• Weekly journalists discuss the resignation of Palo Alto High School Principal Kim Diorio on this week's "Behind the Headlines." Watch the webcast here.
The week began with Kim Diorio objecting to the public release of a letter reprimanding her for her handling of a campus sexual assault case in 2016 and has ended with her resignation as Palo Alto High School principal.
On Friday morning -- two days after she disclosed the letter herself, along with a detailed rebuttal -- she notified staff, students and parents that she will leave Paly at the end of the school year.
"After 11 wonderful years at Paly, I've decided that it's time for me to take the next step in my career," she wrote to staff. "The decision wasn't an easy one, especially given the thought of no longer seeing and working with all of you on a daily basis. Frankly, it's not one I seriously considered before the start of the new year."
Diorio, who announced on Feb. 23 she was going on an immediate medical leave, wrote in a separate message to parents that she plans to return "later this spring to wrap up the school year."
Diorio went on the offensive this week as her role in responding to a female Paly student who said she was sexually assaulted in a campus bathroom in 2016 was again publicly scrutinized. Since the case was publicly reported last May, many in the community have called for Diorio's removal, while Paly teachers and staff rallied in her defense, both publicly and privately.
The Jan. 11 letter of reprimand, from interim Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Anne Brown, states that Diorio failed to provide the female Paly student with the "full range of procedural options" under federal and state law and district policy.
The 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.
Diorio's seven-page response argues that district leadership was responsible for failures in the case, particularly former Title IX coordinator Holly Wade, who Diorio said told that her and other Paly staff that no formal district investigation was necessary in the case.
"School staff should not be held personally or professionally responsible for implementing district office directives," Diorio wrote in her response.
Diorio has been principal of Paly since 2013. She replaced Phil Winston, who resigned in 2013, citing health and "work-life balance" reasons. The Weekly later reported, citing documents it obtained through Public Records Act requests, that Winston had been disciplined for sexually harassing and behaving inappropriately with both staff and students.
An investigation by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights later found that Diorio, while assistant principal, was not prompt in reporting sexual-harassment allegations about Winston that she had received from numerous staff over the course of three years. (The district's Jan. 11 letter of reprimand does not mention the federal findings.)
Diorio, who began her counseling and administrative career at schools in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, was hired by Palo Alto Unified in 2005 to work as a counselor at JLS Middle School and Gunn High School. She was promoted to Paly assistant principal in 2007.
Her message to staff notes the school's accomplishments over the last several years, from ending a practice of student streaking and opening a wellness center to the expansion of "innovative" educational programs, such as Paly's Social Justice Pathway and Media Arts programs.
Diorio told staff she is "currently weighing a number of options" for what she'll pursue after leaving Paly, but plans to make her "health a priority," spend time with her family and finish a dissertation.
The district has hired a retired administrator to serve as acting principal in Diorio's absence.
Interim Superintendent Karen Hendricks said Saturday morning that the district is working with the acting principal, Frank "Pancho" Rodriguez, to "extend" his time at Paly but that she still expects Diorio to return sometime in the spring.
There has been "no change in assignment or responsibility" for Diorio, Hendricks said.