News

School district considers 'civility' policy

Parent questions whether proposal would curb free speech

Emails from parents at all hours of the night, administrators yelling at teachers in meetings, parents showing up unannounced to classrooms — the president of the Palo Alto teachers' union hopes that a new civility policy she has proposed will help address these and other issues in the school district.

At the school board's policy-review committee meeting Wednesday morning, Palo Alto Educators Association President Teri Baldwin said she hopes a policy would minimize inappropriate conduct among teachers, administrators and parents.

"We do have teachers who have complained that they're getting emailed constantly by some parents at all hours of the night, sometimes very harshly, (and) teachers being yelled at in meetings and administrators not stopping the meeting," Baldwin said. "It gets a bit hard to do your job when you're ... getting verbally abused sometimes."

When asked by the Weekly, Baldwin said she does not know how frequently these kinds of incidences occur. She estimated she was made aware of about eight "extreme" cases in the last two years.

Baldwin first raised the issue with the policy-review committee in March. The California School Board Association, whose many sample policies the school district frequently draws from, does not have a civility policy, but some school districts have created their own.

The Los Altos School District's civility policy, adopted in 2007, seeks to promote "mutual respect, civility and orderly conduct among district employees, parents and the public.

"This policy is not intended to deprive any person of his/her right to freedom of expression but only to maintain, to the extent possible and reasonable, a safe, harassment-free workplace for our students and staff," the Los Altos policy states. "In the interest of presenting district employees as positive role models to the children of this district, as well as the community, the Los Altos School District encourages positive communication and discourages volatile, hostile or aggressive actions. The district seeks public cooperation with this endeavor."

The policy states the obvious about inappropriate conduct — that individuals who disrupt school or office operations, threaten the safety of students or staff in some way, use loud and/or offensive language or repeatedly enter a campus without authorization will be asked to leave school property.

But it goes further, also applying to any individual who "harasses staff with frequent and abusive emails" or "speaks in a demanding, loud, insulting and/or demeaning manner." Behaviors defined as "unacceptable" include "rude, insulting or demeaning language and/or actions," "persistently unreasonable demands" and "displays of temper," among others.

The Los Altos policy also includes a "civility incident report" form for staff to file in these situations.

Stephen Schmidt, the Palo Alto Unified committee's parent representative, questioned the subjectivity of this language and its implications for parental free speech.

"If I'm a parent and I'm not getting what I want, of course I'm going to be demanding, but that doesn't mean that I'm wrong to be demanding," he said.

At the March meeting, Schmidt said the policy amounted to "legislating good behavior."

Los Altos School District Superintendent Jeffrey Baier said staff there use the policy "infrequently." He did not know what drove its adoption.

"Civility policies are usually put in place to ensure that there's appropriate discourse between everybody ... to keep our focus on the fact that we're here to educate children and model appropriate behavior for them," he told the Weekly.

Palo Alto Unified found the Santa Barbara and Laguna Beach school districts as well as a district in Virginia have adopted similar policies.

Several other California school districts including Capistrano, Irvine, Fresno, Palmdale, Culver City and Newport Beach also have civility policies. Many of them state that "staff will treat parents and other members of the public with respect and will expect the same in return."

The Laguna Beach Unified School District policy, which was adopted in 2000, states, "It is paramount that district employees be able to serve all students equitably, without undue time demands that detract from their focus on student learning." It notes that the policy applies to personal and electronic interactions, social media and telephone calls.

Lana Conaway, Palo Alto Unified's new assistant superintendent of strategic initiatives and operations, said Wednesday that a policy will help staff responding to uncivil incidents, though she noted that California Penal Code and Education Code already regulates campus disruptions, threats and safety.

"I think we need to have teeth, and a policy is the only thing that's going to give us the real teeth that we need to address this proactively," Conaway said.

Existing district policy on professional standards does cover district employees' behavior but does not extend to parents or community members or to communication from them, she said.

Board President Terry Godfrey, who chairs the policy committee, said she would prefer to rely on existing policy and law rather than "create a whole new system."

"I just don't think staff necessarily feel supported by policy," Conaway responded.

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Comments

66 people like this
Posted by Unbelievable
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2017 at 7:54 am

So we are dealing with a district system with problems like sexual assault, sexual harassment (including by teachers), to name the most egregious. And so the response is a proposed policy to shut down parents from communicating as adults, and letting teachers decide their tone is inappropriate. This is like the catch-all referral for students of "defiance". Parents have so little power in terms of advocating for their kids, we cannot have this where the staff can just shut off communications with parents they don't like. So staff will be protected by their union, their position, and parental fear of retaliation. Parents will be stripped of their ability to advocate for their kids because the staff will now have a subjective tool to shut them down under the guise of the manners-police.

NO WAY. THIS IS SCARY AND ORWELLIAN. THIS IS A PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT. PAEA: YOU JUST GOT YOUR RAISES, GET BACK TO WORK. THIS SHOWS WHAT YOU THINK OF US PARENTS. THANKS FOR CLARIFYING!


38 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2017 at 8:03 am

This uncivil attitude is everywhere. From the tone of comments of politicians and other celebrities towards those with whom they disagree, to various political rallies and even opposing sports fans, civility is sadly disappearing in our modern society. To blame it on the internet or even anonymous online forums is not enough, manners are no longer considered important and people have lost the ability to disagree with politeness and civility.

I do not need to agree with everyone, but I do have to listen to them and treat them with respect and their opinions as valid. If we all did more of this and stopped using the F word and calling others names, we might teach the next generation that civility is a life lesson that will stand them in good stead for their futures.


98 people like this
Posted by SR
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 20, 2017 at 8:57 am

"E-mails from parents at all hours of the night" how is that a problem. Its not a phone call to you home phone that is going to wake u up at 3AM. If a parent has time to send an email at 3AM so be it. E-mails are read at a later time not when sent.


40 people like this
Posted by Clean up first
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 20, 2017 at 10:56 am

Something this subjective has no place on a district with the kind of untrustworthy coverup culture and favoritism, and persistent avoidance of procedures and laws intended to protect families. Having been on the receiving end of bullying by staff resulting basically from false gossip from a district administrator with a vendetta, I find this proposal chilling, aggressive, and evidence that my hopes of our turning over a new leaf here are utterly for naught. I am guessing that any incident this is based on has never been looked at from both sides, with an impartial arbiter. Our district has already suffered too much from people who are good at smiling and controlling their emotions while scheming and twisting the knife in some parents' or vulnerable students' back. This sort of thing will only ensure there are other scandals. Instead, we should have an ombudsperson to take complaints, who does not work for the district and does not answer to them, and who has the power to help resolve problems. Right now there is already not enough recourse for those who are wronged. The poster above is right, this is Orwellian. This is a public school district; after what we have endured, we need efforts to encourage openness, hear complaints and concerns , even if it is emotional, not crush those who are already upset by a lack of recourse against injustice.


45 people like this
Posted by Clean up first
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 20, 2017 at 11:00 am

"SR,
Exactly. And since when have employees in this district had trouble ignoring emails from parents?


36 people like this
Posted by More than one school
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 20, 2017 at 11:32 am

I am not an advocate of having heated, uncivil meetings with teachers/administrators, etc. However, I can't help but be disgusted that this "civility" policy is being considered.

In some or many instances, the teachers/administration/district aren't holding up their end of the bargain with EXISTING policies (sexual harassment policy, expulsion policy, special ed policy, homework policy, etc.). In many cases, parents are getting heated due to the frustration we face when we are trying to advocate for our child(ren). Although that's no reason to be rude, I can see it happening.

What about the policy of having a safe environment for your child? What about the policy of Title IX? What about the policy of having your teacher available during FLEX?...

So to have a "civility" policy and a quote like "I just don't think staff necessarily feel supported by policy," by Conaway is ridiculous.

How about having the kids feeling supported too (Title IX anyone?)?



13 people like this
Posted by Policy
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 20, 2017 at 11:37 am

Policy is a registered user.

The City of Palo Alto tried to institute this policy, and became the laughing stock of the nation.


41 people like this
Posted by Hugo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2017 at 11:50 am

Why does it matter what time an email is sent? Is it just me or is that the kind of complaint that comes from a crazy person? If I mailed a letter to the school would they care what time I wrote it? If I sent a note to school with my child would it matter if I wrote it in the middle of the night?


24 people like this
Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 20, 2017 at 11:57 am

Dear unbelievable,
Well done,your use of caps in your last line just exemplifies what this whole issue is about.
Civility.


32 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2017 at 11:59 am

38 year resident is a registered user.

Resident has it exactly right. The lack of civility we see today is everywhere. In my opinion, much of this is fueled by the attitudes of the "entitlement generation," who demand that everything be done for them without question and on their timetable. I've seen it in restaurants, health care facilities, retail stores, etc.

It's a shame that we have lost our civility on so many levels. Too bad we just can't push a reset button.


17 people like this
Posted by "Real Teeth"
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 20, 2017 at 12:04 pm

There are board policies that address staff and student misbehavior so this is just about how to handle pesky, annoying parents.

Ms. Conway's call for "real teeth" means that teachers, with administrators' blessing, want something meatier than talking it out. What exactly? A fine payable to the annoyed teacher? A muzzle order forbidding the parent from speaking? Expelling the parent and child?

Before exacting any punishment, PAUSD will need to launch a fair review process which means, to begin with, bringing in an independent investigator to figure out what happened because an already unhappy parent will likely have a very different view of what happened than the teacher.

Instead of making life easier, things could get much worse if the parent counters with a formal complaint against the teacher requiring a discipline hearing, possible reprimand, etc.

This "punish" parents approach makes no sense, consumes time, focus, and emotional bandwidth for everyone, will take away from student learning and support, and is the worst model for kids watching adults for tips on how to work with, or at least tolerate, people who annoy you.






26 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 20, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Sadly, there are very rude parents who've shown up in classrooms to challenge grades their kids got on homework. One PAHS teacher told a father that she wouldn't discuss anything with him during class & got "Do you know who I am? I'm managing partner of _________." He may be a big boss but he's still a jerk to interrupt a class & give such a display of arrogance & entitlement. Nothing like setting a fine example for the nest generation.
I agree that sending emails doesn't disturb the recipient but phone calls to a teacher's home are disruptive. Whether you like them or not, teachers should be entitled to uninterrupted evenings & dinner with their families. They'll still end up working late correcting assignments or developing lesson plans, but phone calls should go to school, not home.


23 people like this
Posted by More than one school
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 20, 2017 at 1:43 pm

@Downtowner:

You're right. Your example is an example of a bad parent. Interrupting class or calls to the home are totally uncalled for and inappropriate. There will be bad apples in the parent community, just like there are bad apples in the teacher/administration/district community.

If PAEA wants something with "teeth" to minimize bad apples in the parent community, what policy with "teeth" can parents implement or enact to minimize bad apples in the teacher/administration/district community?

Accountability and acknowlegement on ALL sides are necessary for civil resolution.


19 people like this
Posted by Clean up first
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 20, 2017 at 2:37 pm


If teachers are being yelled at by administrators, that's really concerning and is an employment protection problem that should be solved. A policy like this will not do that, so it comes across as a way to justify bullying parents with issues needing resolution.

I have witnessed and heard from many special ed parents who were treated to deliberately antagonistic measures that are commonly used by certain kinds of law firms to deliberately induce stress, such as sending long, inaccurate, inflammatory letters to families just before a holiday or long weekend, all the way up to suing the families pre-emptively. Since families perceive the district and teachers as basically one entity, and since it can take time for parents to appreciate that teachers here do not ever practice what they preach in regards to being upstanders, it's natural for parents who are mistreated at the district level to react seem upset to teachers. This measure will only compound the persecution of people who need recourse. The fact that it was recommended at all is a really bad sign that lessons have not been learned and the district is doubling down on the coverup culture. Horrible. I can think of a thousand ways the district is going to end up in another train wreck and even lawsuits with this.


5 people like this
Posted by Special Ed Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 20, 2017 at 4:15 pm

Special ed is a meaningful part of the problem. Many special ed parents feel a lot of pressure, and sometimes we pass it on to teachers and other service providers. In some cases the school staff contributes to the problem in various ways. It's a problem.

I'm not sure how a new policy will change that - if parents get to yelling at staff members, then the staff member should get their boss involved or just have a cooling off. "A policy with teeth" seems like the wrong direction to me - if it rises to the level of harassment or threat, we have ways to deal with that already.


28 people like this
Posted by Teacher in district
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 20, 2017 at 6:52 pm

"When asked by the weekly , Baldwin said she does not know how frequently these kinds of incidences occur. She estimated she was made aware of anout eight "extreme" cases in the last two years.

This is where my union dues go? Those eight "extreme" cases represent those once every four year Batcrazy parent we all know and love but guess what? They are in every sector of life grow a pair and get rid of the informal rules of outdated 36 hr respond times to emails, enforce teachers being in THEIR ROOMS when they are supposed to, and notify admin when a real egregious scenario occurs like when a parent is in your room without a visitors pass. EASY. So dramatic PAEA no wonder we look like idiots 24/7.


25 people like this
Posted by FailingTheCustomer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2017 at 7:34 pm

Not too shocking. Every organization that fails to meet customer expectations will try to legislate 'customer behavior '.

It's literally insulting.

How about spending time (1) meeting your teachers professional standards. And (2) delivering quality service to your customers.

Your customers who pay your salary.


7 people like this
Posted by not going anywhere
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 20, 2017 at 8:42 pm

The last time this came up, Dauber's response was:

Web Link

"I would hate to believe that our school district employees believe that it is an appropriate use of staff time to complain to Board members about members of the public. What legitimate Board policy concern could such communications possibly be relevant to?"


18 people like this
Posted by Clean up first
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 21, 2017 at 1:47 am

I can already think of an incident in which a parent wanted to wait quietly as long as necessary to read an emotional letter from a child in person to the principal, since email and phone calls are ignored, which related to the impact on that child of bullying by adults in the school. The purpose was for closure, but the response was eerily like that bullying case at Jordan in which the staff would not let the parent talk to the principal about the case, even as the principal was at the district office talking to the super about her case. It's as if they know they are harming children but don't want it on their conscience anymore than necessary, so they don't want to deal with the truth. In this case, the parent was forcibly escorted out, after staff, not the parent, ratcheted things up. Is a parent going to be allowed to call someone to forcibly remove a teacher or principal who bullies them or their child ? No. This is just a way to further humiliate people who need recourse.

It is a way to codify the bullying of parents. I have heard about the famous parents who demand grades but have never witnessed it. I have never witnessed an administrator yelling at a teacher either - at that level, they're usually too scheming for yelling anyway. I believe it happens, but what I have actually witnessed is many instances of district employees, including teachers, abusing their power, sometimes without realizing they were someone else's foil in a district employee retaliation.

We need more mechanisms for honesty and accountability. There will be far fewer upset parents, for one, and far fewer scandals that hit the fan. I think the board should look a little closer at how to educate or even let go of employees who do clearly wish to enshrine the coverup culture.


8 people like this
Posted by @PAFreePress
a resident of another community
on Oct 21, 2017 at 5:52 am

The city of Palo Alto had already placed a ban on unfavorable speech (Civility) and if you take a close look at the police auditors reports as well, you will find numerous complaints in this regard Web Link

What everyone has failed to recognize is that the First Amendment was not by design to protect favable speech. Favorable speech needs no protection...


4 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 21, 2017 at 6:44 am

@ Teacher in the district-

As a result of the architecture of the PA (& most CA) schools & resulting open-access classrooms, it's hard to enforce "Visitors must register with the office." That worked when schools were designed so that everyone had to enter through a main building entrance to reach classrooms. How do you suggest enforcing the requirement for a visitor pass?

How many classrooms even have phones? As far as I know, most don't. Teachers must use their own cell phones. Some PAHS classrooms have an "alarm button" that will eventually bring a custodian in a golf cart to the classroom, but there's no wired phone link between classrooms & the admin bldg.


6 people like this
Posted by Teacher in the distruct
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 21, 2017 at 7:08 am

@Downtowner-

We all have classroom phones. Everyone is on speedial.


17 people like this
Posted by definition of civility
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2017 at 8:18 am

Terry Baldwin and Ms. Conway,

Please clarify which you are recommending - civility or teeth. "Civility" is grounded in compassion and brings people together. "Teeth" means punishment and pushes people apart.

Please also explain why you responded to your recent unexpected $6 million raise with this call for a civility policy targeted at(and critical of) the parents who made that raise possible for you and your families. A simple "thank you" would have been appreciated, civil, and sufficed.


13 people like this
Posted by Unbelievable
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2017 at 8:23 am

@Roger, thanks so much for taking the bait and making my point. I used all caps, and now I am uncivil. Quick report me to the PA Online moderator. If I were a parent in PAUSD, quick report me to the principal and file an incivility report! What a joke.


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2017 at 8:30 am

Reading through these responses, it seems to me even more that we are indeed turning into an uncivil society.

Of course sending an email any time day or night is an acceptable method of communication. If you have an alert on your email app, then put on a do not disturb for the hours you do not wish to be alerted.

Politely dealing with any situation is much more likely to get the desired response in a polite way. If you start a discussion with a bad attitude you are likely to get that in return. Even if you don't like the reply, a polite reply to a polite question, makes much more of a civil conversation.

For all those who seem to think they are getting rude responses, ask yourself if you initial question was asked civilly.

Lastly, please make sure that your children do not see uncivil behavior from you. They are much more likely to copy the behavior than you think. Always send them the right message even if it is from the perspective of being treated improperly.


17 people like this
Posted by FailingTheCustomer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2017 at 9:45 am

Let's say a teacher who is abusing, or intimidating or bullying my kid. Why would that teacher expect civility?

The fact that we grant teachers civility in many cases where it is unearned is a testament to the patience this community has.

Eight cases of uncivil parents in two years? Across the whole district. That's nothing - the teaching staff yell at kids more times in 2 weeks.

Maybe the problem is in the professional misbehavior in the classrooms.


4 people like this
Posted by The teeth is the threat
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 21, 2017 at 11:04 am

Most of the Los Altos Elementary School District civility policy states the obvious and so can't be why this policy was put in place:

- Uncivil behavior should be resolved cooperatively.
- If the person causes property damage, disrupts school operations, etc. he or she will be asked to leave the premises.
- If a parent speaks "in a demanding, loud, insulting and/or demeaning manner," he or she will be asked to be civil and, if that doesn't work, asked to leave too.

It adds that the principal must tell "demanding" etc. parents escorted off campus that they will be guilty of a crime if they return.

LASD's attorneys likely forewarned the school board that this last part would not hold up under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution.

So where's the "teeth"?

In the threat and in LASD policy's one-sided incident reports submitted by staff against parents who are NOT aware that a dossier is being kept on them and NOT allowed to explain their side of what happened.

In contrast, when a parent lodges a complaint against a teacher LASD requires that the teacher be notified, an investigation be launched, and the matter be kept confidential. The teachers' union is there to help the teacher any way it can, including providing free legal representation.


17 people like this
Posted by What happened to you, PAEA?
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Oct 21, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Has PAEA been completely overtaken by the lowest-ability teachers? At least Triona Gogarty was mildly capable, even though she is partly to blame how we ended up here, talking about civility in terms that blame parents, instead of the real uncivil PAEA behavior towards parents, towards principals, and absolutely NOT towards policing the few teachers, I hope, who have attacked our children verbally and physically over the past few years. How much worse can this get? There is no way a majority of our teachers at Juana Briones or the district are this tone-deaf.


12 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto parent
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 21, 2017 at 1:54 pm

How about instead focusing on positive educative initiatives aimed at our whole community to increase our collective Social and Emotional Intelligence when dealing with difficult situations? A perfect example below:

"Social Emotional Learning Journey towards Unity:
Wed, Oct 25, 6:30-8 PM, Palo Alto High School Media Arts Center
Thurs, Oct 26, 8:45-9:45 AM, Gunn High School Library
You're invited to hear from special guest R. Keeth Matheny, a nationally recognized Social Emotional Learning (SEL) teacher, advocate and author. He will lead participants through a selection of lessons from the School Connect program being piloted at Paly and Gunn. Participants will engage in activities focused on building the SEL soft skills of active listening, disagreeing without being disagreeable, and building understanding and empathy for others.

Open to PAUSD families from all grades and schools, and all Palo Alto Community Members. Mandarin and Spanish interpretation, and childcare will be available for both sessions. Co-hosted by PAUSD, Palo Alto Council of PTAs and the Palo Alto CAC.

Register at GOO.GL/P9XPGC (Wed PM w/panel discussion) or GOO.GL/P4VBCN (Thurs AM)"


19 people like this
Posted by Rehire all teachers every year based on performance
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 21, 2017 at 6:05 pm

This better idea has been tried in other parts of the country. I do think we will probably get to that point soon.

If you are not qualified for the job, a pink slip will be served in May.

Web Link
Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by West Valley
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 21, 2017 at 7:59 pm

@ Rehire - I read your articles about West Valley sacking their entire staff, and rehiring; as I was very skeptical that would end well.

I turns out that it did end well - apparently the new staff have much more motivation to work with the community.

Web Link

Let the unhappy people go...


25 people like this
Posted by Grateful PA Tax Payer
a resident of Addison School
on Oct 21, 2017 at 8:20 pm

We live in one of the top school districts in the entire USA, and there are too many entitled parents here who constantly complain about petty things. Oh, the teachers got a raise and you object? Have you seen how expensive it is to live within an hour’s commute of this city? Keep on treating the teachers of this community with contempt and see if they stick around to educate our pampered, privileged children! The overwhelming number of negative parents in this district is the reason the teachers feel like they need a civility policy - you are only proving their point. My customers pay my salary as well, but that doesn’t mean they get to abuse me.


34 people like this
Posted by call me crazy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 21, 2017 at 8:54 pm

Parents must above all listen to their kids. We are their best advocate and if that means getting kicked off school grounds for sending an email to a teacher in the middle of the night, I say bring it on, but no way it should be a reason to not speak up for your kid.

Everyone knows which teachers are the problem teachers. When these fixtures cause repeated issues for students, it's not an "entitlement" issue.

Civility police could work if data was collected on the problem teachers and something done about their issues. Otherwise, just calling parents crazy or students a problem is unfair.


24 people like this
Posted by Verging on Rediculous
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 22, 2017 at 9:45 pm

What does it matter what time the email is sent?
People travel and work... if a parent is in Asia on a work trip, must they try to time their emails so it lands in the teacher's inbox in the middle of the day?

PAUSD sends out emails late at night, notices and bulletins .... is that ok for PAUSD to do so?

PAUSD Teachers send out emails in the evenings, or early mornings, or odd hours... is that too also ok?

No one in this world would send out an email to a teacher at 9pm or 10pm, expecting the teacher to respond at 9 pm or 10pm (when email is sent).

I can understand a policy saying, "no shouting or raising voices" or "no abusive language".. .but the timing of an email? This shows how utterly ridiculous the policy is.


9 people like this
Posted by Clean up first
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 23, 2017 at 10:38 am

The most ridiculous is the part where it's okay to forcibly remove parents or shun them in communications based on a subjective judgment that they are "uncivil".

Wronged and bullied people can get upset. Those who are committing the wrongs against them should not have license to bully and ignore. That's what this is. It already happens, the district should not codify it. If they do, I hope parents will complain to the OCR or even sue.

We need ways to encourage the solving of problems, not more digging in on the coverup/retaliation culture at the district office. In the wake of McGee's
departure, this is downright depressing. This is a public school district. If you want the right to exclude and bully people because you don't like the way they handle the stress you dish out, go work for a country club and get out of education.


8 people like this
Posted by Much Ado About Nothing
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 23, 2017 at 3:22 pm

As usual, a tempest in a tea pot. I see positive potential here. It could be a statement about values valid for all stakeholders--both student, parent. teacher, and admin--that we stand for treating others (ALL others: students, parents, teachers, staff) with respect. Sounds good to me. Expecting civility from parents doesn't mean we can't also expect it from teachers--it isn't a zero sum game. And heads up for those of you who are so stressed that you can't control yourself enough not to walk in on a classroom in session: It's a misdemeanor to interfere with or disrupt the learning environment. Maybe PAEA should just recommend teachers file a police report the next time a parent walks into their classroom unannounced while class is in session since the suggestion of a civility policy has everyone clutching their proverbial pearls.


11 people like this
Posted by Clean up first
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 23, 2017 at 5:07 pm

@Nothing,
If something is against policy or against the law, it is already provided for. Your post is insulting to those who have been on the receiving end of the various scandals, and threatening to those who have been bullied by teaching or admin staff already with little recourse.

When someone with a special needs child has been on the receiving end of deliberate legal tactics intended to induce stress, such as a lawsuit filed pre-emptively to intimidate families who can't afford the legal fees, the last thing appropriate here is a bludgeon to subjectively harass families further in ordinary interactions. We already suffer far too much favoritism for a PUBLIC SCHOOL district, and far too little accountability.

Principals can and do already ignore emails and calls when a child is bullied or even in danger, if the admins have some reason to avoid dealing with it, as has happened in high profile situations. Giving the admins the right to physically remove parents who say they will wait quietly to see the principal (as I have seen happen), or who are upset by their child being endangered (yet again, happens) is a recipe for denying some children their state constitutional right to an education.

A suggestion that we all be civil, fine. But giving people in charge subjective rights to intimidate and remove families from public facilities is too rife for abuse. We shouldn't even contemplate it until our district has done the soul searching into the serious lapses in procedures that have been a part of the kind of untrustworthy and damaging behaviors of recent years. There is no reciprocal ability for a parent to remove a teacher who is rude. This is just license for subjective bullying, which is serious business deserving not to be treated so dismissively.


5 people like this
Posted by saf
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 24, 2017 at 12:36 pm

People that are hurt or need help are probably not going to be nice


7 people like this
Posted by miss manners
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 24, 2017 at 12:44 pm

We had a teacher call back after waiting a week , give a time limit and then they hang up on the timer in the middle of a sentence.civil? helpful? If they can not answer emails, they will need to stay at school during their paid work day and hold office hours instead of just leaving whenever they want to. Emails that save them from this are now too much.


9 people like this
Posted by Term Limits
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 24, 2017 at 9:15 pm

Ms. Baldwin is an incredibly nice person and a gifted teacher. But in this case, her statements are disturbing.

The teachers union can have a civility policy against parents as soon as the union promises to stop attacking Board Members at Board meetings, as it did when Board Members raised legitimate policy concerns about teacher raises. Time showed the Board member under attack was correct.

The union can have a civility policy when it promises never again to act so cruelly to children abused and raped at their union's schools by responding to a report on how the children were hurt with multiple teachers speaking on how great the principal is. It was not the purpose of the meeting. At least now we know what is most important to the union.

Teachers can have a civility policy against parents when it provides exact and specific information about complaints. 8 incidents over 14 schools over 2 years is not great, but in a school district this size, it is not huge either.

E-mails at all hours of the night? No one tells the teacher when to read or answer them, and it neglects that parents are often told to communicate only via e-mail. Ms. Baldwin herself told parents she doesn't answer her voice mails and that e-mails are better since they will always have a record of it. Her school has a voicemail but doesn't listen to it regularly either, as many a parent who tried to respond to a psychologist can attest.

Teachers at her own school send out a pat response "thank you for your thoughts" no matter what the question was. It isn't civil to treat all adults like 3 year olds.

The complaint doesn't say when teachers fail to answer a question, and the parent has to keep asking, even when the matter is incredibly serious such as a violent child or test scores at her school mysteriously changed. It also doesn't explain instances when the teacher only provides a partial answer, then gets mad if the parent asks for the rest of the answer, a common practice at Ms. Balwin's school. It certainly got work after the union ousted the principal for one more hostile to children in need.

The complaint about parents showing up unannounced doesn't explain when or why. In younger grades, parents regularly pick up their children at the classroom. If they don't, the school will call child protective services. Most teachers talk to parents when class is out, and some teachers even take initiative and talk to parents. In fact, Ms. Baldwin once said she couldn't tell families what was happening because the parent couldn't pick up the child at the classroom every day and the child went to day care.

One teacher at her school didn't care if kids arrived late and wanted school to be a family social affair with parents coming in to the class at all the time. It created an environment split between the favored parents and the left out parents. Then the next year, the teacher gave the same parents the cold shoulder, wouldn't talk to them, had kids write notes they wanted to be independent from parents. It was incredibly harmful and confusing to children with disabilities. No one knew what would upset the teacher or not.

The complaint doesn't state when families are volunteering in the classroom, or observing when it was scheduled. The Union doesn't want kids observed and has obtained policies limiting it in case it reflects on their performance. It doesn't say when the District tries to ensure parents can't observe if the child is having trouble.

It doesn't say when parents request to observe if kids at her school are being restrained or the school is calling the police in the form of a School Resource Officer. It doesn't say when the school reports it used it's school safety team on children, but will not tell parents what that is, who is on it, or what their training is.

Ms. Baldwin's complaint doesn't say how often these complaints against parents from teachers involve parents of disabled and minorities or with limited English.

Ms. Balwin's complaint doesn't indicate that parents are legally allowed to be at school as the child's aide if the child needs one and the District can't provide it. When parents come as an aide to protect children and teachers, suddenly the District can find an aide.

The complaint doesn't state when school staff, speech therapists, principals, especially at her school, write rude e-mails to parents. It doesn't say when they send parents e-mails blaming school behavior on the parents at home, despite the fact that the parents do not work at the school.

It doesn't say when teachers play the game of not answering questions or only partial answering, or sending a dismissive, legalistic non answers, pretending it is their own. It is the quickest way for a teacher to alienate a parent and let them know they are not on a child's side. Ms. Baldwin's complaint doesn't state that for years, it was the instructions of the District's law firm to be rude to families, talk over them, fail to answer a question, and accuse families of asking too many questions. It's too bad the teaching profession can't handle questions.

Ms. Conaway seems nice enough and more on the ball then her predecessors, but it is sad this is what she chooses to put her time into. We are in a time of an unprecedented and well documented environment of children being abused and raped by teachers, sexual attacks on children, bullying of the disabled, and the dismal test scores and academic progress of minority and disabled student in her District. Another anti-family Administrator is the last thing taxpayers need.


8 people like this
Posted by Clean up first
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 25, 2017 at 1:26 am

Web Link

After one of these reports of how schools call the police more on disabled and minority students, even in elementary school and even where they don’t have a difference in the rate of misbehavior, they had a link to check local districts and I checked ours. Does anyone have a link to that? I remember our district having a lower rate than the worst by far, and yet still the rate against disabled and minority students was higher.

Our district must must must create processes to resolve problems that take into account that employees can be wrong and parents need mechanisms for setting things right (rather than being subjected to pernicious CYA). This just allows people who Do the Wrong Thing to dig in on mistreating parents who try to set things straight.

Given events of recent years, it is a reason to consider parting ways with Ms Conaway.


4 people like this
Posted by already there
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 25, 2017 at 7:40 am

It is a misdemeanor to disrupt class or activity at a school. It is not a misdemeanor to disagree or voice concerns.


4 people like this
Posted by Another
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 25, 2017 at 8:21 am

Another is a registered user.

Don't you think you might all be looking at the past with rose-colored glasses? When I was growing in another part of the country a few decades ago, in my middle class suburban middle and high schools, fistfights among students happened every week, racist taunts were everywhere (even a couple of my teachers used some offensive language), and students, in the non-honors classes in particular, often showed utter disrespect for teachers.

At least according to my kids and all the other kids I speak with at PAUSD, this kind of thing never happens in our schools. Compared to what I saw growing up, the kids in Palo Alto are lucky to enjoy a supportive learning environment where students are conscientious and respectful, and teachers care a great deal about their mission.

Like a lot of other threads on these boards, there's a lot of complaining, but come on, things were often a LOT worse in the past and in other communities that don't enjoy all the advantages that we do.


10 people like this
Posted by Clean up first
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2017 at 12:37 pm


@Another,
I went to school in a very different place, too - and had caring educators there, too. The difference was that the rules and laws allowed families to get what they needed from the system and protect their children. The teachers were much more a part of an open, honest process that encouraged dealing with the gritty realities of our lives rather than covering them up. My 9th grade English teacher even took in one of my closeted gay friends who was abused at home. My 12th grade English teacher incited us to protests that reached our state capitol and significantly improved safety in the schools, and prevented deaths. He showed us how to get rich district cultural experiences even though we were a poor district. He stood up for me when another teacher wanted to kick me out of the class because he didn't like talkative girls in a math class that needed a few girls. I didn't keep the class, but it was deeply meaningful to have a teacher who was that kind of upstander for me against a teacher with more power. It helped me move on to a better alternative, where otherwise I would have remained only deeply demoralized by that first teachers trumped up claims and my future hurt for the opportunities taken away.

This district has a culture of covering up problems. Maybe we don't have as many of certain kinds of problems, but this does not mean the problems are not serious for those who face them should be denied due legal protections or that we should develop proposals like this that prevent us from solving problems in favor of subjectively silencing those who suffer.

The disabled child who was bullied at Terman just wanted appropriate help, and the family tried for extended periods of time. The efforts to avoid helping that family at Jordan are downright sickening; and they are against the law. This policy would have given the people who were already doing the wrong thing license to bully that family worse and physically remove them from a place they have a right to be, compounding the initial problems.

Every district in the country has problems in need of solving, and processes to help solve them. We have suffered too long from people who think that we should ignore problems. Just because not everyone suffers the problems, does not mean they aren't serious to those who do. I have never seen the kind of upstanding behavior from teachers here that I witnessed as a child, but I have witnessed shocking abuses of power here. We don't need more coverup culture, we need things that foster collaboration and problem solving in the real world. Being able to speak truth to power is essential, especially since power tends to interpret disagreement as attack. (I don't give em hell, I just give em the truth and they think it's hell. So true.)


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Posted by Questioner
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 25, 2017 at 2:33 pm

@Term Limits

Ms Baldwin is no "at a school" - where is your rant coming from?


8 people like this
Posted by A two way street
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 25, 2017 at 7:37 pm

How about we include civility provisions with teeth to deal with not returning email in a timely fashion (some time not at all) and failing to act in an open and transparent fashion.


16 people like this
Posted by BP
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 25, 2017 at 11:05 pm

The Teachers Union leadership is a joke. Trying to suppress all complaining parents as "uncivil". We are living in an Orwellian world if this policy goes through.



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Posted by Part time
a resident of Addison School
on Oct 26, 2017 at 5:51 am

@Questioner-

Ms. Baldwin is a part time kinder teacher at Addison


12 people like this
Posted by Thats a good one
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Oct 26, 2017 at 10:56 am

Perhaps the teachers union should worry less about civility and more about the adequacy of their members for their roles. When takes training and supervision of the quality of work product delivered by their members I will listen. Until then they are pretty one-sided and really not part of any solution. The lack of response Gunn Administrators and teachers gave our family was certainly a catalyst for uncivil messaging. Wee held back as much as we could but some zingers did fly. The fact is we are gonna in 4 years or less so they just ignored us...
Make people accountable and parents will have more respect.


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Posted by Tustin High School Neighbor
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2017 at 10:06 am

We have the law but our Tustin Unified School District management can only read dollar signs!
Morality cannot be legislated! Civility is learned and cultivated through practice.
We have to vote them out! AND make them accountable until we do!


3 people like this
Posted by Polly Wanacracker
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 21, 2017 at 12:29 pm

Headline: Police called to restore order at school board civility discussion


1 person likes this
Posted by BP
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 21, 2017 at 10:18 pm

Why won't the teachers union president enforce the rules among Gunn teachers NOT TO BE GIVING TESTS THE WEEK BEFORE FINALS???

Why won't the teachers union president enforce the rules among Gunn teachers to POST THEIR CLASS NOTES ON LINE???

After all these years of complaining about the above, rogue Gunn teachers still get away with their unprofessional behavior. Aided by an uncaring union President who only cares about $$.

The union President needs to act with civility, respect, and honesty towards students and parents.


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

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