The Palo Alto school board unanimously approved Tuesday a $50,000 settlement with the family of a former special education middle school student who was repeatedly bullied in 2016.
The family filed a lawsuit against the school district in 2017 alleging the district failed to protect him from harassment at Jordan Middle School (now known as Greene Middle School) that included bullying online and in person, as well as an incident in which a student brandished a knife at him on campus, which they said resulted in severe academic and emotional harm.
The district "denies and disputes" all claims and allegations made in the lawsuit, the settlement states. Both parties agreed to settle "in order to avoid the substantial expense and inconvenience of further litigation," the document reads.
Seth Rosenberg, the family's attorney, said in a statement that the district "failed in its responsibilities to protect its students at every level — in educating its students regarding bullying prevention, in investigating and remedying bullying once it occurs, and in working to prevent bullying from occurring again. For these errors PAUSD fairly compensated my client.
"We hope PAUSD learns from this experience and works harder to protect its students going forward," he added. "I couldn't be prouder of my client and his family for sticking up for their rights. I have been honored to represent them."
The district's Joint Powers Authority will pay the settlement, which also includes a portion of the family's fees from a mediation this summer. The family agreed to dismiss five defendants in the case for a waiver of costs, according to the settlement. The named defendants were former Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Scott Bowers; former Juana Briones Elementary School Principal Tom Jacoubowsky, who was Jordan's interim principal at the time of the bullying; James Lubbe, a physical education teacher who was an assistant principal at the time; then-Vice Principal Jim Cox; and Jane Miller, a special education aide at Jordan at the time.
The case spurred the school board to examine how staff was implementing policies and procedures for addressing complaints of discriminatory bullying.
The boy's mother told the Weekly at the time that she decided to file the lawsuit after feeling unheard by the district for months. The prospect of reform and better treatment of children like hers, she said, is more important than any financial outcome.
"It's not the money, it's the respect that a person deserves," she said in an interview conducted in Spanish. "Money will not recover what happened."