News

School board to discuss 'historic year' in Title IX reports

Board to review data, recommendation to pursue more informal resolutions

In a "historic year" for the Palo Alto school district, school officials received in the 2017-18 school year more than 200 reports of sexual violence, gender and racial discrimination and other forms of harassment.

The vast majority of the reports — 130 out of 210 — alleged violations of federal civil rights law Title IX, according to an update to be presented to the school board on Tuesday. The district's Title IX office formally investigated and resolved 60 of the total reports.

The unprecedented spike in reports under Title IX and the district's Uniform Complaint Procedure (UCP) followed a reported student sexual assault at Palo Alto High School that caused an uproar in May 2017. Just two months before, the school board had approved a resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, bringing to close a yearslong investigation into sexual misconduct at Paly and Gunn High School. The Paly case reignited concerns about the district's compliance with federal and state law and board policy in such incidences.

Tuesday's public data presentation is required under the resolution agreement. It does not include information about outcomes or findings in any cases.

While the majority of reports in the prior school year were related to Title IX violations, a "significant" number, 44, alleged racial discrimination or harassment, which "could indicate that there are issues of perception and bias that exist at schools," a staff report reads. The report, from Deputy Superintendent Karen Hendricks and Title IX Coordinator Megan Farrell, recommends the district offer further training on bias this year.

Last year, the district received 10 reports related to disability-based harassment or discrimination, three of harassment based on religion and 23 reports categorized as "other."

The majority of cases handled under the Uniform Complaint Procedure in 2017-18 were investigated by the Title IX office (29) compared to 16 that were probed by external investigators. Twelve UCP investigations were handled by school sites and four by the district's human resources department, according to the report.

Throughout the year, "administrators who had initially approached the Title IX process with trepidation became more comfortable using the Title IX Office as a resource," the report states.

However, this might not have been consistent throughout the district. "Fear of negative retribution" related to Title IX, the report states, "led to disperse management of these matters at the schools."

From July 1 through Nov. 16 of this year, the district received 48 reports of Title IX, discrimination and harassment complaints. Thirty-six allege Title IX violations, seven allege racial discrimination or harassment and three allege discrimination or harassment based on disability.

Of the total reports this year, 15 formal UCP complaints have been filed, resulting so far in three formal resolutions and four informal resolutions. Other investigations are still open. There had been no external investigations through Nov. 16, according to the report.

The Title IX office is now staffed by Farrell, the district's first-ever full-time coordinator, as well as a part-time administrator and full-time investigator. This has reduced costs, the report states, by cutting down on services provided last year by outside attorneys.

"These hires have allowed PAUSD to internally manage Title IX operations, including providing advice to school sites, conducting in-house investigations, training all staff, and undertaking proactive initiatives with school sites to minimize the risks associated with Title IX exposure and to standardize procedures and process," the report states.

Hendricks and Farrell made a series of recommendations for the Title IX office for the current year, including finding ways to resolve more cases informally than formally, when parties agree to do so. Nearly all of the people reporting concerns last year opted for a formal investigation process, "while the more rarely used informal resolution may have better served the parties," the report states.

They write that the individuals who opted for the formal process "did not appear more satisfied when compared to other means to resolve most of these matters."

Other recommendations include building relationships with administrators and meeting regularly with a designated Title IX point person from each school; adopting uniform descriptions of incidents for the public log to simplify data collection and better protect privacy; developing tools to aid investigations and documentation at schools; and increasing Title IX training at schools.

Under the federal resolution agreement, Palo Alto Unified is required to train all of its teachers and staff on Title IX and UCP by the end of the year and anticipated that 98 percent would have received such training by this week's board meeting.

The district is continuing to regularly post an updated UCP incidents log on its website.

The school board could discuss on Tuesday the Trump's administration's recently released Title IX guidance for colleges, universities and K-12 school districts, which diverges significantly from previous directives from the Obama administration, including by strengthening due process protections for the accused and allowing schools to change the standard of proof in investigations. The proposed federal regulations are subject to a public comment period of 60 days.

In other business Tuesday, the board's newest member, Shounak Dharap, and re-elected incumbent, Ken Dauber, will be administered the oath of office. The board will then elect a new president and vice president.

The board will also discuss a proposed candidate for general counsel; a revised memorandum of understanding with the Palo Alto Police Department; expanding an agreement with the city of Palo Alto to include Greendell School and a district-owned site at 525 San Antonio Road in the Cubberley Community Center master plan; and an update on Public Records Act requests, among other items. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave. View the full agenda here.

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Comments

23 people like this
Posted by YP
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2018 at 4:00 pm

YP is a registered user.

Everyone's a victim in today's society, that's the culture liberalism has created.


13 people like this
Posted by Get Your Facts Straight
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 3, 2018 at 5:35 pm

Get Your Facts Straight is a registered user.

Funny. The article says: "Nearly all of the people reporting concerns last year opted for a formal investigation process, "while the more rarely used informal resolution may have better served the parties," the report states.

They write that the individuals who opted for the formal process "did not appear more satisfied when compared to other means to resolve most of these matters."

Clearly, as the parties opted for formal resolutions, which were not convenient for the district, the district thinks that they did not appear more satisfied.
What metrics did the district use?
Given the district's language, it is clear that they have not learned any lessons from the past, and that it would be most dangerous to allow them to pursue informal agreements.


6 people like this
Posted by What's the frequency?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2018 at 5:43 pm

Not sure how the previous poster got from complainants' satisfaction to the district's. Care to explain?


5 people like this
Posted by Get Your Facts Straight
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 3, 2018 at 5:55 pm

Get Your Facts Straight is a registered user.

@What's the frequency: Read the article and the quote. The parties opted for formal procedures. The district claims that the parties would have been just as satisfied with the informal route. It is the district who needs to do the explaining of their stance that the informal route is better.


11 people like this
Posted by The Public Interest
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 3, 2018 at 6:47 pm

The District doesn't want to actually have to go through a formal process, required under State UCP regulations; instead they want everyone to agree to a shortcut that suits them --- an informal process with few agreed upon procedures --- great for a district which had repeatedly fallen short of complying with anti-discrimination laws (4 year OCR investigation of 8 past incidents--- 2 additional sexual assault incidents that happened while PAUSD was being investigated that PAUSD did not disclose). Cultural and systemic issues that remain --- and this presentation demonstrates that.


7 people like this
Posted by Drake B
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 3, 2018 at 8:04 pm

It’s hard to give any credibility to a report by two District employees on this matter. Where is the outrage from the District that a historic year in UCP complaints shows that there is something seriously wrong with the culture at our schools? Perhaps a better approach for the District would be to welcome UCP complaints so that they can make sure that they are protecting students, and providing a safe learning environment for all children. Parents and students who come forward with UCP complaints should be welcomed, rather than the Disrcit focusing on pushing people to an informal route that would help the District avoid negatives newspaper headlines.


6 people like this
Posted by Don't do anything extra
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 4, 2018 at 8:25 am

Why should investigating a sexual assault require formal procedures? Let's do it informally! Better yet, let's not even investigate it at all! That's the tack PAUSD has taken since 2011 -- with the incidents we know about. Yes, let's make sure to encourage informal resolutions, or better yet, no resolution at all! Less costly that way --- more money available to pay salaries to staff, for not doing what they're supposed to.

Probably won't happen to your child; just someone else's child. They'll be out of there soon anyway.


5 people like this
Posted by pgm
a resident of Woodside
on Dec 4, 2018 at 8:28 am

Amazing how a law aimed at funding for college athletics has morphed into a catch all lawsuit machine for the left.


8 people like this
Posted by Don't do anything extra
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 4, 2018 at 8:46 am

@pgm
Here's some history as I think you're referring to Title IX ---- although there are CA state anti discrimination laws that say the same thing, so not just Title IX:

Title IX was enacted as a follow-up to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The 1964 Act was passed to end discrimination in various fields based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in the areas of employment and public accommodation.

Here's Title IX language:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

No reference to college athletics in that language. But reference to discrimination.


2 people like this
Posted by Glad My Kids Don't Attend PA Public Schools
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 4, 2018 at 1:24 pm

> ...received in the 2017-18 school year more than 200 reports of sexual violence, gender and racial discrimination and other forms of harassment.

Not good. What's wrong with the PAUSD? It looks like there's a major need for improvement...to drop those numbers down drastically. Even one report is one too many.

Glad I'm sending my kids to a private school that doesn't seem to have these kinds of issues and disturbing re-occurrences.

PAUSD teachers and administrators obviously not doing their job to curtail such begavior.


4 people like this
Posted by Presentation?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 4, 2018 at 1:56 pm

Yah, sending them to Presentation was a great idea.
No, actually, it would not matter which private school. They keep those issues under wraps so not to present a bad image. That's why you don;t hear about it.


Like this comment
Posted by Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 4, 2018 at 2:50 pm

Alum is a registered user.

If the formal procedures for complaints were seen as less taboo and as a tool to actually help resolve such situations, PAUSD would be a lot better off. Anecdotal, but to me it seems that is still not the case.

The UCP itself is not even that "formal". There is a lot of leeway in the investigation and how it has to be conducted. It can be delegated to the site level, evidence gathering is mostly unrestricted. The main thing that the policy does is limit the amount of time a case can drag on for and ensure resolution/closure.

AR 1312.3 - Uniform Complaint Procedures Web Link


26 people like this
Posted by Meanwhile
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 4, 2018 at 4:14 pm

Yes, everyone wants a formal investigation until it's their son or daughter who is being accused of doing the bullying or harassing. Still missing the discussion about how we can raise children who don't bully/harass on campus and off.


4 people like this
Posted by Ombudsperson
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 4, 2018 at 4:26 pm

"They write that the individuals who opted for the formal process "did not appear more satisfied when compared to other means to resolve most of these matters."

Of course they opted for a formal process, because the district culture is still one of trying to avoid doing the right thing, favoritism, and retaliation if people make waves because they disagree with being treated like mushrooms.

And of course they are less happy, because no one wants to have to go through any of that. But the district gives people no choice.

When the district shows that it's willing to be proactive about coming to terms with the retaliations towards families and make things right (as is their legal and ethical duty), and demonstrates a soul for long enough to be trusted, then there will be fewer formal complaints.

Why are there non-Title IX complaints? I have been under the impression that the effort is only around Title IX, such as it is.


Like this comment
Posted by Tim
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 5, 2018 at 10:09 am

Why does the district investigate itself?


Like this comment
Posted by kids
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2018 at 11:57 am

kids is a registered user.

Tim,
county and state gave up oversight a long time ago. Not sure why. Probably money.

I have told my kid to never speak to any staff at the school unless they have their own representative present as a witness or are allowed to videotape the entire conversation. They also must agree to put every word into a document. Too many realy bad things have happened at this school not to do this.Teachers should also do this for their own safety. Private and catholic schools are not safe. Funny to see someone thinks paying more money will buy safety!! Look at the Priest lists of local abuses or scan any school with the word "conviction" and you will see that kids have no guarantee of safety anywhere. You have to teach them how to be safe at home and teach them their legal rights which is good to do and useful throughout life.Does it seem to others that crimes against children are increasing, or is it that they are being reported more?


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