News Digest | September 27, 2019 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 27, 2019

News Digest

School district settles sexual harassment case

Palo Alto Unified will pay $150,000 to a female Gunn High School student who the district determined was sexually harassed by a male Gunn student in 2018.

The school board unanimously approved the settlement in closed session on Tuesday. The district will pay half and the other half will be covered by the Northern California Relief Joint Powers Authority, which functions as an insurance company representing school districts in liability claims, board President Jennifer DiBrienza said after the board convened in open session. She did not comment further on the settlement.

What was initially a school district Title IX case was brought into the legal system in January by the girls' parents, who sought to reinstate a district decision to prohibit the male student from participating in robotics altogether. The two students both belong to the Gunn robotics team and dated briefly.

After determining last fall that text messages the male student sent to the girl and comments he made to other students constituted sexual harassment, the district initially banned him from participating in robotics activities starting in January, but later decided to allow him to attend on an alternating schedule with an escort. This prompted the girl's family to seek a court order to prohibit the boy from participating in robotics.

The six-page settlement releases each party from any future claims.

A lawyer for the girl and her family, Crystal Riggins of San Jose law firm Hoge Fenton Jones & Appel, signed the agreement on Sept. 12. Riggins declined to comment on the settlement.

—Elena Kadvany

Palo Alto to explore new laws to spur affordable housing

With housing production falling well short of their goals, members of the Palo Alto City Council clashed and compromised Monday over the best way to support residents whose incomes make it all but impossible to live in town.

The discussion was prompted by a new memo by Councilwoman Lydia Kou and Councilman Tom DuBois, who argued Monday that the city's housing efforts are inadequate to help those in the lower income categories. The memo suggested that the city focuses on those housing programs that target low- and moderate-income residents.

The council ultimately voted to move ahead with several key proposals in the memo, including ones that staff had already been working on. These include implementing the "Palmer fix," a policy that would require developers of rental properties to designate a percentage of their units for below-market-rate housing. The city's existing inclusionary zoning policy only applies to ownership units.

The council also agreed to explore protections for low-density buildings, including duplexes and cluster housing.

And in a turnaround, the council agreed to explore roughly doubling the housing-impact fees that the city charges commercial developers. With its unanimous vote, it directed staff to update a nexus study that the city had performed in 2016, when it last considered the fee change.

—Gennady Sheyner

City Council has questions about mishandled 911 call

Palo Alto City Council members on Monday afternoon said that they still have questions about the police response to a June 3 911 call during which a resident with stroke-like symptoms was kept from receiving medical aid for 14 minutes, but at the same time the council members expressed faith in City Manager Ed Shikada to provide those answers to them.

Mayor Eric Filseth learned about the incident, which was reported on by the Weekly on Sept. 20, after a phone call from the woman's husband in July, he said on Sept. 23. Filseth then had a number of conversations with Shikada and a couple of discussions with City Attorney Molly Stump. Most of those exchanges have focused on decisions made regarding the city's staging protocol.

"There are still a number of unanswered questions," Filseth said, such as "why there is not camera footage from the sergeant (Adrienne Moore)."

On Monday morning he viewed and listened to the body-camera audio and video of the other officer who handled the 911 incident, Officer Yolanda Franco-Clausen.

"Overall, it looks pretty much to me like the emergency responders (police) were trying to diagnose and respond" to the woman, he said, adding that he is not an expert on such matters.

The woman and her husband claim that police overstepped their role on June 3 by trying to assess the woman's condition rather than determining that she posed no harm to the paramedics who were standing by, ready to treat her.

Filseth said he expects an update from Shikada and called the matter "an operational issue." The council's role is to review the policies and procedures and the update from Shikada and to see if the city staff did what they were supposed to do, he said.

—Sue Dremann and Gennady Sheyner


36 people like this
Posted by Cover up culture
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 25, 2019 at 1:20 pm

The district, hoping to avoid a lawsuit w the disabled student, then dared the girl's family to sue. That's the way the district rolls, constantly playing chicken w families, while shortchanging students and the law. Then covering it up.

Too bad the girl's family didn't hold out for more.

40 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2019 at 2:01 pm

The truly annoying thing about this is that it is not the District's money but ours that will be paid.

The District looks at Palo Alto residents as a money pit. Whenever they need money they put the begging bowl out and the good people of Palo Alto will vote to give the District money for the sake of our children.

I expect that they will look to us to make up this shortfall, claiming legal expenses or some such so that they will not be out of pocket. It is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

I am not amused.

33 people like this
Posted by Cover up culture
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 25, 2019 at 4:05 pm

Wait, so the District paid Cozen O'Connor $1million to do the Cozen report for an incident that Paly's admin messed up and the Title IX/UCPcoordinator at the time, Holly Wade, messed up, then more $$ to do more reports on all the other Title IX /UCP incidents the district messed up, and that OCR said they had to write reports on, and the district spent an additional $500K or so on John whatever his name was to try to get the district on the right side of the law, hired the new Title IX person Megan Farrell and have been paying her, then they created a new administrative position for over $300k/year and installed Karen Hendricks, who had been the HR person, but now to help with Title IX and oversee, etc, and the District hired someone else to do HR and thus created an extra very costly position and a Title IX coordinator position, also expensive. They they hired a General Counsel, Komey Vishakan, expensive too, and she's hired staff as well. Oh, and we got rid of Max McGee since he messed things up with Title IX/UCP and blew an extra $6 million. And we hired Don Austin to replace him as Superintendent at over $300k. Oh and Kathie Laurence messed up with Title IX at Paly during the aforementioned incident, breaking the law, but then she was promoted to be Gunn principal, even though she couldn't follow the law. And now this incident has happened at Gunn, under the promoted principal Kathie Laurence's watch, and Don Austin's, and Megan Farrell's and Karen Hendricks, and Komey Vishakan's. And so, judging by the district paying out $150k, it seems they ALL messed up. And so did the School Board, who 4-1 supported fighting the girl and her family in court, instead of just doing the right thing and choosing to protect her and keep her safe at school and making sure she could access her education in her public school, which she is entitled to under the law. GREAT JOB EVERYONE!!!

20 people like this
Posted by Concerned Pareu
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 25, 2019 at 8:50 pm

Who is sitting on the school board? Why can't we get people without a political agenda elected to the School board? Sad. The culture in PAUSD is getting worse.

1 person likes this
Posted by Missing details
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 27, 2019 at 10:24 am

What’s the $150k for ?
There should be some explanation of how that amount was determined and for what damages it compensates.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay up to date on local coronavirus coverage with our daily news digest email.



The 34th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult and Teen categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by April 10, 2020. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category. Sponsored by Kepler's Books, Linden Tree Books and Bell's Books.

Contest Details