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Board set to hire East Bay schools administrator who allegedly failed to investigate hate speech, vandalism against student

Palo Alto Board of Education to vote on Jason Krolikowski's appointment Tuesday night

UPDATE: The Palo Alto school board unanimously approved the hiring of Jason Krolikowski as the school district's new director of student services on Tuesday. Read more here.

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Jason Krolikowski, who is set to be approved at Tuesday night's school board meeting as Palo Alto Unified's new student services director, was named as one of nine defendants in a student free-speech lawsuit that was later settled.

San Ramon Valley High School principal Jason Krolikowski plans to leave the San Ramon Valley district after three years at his position. Courtesy San Ramon Valley Unified School District.

Nathaniel Yu, who was a 17-year-old San Ramon Valley High School junior at the time, alleged the school district violated his constitutional rights under the First Amendment when it disciplined him for his role in creating what his lawyers called "a James Bond-style parody video" in February 2017 during his campaign for student body president. Krolikowski was not principal of the school at that time and was not named as a defendant in the original lawsuit filed in 2017, but was added in an amended complaint filed in February 2018, according to court records. Yu was also initially disqualified from becoming student body president and removed from the school's leadership class because of the video but he was later reinstated, according to court documents.

Other district officials named as defendants in the lawsuit described the video as "racist" and "culturally insensitive" and said it violated a school election rule prohibiting inappropriate campaign material, according to an amended complaint filed in 2019.

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The lawsuit alleged that Krolikowski, who became principal of San Ramon Valley High School in the fall of 2017, "failed to investigate, document, or to prepare an investigation report" when Yu reported incidents of vandalism and hate speech at the start of the 2017-18 school year. It also alleges Krolikowski and other administrators did not address Yu's reports of "threats of violence and death" made against his family on social media sites.

The lawsuit alleged that Yu faced harassment and discrimination on and off campus following public controversy over the video. His parking space and the senior parking lot entrance to the high school were defaced with hate speech, including homophobic slurs and "statements ridiculing (Yu) for his faith as a practicing Catholic" during the first two weeks of school in 2017, according to the lawsuit. Yu reported the incidents to Krolikowski who did not properly respond to or document his reports as required under district policy, according to the lawsuit.

Krolikowski "similarly did nothing to address the behavior of the students or teachers who personally attacked (Yu) by calling him a racist" during class, the lawsuit alleged.

Krolikowski did not immediately respond to this news organization's request for comment. Given the lawsuit was settled, he did not respond to the allegations in court.

The San Ramon Valley Unified School District settled the lawsuit in April, awarding Yu $665,000 — which former Student Press Law Center Executive Director Frank LoMonte said in a press release was "the largest settlement amount surrounding student free speech cases."

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The district later issued a public apology to Yu, acknowledging the "negative effects, disruption and emotional distress that you and you family endured as a result of the reaction by District employees and community members" to the video. Superintendent Rick Schmitt wrote in the apology that the district didn't believe the video didn't constitute hate speech and that it didn't "bully, harass, discriminate against or threaten anyone."

Palo Alto Unified Superintendent Don Austin said when considering new hires, the district conducts three rounds of interviews, reference checks with people both on and off candidates' reference lists and a "digital footprint check" reviewing social media and search engine results.

"We ask the candidates if there are things we should know about and in this case the candidate told us everything that we would find in complete transparency with full descriptions verified by our reference checks," Austin said.

"The amended complaint included an allegation that he did not complete an investigation into a specific claim of harassment during his time as the principal following the original lawsuit. We followed up on the claim and conferred with those familiar with the details. It would be inappropriate for PAUSD to comment about the details of legal matters in another district; however, we are confident in the responses we received and are pleased to present him for board consideration this evening," Austin wrote in a separate statement, adding that he will make additional comments at Tuesday night's virtual school board meeting.

"We're excited to welcome Mr. Krolikowski to our school district," Austin said. "His reputation as a strong leader, positive influence and veteran principal will provide immediate value added."

In May 2018, during Krolikowski's tenure at San Ramon Valley High School, a student drowned in the campus pool during a physical education class. His death was later ruled accidental. In February, the San Ramon Valley Unified School District agreed to an $8 million settlement with the student's family, while admitting no liability for the student's death.

Krolikowski has been principal at San Ramon Valley High School since the 2017-18 school year, after working as principal at Foothill High School in Pleasanton. He was also employed as assistant principal at Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon from 2010 to 2013.

Krolikowski's appointment is on the school board's consent agenda for Tuesday evening. If approved, he would begin his new post in Palo Alto on Sept. 21.

The virtual board meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Those wishing to participate by Zoom can do so by going to pausd.zoom.us/j/97058205888 or dialing 669-900-6833 and using Meeting ID: 949 9734 6242.

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Board set to hire East Bay schools administrator who allegedly failed to investigate hate speech, vandalism against student

Palo Alto Board of Education to vote on Jason Krolikowski's appointment Tuesday night

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Sep 8, 2020, 3:10 pm

UPDATE: The Palo Alto school board unanimously approved the hiring of Jason Krolikowski as the school district's new director of student services on Tuesday. Read more here.

---

Jason Krolikowski, who is set to be approved at Tuesday night's school board meeting as Palo Alto Unified's new student services director, was named as one of nine defendants in a student free-speech lawsuit that was later settled.

Nathaniel Yu, who was a 17-year-old San Ramon Valley High School junior at the time, alleged the school district violated his constitutional rights under the First Amendment when it disciplined him for his role in creating what his lawyers called "a James Bond-style parody video" in February 2017 during his campaign for student body president. Krolikowski was not principal of the school at that time and was not named as a defendant in the original lawsuit filed in 2017, but was added in an amended complaint filed in February 2018, according to court records. Yu was also initially disqualified from becoming student body president and removed from the school's leadership class because of the video but he was later reinstated, according to court documents.

Other district officials named as defendants in the lawsuit described the video as "racist" and "culturally insensitive" and said it violated a school election rule prohibiting inappropriate campaign material, according to an amended complaint filed in 2019.

The lawsuit alleged that Krolikowski, who became principal of San Ramon Valley High School in the fall of 2017, "failed to investigate, document, or to prepare an investigation report" when Yu reported incidents of vandalism and hate speech at the start of the 2017-18 school year. It also alleges Krolikowski and other administrators did not address Yu's reports of "threats of violence and death" made against his family on social media sites.

The lawsuit alleged that Yu faced harassment and discrimination on and off campus following public controversy over the video. His parking space and the senior parking lot entrance to the high school were defaced with hate speech, including homophobic slurs and "statements ridiculing (Yu) for his faith as a practicing Catholic" during the first two weeks of school in 2017, according to the lawsuit. Yu reported the incidents to Krolikowski who did not properly respond to or document his reports as required under district policy, according to the lawsuit.

Krolikowski "similarly did nothing to address the behavior of the students or teachers who personally attacked (Yu) by calling him a racist" during class, the lawsuit alleged.

Krolikowski did not immediately respond to this news organization's request for comment. Given the lawsuit was settled, he did not respond to the allegations in court.

The San Ramon Valley Unified School District settled the lawsuit in April, awarding Yu $665,000 — which former Student Press Law Center Executive Director Frank LoMonte said in a press release was "the largest settlement amount surrounding student free speech cases."

The district later issued a public apology to Yu, acknowledging the "negative effects, disruption and emotional distress that you and you family endured as a result of the reaction by District employees and community members" to the video. Superintendent Rick Schmitt wrote in the apology that the district didn't believe the video didn't constitute hate speech and that it didn't "bully, harass, discriminate against or threaten anyone."

Palo Alto Unified Superintendent Don Austin said when considering new hires, the district conducts three rounds of interviews, reference checks with people both on and off candidates' reference lists and a "digital footprint check" reviewing social media and search engine results.

"We ask the candidates if there are things we should know about and in this case the candidate told us everything that we would find in complete transparency with full descriptions verified by our reference checks," Austin said.

"The amended complaint included an allegation that he did not complete an investigation into a specific claim of harassment during his time as the principal following the original lawsuit. We followed up on the claim and conferred with those familiar with the details. It would be inappropriate for PAUSD to comment about the details of legal matters in another district; however, we are confident in the responses we received and are pleased to present him for board consideration this evening," Austin wrote in a separate statement, adding that he will make additional comments at Tuesday night's virtual school board meeting.

"We're excited to welcome Mr. Krolikowski to our school district," Austin said. "His reputation as a strong leader, positive influence and veteran principal will provide immediate value added."

In May 2018, during Krolikowski's tenure at San Ramon Valley High School, a student drowned in the campus pool during a physical education class. His death was later ruled accidental. In February, the San Ramon Valley Unified School District agreed to an $8 million settlement with the student's family, while admitting no liability for the student's death.

Krolikowski has been principal at San Ramon Valley High School since the 2017-18 school year, after working as principal at Foothill High School in Pleasanton. He was also employed as assistant principal at Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon from 2010 to 2013.

Krolikowski's appointment is on the school board's consent agenda for Tuesday evening. If approved, he would begin his new post in Palo Alto on Sept. 21.

The virtual board meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Those wishing to participate by Zoom can do so by going to pausd.zoom.us/j/97058205888 or dialing 669-900-6833 and using Meeting ID: 949 9734 6242.

Comments

Samuel L.
Registered user
Mayfield
on Sep 8, 2020 at 7:30 pm
Samuel L., Mayfield
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2020 at 7:30 pm
45 people like this

Given that employers cannot say much of anything when asked about previous employees, what exactly did Krolikowski's past employer tell Don Austin?

Does Austin care that Krolikowski refused to document the harassment or even to classify it as harassment?

Let's see if this sounds familiar. 1) A school administrator did nothing to address the behavior of the students or teachers who personally attacked a student. 2) a school administrator failed to investigate, document, or to prepare an investigation report when a student reported incidents of vandalism and hate speech. 3) A school administrator did not address a student's reports of threats of violence and death. 4) A student Yu reported incidents of harassment, including homophobic slurs, to a school administrator who did not properly respond to or document his reports as required under district policy.

Sounds a lot like things PAUSD has dealt with before with administrators that have since been "allowed" to resign.

And this is the person that Don Austin believes is "excited to welcome to our school district," Austin also believes that Krolikowski's "reputation as a strong leader, positive influence and veteran principal will provide immediate value added."

Which "positive influence" is Austin talking about? Is it the fact that Krolikowski ignored the student? Is it that Krolikowski contributed to the "negative effects, disruption and emotional distress that (a student and his) family endured as a result of the reaction by District employees and community members?

Maybe Austin likes the fact that Krolikowski is a football coach. Although Krolikowski did manage to get suspended while a coach for threatening a referee.

This is the district that tells the community how far they've come and how they have learned from past mistakes. It sure doesn't sound that way.


Martha
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Sep 8, 2020 at 7:56 pm
Martha, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2020 at 7:56 pm
29 people like this

I wonder if any candidate with clean records was interviewed for this IMPORTANT position. It is supposed to be STUDENT SERVICES position - should we take ANY risk at all?

There have been too many cases gone totally out of hand in this school district.
Can we PLEASE please please not put our students through wrong decision makings again -
I IMPLORE you Don Austin. Get the best candidate - this is a matter of our children!
No chances!


S. Underwood
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Sep 8, 2020 at 8:32 pm
S. Underwood, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2020 at 8:32 pm
36 people like this

Glad we got the football priorities down. Feel like I'm back in Texas.


Kathy
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Sep 8, 2020 at 8:42 pm
Kathy, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2020 at 8:42 pm
32 people like this

Unfortunate that Dr. Austin chooses to misrepresent the facts, or isn't fully aware of them.


Gunn Papa
Registered user
Greater Miranda
on Sep 8, 2020 at 8:46 pm
Gunn Papa, Greater Miranda
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2020 at 8:46 pm
42 people like this

Don Austin just went on and on about Mr. Krolikowski, but it had the opposite effect on me because Austin merely minimized Mr. Krolikowski’s mistakes while seemingly reading from his resume. Austin blew it and the board was took meek to actually vote no. This was anti-Asian racism and Austin was not there for our Asian community. The board also did not meet the moment. Who is up for re-election? You have failed the Asian community, and all of our community. Ken Dauber, too, talked his way out of leading as well. The Palo Alto Weekly didn’t get this wrong. Dauber should have kept his mouth closed: “These issues are not material.” Mr. Dharap, what happened to you? This is why we elected you. You have absolutely allowed racism with your vote. Ms. DiBrienza: “I don’t have a lot to add.” Then why are you in the school board? Baten-Caswell was laughable. And Todd Collins was laughing at DiBrienza’s cat instead of addressing racism against Asians. Can this get any worse?

Final add: Collins just violated basic employment law by doing a background check on Mr. Krolikowski.


Samuel L.
Registered user
Mayfield
on Sep 8, 2020 at 8:51 pm
Samuel L., Mayfield
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2020 at 8:51 pm
34 people like this

Did anyone really think anyone on the board would stand up and do the right thing for students? This was a done deal. Krolikowski already announced his departure from San Ramon.

This is just stronger evidence that the administration is supported by the board in its poor treatment of students. Is it any wonder that so many students have lost faith in their school district?

Next item on their radar is getting the parcel tax passed at any cost. Already they've admitted to putting false numbers on the initial mailer.
They'll use COVID-19 as an excuse for more money when, in fact, the shutdown has saved the district money.


Martha
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Sep 8, 2020 at 9:48 pm
Martha, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2020 at 9:48 pm
27 people like this

Today's board meeting was intense.
I hope the dialog of racism against the Asians will continue.
I hope they unite their voices and are heard by the community.


Gunn Papa
Registered user
Greater Miranda
on Sep 8, 2020 at 9:51 pm
Gunn Papa, Greater Miranda
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2020 at 9:51 pm
32 people like this

Jennifer DiBrienza has just asked Don Austin for an update on racism. Shounak Dharap has agreed. Both just had a chance tonight to vote against racism. They instead laughed their way to ignoring it. It’s too late DiBrienza, you had four years.


Martha
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Sep 8, 2020 at 10:38 pm
Martha, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Sep 8, 2020 at 10:38 pm
32 people like this

Respect and admiration for Palo Alto Online for running this purely informative news article, and for not being biased.
In the past, I always had a feeling Palo Alto Online reported news related to PAUSD administration in a positive light whether they were right or wrong.
Not today!


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Sep 9, 2020 at 12:15 am
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Sep 9, 2020 at 12:15 am
19 people like this

[Portion removed.] You can’t please everyone but do you mean there were no other candidates available that didn’t have several incidents against them in the past? There were no job applicants available representing diversity? There were also no female applicants? You mean to tell me that the best candidate available for a high profile job in PA has several terrible blemishes on his record and also the so called best candidate just happens to be an Ex-Football player (he was also an ex-coach) like Don Austin? That’s quite a coincidence.

It’s completely laughable and ironic that Austin would state that Krolikowski is a “strong leader and a positive leader” when it sounds like he showed absolutely no leadership in the Yu incident stated in the article.

[Portion removed.]


JE
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Sep 9, 2020 at 7:25 am
JE, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Sep 9, 2020 at 7:25 am
9 people like this

[Post removed.]


Kathy
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Sep 9, 2020 at 9:41 am
Kathy, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Sep 9, 2020 at 9:41 am
10 people like this

[Post removed.]


Kathy
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on Sep 9, 2020 at 6:11 pm
Kathy, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on Sep 9, 2020 at 6:11 pm
2 people like this

[Post removed.]


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