News

Students protest in Palo Alto over vote on proposed county sex assault policy study

A group of high school students on Sunday protested outside the Palo Alto home of a Santa Clara County supervisor over a September decision by the Board of Supervisors to collect more background on a proposed study of sexual assault and harassment policies in schools and colleges.

On Sept. 22, Santa Clara County supervisors discuss a proposal to pursue a study on sex- and gender-based harassment and violence policies in K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions. Screenshot obtained from Santa Clara County video.

The group, which organizer Rachel Sun said included a number of high-school-age victims of sexual assault, gathered Sunday at Palo Alto's Duveneck Elementary School and then marched a few blocks to the home of Supervisor Joe Simitian. Sun and other protesters contend Simitian has used "procedural stalling tactics" to allow the imposition of new Title IX regulations for high school and college policies and procedures for handling sexual violence.

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted on Sept. 22 to oppose moving ahead with an investigation into the uniformity and enforcement of all of the county's sex- and gender-based discrimination and harassment policies in county schools.

The proposal by Supervisor Dave Cortese would task the county with pulling together what's happening across each level of education.

"The reason that this is being brought forward now … is just because Betsy DeVos at the federal level .. basically more narrowly tailored the criteria for what would constitute Title IX violations," Cortese said at the September meeting.

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Simitian, along with Supervisors Susan Ellenberg and Mike Wasserman, voted to delay any investigation for at least 60 days, giving the supervisors and county staff time to gather more information about the possible investigation.

The board requested county staff return on Nov. 17 with a recommended scope of work for the study.

"The Board majority thought that the work should be done thoughtfully and thoroughly. These issues are too important to do otherwise," Simitian said in a statement to this news organization.

On Sunday, protesters, wearing masks and practicing social distancing, demanded Simitian back the measure when it returns to the board of supervisors in November.

In a statement, Sun — a senior at Gunn High School in Palo Alto — said 45 "student survivors" gave two hours of testimony at the board meeting.

According to recent Palo Alto High School graduate Alexa Aalami, a founder of the student group Responsive Inclusive Safe Environment, the study was important because, with the new Title IX regulations, school and college policies and procedures for handling sexual violence have been placed into disarray.

"Survivors are falling though the cracks, and we need the county to step up to the plate and help parents and students to see how their schools are handling sexual violence," Aalami said.

Editor's note: This story incorrectly reported the Sept. 22 action taken by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Palo Alto Online regrets the error.

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Students protest in Palo Alto over vote on proposed county sex assault policy study

by /

Uploaded: Mon, Oct 12, 2020, 9:42 am
Updated: Mon, Oct 12, 2020, 7:49 pm

A group of high school students on Sunday protested outside the Palo Alto home of a Santa Clara County supervisor over a September decision by the Board of Supervisors to collect more background on a proposed study of sexual assault and harassment policies in schools and colleges.

The group, which organizer Rachel Sun said included a number of high-school-age victims of sexual assault, gathered Sunday at Palo Alto's Duveneck Elementary School and then marched a few blocks to the home of Supervisor Joe Simitian. Sun and other protesters contend Simitian has used "procedural stalling tactics" to allow the imposition of new Title IX regulations for high school and college policies and procedures for handling sexual violence.

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted on Sept. 22 to oppose moving ahead with an investigation into the uniformity and enforcement of all of the county's sex- and gender-based discrimination and harassment policies in county schools.

The proposal by Supervisor Dave Cortese would task the county with pulling together what's happening across each level of education.

"The reason that this is being brought forward now … is just because Betsy DeVos at the federal level .. basically more narrowly tailored the criteria for what would constitute Title IX violations," Cortese said at the September meeting.

Simitian, along with Supervisors Susan Ellenberg and Mike Wasserman, voted to delay any investigation for at least 60 days, giving the supervisors and county staff time to gather more information about the possible investigation.

The board requested county staff return on Nov. 17 with a recommended scope of work for the study.

"The Board majority thought that the work should be done thoughtfully and thoroughly. These issues are too important to do otherwise," Simitian said in a statement to this news organization.

On Sunday, protesters, wearing masks and practicing social distancing, demanded Simitian back the measure when it returns to the board of supervisors in November.

In a statement, Sun — a senior at Gunn High School in Palo Alto — said 45 "student survivors" gave two hours of testimony at the board meeting.

According to recent Palo Alto High School graduate Alexa Aalami, a founder of the student group Responsive Inclusive Safe Environment, the study was important because, with the new Title IX regulations, school and college policies and procedures for handling sexual violence have been placed into disarray.

"Survivors are falling though the cracks, and we need the county to step up to the plate and help parents and students to see how their schools are handling sexual violence," Aalami said.

Editor's note: This story incorrectly reported the Sept. 22 action taken by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Palo Alto Online regrets the error.

Comments

Mark Chandler
Registered user
another community
on Oct 12, 2020 at 10:50 am
Mark Chandler, another community
Registered user
on Oct 12, 2020 at 10:50 am
16 people like this

Joe Simitian has been a stalwart supporter of victim's rights and sensitive to the equities in these issues, making sure we have fair processes. Can this story be updated to allow him to express a view on this issue?


Mom
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2020 at 10:52 am
Mom, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 12, 2020 at 10:52 am
10 people like this

Joe Simitian is deeply out of touch with the sexual assault issue. Whenever you try to talk to him about it, he tells you a long-winded story about how he put into place a sexual harassment policy in Palo Alto schools for staff 35 years ago. If the last thing you did for survivors was 35 years ago maybe it's time to step up to the plate again.

He is not an advocate for survivors and no one thinks so except him in his own mind and maybe (but only maybe) Mary Hughes.


Mom
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2020 at 10:59 am
Mom, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 12, 2020 at 10:59 am
Like this comment

[Post removed.]


Rebecca Eisenberg
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 12, 2020 at 11:27 am
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 12, 2020 at 11:27 am
10 people like this

I applaud these young protestors and I regret not being able to join them!

Even if I did not agree with their cause -- which I do -- I cannot understand how an elected official could vote against a "study" of an issue that has been such a huge problem in his hometown that the United States Department of Justice has had to intervene - twice - in the past 5 years! Come on, Supervisor Simitian. Please do the right thing here.


Misleading
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2020 at 12:50 pm
Misleading, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 12, 2020 at 12:50 pm
9 people like this

The headline and some comments by student protestors mislead readers by contending Supervisor Simitian supports Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's postions on sexual assault on campus. Full stop.

Yet toward the end of the article, we find a very different story - Simitian with the majority of Supervisors, "...voted on Sept. 22 to oppose moving ahead with an investigation into the uniformity and enforcement of all of the county's sex-and gender-based discrimination and harassment policies in county schools". "It is scheduled to come before the supervisors on Nov. 17."

So we read there is action being considered for all schools in the County and the Supervisors have opted to amass more information before taking further action on Nov. 17. This seems reasonable approach. Score 1 for good governance. It also will likely create a better result for women on campus.

This is what Supervisor Simitian is all about - his 30+ year record proves he is a strong supporter of women's rights.


Mom
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2020 at 12:57 pm
Mom, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 12, 2020 at 12:57 pm
8 people like this

Actually "misleading" is actually misleading.

The fact is that Simitian specifically voted to delay any action on the study for 2 months and specifically on Simitian's motion added the condition that the County staff is to consult with "federal agencies" (all of which are controlled by Trump) before taking action.

So you are wrong.

Joe Simitian is no friend to sexual assault victims. These kids know it and are demanding better. Just one of a thousand reasons why it's time for Joe to move on.


Mom
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2020 at 12:59 pm
Mom, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 12, 2020 at 12:59 pm
1 person likes this

[Post removed.]


Misleading
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2020 at 1:39 pm
Misleading, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 12, 2020 at 1:39 pm
4 people like this

Emotion over reason is what got Trump elected.
I’ll leave it at that.


Facts and Figures
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 12, 2020 at 1:58 pm
Facts and Figures, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Oct 12, 2020 at 1:58 pm
5 people like this

@Misleading,

Stop stirring the pot. By even mentioning President Trump's name, you are creating visceral reactions for many readers. Visceral reactions against these students. The adults should be setting a good example here.

Joe Simitian has a long and solid record, but this does not mean he is always right. And, PAUSD has a lousy record of compliance on these issues. But for the actions of non-Board members and non-staff, it is likely that nothing would have improved in Palo Alto.

Hurrah for these students for speaking up for themselves. I wish PAUSD students would protest outside our Board member's houses from time-to-time. Good old fashioned advocacy is sorely needed.


Misleading
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2020 at 5:11 pm
Misleading , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 12, 2020 at 5:11 pm
Like this comment







Mom
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2020 at 8:04 am
Mom, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 13, 2020 at 8:04 am
2 people like this

[Portion removed.]

This measure would have authorized a study, with the results to be made public.

Despite the lack of opposition, Simitian refused to support the referral. He and Ellenberg (together with the Republican Mike Wasserman [portion removed] both refused to support what should have been a universally supported noncontroversial measure.

Both of them falsely stated that the County lacked jurisdiction to conduct a study, a claim that stunned everyone listening. Simitian falsely claimed that he didn't know about this, even though the motion was properly noticed. He repeatedly read the motion aloud in a contemptuous voice, as if it was a ridiculous motion rather than an easy call to conduct a study. He said it was too broad. Ellenberg said it was too expensive. They both went on about all the reasons it would be too hard to conduct a study. Cortese adopted Ellenberg's suggestion to have a sooner report back, trying to cooperate with her, and then refused to support her own suggestion.

Then the two of them concocted a substitute motion that would delay the entire decision for 2 months [portion removed.]

Simitian seemed aggrieved that he wasn't the one in charge instead of Cortese [portion removed.]

The Stanford Daily called this "dodging" the issue.

The Weekly has long been a Simitian cheerleader and now is doing so in a manner which harms students. So much for student voice.

Next time send a reporter.




Mom
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 13, 2020 at 8:13 am
Mom, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 13, 2020 at 8:13 am
Like this comment

[Post removed.]


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