To address gaps in coordination and communication in its response to reports of sexual violence, the Palo Alto school district has revised its memorandum of understanding with the Palo Alto Police Department, as required by a resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.
The school board will discuss on Tuesday the revised memorandum of understanding, which seeks to "build an understanding between the agencies regarding their respective responsibilities and promote compliance."
"It is important for the PAUSD to clarify its working relationship with the PAPD to ensure an effective, prompt, coordinate, and fair response to sexual misconduct," the agreement states. "The purpose of this MOU is to coordinate PAUSD and PAPD processes in response to reported sexual misconduct and to increase collaboration when such matters arise."
The memorandum of understanding clarifies how the two bodies should communicate when sexual misconduct involving students, teachers and/or staff is reported. The police department must share information related to sexual violence with the school district in accordance with law and "as appropriate given the particular circumstances."
The school district's point person for such matters is Megan Farrell, the full-time Title IX compliance officer the district hired last fall.
Police officers must also follow district policy when they go to schools to question and/or apprehend students who have been accused of sexual misconduct, including by checking in with a principal before conducting an interview and informing minors of their right to have a representative with them at an interview. The district agrees under the memorandum to train its staff on the appropriate procedures to follow when a police officer comes to a campus for these purposes.
Enforcement of restraining orders involving students has been problematic for the district in the past. The memorandum of understanding lays out exactly how the district must implement such orders. When the district learns that a protective order has been issued, the district will notify its Title IX officer and the parties subject to the order.
District staff will work with the involved students and their parents to create an implementation plan, the agreement states. If the restrained individual is not a student at the same school, the district will "focus on how to restrict that individual's access to the school ... and how to support these student's travels to and from school."
If the restrained person is at the same school, the district will change the students' schedules or "environment" to comply with the order.
If the order "raises concerns that would warrant a sufficient risk to other students and/or staff," the district will notify the police, administrators, and/or the broader school district community "to the extent allowed by applicable state and federal law."
Last year, many parents criticized the school district's lack of disclosure about a male Palo Alto High School student who had been found in juvenile court to have sexually assaulted a Menlo-Atherton High School student off-campus and who had been reported for the on-campus sexual assault of a female Paly student. The male student was subject to a three-year restraining order with the Menlo-Atherton student.
The mother of the female Paly student also obtained an emergency restraining order after her daughter reported he forced her to perform oral sex on him in a campus bathroom, but she continued to see him on campus.
The superintendent at the time, Max McGee, said he was not made aware of the restraining order.
Enforcement of restraining orders in dating violence cases was also an issue in a 2014 Office for Civil Rights case filed by the family of a Gunn High School student who they said was victimized by her former boyfriend, also a Gunn student.
To "increase interagency awareness of responsibilities," the school district has also agreed to provide Title IX training to its school resource officers, the memorandum states.
A police department investigation does not take the place of a district Title IX investigation, the memorandum notes, and the two investigations proceed separately with their own legal and professional obligations.
The district will not "directly or indirectly discourage (or, alternatively, require)" that individuals reporting sexual violence also file a police report," the memorandum states. Police also will not discourage or require individuals to pursue a Title IX investigation or seek disciplinary action with the district.
The district and police department also agreed on four new sections on protocols for involuntary psychiatric holds; use of handcuffs on students being transported to medical facilities; on-campus student searches; and confidentiality with regard to reports to Child Protective Services.
Parent Advocates for Student Success (PASS), which represents minority students and families, voiced concern about the memorandum giving insufficient protection to such students.
"Anecdotally, HUR (historically underrepresented) students seem to be more vulnerable to profiling and mistreatment in their interactions with PAPD," PASS co-chair Sara Woodham wrote in an email to the school board.
The advocacy group asked to require the police department to regularly provide data on school resource officers' interactions with students, as is recommended by the American Civil Liberties Union.
In other business at the first school board meeting of the new school year, members will discuss a proposal to have two members serve on an ad hoc committee focused on Stanford University's proposed general use permit. The committee would work directly with the superintendent, district lawyers and Stanford on issues related to the university's growth plan.
The board meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the district office at 25 Churchill Ave.
The board will also meet on Wednesday, Aug. 22, for a retreat from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the district office. They will discuss operations, governance and other issues with new Superintendent Don Austin and his leadership team.
View the agendas for both meetings here.