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Diorio releases discipline letter, points finger at district office

As district reprimands Paly principal, she blames district administrators for failures

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After trying to block the school district from publicly releasing its Jan. 11 letter of reprimand of her, Palo Alto High School Principal Kim Diorio took the offensive Wednesday and released the letter herself, along with a seven-page rebuttal that states she and other school staff were following the district administration's "directions" in their handling of a 2016 campus sexual assault case.

As reported by the Weekly on Wednesday, Diorio's attorney -- in response to the newspaper's Public Records Act request for the letter -- had asserted to the district that the letter's release would "violate her privacy interests" and that "the public interest in nondisclosure clearly outweighed the public interest in disclosure."

The district said Tuesday it intended to release the document by next Tuesday, providing Diorio time to seek a court order to prevent the disclosure if she wished.

Diorio, who announced on Feb. 23 she was taking a medical leave, opted instead to release the documents to Paly's student newspaper, The Campanile, and student online news site, The Paly Voice.

The Jan. 11 letter of reprimand, from interim Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Anne Brown, states that Diorio failed to provide a female Paly student who said she had been sexually assaulted on campus in 2016 with the "full range of procedural options" under federal and state law and district policy.

The reprimand letter cites the findings of an external law firm the district hired last year to investigate its handling of the sexual-assault report.

The firm, Cozen O'Connor, found that while Paly administrators initially responded promptly to the student, multiple missteps resulted in legal and policy violations "under your leadership," Brown wrote to Diorio.

(View the Cozen report here, including the executive summary.)

Diorio did not inform the student and her parents of their right to file a complaint under the district's Uniform Complaint Procedure (UCP), the letter states. School administrators also failed to maintain required documentation, conduct thorough interviews of the students involved and witnesses, conclude the investigation or reach a determination as to whether the reported conduct violated federal gender-equity law Title IX, state Education Code or board policy, the reprimand letter states.

The letter does not mention a federal Office for Civil Rights investigation that found Diorio, while assistant principal at Paly, was not prompt in reporting sexual-harassment allegations about former Principal Phil Winston that she had received from numerous staff over the course of three years.

Brown suggested a series of remedies to Diorio, including creating a "clearly identified site-based flowchart of responsibilities and communication regarding all Title IX investigations" that identifies the principal as the first person to whom staff should report any complaints received and should provide regular updates during the investigation process.

In her Jan. 29 response, Diorio defended her and her staff's actions and laid responsibility for the flawed handling of the incident squarely on the district office.

"School staff should not be held personally or professionally responsible for implementing district office directives," she wrote.

Gunn High School Principal Kathie Laurence was also formally disciplined for her handling of the case while she was assistant principal at Paly.

Diorio wrote that she and staff "repeatedly" asked the district's Title IX coordinator at the time, Holly Wade, and a district attorney, Dora Dome, and "were told that neither UCP procedures nor a 'Title IX launch' were warranted." Diorio said she was "never informed" by district staff that her response was "inappropriate" in any way. (Wade resigned at the end of the last school year.)

"Staff followed directions not wishing to defy the district structure or act in a subordinate manner," Diorio wrote.

Diorio said that Paly staff had not received training in "trauma-informed or effective investigative practices" — a misstep identified by the Cozen lawyers — until last May, after the case was reported publicly. The training was "requested by the school site," according to Diorio.

(Numerous Title IX trainings have been held over the past few years for administrators and teachers, however, as the district worked to comply with directives of the federal Office for Civil Rights. Those trainings included specific instruction on the UCP, which is identified as the district's procedure for resolving all sexual harassment and sexual violence complaints.)

Diorio stated further that any inconsistent documentation practices at Paly were "consistent with district procedure."

Diorio noted that the Cozen O'Connor lawyers were "complimentary" of the school's initially prompt and compliant response.

"Simply put, the Cozen report is replete with multiple determinations that the district had deficient policies, protocols and implementation," she wrote. "Outside counsel and the Title IX coordinator provided erroneous information to the school making it impossible to comply with the letter of Title IX."

She noted that Paly has completed the recommendations Brown made in the reprimand letter, establishing new "internal structures and improved communication" at the school.

Diorio describes the district's failures to uphold Title IX as "a sad chapter in an otherwise successful story.

"The district's reputation has been harmed and careers have ended. I understand that in an institution such as ours, we share our successes as well as our failures," she wrote. "The Cozen report made it acutely evident that without training, communication, and accountability the system can break down."

Diorio, who has not responded to multiple requests for comment from the Weekly, is quoted by the Paly Voice as writing in an email to staff that "Our administrative team has acted with integrity, character and professionalism, despite the personal attacks, harassment and threats we've endured."


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34 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 8, 2018 at 1:25 am

Although I disagree with Ms. Diorio's complete buck-passing to her individual supervisors (both of whom no longer work at PAUSD), I do find it a bit satisfying that she chose to put all the blame on her bosses, after her bosses spent 5 years doing whatever they could to defend her, justifiably or not.

[Portion removed.] The School Board and District leaders may have placed a losing bet on Diorio, who may be represented now by an expensive attorney [portion removed.] The DOJ Letter and Cozen Report both were extremely clear about the numerous, egregious federal, state and local legal violations committed by Ms. Diorio. Had the School Board taken remedial action promptly, it would not be in the position it is in today.

In that regard, Ms. Diorio makes a valid point that her supervisors -- especially the School Board -- engaged in systematic negligence. Had the District behaved with courage and integrity, it would not be in this position that it faces today. I look forward to reading the Board's response.

48 people like this
Posted by Yuri
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2018 at 6:32 am

Courage and integrity are not synonymous with the current revolving door leadership at 25 Churchill. "Cover your Backside" or "Protect Your Resume" are more the order of the day, sadly. An institution that operates under a cloud of fear will continue to produce the current results. Thank goodness PAUSD, for the most part, has such wonderful students, parents, and teachers who year after year pick up the pieces left behind by failed leadership.

115 people like this
Posted by Please stop
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 8, 2018 at 7:40 am

Dear Weekly,
As a community member and mother of students in this district, I implore you to stop with the sensational reporting. "Finger Pointing" ..... really? Please stop stirring the pot, so everyone can get back to teaching and learning. You are fanning the flames of a handful of hateful community members, who get in the way of what our staff is here to do - teach! Personally, I'm sickened by this type of reporting and the comments I've read. These are human beings who are educating our children. Yes, mistakes were made, but if you look into the facts this is a systems issue, not a personnel issue, that the district and staff are taking great strides to improve.

One has to think about the time and money spent on this...imagine if that could have been spent on students instead.

Please be better.

This is the student article:
Web Link
It includes the letter of reprimand and rebuttal.

60 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 8, 2018 at 7:45 am

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Does Diorio not understand that, as principal of the school, she is at least partially responsible for what happens at the school and how things are handled? [Portion removed.] The investigations by Cozen and OCR covering different time frames BOTH found that her actions were not sufficient, yet she continues to claim that she did nothing wrong, it was all someone else's fault. How can we have a principal who has no concept of personal responsibility? [Portion removed.]

Nowhere in her [portion removed] rebuttal does she express any remorse for how her lack of leadership affected others. Nothing stopped either her or her Assistant Principals from going against Wade's determination and offering the girl the proper UCP and/or Title IX procedures. But, if she did that it would be reported and then it might come out to the public. [Portion removed.]

Please remove her as principal. [Portion removed.]

97 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2018 at 7:54 am

Having read the recent articles, I am in no doubt that we will be finding it so much harder to find a school administrator (or school superintendent) to any Palo Alto school or district office.

We are unforgiving, expecting 24/7 service, hard to please, critical of everything, demanding and interfering. Our reputation is out there. These articles and comments are much more likely to do us harm in the long run as anyone with an ounce of competence will not want to be part of this community. Who can blame them!

45 people like this
Posted by @Please Stop
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 8, 2018 at 7:58 am

@Please Stop is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

It is a systems issue and a personnel issue. People implement the systems. People are also able to step outside of the robotic systems and make their own call on what is right. Diorio did not do that. She also failed on many other levels.

[Portion removed.]

We need leaders who will take responsibility when they screw up, not blame the system or blame others.

[Portion removed.]

83 people like this
Posted by Kathy Jordan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 8, 2018 at 8:33 am

Kathy Jordan is a registered user.

There were two sexual assault incidents at Paly to come out in the media, so far. The results of the Nov. 2015 investigation are still outstanding. The Nov. 2015 victim's family cites multiple failures of Paly's leadership team, again including Ms. Diorio, for their conduct in handling this incident, in not protecting their daughter at Paly, in not providing her access to her education, and in not adhering to state and federal laws, regulations, and PAUSD policies and procedures. These are similar complaints to the Oct. 2016 victim's family about that incident. Brushing things under the rug does not serve these students or future students.

72 people like this
Posted by PalyPop
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 8, 2018 at 9:57 am

PalyPop is a registered user.

+1 to @PleaseStop and @Resident.

Elena Kadvany & Editors, not everything needs to bleed-to-lead! Reading this letter felt like a complete waste of my time, since I already read it back in October 2017. It's pages 23 and 24 of the Cozen report.

Yes, Diorio's response is new content, but painfully predictable bordering on trite. She's defending her team and pointing out that the district shares in the blame. Hardly news-worthy. "Principal Defends Self and Team". Ohhhhhhhh!

I get that you guys need to generate page views. But fanning the flames and stirring up the fringes is Trumpian at best, and unethical at worst. We've had enough tragedy for one community for a lifetime. Stop trying to stir up old controversies. Or at least spend more time writing about food. But don't waste our time rehashing old stories.

Please focus on the facts, or go work at Fox News. PA Online's skewed/inaccurate writing creates stress in a community that could use some calm for once (while it clearly benefits you and your editors).

Here are some inaccuracies to back my point up...

-- "Diorio did not inform the student and her parents of their right to file a complaint under the district's Uniform Complaint Procedure." The report made it clear that AP#1 tried on three different occasions and was told in all cases -by the district- that it wasn't needed. Plus, it's not clear it was Diorio's responsibility, but rather the responsibility of AP#1. Please print a correction.

-- "... states that Diorio failed to provide a female Paly student who said..." The report doesn't say this! Again, this was AP#1's job, and the report shows again that the District and outside counsel said not to do it. Please print a correction.

I get that every good story needs a villain, but you are letting your drive for a good story alter the facts.

Cozen clearly points out that there were issues/breakdowns all over the place. This isn't a clean, simple story. The district, their outside counsel and the school share blame for this. But I suspect that's too complex and messy a story??

We are smart people. We will appreciate you more for giving us new, factually correct insights. But we'll resent you and your publication (well, maybe not a handful of us), for over simplifying this into a narrative that's written for the conspiracy seekers and knuckle draggers.

Raise your standards, or leave us be. PA Online's sloppy/biased reporting is dragging this community down. I don't want my kids thinking that life is like a reality TV show. It's bad enough that we have a President telegraphing this. We don't need our local media to do it too.

Please take the high ground from now on.

24 people like this
Posted by PalyPop
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 8, 2018 at 10:37 am

PalyPop is a registered user.

Kathy Jordan, I don't understand your point. Who is sweeping what under the rug?

And are you saying you are happy to endure sloppy or overly simplistic reporting simply to keep this topic alive?

44 people like this
Posted by cvvhrn
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2018 at 11:13 am

cvvhrn is a registered user.

@ Please stop: Sheesh its that ignore it and move on mentality that has us in this spot AGAIN, AGAIN and again..........

So its kind of like beating a dead horse, but Ill say it again: The issues plaguing the PAUSD as systemic and deeply entrenched. A culture of denial, head in the sand, and passing the buck is pervasive. The whole district needs to be dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up.

There are fantastic people working at PAUSD but the culture needs to change and after years of abortive attempts, scandal after scandal, enough is enough and drastic action is needed.

I cannot wait for the next 3 years to pass so I personally won't have to worry about this mess

2 people like this
Posted by @Paly Pop
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 8, 2018 at 11:59 am

@Paly Pop is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

93 people like this
Posted by I agree with Please Stop
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 8, 2018 at 12:10 pm

I agree with Please Stop is a registered user.

My children very recently graduated from PAUSD. They got an excellent education and they are both very happy and successful in college--thanks to the academic preparation they received k-12 in Palo Alto. One of them had a learning disability and she is doing great. They enjoyed wonderful friendships, sports, music, clubs and theatre programs--a well-rounded experience with lots of opportunities to try new things that interested them. They have found the transition to college seamless. They feel well-prepared.

It would be very nice if the Weekly would give at least an equal coverage to the many wonderful things that happen in PAUSD schools every single school day. Yes. Things go wrong. It is a large organization, and things go awry in big organizations of humans. However, many things are also going VERY right. Please pay some attention to that too. A little balance would be nice--and healthy for us all.

Palo Alto Online has become a venue for cyber-bullying--of our governmental agencies, staff, and citizens who happen to disagree. Worse than that, it is giving new parents in the district the incorrect feeling that PAUSD is a bad place for kids to be. That is not so.

I think people should not be allowed to post anonymously because they behave badly when they do so. That said, I am posting anonymously because I am afraid that the other anonymous posters will pile on and target me by name on line (as they have in the past)--because they can. Truly, I find this behavior appalling.

Please stop this. It is destroying productive civic engagement. I get that it's like a train wreck-- hard to take your eyes off it--and I'm sure it sells newspapers. Please consider what this awful, angry dialogue of a small minority in a very public venue is doing to our community. People are just winding each other up instead of coming together to share perspectives with open minds and working as a community to find consensus around solutions--which is HOW democracy works.

Let's model better civic discourse behavior. Kids read this site. Our children are watching.

I agree with PLEASE STOP.

31 people like this
Posted by Community Center
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 8, 2018 at 1:26 pm

Community Center is a registered user.

I hope the next principal of Paly will make the students their top priority. I've felt administration has not made student well being their top priority.

20 people like this
Posted by Someone turned on the ceiling fan
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 8, 2018 at 1:47 pm

Someone turned on the ceiling fan is a registered user.

Reading these posts gives me hope in the school district for the future generations. At least, we care. Let the cleanup begin.

8 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 8, 2018 at 3:30 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

@I agree with Please Stop-democracy actually doesn't work when a small minority(in your opinion) is told to shut up.

18 people like this
Posted by Condor1
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2018 at 4:13 pm

Condor1 is a registered user.

Palo Alto needs to get real. I attended high school there (the esteemed Mid Pennisula) in the 90’s and worked for the district within the last five years. It was rife with inappropriate behavior then and it is now. A principal who would quip that he dreamed of me the previous night was the norm and I was sexually harassed for months by another student before any disciplinary action occurred. “We didn’t know it bothered you so much!” was the rationale. Since then the district has had more sexually based scandals than any district up and down the peninsula. I was familiar with the classroom of the recently convicted Mr Airo and I was deeply concerned and disconcerted by the palpably inappropriate environment in there. I’ve watched backs turn in that district from the perspective of student and educator. Perhaps it’s a mass cognitive dissonance brought on by excessive privilege, accepting that there is something systemically wrong might topple Palo Alto from the pedestal it rests on. Blaming individuals right now (because it’s topically relevant) is cowardice. Palo Alto residents and school district employees need to take a really hard look at their history and start from scratch. That or stop complaining about a system in which they are complicit.

17 people like this
Posted by PalyPop
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 8, 2018 at 5:44 pm

PalyPop is a registered user.

I agree with "I agree with Please Stop". :)

And he/she hit the nail on the head. This website's comment section is a highly visible example of adults cyber-bullying adults. We are great role models for the children.

+100 to the idea of getting rid of anonymous posting. But I doubt this will happen as it'll reduce the number of page views (and therefore ad impressions) that the Palo Alto Online receives. So the profit motive of the publication is at odds with the community's overall health.

[Portion removed.]

6 people like this
Posted by steve_s
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 8, 2018 at 6:35 pm

steve_s is a registered user.

Nothing in Principal Diorio's response surprised me... except when she referred to Dora Dome as "District Council." A lawyer to the district would be the "District Counsel." "District Council" would refer to a gathering of people, not an individual like Dora Dome, esq. If our Principal does not have a grasp on high school English, I would not expect said Principal to actively engage with her students. Therein may lie the problem...

15 people like this
Posted by Credential Board
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 8, 2018 at 9:54 pm

Credential Board is a registered user.

Holly Wade, the Administrator who resigned, is now working as an interim Special Education Director at Cabrillo School District. Yet she was reprimanded for altering two different PAUSD documents, once by Superintendent's letter and once in the Cozan report. This violates credential standards. Why was this never reported to the State of California's Teacher Credential Board? Do the people who hired her know this?
I wish her well, but do not want the same thing to happen to other school districts, and especially not to it's students. Web Link

9 people like this
Posted by andybe
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 8, 2018 at 10:20 pm

andybe is a registered user.

This is the 3rd school district I have personal experience with, and I have indirect experience with a small handful of others. I have to say I've never seen such disarray. I'm not sure I'll go as far as incompetence, but I'm willing to hear opinions on that.

I have no idea what goes on behind close doors, but CYA seems to be a guiding principle. Maybe the other school districts in my universe were just more clever about hiding their tracks...

That said, my kids have had a good experience, so the disarray doesn't appear to trickle down to the ground level. All the same, I'm SO glad we're only a few months away from being clear of PAUSD.

Like this comment
Posted by oneanddone
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2018 at 1:41 pm

oneanddone is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

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