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.
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.
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