutely 1. No means to produce discoverable electronic transmissions of written communications 2. No means to hold any administrators accountable.

I suspect their wish is that if proof of turmoil and dysfunction can't be found on email communications then it doesn't actually exist?

The text msg and handwritten notes so info can't be discoverable in a criminal or civil case are both grounds for termination for cause. Why is the superintendent still have his position?


27 people like this
Posted by Cherry picking
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 22, 2017 at 6:42 am

I love how the usual handful of commenters cherry pick the convenient facts here to further fuel their moral outrage. [Portion removed.]

Dear editor, the student that mentioned her "hard time" at Paly was a girl. Not a boy. Please correct this.

You also left out that after the first two non-admins escalated, the admin team also promptly escalated right up the chain, as well as to CPS and the Police. Please try to be balanced here. [Portion removed.]


63 people like this
Posted by PA parent
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 22, 2017 at 6:47 am

Paly staffs only care the security of their jobs. The leaderships at both district and school level should be fired.

Enough is enough with politics in this town!


51 people like this
Posted by PAUSD Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2017 at 6:57 am

Kim Diario doesn't fix problems. She smiles, says she hears issues impacting students, and then does absolutely NOTHING.

No wonder teachers and administrators like her. She does nothing beside protect her interests.

To compare Kim to Phil Winston is at such a low bar.

This case is very serious but what about all the other cases that have been muffled for the convenience of not making a fuss for teachers or administrators. This case doesn't take a whole bunch of common sense to do what is right for a vulnerable student but clearly was shoved under the rug and left to fend for herself.

This completely is in line with the corrupt thinking so prevanlent in our society and businesses today. These administrators do not represent leadership in any way.


36 people like this
Posted by Cherry picking
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 22, 2017 at 7:00 am

Becky, I don't think the media will pick up on this because they will see it for what it is. A well intentioned group of people who made perfectly human clerical errors because they weren't properly supervised by the one person in the district whose job it was to make sure the regulatory mechanics are followed properly. The Title IX coordinator.

That's the inconvenient truth here. There's no conspiracy. The title ix position wasn't properly staffed. As a result, the staff who are trying to run a school of 2k children are also trying to comply with regs with no good guidance from above.

[Portion removed.]

Please stop stoking this fire. Let the community move on. Put fixes in place. Provide adequate and comprehensive training and refreshers in place for staff. You get your 15 minutes. Not let us make some progress.


39 people like this
Posted by to Paly's aspiring journalists
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 22, 2017 at 7:27 am

Student reporter Noga at yesterday's board meeting: "Diorio has 'committed to transparency' with Paly's student press."

"Committed" to it perhaps but not delivered as Noga wrote in the Verde article "OCR's 8 Investigations":

"though the student’s mother says she believes THE PRINCIPAL called the alleged-perpetrator and a witness in for questioning, NO DOCUMENTATION or results of this were reported to the mother nor the OCR. OCR said the district FAILED TO FOLLOW PROPER PROCEDURE." Web Link

Noga's article and the Cozen report should be a case study taught on Day 1 in Paly's journalism classrooms and student journalists should leave class shocked and dismayed by this finding:

It is "common practice" and part of Paly's staff training to "not document" student safety matters in order to keep that information from the public aka journalists. As the Weekly reports, the instruction to hide information was “openly communicated at principal and cabinet meetings at Paly.”

This is worth repeating: [Portion removed.] And it wasn't because PAUSD's Title IX Coordinator said so. Cozen attorney Leslie Gomez shared that Title IX Coordinator Holly Wade instructed Paly staff IN WRITING to log ALL complaints and document ALL actions on September 10, 2015, a year BEFORE the October 2016 incident.

Paly’s journalism students should be taught that the Public Records Act and the public's right to know is fiercely defended by professional journalists because it allows reporters like Noga to ferret out, verify, and share the truth with the public.

As galling is that Paly’s instruction to hide information from the press wasn't just a "wink, wink" kind of thing. Gomez said several Paly employees shared with her that the unit on hiding had been a part of Paly staff training for years.


3 people like this
Posted by PAUSD parent 1
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 22, 2017 at 7:43 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


6 people like this
Posted by Aspiring journalist
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 22, 2017 at 7:44 am

Hey "aspiring journalist" writer, did you attend the meeting? It was clearly stated that guidance on communications came from past district office leaders. Specifically the Title IX coordinator and Sup.

[Portion removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Round and round
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2017 at 7:55 am

So the district sought and followed the advise of one legal firm not to file a UCP, are investigated by a second legal firm and told they should have filed a UCP.

How do we know which is right? Do we now need a third legal firm to investigate this second legal firms advice?


60 people like this
Posted by Kathy Jordan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 22, 2017 at 8:11 am

Among other things, what I learned from the Cozen report was:

1) the administration officials ignored the information in the Jan 31, 2017 Juvenile Court notification letter about the juvenile felony conviction for forced oral copulation by the perpetrator, exactly the same m.o. and same offense alleged by the Oct. 11, 2016 victim. Administration officials took no action to evaluate a pattern of behavior and the boy remained at Paly.

2) According to the report, there was discipline administered to the perpetrator, but not for the alleged sexual assault, but only for the "related" conduct, apparently the subsequent bullying and harassment of the victim after the assault....

This assertion of not having training is a red herring. When asked, the Cozen team member explained that, yes, there had been prior training for the admin team before May 2017. These are also long time, senior admin officials, not new to PAUSD and its policies. And in addition, anyone can google up "sexual harassment pausd" at any time and find out what is supposed to be done. Web Link

Title IX is also not a new law. It's been in place since 1972.


31 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2017 at 8:24 am

PAUSD promoted Admin #3 so clearly she was following McGee's unwritten policy. When the district protects and promotes staff who impede investigations, it sends a clear signal.


68 people like this
Posted by THIS IS CRAZY!!
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 22, 2017 at 8:26 am

@cherry picking: although I appreciate your comments around "chalking" this up to a clerical error, I think that you are tone deaf to the fact that there is a victim here. And according to the survey on sexual harassment, there are countless other victims who, as a result of how this school treated this issue, wont ever reveal their experience and suffer in silence. This is not an issue of forgetting a date on a calendar to open up conversations with the teachers union about bonuses, no...that's a clerical error. What this is, is an EPIC failure to protect the students that we endear the district with. I also don't believe your assertion that a clerical error has administrators purposefully avoiding documenting anything via email and rather colluding to not document in more official ways. BTW: I am not Keith or Katy, this is my second post on PA online EVER.


16 people like this
Posted by Keith Ferrell
a resident of Southgate
on Sep 22, 2017 at 8:38 am

@Cherry Picking
I use my name on my posts. If you want to talk, please feel free to contact me personally. I've offered it before to you but I never heard from you.

I'm happy to tell you what I know to be true with regards to the actions of Paly administrators.


18 people like this
Posted by timeline
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 22, 2017 at 8:51 am

AJ,

It was hard to pull apart the timeline with all the back and forth yesterday but here it is. It shows that whatever bad advice Kevin Skelly's administrators may have given about documentation was corrected, in writing, by McGee's office, via Wade, in 2015.

1st. The prior administration reportedly ran free and loose with the rules.

2nd. They left the district.

3rd. Dr. McGee stepped in as Superintendent and Holly Wade took over as Title IX Coordinator. That was in 2014 and the latter half of 2015, respectively.

4th. Wade sent a memo to Paly staff which said everything must be logged in and documented in writing. That was September 2015.

5th. A student told her teacher that she had been sexually assaulted in a Paly bathroom. October 2016.

6th. Kim Diorio etc. took her complaint and emails about it were immediately exchanged with Central Administration. October 2016.

7th. Central admin turned the matter over to Paly to handle at the site and after that the emails stopped.

Instead Paly staff hand-wrote notes that were not placed in the file, put notes in the notes app on their private cell phones that did not go into the file, and texted each other with messages that also did not go into the file. 2016 and 2017.

[Portion removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2017 at 10:47 am

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


35 people like this
Posted by Kathy Jordan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 22, 2017 at 10:57 am

P.S. Regarding the Paly admin asking about whether a UCP should be offered ---

PAUSD's Board Administrative Regulation AR 1312.3 specifies that the Principal/designee must inform the complainant of their right to file a written complaint, which is a UCP complaint. The UCP option/rights must be offered (sexual assault is a form of sexual harassment):

Here is the AR 1312.3 language:
ii. The Principal/designee shall, within one day of receiving an oral report of unlawful discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, intimidation and/or bullying, shall inform the individual making the report of the resolution options under these procedures, including the right to file a written complaint. If a complainant is unable to put a complaint in writing due to conditions such as a disability or illiteracy, district staff shall assist him/her in the filing of the complaint. (5 CCR 4600)


26 people like this
Posted by where are the independent thinkers?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 22, 2017 at 11:00 am

Weekly: "Under Diorio's leadership" the practice of "avoiding written documentation" was "openly communicated at principal and cabinet meetings" the Cozen attorneys reported.

Undoubtedly everyone in those meetings is smart or they wouldn't be here teaching our children, so they must have at least wondered if that was not the soundest advice.

Since following this advice could put their careers at risk, see above, did any of the Paly Assistant Principals reach out to a school board member or the Union or Union’s attorney to see what he/she should do before tucking communications in a place so that no one would find them?

If not, why not?

If they were afraid of retaliation if they defied their boss' instruction, the school board needs to add to its "to do" list to not only beef up Title IX processes and find EVERYONE who told these employees that hiding information is OK (it is not OK), but also to investigate why Paly staff don't feel safe speaking freely and train them on California's Whistleblower protection laws. Web Link prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report suspected violations of federal, state, or local laws, rules, or regulations)


8 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

Coincidentally, as of today the Department of Education has rescinded the Obama era directive that expanded the scope of Title IX discrimination to sexual assault on campus.

Web Link

It won't help California yet as it has already codified many of the Obama overreaches into state law. So we are stuck with this mess for decades until the issues work their way through the courts.

Enjoy


57 people like this
Posted by McGee & Doria Need to Go
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 22, 2017 at 1:08 pm

The District and Paly's practice of not writing down information that involves mistreatment of students in order to protect the administration means our children's safety is secondary to the administration protecting themselves. Until Doria and McGee are fired, the problems will continue. How many years of ineffective leadership by these two do we need before we realize they are the problem? How many more kids have to be sexually harassed? Kim lacks strong leadership and administration capability to make these changes. Claims that all administrators are well intentioned is clearly not the case if they are not reporting and recording this information. The three female board members, Melissa Caldwell, Camila and Jennifer DiBrienza are allowing our schools to remain unsafe (especially for the girls) by their failure to remove McGee and Doria right now. Board members, it is your fault that we still ineffective leadership at PAUSD and Paly who is not protecting the students.


68 people like this
Posted by Hasty Court of Public Opinion
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 22, 2017 at 1:15 pm

Hasty Court of Public Opinion is a registered user.

There are a LOT of facts that still need sorting by informed professionals. As a Palo Alto parent, I want this thoroughly investigated and decided by the appropriate agencies.

That said, Palo Alto Online is NOT a legal court. People's lives--vulnerable youth whose life has been turned upside down and adults whose careers could be destroyed if we get this wrong. Could we please tone down the hyperbole and be careful with facts?

I appreciate media coverage as the story unfolds, but I plan to reserve judgment until we all know more and an appropriate investigation has been completed.


43 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 22, 2017 at 1:20 pm

@Hasty - what additional investigations and facts are you expecting? As far as I can tell, PAUSD did what they were going to do, spending 4 months and around $500,000. These are the facts; that was the report. Anything that's going to be evaluated is going to get done NOW. And presumably the public has the important substance of the investigation, based on the written report and yesterday's presentation.

So YES, this is the time and place for people to weigh in with their views. And for that school board to do whatever they are going to do - or not.


Posted by We left PASD last year
a resident of Mountain View

on Sep 22, 2017 at 1:45 pm


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17 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 22, 2017 at 1:47 pm

@Hasty,

Conceptually, I like what you have to say, and I wish that was the way the world works.

However, I do not expect the district to have any interest in performing an "appropriate investigation". Anything they do will be a coverup.

The fact that people are told to use ephemeral forms of communication that do not create an audit trail should be enough for us to conclude that discovering and communicating the truth is not something they will do.


36 people like this
Posted by THIS IS CRAZY!!
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 22, 2017 at 1:56 pm

@Gunn Parent: You are absolutely right!!

Now is the time for us to see how serious the Board is in their actions.
If the board does their job, these folks get their pink slips ASAP.
And I don't just mean Paly Principal and the Super on Churchill, but all of the people who failed this victim and colluded to not document. This includes Asst. Principle 1, 2, 3 and so on....
Oh....and since Asst Principle 3 is now principle of Gunn, she goes too!

Board members, we are watching you.

When are school board elections?

Hmmmm.....



54 people like this
Posted by Walter Hays Dad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 22, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Vatican West?

The most disturbing aspect of this report to me is the directive to not document. This is corrosive and does not allow for oversight. It shows horribly bad ethics.

But why does it go on? Because it is everyone's interest, except the students. Without documentation, there is no responsibility. The Board can claim plausible deniability. The administrators avoid having to do the hard compliance work. Teachers have no paper trail for which they can be fired. Even parents get to continue to live in a movie where our schools are just perfect with no problems.

I believe all (or almost all) of our current Board members are appalled by this lack of documentation. Lack of documentation impedes their ability to perform their oversight functions. I do believe members of the current Board want transparency; lack of documentation prevents this. It is, in essence, fraud by district personnel.

As teachers, etc., rose to speak for Kim Diorio, I had this thought: the longer you have been employed by this district, the less I trust you. McGee's regime did not start this toxic culture (not sure which did), but it clearly has persisted and continues to cause damage. Sometimes, you need to simply change the people to change the culture.

Many parents in Palo Alto have the resources to solve around the problem, which simply allows the problem to continue. My daughter gets assaulted in Palo Alto? I move to another community. PAUSD can't teach my kid math? I hire tutors. PAUSD can't teach my kid with special needs? I pull them out and pay for private school.

This community invests a lot in education, in both time and money. It is time that the community woke up out of its dream that everything is just great. We must be honest about all the failures, and remember that we can do better. Living inside the dream is comfortable as we do not have to face the pain. We must walk through the pain to a better tomorrow.


2 people like this
Posted by Stew Pid
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 22, 2017 at 2:05 pm

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Figurer
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 22, 2017 at 2:18 pm

All the money well spent!

Education Department withdraws Obama-era campus sexual assault guidance

Web Link


12 people like this
Posted by Bad info in= bad advice out
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 22, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Jennifer DiBrienza had an excellent point....what did Assistant Principal Kim say happened last October?

Cozen attorney Leslie Gomez said Kim said it was consensual. Consensual acts do not appear to trigger the UCP which is for "unwelcome" or "unwanted" sexual advances. Web Link. So PAUSD’s attorney's "no UCP" advice, based on Kim's representation that it was welcomed, looks to have been sound.

Bad info in = bad advice out.

The biggest problems that October were that 1. Kim Diorio delegated this to Kim despite her apparent lack of training, and 2. McGee and Wade shouldn't have relied on Kim's intake and assessment which, according to Cozen, was neither thorough, informed, nor reliable enough to determine whether it was consensual.

Who gave the “no UCP” advice when the young woman returned later to report that she was being harassed is not clear. Vicki Kim asked the right question – is the UCP needed now? Wade answered no. Cozen says this was based on "legal advice REPORTEDLY received from outside counsel."

According to Cozen, Vicki Kim’s notes were not contemporaneous though.

So here’s my question: which Cozen findings are based on memory and which are based on contemporaneous documentation and recordings which are far more reliable?


14 people like this
Posted by jeez
a resident of Monroe Park
on Sep 22, 2017 at 5:28 pm

They relied on Vkims opinion that it was consensual? Did the victim put this in writing? Did the victim have representation? Is that really the excuse for not informing them of their rights.I wonder how things are documented and decided on now.

I think every kid needs to take note and learn their rights, how to document and how to contact a lawyer before sharing any information.Never be in a room alone without representation or an adult trusted guardian. good advice for life.


Posted by Title IX mess
a resident of Adobe-Meadow

on Sep 22, 2017 at 7:11 pm


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54 people like this
Posted by Mother of Victim (felony conviction)
a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2017 at 8:11 pm

to Hasty Court of Public Opinion and the 54 likes/followers:

As the mother of the victim who accompanied my daughter to meet with Holly Wade, I can tell you some FACTS.

1. No one in PAUSD had opened an investigation on a convicted felon until MY SIXTEEN YEAR OLD DAUGHTER CALLED THEM ON IT. I was there myself when Holly Wade told us that she would open an investigation (months after having received the notice from the court)

2. None of us would even know about any of this is MY SIXTEEN YEAR OLD DAUGHTER hadn't had the courage to go to the media and expose this.

I don't need to suspend my judgment because I know for a fact that we are having this conversation because a kid (who should be playing and studying) was researching Title IX violations (something I didn't even know about when I was sixteen).

Your comments and the actions of the board are offensive to us. The report has exposed what I already knew, that the district looked the other way on your students. Now even though the board has evidence of failure to comply with the law, it's not enough to terminate the superintendent? Really? Then what is?

To the teachers who defended the principal who failed to document in writing the actions of the felon who assaulted my daughter, you have put your boss above my daughter and after the bravely that she exhibited to hear you all come out even in spite of the findings in the report, make us (yes, I am a teacher too), look really bad. Our loyalties belong to the children and when I spoke with the other mother of the Paly Victim, MYSELF, I was appalled to hear that they were never told of their rights. Every administrator knows where to find out the steps to take. She just chose not to do so.

If anyone wants to comment to me. I welcome it. I don't need to wait and see the facts because I lived them out. It's all true.


81 people like this
Posted by Mother of Victim felony conviction
a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2017 at 8:17 pm

to Hasty Court of Public Opinion and the 54 likes-followers:

As the mother of the victim who accompanied my daughter to meet with Holly Wade, I can tell you some FACTS.

1. No one in PAUSD had opened an investigation on a convicted felon until MY SIXTEEN YEAR OLD DAUGHTER CALLED THEM ON IT. I was there myself when Holly Wade told us that she would open an investigation (months after having received the notice from the court)

2. None of us would even know about any of this is MY SIXTEEN YEAR OLD DAUGHTER hadn't had the courage to go to the media and expose this.

I don't need to suspend my judgment because I know for a fact that we are having this conversation because a kid (who should be playing and studying) was researching Title IX violations (something I didn't even know about when I was sixteen).

Your comments and the actions of the board are offensive to us. The report has exposed what I already knew, that the district looked the other way on your students. Now even though the board has evidence of failure to comply with the law, it's not enough to terminate the superintendent? Really? Then what is?

To the teachers who defended the principal who failed to document in writing the actions of the felon who assaulted my daughter, you have put your boss above my daughter and after the bravely that she exhibited to hear you all come out even in spite of the findings in the report, make us (yes, I am a teacher too), look really bad. Our loyalties belong to the children and when I spoke with the other mother of the Paly Victim, MYSELF, I was appalled to hear that they were never told of their rights. Every administrator knows where to find out the steps to take. She just chose not to do so.

If anyone wants to comment to me. I welcome it. I don't need to wait and see the facts because I lived them out. It's all true.


46 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 22, 2017 at 8:40 pm

...I guess I'm really out of touch. But I always wish for our education dollars to be spent on education, and not on law enforcement, and bureaucratic process.

Must the school be responsible for every behavior? shouldn't the process be as simple as "turn it over to the police?" ...and get our teachers and administrators back to doing what they are meant to do?


52 people like this
Posted by Mother of Victim felony conviction
a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2017 at 8:40 pm

Finally, I want to thank Trustees Collins and Dauber for their courage in recommending the termination of Dr. McGee.

I also want to thank Michelle Dauber for thanking us for our comments (read at a previous board meeting).

It's good to know that we are supported by some. I am proud of my daughter for taking the time to help bring this to light. Now, let's hope that something actually comes of it so that her risk in coming forward (yes, media cameras at my house), were not in vain.


22 people like this
Posted by 18 years and counting
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2017 at 9:27 pm

Dear everybody who cares one iota-
It is really hard to be an upstander in this entrenched district. Everyone sells out to the Palo Alto brand name. Eye ball rolling galore when you suggest protocol. It's a thing......please trust me. #frustrated #in the know #in the trenches


30 people like this
Posted by Been there...
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2017 at 10:19 pm

This is nothing new. Almost thirty years ago, I applied to be a substitute teacher's aid. One of the many papers I had to sign stated that I acknowledged receiving a paper on reporting abuse. I told the woman that I had not received the abuse information. She said, "Oh, most people don't want it."
Of course, on my first assignment, the teacher was hitting, yelling, threatening pupils. This was a special ed class.
I made a report, police were called, the principal was not happy, and I was never called to work again. PAUSD has been hiding stuff for years.


48 people like this
Posted by A PALY Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 22, 2017 at 10:26 pm

@ Hasty Court of Public Opinion and @ Round and Round,

THE COZEN REPORT IS THE FORMAL LEGAL INVESTIGATION.

The Cozen O'Connor law firm is certified by US Department of Education's Office of Civial Right to conduct Title IX investigations. Due to repeated violations, as part of the resolution agreement, PAUSD is required to hire a certified law firm to conduct investigations, not any law firm.

As to the old law firm that PAUSD had been used for years to provide legal advises turned out to be on Department of Justis's sanction list for years, but PAUSD still continued to use them. (Another failure under McGee's leadership!) They were terminated only after Trustee Collins found out the sanction during a review of district's contractors to cut budgets.

This later fact was mentioned by a Jordan parent/lawyer at Sep. 12's board meeting, and later confirmed with Trustee Collins via email by a Gunn parent. You can go watch the video.


19 people like this
Posted by Focus
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2017 at 10:55 pm

I've encountered the "don't put it in writing" deniability policy that PAUSD operates under, in the realm of special ed, across staff and sites. The phones are not just dusted off for big cases like this. It's the way the district prefers staff to operate, in lieu of transparency, partnership, and trust- building.


90 people like this
Posted by White Elephant
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2017 at 11:28 pm

The [portion removed] Paly teachers [portion removed] talked about how happy THEY were about their boss [portion removed] without considering students' safety, life long impact of bullying and harassment and the damage McGee, Diorio, Kim, Paulson, Wade, Laurence have brought on for students? Really? No reference was made to the Cozen report. Did any of the teachers read it? [Portion removed.]
Why was the meeting scheduled at a time that most parents are at work? Was there any consideration for automatic withdrawal of any unfavorable comment from Paly parents due to the presence of the teachers? These teachers will be writing letters of recommendation for the children's college admission. No Paly parent decided to speak when they saw the teachers lined up to do their jig for their boss.

The session was held about title IX investigation.
We have hired independent lawyers to investigate what regarding a sexual assault on campus. We spent half million dollars for this independent investigation by lawyers, which took 4 months. The result was a 68 page report that found the top 6 administration officials guilty of breaking both federal and state law and making sure no paper trail was left [portion removed.] McGee, Diorio, Kim, Paulson, Wade, Laurence, are all adults who can think and are in charge of the safety of our students, while they are in school, so they can learn. [Portion removed.] None of them had the resources to do a Google search to find out what they had to do? or pick up the phone and call OCR? They all had training at some point in their long careers in education. It doesn't take training to know what needs to be done in a situation like this. It takes being a responsible adult. It takes leadership. [Portion removed.]


21 people like this
Posted by A PALY Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 22, 2017 at 11:40 pm

@ resident of Greenmeadow,

We could have saved all these legal fees and time and efforts if the district office and the school admin had followed the law and our own education board policy!

We actually have pretty comprehensive education policy maintained by the board. However, due to neglect at district office and covered up of so many cases [portion removed] at PALY (and some cases at Gunn), US Department of Education started its formal investigation on our district and found PAUSD violates the Title IX laws repeatedly. We were forced to spend million of dollars on legal fee and also forced to hire certified law firm to investigate previous cases.

Why do we need to follow Title IX? 1. It IS a law. 2. It PROTECTS our children and district employees.

Also, the Cozen report also clarified the difference between a criminal investigation and a Title IX investigation:

"A criminal investigation and a Title IX investigation are two distinct processes, each with its own set of procedural protections and legal standards.18 The purpose of a criminal investigation is to determine whether an individual violated a law, and if so, the individual may be imprisoned or subject to other criminal penalties.19 In contrast, Title IX investigations have different procedural protections and legal standards.20 Under Title IX, institutions are required to respond to all complaints of Title IX-related conduct.21 The Title IX obligation to resolve all complaints promptly and equitably and to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students is not discretionary."

You can see the whole report here: Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Law Dirm Sanctions List
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 23, 2017 at 12:36 am

@ A Paly Mom - do you have details about the Depr of Justice (DOJ) sanctions of law firms used by PAUSD? What is the list called? Where can it be found? Is there a record of MR. Collins actions?


17 people like this
Posted by Truth and Reconciliation
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2017 at 2:13 am

“Staff members instead communicated about this case via text message and kept personal handwritten notes or notes on their iPhones, the lawyers said.”

Parents, board, community members: are you aware that those messages are legally considered part of children’s educational records and can be obtained under records request laws if
a) the district could be made to begin following rather than overtly avoiding those laws, and
b) the district could be made to honor the standard for what constitutes sole possession of notes and not sick their lawyers on parents to avoid doing their duty.

Extra points to the Title IX lawyers if you find the instances of the district sending out legalistic letters denying they have to provide notes that clearly do not meet the criteria for sole possession of notes, even when they were reminded of the criteria and had no defense.

Staff members who make notes and other personal records may only retain “sole possession” of them if:
1) the notes are only used as a memory aid,
2) the notes are not accessible to or shared in any verbal or written form
3) the notes were created only by the individual possessing the record
4) the notes include only observations and professional opinions

Parents have a right to ALL educational records, i.e., they have an absolute right to notes, that do not meet those very strict criteria, ESPECIALLY IF THE STAFF KEPT PERSONAL NOTES TO AVOID KEEPING OFFICIAL WRITTEN RECORDS. If the board were to demand the staff hand over all of the notes to any parent with a right to receive them (considered their children’s educational record), this investigation might get a little closer to the corrupted culture and who is responsible for it.

The article never said who was responsible for this practice of not putting things in writing. It's just the tip of the iceberg, though. of a culture with no accountability for the truth, ethics, the law, and upstanding. When administrators didn't want to follow procedures, didn't like a parent or otherwise did not want to be held to account for their behavior, they could simply make up something to the teachers behind the parents backs. The parents and child(ren) get held at arms' length and can never fix it, it's school district business conducted as secret whisper campaigns. Because the admins and teachers work together and like each other, teachers never question and certainly never stand up for families they've been told who knows what about.

I know of at least three other areas as serious as Title IX where the proverbial $hit has yet to hit the fan, in which bad things happened, children's civil rights have been violated, all of the above things happened (like coverups, lying, failing violated children, retaliations, damaged families leaving the district, etc). It will be deja vu again and never be possible to fix this until there is some kind of truth and reconciliation, in which there is an overt effort to find the truth and make things right by those who were hurt. Because as long as people still working here in the district have done unethical and illegal things and engaged in coverups, they will continue to enlist others to behave the same in order to continue the CYA. The culture can never change to one of openness and honesty until openness and honesty are used to shed light on what has really been happening to end it once and for all. The wound will only continue to fester as long as people think covering it up rather than cleaning and treating it will work if they just do it enough.

It really is immaterial whether anyone is fired as long as there is no real truth and reconciliation.



49 people like this
Posted by Truth and Reconciliation
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2017 at 2:26 am

PS I don't like to see otherwise good people fired but maybe it is time that there are consequences to otherwise "good" people for failing to do the right thing in the face of this corrupt district culture, consequences others can see as they weigh whether they will be rewarded for going along with it. Some of the worst tragedies in human history came about because any number of ordinary people simply weren't willing to see they could be contributing to it through their failure to get beyond themselves.

"The essence of tragedy is not the doing of evil by evil men, but the doing of evil by good men, out of weakness, indecision, sloth, the inability to act in accordance with what they know to be right." - IF Stone


53 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2017 at 7:18 am

[Post removed.]


41 people like this
Posted by Concerned-parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 23, 2017 at 8:37 am

Seems like a lot of parents were unable to speak, since the teachers who teach their kids are in the audience.
If they speak, what guarantee is there that their kid wont be treated unfairly by the teachers in the audience??

It is blackmail and a bad way to silence one side.
The parents are practically helpless. The teachers don't face any consequence.


34 people like this
Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 23, 2017 at 8:52 am

I'm appalled that Paly teachers shifted the focus on remediation of PAUSD failures to a principal's popularity show. The fact is that Title IX shortcomings have been a public issue since 2012-3, and Paly has been unable to change under Diorio's "leadership". It's irrelevant whether she's "nice" or "good" when she can't do her job--being utterly ineffectual at following basic legally-required tasks, like Title IX documentation, or ensuring instructional hours for accreditation are met. (Don't get me started about "flex" time.) This isn't ranting or passing uninformed judgment.

PAUSD has a problem of institutional failure and disregard for student welfare. It doesn't matter how many reports are commissioned. Oh, the administrators will feign empathetic responses, but there will be no consequences for incompetent "leaders" and nothing will change. They will, however, shift responsibility to "everyone" else: namely, students and parents, in the spirit of "community" and being "all in this together."

The ironic part is that my teenager informed me PAUSD administration was rated A+. It's all very, very sad.


4 people like this
Posted by Reflections on transparency at Paly
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 23, 2017 at 9:41 am

Noga Hurwitz and her fellow Paly Verde reporters did excellent reporting last Spring on Kim Diorio's thoughts about transparency.

This was published BEFORE news of the October 2016 case Cozen investigated became public. Cozen's just-released report says its investigation found "significant" "systemic" transparency problems at Paly throughout the 2016-17 school year, including [portion removed] training staff NOT to be transparent, a practice which it discovered was discussed openly and repeatedly in [portion removed] principal and cabinet meetings.

Verde, April 2017:

Reporting that OCR had criticized Principal Diorio for her "lack of transparency" when she "improperly withheld three years of allegations against Winston," the student reporters shared her inner conflict at the time: "on one hand, Diorio was concerned for women and girls on campus, and wanted to confront the hostile environment. On the other hand, she feared retaliation."

But now, "in a school with a history of leaving the suffering in silence, Diorio says she is striving to guide Paly into a new age of transparency and efficacy."

McGee commended Diorio "for setting clear guidelines as to what actions are and are not appropriate. ‘There’s a saying that …you deserve what you tolerate,” McGee says. ... I think she [Diorio] has made it very clear [which] actions by students and adults just aren’t going to be tolerated….”

Verde, “Diorio’s Dilemma/Case 09-13-5901: OCR Report Heralds New Era on Campus.” Web Link


13 people like this
Posted by too little, too late
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 23, 2017 at 10:02 am

"THE COZEN REPORT IS THE FORMAL LEGAL INVESTIGATION."

Oh, the irony. You really are naive if you believe that! The cozen report is the boards attempt at apportioning blame making sure that none comes back on them. That's it. Nothing more and nothing less. The board knew about the sexual incidence at Paly last November but none of that made it into cozen's report. The board didn't ask then whether there was a UCP offered or Title IX investigation started.
This board is such a failure. They're bystanders watching when they should be leading. This is exactly the same as their avoiding any responsibility for the $6million budget fiasco.

Now they're trying to asage their guilt by firing a Superintendent that is about to resign.
Sorry, the board is staffed with bystanders and, unfortunately, posts like yours indicate that you can't even see it and will continue to vote for them. With attitudes like that, nothing will change.


23 people like this
Posted by Re: too little, too late
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 23, 2017 at 10:18 am

Please. While the board could and should do more, Max and Dorio have failed to provide a safe environment for our children. That is why Max and Dorio need to be fired.


4 people like this
Posted by Law Firm Sanctions
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 23, 2017 at 10:44 am

The sanctions on Lozano were actually exposed 2-3 years ago on these pages. At the time, but FFF (special ed firm) and Lozano (general firm) were retained. The district has since separated from both.

Here are links to previous PA Online posts with more detail:

Link to PAonline 6/27/15 post by Vendor Practices: Web Link

Link to PAonline 6/6/15 post by Ebbie: (more detail, backup links): Web Link


9 people like this
Posted by Board Watcher
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 23, 2017 at 11:37 am

@too little, too late - it's a fair question what the board's responsibility is.

My view is that it is unrealistic to expect a board made up of part-time community volunteers to police a staff this size at the level of detail you suggest (follow up on notice dates on contracts or handling of individual incidents). They don't have the time, they don't have the info (they only know what the Super and the staff tell them). That's why they hire full-time, highly paid professionals to run the district. There aren't enough hours in the day to check on their work.

The board IS responsible for setting the district priorities, hiring and if need firing the Superintendent, and following up to make sure that direction is followed. I would say they've done a mediocre job - they have WAY WAY too many priorities and very limited follow up (hence much that is promised does not happen). And now we'll see if they can handle the accountability piece.

I do agree that the Board needs to understand its job and up its game. They shouldn't escape blame here.


5 people like this
Posted by Glad to be out of Paly
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 23, 2017 at 11:47 am

[Post removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 23, 2017 at 11:50 am

The job of the board is to oversee the district. If they can't or won't do that, they need to go.

They don't need to oversee everything but even asking "hey, how did that renegotiation go?" or, as suggested above, "Wow, a sexual incident at Paly, was there a UCP or Title IX investigation and if not why not?" Seems to be beyond this board.

If the board members had any integrity they'd resign instead of trying to find a scapegoat and forcing the district to go through the expense of a recall. They're ultimately responsible and have repeatedly failed in practicing the smallest amount of oversight.


118 people like this
Posted by Kelli Hagen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 23, 2017 at 12:34 pm

Kelli Hagen is a registered user.

I spoke at the board meeting in support for our Paly leadership. After reading some of the comments, I recognize that my words did not reflect my exact intent and I feel the need to write and be very clear about my position. I am a teacher, live in the community, have in the district and have a many friends amongst the parents. My perspective is #1 as a parent, because the health and well being of my kids trumps my job any day.

As I said, in my less than perfectly worded statement, I support our administration because I know that all of the work they do is for the well being of our students. “What is best for our kids,” drives every conversation at Paly.

Contrary to what has been suggested, I have read the investigation report and am embarrassed to say that I did not mention the Complaintant in the few words that I spoke at the board meeting. She is at the heart of all of my independent decisions around how I feel about the report, how I feel it was handled and how I want to respond. I keep thinking, “I have a 15 year old daughter, is she safe?” I would not stand by an administration that did not have the well being of my children in mind.

In hindsight, I wish I would have said that all of my words and decisions about the report keep the Complaintant at the forefront and that I am deeply saddened that anyone/ any family would ever have to go through such an experience. I honestly feel that our administration consistently moves toward making improvements to the system to keep our kids safe and that my words of support for our administration is not at odds with my support for the Complaintant.

Are there gaps in our system? Certainly. Do we still have much work to do? Of course. Were mistakes made? From the report I gathered that although our team tried very hard to do the right thing and report the incidents quickly and appropriately, but they dropped the ball on both proper documentation and informing the Complaintant and her family of her Title IX UCP rights. This is serious and we need to make sure that it does not happen again. Regardless of whether or not the administration received poor advice from their lawyers, this certainly needs to be fixed. There is no doubt in my mind that once these mistakes were brought to light, as they were in the report, our team is both capable and willing to make steps toward correcting them. I think this is evident in the Title IX training that came after these incidents occurred.

I want my support of our administration team to voice of support for the Complaintant and the family involved. I should have stood up and said, “you are at the center of decisions regarding the entire situation and we want to move in the right direction.” I know I speak for so many teachers who feel the same as all of our discussions always start with our concerns for the girl. The comments regarding how the streaking culture has changed significantly at Paly are trying to capture a much larger picture of how the larger culture as a whole continues to improve. This team is doing it. We are making positive movement, please let it continue.

My hopes are that we can learn from this and heal. My support for our administration remains unwavering as I am clear that their decisions keep “what is best for our kids” first.


13 people like this
Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2017 at 10:06 am

resident3 is a registered user.

My recollection of the streaking situation is that teachers had complained to Diorio and while I am not saying streaking is ok, Diorio and you all came down hard on the students.

You had a self interest in ending streaking, the adults were offended by it. Also some students, but I recall the big issue were fed up adults.

It's just not possible that *everything* you do and say is supposed to be assumed to be about the students and therefore when you choose to prioritize speaking to defend your administrator, that it's really not about defending the administrator.

In my view, while the district should have been in charge of all the documentation, it's the school site and leadership that is in charge. It was mentioned there was no training about Title IX? Isn't Title IX like a national issue, in the press and probably mentioned among all educational leaders?


17 people like this
Posted by whadausay
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 25, 2017 at 10:25 am

whadausay is a registered user.

@Mother of the Victim, so sorry that you had to live through this and thank you for your daughter's bravery for speaking up. If I were you, now that there is a formal and comprehensive report stating the failures to act by individuals and administration, I would file a civil lawsuit against each of them for the psychological damages and turmoil they have caused your daughter and your family. Until then, each and every one of them will not own up to their mistakes and blame it on "lacking of training". It is so condescending.

@cherry picking, I am annoyed by your comments like the "...the staff has to run a 2K students school...the error is all on the Title IX Coordinator..." First of, a 2K student body in a public high school is not abnormally large. I attended a public high school with over 4K students in NYC. Staff there was overworked, underpaid and not perfect but there were no controversies like this. Here in PAUSD, administrators and teachers are paid quite well. Let's not forget that they are paid well because PA parents pay heftily in taxes. Regardless, when one commits herself/himself to education, you essentially are committing yourself to "educate" the students. Their responsibilities are to teach and lift up each student to his/her full potential. It is every individual's job to create a safe learning environment for every student and does not fall on one or two particular individuals with the right titles. Please, do not pick at the Title Coordinator and try to use him/her as the scapegoat of this whole mess. More people have to be held accountable or nothing will ever change. Come on, accountability is something we even teach pre-schoolers. Simply moving on is no better than "sweeping the whole thing under the rug".


7 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 25, 2017 at 5:35 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

My parent, which was the Assistant Administrator in the SJUSD, WHO HANDLED THESE TYPE OF CASES AS PART OF THE JOB, NEVER LET THINGS GET SO BAD AS TO REQUIRE A TITLE IX OR AN OCR INVESTIGATION IN THE FIRST PLACE!
Yes, there is the required documentation; it looks like there was a coverup, All people involved MUST LOSE THEIR JOBS to restore the damage they created. Right now, you have a toxic environment that no smart superintendent of a district will touch, even my parent has said " no no NO, NO! " to such a job offer. be assured that all involved in this toxic behavior must be fired before changes must be made.


26 people like this
Posted by Lack of Truth
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 25, 2017 at 7:27 pm

Lack of Truth is a registered user.

That Palo Alto Unified School District Special Education employees lie is very well known to parents of disabled children in Palo Alto.

It would be difficult to find any Palo Alto Special Education employee who has not somehow misrepresented facts, even among the best and most ethical of them.

I doubt you will find it any different in any other school district.

Misrepresentation may take many forms - via witholding information from parents, telling parents documentation of incidents is not required, not recording bullying, dangerous behaviors, running away from school and suicide threats or attempts. It could be telling parents "it didn't happen on campus, so it doesn't count".

It may be portraying a child as "cured" from a lifelong developmental disability, something this district has done even in court.

It may be telling a court the employee "lost" documents, blaming parents or government employees of altering documents when in fact the District did that.

It could be pretending the District is not in possession of documents by withholding them.

It could be intentional delays, writing, "Here is 1 page of the 30 pages you requested. Write another request if you want the other 29 you previously requested in writing. " Then playing that game for as long possible.

It could be failing to answer a question or provide a document in writing, even when requested in writing following all legal requirements for the request, but instead sending 5 non-responsive documents that do not answer the question or provide the document. Then, fooling the Board of Education and Superintendent by saying, "5 documents were sent. We have sent so much paper to that silly (fill in blank - newspaper editor, attorney, parent)," never telling the Board or Superintendent they withheld the documents.

It could be only being willing to talk to a parent on the phone, refusing to respond in e-mail or in writing, so there can be no record. Then, it is important to pretend you just "care about the child so much," and that was the only reason you suddenly called when you found out you were in trouble.

It could be false notes in IEP documents, which you control. It could be writing a document "is ready for your signature", when you haven't prepared it, hoping to create a paper trail to make it looked like the parent delayed.

It could be writing in and IEP document, "all parent concerns were adequately addressed in the IEP meeting," when you know they weren't. It could be changing the topic, interrupting the parent, talking over them, having all your paid employees talk at once, all in an attempt to make sure the parent's concerns cannot be addressed.

It could be writing in an IEP, "the changes you requested were made," when they weren't.

It could be compiling a file for an attorney, Superintendent, or Board of Education to review omitting key documents, e-mails, school reports, and crucial information that show a child was in danger or endangered students, staff, and faculty. This is important, because employees know policy and decision makers will only get information from you, so you can paint it any way you want, and you will look good.

It could be intentionally portraying calm families as over-emotional, telling the Board and Superintendent families of the disabled are just overwrought and want something for free, omitting key information from records showing the opposite. After all, once caught, you will simply ask the school district's Special Education attorney, whom you control, to "Settle" with the family and put a clause in contracts if they ask for documentation or report employee ethical violations to credential boards or government agencies, their child's protection will be removed and the district will force the family to hire expensive lawyers. It won't matter anyway, because you will have already convinced the Superintendent and Board are families are too emotional. You as an employee also know the Board and Sup. will not look at the documentation the parents provide, and make them wait weeks or months to meet with them, if ever.

It could be telling families questions can only be answered in IEP meetings, then refusing to answer them in IEP meetings.

Conversely, it could be telling families meetings must be "informal" and NOT IEP meetings, so the district is not required to record the meeting and the child has no legal rights.

It could be playing dumb, pretending you don't know what a license or certification is, pretending you are an expert even in court when you are not, withholding crucial doctor names and that employees who testify are related.

It could be pretending an employee has a certification or license by being vague or talking over the question, or just never answering the question.

It could be misleading or witholding information in an IEP document, verbally promising a method or certification would be used, but omitting that language from the IEP so it is not enforceable.

All Palo Alto Unified Special Education employees engage in some form of the above. It is done by PAUSD employees both old and the new, from case managers, speech language therapists and occupational therapists, principals, to the current Special Education Co-Directors and the current Assistant Superintendent.


4 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 26, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Truth and Reconciliation

"It will be deja vu again and never be possible to fix this until there is some kind of truth and reconciliation, in which there is an overt effort to find the truth and make things right by those who were hurt."..."It really is immaterial whether anyone is fired as long as there is no real truth and reconciliation."

I agree with the main thrust of your argument. These concerns predated the arrival of Supt. McGee and will continue after he's gone unless addressed. Tonight the board will be considering the posts of Title IX coordinator and special education coordinator. What would assure that the people in those posts are successful in changing the culture of the district?



4 people like this
Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 26, 2017 at 5:50 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

@Lack of Truth: THANK YOU for your post. My family has lived through each and every unethical action you describe.

I have a few more to add, as well:

1. Withholding assessment results when those assessment results support findings of eligibility and/or need for services.

2. MisstatIng assessment results at IEP meetings, and continuing to restate the misstated assessment results even when provided with the actual assessments in writing, and even when the licensed professionals who conducted the assessments appear at meetings and ask in writing that the reports be corrected.

3. Conspire with each other in writing on strategies to withhold services to students who need them. Deny having done so even when shown the emails that they themselves wrote to each other.

4. Deny saying something that they actually put in writing. E.g. refuse to engage in mediation without attorneys, put such refusal in writing, then later deny that they said what their emails clearly show that they said.

5. Cite irrelevant case law in emails obviously written by outside litigation law firms, to support their arguments that they do not have an obligation to follow the law. Continue to insist that their interpretation of the law is correct, even when they are not attorneys and even when the interpretation they insist upon is 100% incorrect, as well as -- even more frustratingly -- usually defies both common sense and human decency.

6. Create false records of observations and interviews with students. When students themselves attempt to correct the record, ignore the students and insist that the students think and said what the students clearly are saying they neither think nor said.

7. Criticize parents for trying to speak for the students, claiming that they know the students better than the parents do (which almost NEVER is the case).

8. Blame a child's disability on bad parenting, usually by the mother.

9. State that the mother and father are out of sync with each other despite numerous oral and written comments by both parents that they are entirely aligned.

10. View all requests as hostile even when the requests are reasonable, cost-free and are extremely likely to benefit other children in addition to the requester.

Just thinking out loud.

Thank you again for posting!


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

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