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New school district bullying policies given 'green light' by feds and state

Original post made on Nov 6, 2013

After spending 11 months working with federal and state agencies on developing new bullying policies and complaint procedures, the Palo Alto Unified School District could finally be poised to consider their adoption after receiving final approvals last week.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 6, 2013, 4:49 PM

Comments (55)

Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2013 at 5:51 pm


If this story doesn't win some kind of prize there is no justice in the world. Thank you Terri Lobdell and the Weekly for shining a light into this otherwise impenetrable process. The reporting is fantastic.

Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 6, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Quite apart from the details, I'm astonished at the lack of transparency on the school board about this. Why are none of these policy discussions happening in public board meetings?

Posted by This is so corrupt
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 6, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Either Skelly is incompetent in that he has totally screwed this up or he is corrupt in that he has purposefully made this so complicated to delay and wait out critics so he can get that extra year of $300K as the board likes to do every other year in June. In this article, you've got Dan Tom saying that this is about clear procedures, but you also have Dora Dome (she's a lawyer with PowerPoint slides who charges districts to rehash the 2012 easy-to understand California law) saying that she will need to train all the principals and hold special parent meetings, which undoubtedly means extra income for her. And she is going to train principals how to err. Super! Why is everything going wrong for Skelly, the board, and pretty much the entire group of administrators? Bad luck?

At least we'll have the compliance officer to straighten things out. The compliance officer, the guy who's basically in charge of the complaints for the past three years is Charles Young. Do you trust him? Would you trust him to run this district as an interim superintendent? It was smart of Skelly to choose a second-hand man who has demonstrated more incompetence than he has, that way we would be too frightened to even think of replacing him. Thank you Skelly and the PR head for reading this post. I noticed that you finally mentioned the kids as a reaction to the criticism that you have taken in the Town Square. Will you be reacting to this post by claiming at the next board meeting how simple the "new" bullying complaint procedure is now that it has been pointed out how woefully muddy it is?

Posted by BadLogic
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Nov 6, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Skelly say:
"People may be worried about getting a bullying policy, but I think they in general know that if their kid is not feeling comfortable at school, they should go and have a conversation with an administrator, and see how we can resolve things,"

but that's exactly why we need a policy! this approach of 'lets talk it out' is not working. those who have had complaints ignored by teachers and principals know this all too well. the policy is critical because of the obvious failure of the 'lets talk it out' approach. all too often it turns into 'lets ignore the complainers' or 'lets get back at them - they'll regret bringing this up'

of COURSE kids are not feeling comfortable in school! hasn't that message been made clear yet? here at Jordan its bad

Posted by perfect solution
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 7, 2013 at 7:49 am

Because "having a policy" is suddenly going to make it all better.
Rather than talk to the teachers/principals you can now talk to the policy. I'm sure the policy will do all it needs to do and fix everything. No people involved. In fact you no longer have to talk to anyone now you have a policy. After all, it's so much better to have a policy than to talk to people. I can even email the policy and have it respond with platitudes instead of having to go and actually speak to another person ever again. This policy is going to make the school district wonderful and it will look after our kids without them having to talk to a teach or principal ever again. They will feel so connected to our schools and the policy.

Posted by My kid gets more protection?
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 7, 2013 at 7:56 am

I don't understand why the majority of Palo Altans would approve of a policy that gives my minority kids more protection, stronger safeguards, clearer guidelines, and essentially more rights than those in non-"protected" classes?

I appreciate having the district adopt a policy that would create uniform standards, enforcement and consequences for kids that bully mine. School site implementation is haphazard at best - definitely not best practices.

But don't all kids deserve this?

Thank you VERY much Terri for ferreting out this latest attempt by the district to play with the law and with verbage to get around actually doing the right thing by ALL of our kids.

Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Nov 7, 2013 at 8:01 am

@perfect solution - a principal, district professional and a policy enter a meeting room and close the door...

Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2013 at 8:49 am

Paly Parent raises a very important point that should not be overlooked. The development of these policies happened with no public discussion or input. Outside counsel Dora Dome prepared them in consultation with her client, Dr. Skelly. Dr. Skelly and Dome kept the board policy committee updated, evidently. Perhaps those Board Policy committee meetings were public but the meetings and agendas for that committee do not seem to be posted to the district website so it would be difficult for members of the press and public to attend.

Materials regarding policy development have not been given to the press for the past several months despite Public Records Act requests for them and despite the fact that the records clearly existed. There is no justification for the exclusion of the public from the process of developing these policies. Some of the features of these policies that the public should weigh in on include:

1. The definition of bullying. The definition used in these policies is incorrect. It is drawn from the state law that defines the types of conduct for which a student can be expelled or suspended -- typically the most serious conduct. But of course parents have a serious and important interest in having a policy that defines bullying to include much less serious conduct that could be punished by less serious measures such as missing recess or having a note sent home to parents. To put a finer point on this: if your child is being teased or taunted or excluded, and you come to the school to complain, under this policy you will be told that what has happened to your child is not bullying and therefore will not be investigated or resolved under the policy.

Parents who read and understand this policy and the definition selected by the district should be extremely concerned that the district is defining bullying so narrowly that it will cover very very few incidents that any reasonable person would regard as bullying behavior.

It is hard to know why this was done. Most likely it occurred because district officials do not understand the law and are mostly incurious about it (as evidenced by Dr. Skelly's obtuse comment above that parents have complete confidence that they can just go and talk to an administrator if there is a problem. Of course we are in this situation because that is not true, and that was the basis for OCR's letter of finding against the district in the first place.)

2. The bifurcated system of investigation that treats complaints by minority, disabled, and other protected groups to a better and fairer process than other students is doomed to produce errors, mistakes, and difficulties and should be eliminated.

Prior to investigation it is impossible to know whether or not an incident is based on sexual orientation or disability. Yet the policy separates incidents by category prior to any investigation. Once investigation commences, it may become clear that actually the victim was perceived as being gay, or being a friend of a gay student or a sibling of a disabled student. But by the time those facts have emerged, deadlines for addressing discriminatory harassment have been blown and a legal problem has been created. That is why CSBA strongly recommends that all bullying be given the same level of protection.

And doesn't it just make sense? Doesn't every child deserve the same level of protection from harassment regardless of whether it occurs due to sex or due to having freckles? And doesn't every parent deserve the same peace of mind that will come with knowing that there is a fair, even handed, and neutral process in place that will if properly administered bring peace of mind to your child?

Finally, don't we want to track through recordkeeping at the district level all incidents of bullying so that we can have public oversight on where problems are, which principals are handling issues effectively, whether certain classrooms seem to have more issues, and where effective strategies are being used and where they are not?

3. The modified UCP is good and should be adopted as it is written. It does contain many procedural steps that are not in the CSBA model policy. But they are all consistent with federal and state law, approved by the district's lawyer, the OCR, the CDE, and the CSBA. Dr. Skelly was kept appraised throughout the drafting process, as was the Board's policy review committee. There is no basis or justification for changing our minds now and it will draw the ire of OCR to do so. That is unwise in the midst of so many other ongoing investigations.

The policy as written is very clear, very transparent and clearly lays out exactly what steps must be taken when and by whom. For a district in which such clarity and transparency has been sorely lacking, this is a breath of fresh air and will help to prevent future conflicts. That is the goal of a good policy and this will achieve that goal. It will keep PAUSD out of future complaints and difficulties if it is followed. And it will point the way to improvements that need to be made because it will allow us to see where problems are occurring with great clarity.

This situation has dragged on for three years. We have a good set of policies now that have been approved by all the players. They should be revised to change the bullying definition to a reasonable definition, drop the special treatment for certain cases and treat all bullying cases alike, and adopted without delay.

Currently PAUSD has no legally compliant policies in place. Any administrator who attempted to follow our current policies would be breaking the law in many cases. That situation has to end. This is a good start and should be implemented immediately.

Posted by Kim Bomar
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 7, 2013 at 9:14 am

Having had one child who was bullied by the same few kids throughout elementary school, I am glad to have a process that will escalate bullying from the school to the district, as my son is in a racial minority. I agree with "My kids get more protection?" in that giving lesser protection to majority kids (who might actually be a numerical minority soon if not already) does not seem right. If the issue is that local schools will be overwhelmed by bullying complaints, then perhaps we do need to escalate this issue of how kids treat one another, and also be clear about what constitutes actionable bullying.

As for Charles Young being the Compliance Officer, I think he is a good guy who wants the best for our kids. No doubt, he's had to learn a lot in the past year or two, but I believe he is better for it, and I would trust him to deal with a complaint concerning my kid.

Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 7, 2013 at 9:59 am

I understand that there is a process for citizens to request that the School Board place an item on its agenda for discussion. If the Board will not agendize this for discussion, perhaps it is time that a member of the public do so.

I would like to see what progress as been made against the commitments Skelly made in the resolution agreement. In addition to the creation of an updated Uniform Complaint Procedure, he commmitted the District to school based trainings for staff and students, handbook updates and implementation of tracking system for bullying complaints. If I remember correctly, there was a timeframe attached to these commitments. From the piece above it looks like no progress has been made pending the update to the UCP.

I am concerned that Skelly made commitments on the part of the District in response to an OCR case and has not followed through to honor those commitments. (Note that there was a question about whether the Board was even informed of Skelly's signing of the resolution agreement). I am concerned that neither the Board Members or City Council members have been able to impact the situation and bring the discussion out into the open and ensure that commitments made to OCR are being fulfilled. I am concerned about the lack of transparency and accountability to the public.

We need to do more to ensure that our public officials hold Dr. Skelly accountable for keeping them and the public informed about this issue. It should be a topic for every Board meeting until it is resolved.

Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 7, 2013 at 10:56 am

"of COURSE kids are not feeling comfortable in school! hasn't that message been made clear yet? here at Jordan its bad"

Jordan was full of bullying back when I was enrolled. [Portion removed.]

I'm glad they figured out a bully policy but I'm skeptical if it's gonna work. I won't be sending my kids to PA schools anytime soon.

Posted by not so impressed
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 7, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I'm not sure it makes sense to treat bullying cases differently if the victim is of a protected status (escalate to district level, actual handle) or not (treat at site level, most likely sweep under rug). IMO, this policy has a lot to due with protecting the district from future liability but not so much to do with reducing bullying.

Posted by Karen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 7, 2013 at 2:10 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by perfect solution
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 7, 2013 at 2:47 pm

"protecting the district from future liability but not so much to do with reducing bullying."
Exactly! Protecting kids from bullying happens in the school. A UCP doesn't magically stop bullying as so many posters here appear to believe.

Posted by He doesn't know bullying
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Nov 7, 2013 at 6:34 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 7, 2013 at 6:55 pm

I'm pretty certain that after all the mean comments that have been made about Kevin Skelly, he probably has a better idea than most, about how kids who are bullied feel. Unfortunately, most adults don't understand what bullying is in this day and age. If you look at the definition of bullying, there is an imbalance of power: anonymous poster versus a superintendent/asst superintendent who can't (and shouldn't respond) online; intent to be mean: again, anonymous posters and sometime self identified posters who make cruel comments [portion removed.]
Bullying is an incredibly complex issue. Having a policy is not going to make a difference. (How many of you who are working have actually read the policies for your company?) Teaching your children to be kind, empathetic and tolerant will. Unfortunately, since some adults in this community are none of the above, we have a big battle to fight.

Posted by BadLogic
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Nov 7, 2013 at 7:08 pm

@perfect solution writes: "Protecting kids from bullying happens in the school. A UCP doesn't magically stop bullying as so many posters here appear to believe."

True. it wont stop bullying.

And when you wake from your dreamland and join the real world, you'll find a policy helps when the local teachers and principals ignore your complaints. exactly as happened in the OCR case, and to many others. You see a policy gives us some rights in a system accustomed to trampling, and retaliating us.

Posted by perfect solution
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 7, 2013 at 7:27 pm

The policy is to protect the district from future liability. It gives you no more rights than you currently have. But, dream on, the policy will make everything right and there will be no more bullying once we have a policy.
A policy solves everything.You'll no longer have to make an effort to look after your child once the district has a policy.

Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 7, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Just approve the OCR approved policy for everyone already and drop the dual track. What a waste of everyone's time and money. If the principals and staff do a good job, very few people will escalate. The total number of escalations since 2006, seems minimal. Perhaps the number of escalated complaints can be one point of comparison for evaluating principals. Let's just get on with it for our district and let the rest of the state take care of itself. If the number of escalated complaints do rise, and many turn out to be nuisance claims, then then the administration can consider eliminating some class of complaints from escalation. Why do it before it is a problem?

Posted by Keep Dreaming
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 7, 2013 at 11:16 pm

If you think those policies are going to help, WRONG, they are only putting it in writing to kind of calm people out. After that business as usual. They bully students, and all they do is fill out the "Think About it Form" then they do it again, and fill out the form. No report is ever taken because it takes too much work, and no one wants to do it.

Posted by Bull Loney
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Nov 8, 2013 at 8:26 am

It seems that it is usually kids with low self-esteem that get bullied. Bullies were usually bullied themselves earlier in their lives, and so have a "nose" for other kids with low self-esteem. Bullying makes the bullies feel self-confident and on control, and they like the feeling of being "at the top of the pecking order" for a change, even at someone else's expense.

obviously, all parties involved in the bullying: the bullied, the bullies, the unresponsive teachers, and other district personnel, need counseling. Kevin Skelly, unqualified and unempathetic as he is, is simply not capable or caring enough ( or knowledgable enough, despite his education), to coordinate this solution effectively. If anything, he has contributed to a worsening of this problem by failing to take it seriously!

If you read about many of the past "school shooters" since Columbine, you can see that many of these kids had been bullied for years. Same with many of the teen and pre-teen suicide victims. Can Kevin Skelly handle the personal and district liability if this sort of thing happens in PAUSD? Probably not.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 8, 2013 at 9:10 am

Gunn parent wrote: "I am concerned that neither the Board Members or City Council members have been able to impact the situation and bring the discussion out into the open and ensure that commitments made to OCR are being fulfilled."
In fact, the school board members have been actively complicit in keeping any discussion of OCR out of public view. As the Weekly reported in the summer, Board President Dana Tom and VP Barb Mitchell scheduled multiple closed sessions to discuss OCR, labeling them with agenda items that were misleading. Barb Mitchell wrote a memo to the Board and the district lawyers that argued for questioning the authority of OCR to regulate federal civil rights in Palo Alto. That memo was discussed in secret, but not a word in public.
The truth is, the school board has no interest in having a public discussion of any of these issues, and Tom and Mitchell have actively suppressed that discussion despite multiple promises to the contrary.

Posted by perfect solution
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 8, 2013 at 9:12 am

Don't worry, Bull, the policy will solve all this. That's why we need it. The policy will stop the bullying.

Posted by Duveneck dad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 8, 2013 at 9:30 am

Obviously a policy won't stop bullying by itself. People have to follow it. The purpose of a policy is to (1) make it clear how the organization is supposed to handle incidents and (2) provide accountability to the public for how that's done.
Dr. Skelly apparently believes that a policy is unimportant, and says "trust us." That's not how to manage a large organization like a school district, particularly when Skelly's subordinates have given the community ample reason not to trust them on this issue.
Transparency is a big issue in a public organization. The district including our elected officials deserve an "F" grade for that.

Posted by Keep it simple
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 8, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I agree with above posters that a two tiered system is ill advised. In a previous Weekly story regarding disability harassment "Palo Alto High School Principal Phil Winston told the Weekly that he has never seen bullying that was not based on the characteristics protected by discrimination laws." see Web Link

If bullying on campuses is so prevalent that the district administrators are inundated with complaints, that makes a strong argument for a centralized reporting system to motivate the district to respond with a centralized response to provide training and resources for the school sites. Otherwise the burden will be placed on the principals to resolve within the limits of their discretionary budgets which is how we got to this point in the first place.

Posted by Disappointed Parent
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Nov 8, 2013 at 7:48 pm

The effect of a single bully teacher can have a life long affect

My son was repeatedly humiliated by his 5th grade teacher at Walter Hays in front of the entire class. I found out later from other students (then at Jordan) that she had bullied him for the entire year. She told him that he would never do well in school if he forgot his hoodie, notebook, pencil, or an assignment. He never said a word to us about this, but his behavior changed that last year at Hays. He became defensive, secretive, stopped participating in class, began lying, and cheating in school. Prior to this, he was such a happy, creative, motivated, and confident kid. He lost his self-esteem that year. He started to act out at Jordan but we never understood what had changed him from a good student to a tuned out kid. Three years of costly counseling has not worked. It has hurt us financially and our family in so many ways. The district teachers principals and counselors have known about this teacher, but have not done anything.
I wish we had known what had gone on in that classroom
Bullying is horrible!
Our son felt so shamed that he never said a word to anyone.
Apparently this went on everyday for the school year.
Now it is looks like he won't be graduating from Paly.
She told him he would fail and he is living up to it.

Our family has suffered in silence now for years

Posted by This is so corrupt
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2013 at 8:10 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by BadLogic
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Nov 8, 2013 at 9:08 pm


Name names. Teachers who harm students should not be allowed to operate with anonymity.

Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2013 at 9:48 pm

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

Posted by Stay sane
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2013 at 7:46 am

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

Posted by Ralph Brown
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Will the Weekly be reporting the outcome of the Board Policy Com meeting next Wed? Given the apparent disparity in memories between Caswell and Super Skelly on what she was told, transparency seems particularly important. I can't find the minutes or a video of the past Policy Com meetings on the PAUSD website. This seems odd since it is a Standing Com that is required to be public under the Brown Act.

Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2013 at 8:28 am

@Ralph Brown

You are correct that the Board Policy Review Committee is a standing committee covered by the Brown Act. All meetings of this committee must be noticed with an agenda posted 72 hours prior to the meeting, and must be open to the public. As you note, minutes must be kept. Every meeting of the BPRC up to this point has failed to meet these requirements, and therefore actions taken there -- including actions in the drafting of these policies and the selection of the method of offering lesser protection to bullying victims who are not members of protected classes -- all of those actions violated the Brown Act.

It is regrettable that this district seems to lack a culture of compliance. Failure to follow the Brown Act, failure to observe the civil rights laws, failure to properly log complaints under state law -- all of these issues relate to the lack of a belief that compliance is success metric for the administrators of this district. This has cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal fees to unwind the consequences. Until the school board sends a clear message that compliance with the letter of the law is a dimension on which the superintendent and senior staff will be evaluated, that number will continue to climb. Following the law should not be optional, and it is essential to a well-run operation.

Posted by Bull L oney
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Nov 10, 2013 at 8:34 am

This will only work if enforcement comes from the top, all the way to the student level. Kevin Skelly is at the top, along with the BOE. Both are too easily swayed, like tall grass in the wind, to stand up and enforce this and see to it that principals, teachers, and students enforce it as well.

Unfortunately for the kids, our PAUSD leaders are weak and unsympathetic. What they say and what they do are not the same...they simply give a lot of lip service to the bullying solutions.

Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Nov 10, 2013 at 11:51 am

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that" -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 10, 2013 at 7:10 pm

I'm surprised that Edmund Burke would deny his fellow lawyers their fees.

Posted by Ralph Brown
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 11, 2013 at 5:43 am

@Edmund Burke
I don't understand how the district can hold a Standing Com meeting without proper public noticing and unless the meeting is open to the public. This would help explain why this hole seems to be getting deeper and deeper. There does not even appear to be agreement on what Super Skelly has told the board and when about this proposal.
Has the Weekly addressed this issue? It sure seems like they would want to cover this issue and the Policy Com apear to be where policies are discussed. Once the Super and two board members have made a determination, the chances of the full board reversing it seem pretty slim. The public would not get a chance to wade in until the dexision is cooked. This can'T be right.

Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 11, 2013 at 8:21 am

@Ralph Brown

You are correct. The Board Policy Review Committee, which has never been agendized or noticed properly now appears to have had updates and to have made decisions regarding the direction pursued in these policies. The committee was briefed by Dome, made a decision to give less protection to "ordinary" bullying victims (who are not members of racial minorities or other similar groups) and probably made other decisions as well.

As you note, these are standing committee meetings that are subject to the Brown Act. They are being improperly held as closed meetings -- and are not even being noticed as such.

This is part and parcel of the culture of noncompliance that permeates PAUSD. The Board itself is little concerned with following the state open meetings law and regularly excludes the public from its discussions based on spurious "exceptions" such as the litigation exception when there is no litigation in fact. It holds closed committee meetings that are by statute to be noticed and open with an agenda. We have no way of knowing what has happened in those meetings, however, Dome reports in the story (see below) that she advised the committee that she was drafting policies that went against both OCR and CSBA recommendations. Evidently the committee gave her the go-ahead since she went ahead.

There should obviously be no further meetings of the BPRC until they are held on a legally compliant footing. The public has been excluded from participation in the formulation of these new policies -- the public has even been excluded from knowing about the formulation of these policies and the choices being made. Were it not for the intrepid investigative reporting of Terri Lobdell we would know literally nothing.

The Weekly should actively pursue the fact that the district has been stonewalling its Public Records Act requests for months. The district should face litigation over this issue if it does not produce all the requested documents within 10 days. Most of these requests have languished for months. While it is asking a lot to ask a small local paper to do that kind of battle with the district, if the district succeeds in holding illegal meetings and in refusing to released public records there will never be any way to get this information in the future.

The public must put a period at the end of the district's culture of noncompliance and demand that our school district scrupulously follow the law. Otherwise, children are the victims of bullying like that we have seen in recent years.

"The Palo Alto school board has not publicly discussed or voted on the policy direction to pursue a two-tiered bullying complaint process. Caswell and Townsend have met with Skelly and Dome over the past months to discuss policy development, but Caswell told the Weekly she was not aware that the CSBA had recommended against the direction in the district's proposal until informed by the Weekly. Last week Skelly also said he did not remember hearing that the CSBA had recommended against the dual complaint process being drafted by Dome.

Dome said she presented her recommendation, along with the CSBA's recommendation to the contrary, to district staff and the board's policy review committee in the spring, and that district officials agreed with her conclusion to reject the CSBA's approach. Caswell told the Weekly that she recalled the district staff recommending the bifurcated system to avoid "overburdening" the district office with too many complaints."

Posted by Special Education Role?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 11, 2013 at 11:50 pm

The bullying in the OCR case was the result of Special Education allowing it to happen to a child because of special needs. Although the Resolution Agreement for the child required Special Education actions for the child whose family filed the case, Special Education appears to have no future responsibility in this plan. Is that correct?

We've heard chillingly similar remarks from Special Education as in the OCR investigation toward children with disabilities, including "all kids are bullied", "we can't do anything about that" and "that's just normal." To resolve problems, Special Education used inappropriate services and staff. School Speech Language pathologists told families social cognitive problems can't be helped and refused to work with students outside their offices where the bullying is occurring. There is virtually no classroom help on handling team projects such as the one described in the OCR report. Behaviorists deny disabled kids are being bullied and do not recommend programs or procedures to help them. Aides working with children are not trained for dealing with disabilities or bullying, and they are not supervised by experts in their field. To document a disabled child should be helped, Special Education has relied on the word of contract behaviorists alone who lack adequate professional training, supervision and certification for the jobs they are doing. There is no ability for parents to contact a supervisor, except an unlicensed one. This would never be allowed with non-disabled students. For disabled students, unlicensed contractors supervise the work of credentialed teachers, and sometimes behaviorists tell parents and students they are teachers when they are not. This misleads both parents and teachers into thinking behaviorists must be providing high quality advice, and their assessments must be accurate. They don't know it is cheaper for Special Education to hire untrained and unlicensed staff than to hire people who will provide high quality professional services. Since only Special Education controls their hiring and payment, behaviorists don't have to meet high standards teachers or psychologist do who work with disabled children. They can't be relied upon to give independent recommendations when their livelihood depends on pleasing Special Education officials who tell the Board of Education they are reducing the number of children needing their help. The appearance of a need to tell Special Education disabled children who are bullying victims don't need help is just too great.

It is hard to understand how Special Education is not held responsible for it's long standing attitude and actions. They are the ones who ultimately cost the District so much money and harmed vulnerable children. The Board of Education praised this office in meetings earlier this school year. This is the very same group of people who knew all along disabled children were being hurt, and did nothing to stop it.

Now the District has to move forward, but how can the public have faith in Special Education's role in this with this history? Things are even worse with Special Education's rush for "full inclusion from Day 1" of this school year. They say they achieved this, although it was without additional support for the children now in mainstream classes or for the teachers and school staff trying to help them.

What will Special Education's responsibility be going forward? Is it part of the agreements? Will the same group of Special Education employees who let this happen continue? Why would they change their actions and attitudes if they are not accountable for their part of the problem they created, and did not work to resolve it except when Federal findings told them they had to, and exactly what to do? Why would they protect disabled children now if that is not their job requirement? Will their performance in protecting disabled children be monitored or assured?

Posted by special ed parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 12, 2013 at 10:38 pm

I completely agree with the above. Firing Holly Wade is a necessary first step to putting this right.

Posted by special ed parent 2
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 13, 2013 at 8:35 am

Last night there was a meeting with California state Department of Education officials who are conducting a verification review of PAUSD's special education program. I was there and it was very upsetting. Many parents complained that they were not receiving the services promised on their IEPs, or that they were having being sued by the district in due process over whether or not there would be an independent evaluation of their child. Latino families were not even notified of the meeting, and they had many complaints about PAUSD special ed. One mother said that her child became suicidal after the district cut off his extended school year help even though it had always been on his IEP. Many parents said that they were denied particular services due to the lack of funds.

The Weekly reporter was there and there was a big fight at the beginning I think because the district wanted the reporter to leave.

That last complaint really burned me. We have a huge surplus in this district that they can't even figure out how to spend. Dr. Skelly just gave teachers a huge raise (again) and they have proposed 2 million extra money here and there. They are spending large amounts on legal fees on the bullying scandal and to take people to due process, which by itself one due process hearing costs about $50K. How on earth are we taking away aides and denying services that are in IEPs due to lack of funds? How is it that Dr. Skelly and the board are not spending this surplus on special education?

PAUSD's special ed is now being investigated simultaneously by the federal and state governments. How Holly Wade keeps her job in that situation is a very good question.

Posted by caution please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Please do not share specific examples that could identify someone else's student or share examples that only apply to a few students. You might have good intentions but it is not your place to do so.

Posted by Time for them to Go and Harmed someone Else's Children
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2013 at 8:33 pm

I attended that meeting too, and yes it was depressive to hear parents cry because they have tried to get help so their children can be safe at school, and when the child gets home hurt no one called the parents. The teacher or school staff are either dumb or are pretending to be so they cannot be hold responsible. When we drop our students to school they are supposed to be safe. There was also mentioning of too much video games, and xBox games in the special education classes. This is sad, special education is not supposed to be a place to come and play games. If at least the teacher could take the time to play a board game where students interact with each other, it would not be so bad. No wonder parents are complaining about the way special ed is not working in PAUSD. Shame an our school officials and board members, also shame on us, for allowing this to happened, and no one stands up for the students. They cannot do it, some of them cannot even speak, and they depend on us to help them get a better education. I cannot do it myself. I have done it already, but we need more people to make changes to benefit our students. Please join to get new officials and board member for PAUSD, it is the time!

Posted by Another special ed parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 14, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Our current school board members have no independence from the Superintendent. They just praise the special ed staff no matter what problems there are. The state and federal governments are both investigating PAUSD! WTF?

Posted by This is so corrupt
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2013 at 7:34 pm

The current school board members simply don't what to do. They are just not good at what they are supposed to do. That is one of a few reasons why you can't blame Kevin Skelly. Of course, there are many reasons to blame him for the current state of PAUSD.

Posted by Happiness is a new superintendent
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:12 pm

One of the latest problems in PAUSD is the falling scores. This is probably due to the fact that, in his effort to save the district money rather than properly educate the kids, Kevin Skelly has mainstreamed many, many special ed kids, denying them the IEP they need.

[Portion removed.]

Skelly himself is the one who needs to be investigated, along with members of the BOE.

Posted by special ed parent 2
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 17, 2013 at 9:39 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Posted by BusyMom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2013 at 7:07 pm

To All Concerned Parents: we have to get organized! We have to stand together and form a movement. Enough is ENOUGH! I have dealt with PAUSD Special Education for 10 years. There is absolutely NO leadership at the top. Each and every parent with a child with special needs is completely on his/her own to research the law, go to Parent Helping Parents in San Jose, read books, hire advocates, and talk to other parents to figure out how to fight each and every day to get legally-mandated services for their child! We should not have to do this. It is their job to help our kids. Numerous laws say so. These administrators work for US and OUR KIDS. They don't understand that and they don't care. We outnumber them by the hundreds. WE can make them listen if we get organized. We can't continue to allow them to railroad us into frustration and submission. If you have had enough, say so NOW. How we can make this happen? Maybe a class-action lawsuit against the district for hundreds of violations of the IDEA (Special Education Law). Continuing to gripe on blogs like this is NOT the answer. It's a start, but not enough. The civil rights movement took leadership and then new laws were written. We have the laws. We need an organized movement to start now. We have to act together to make positive change. Any lawyers willing to step up and lead us? There is power in numbers. Special Ed Kids and Parents and supporters please step forward and join me!

Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2013 at 7:24 pm

@busy mom

I hope you will visit my new blog (although I understand that blogs and posting is not a substitute for collective action). I will be addressing many of the legal and policy issues you raise regarding special education and district legal compliance.

Web Link

Posted by This is so corrupt
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2013 at 10:40 pm

These postings make a difference. District staff read these all the time. When Skelly and Young leave, they will do so with a whole bunch of money.

Posted by No bonus for Skelly
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 22, 2013 at 7:43 am

Skelly does not deserve a bonus for 2013. He does not deserve 10 cents let alone $10k. The board is going to award him this bonus at the next meeting. If you want to organize start there. Send email to the board with subject: " please do not award Dr. Skelly a bonus for 2013." It's fiscally irresponsible to reward poor performance with taxpayer money. He already earns nearly 300k plus a 1 mill interest free loan plus a free car. Stop the madness.

Posted by No bonus for Skelly
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 22, 2013 at 7:47 am

We have to draw the line somewhere. Send your bonus objection to:,,,,

Here's an example:

Dear board:
Please do not give Dr. Skelly a bonus for 2013. His handling of the OCR investigation did not meet the standard of performer that is expected of someone in his position and does not merit an increase.


Posted by fed up
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 22, 2013 at 5:51 pm

I completely agree that there should be no bonus or raise for Skelly this year. His performance did not meet expectations for the district's management. It would send the wrong message to reward him after he failed to inform the board about the OCR finding and settlement and then there were additional complaints.

Let's see if the board is listening.

Posted by 18 year resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 9, 2013 at 10:59 pm

Why is Skelly still here? Why is that lawyer Dome still here?

I have stop donating to PIE because of all the waste and fraud that PAUSD leadership is inflicting on Palo Alto.

Can we request the federal government to take over our school system?

Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 9, 2013 at 11:05 pm

@18 year resident - can you quantify the waste and fraud that Pausd leadership has inflicted? Or are you just reacting to the unfounded accusations on these forums? Who do you think you are hurting by not donating to PiE? The district or the kids? Your lack of donation makes no difference to the district but it does make a difference to the children. Empty threats to PiE benefit no one.

Posted by This is so corrupt
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 9, 2013 at 11:32 pm

Not donating to PiE makes no difference right now, as long as they bring in more money than last year. All those millions do is allow the general fund to be freed up to pay for the recent rounds of pay raises for teachers and administrators, including one for Kevin Skelly himself. PiE also brings a number of mediocre programs that would be better served by full-time teachers. I get it, my child brings home paintings and clay stuff due to PiE-funded art. Sorry, not worth it. Go to PiE's web site for more drivel. I haven't donated to PiE in over a year. See? No difference. The only danger is if dozens more parents stop donating and I don't see that happening soon, so quit the fearmongrring over a handful of citizens who have stop donating to PiE.

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