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Report: 'timely' but 'flawed' response to 2015 sex assault

Original post made on Jun 12, 2018

A law firm has found that the Palo Alto school district responded promptly but failed to take the legally required steps to investigate and assess the impact of a reported 2015 on-campus sexual assault on the alleged victim, then a junior at Palo Alto High School.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, June 12, 2018, 9:18 AM

Comments (17)

48 people like this
Posted by Inconceivable
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 12, 2018 at 10:17 am

This is inconceivable and absolutely mind boggling. How can the administration at Paly be so inept at handling something as important as this?


50 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 12, 2018 at 10:35 am

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Bigger question. How can the PAUSD board PROMOTE Adam Paulson after reading the report?


16 people like this
Posted by Tony Putulin
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 12, 2018 at 11:03 am

I want to know how much the District paid to the law firm who did the report. Great reporting, Elena.


50 people like this
Posted by Collaterally Damaged
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2018 at 11:44 am

My family was seriously retaliated against because of an OCR complaint, including creating a hostile environment among staff and in school against our student. We told McGee we would take a restraining order out on one of the administrators if it would mean we could protect ourselves from that person’s toxic influence and gaslighting. Instead, she was given oversight and control, making educational decisions even as our child and family were kept at arms length and not allowed to develop normal interactions in school. The retaliation worsened the longer we didn’t file another complaint. Eventually we just left because we could not see a way that even proving the retaliation (for which we have copious evidence) would be worth it or result in fixing things. The district showed it was willing to systematically gaslight us including hurting a really sweet student, it didn’t seem that complaining again would be worth it.

The reason I bring this up is that the extent of coordination and overt intent in the retaliation was shocking to us. One administrator who is no longer with us would violate privacy laws and essentially gossip a combination of falsehoods and private information behind our backs. We know this because he did with teachers outside our district who were so shocked they told us about it. We are sure similar things happened within the district, but we just experienced the toxic outcome with his involvement, no one was ever honest with us much less willing to investigate a complaint of persistent retaliation. While the teachers were definitely inculcated, some still remember the strangeness from the district. One serious complaint of cyberbullying, we were never even given the outcome when we asked. We have the written denials to our requests for the outcome. No one did anything to stand up for us, and the perpetrators were the only recourse. Our district needs an office of ombudsman that does not work for the district but where families can go to get help.

I bring this up because I do not believe such serious problems just work themselves out, and I am very worried that these Title IX complainants will be sitting ducks in the event of any further personal grievances being taken out on the children in school. Two of our worse tormenters are gone, but not people who carried water for them without questioning what they were doing, who I’m sure still believe what they were told. The administrators can even use district legal and the teaching staff against the children to pressure the parents. Since there is no entity protecting families, there is still a culture that finds gaslighting families easy. The situation became so bad, the fabric of our lives was negatively changed. It felt manifestly unsafe to send our child to school or certainly to try to solve even ordinary school problems, much less highly charged ones. I am very concerned about how those concerned can protect complainants against future retaliation, including the use of the very protective structures of system to make life hell for the students.

And if I’m honest, I still wish for an honest investigation into our own experience and an accounting an apology. Retaliation atemming from an OCR complaint is illegal. But like antiquated stalking laws, the OCR doesn’t do anything until after the damage is done, and only if you complain again (in the way that produced the original retaliation).

Thank you to those who stood up to make our district follow the law to protect our students. My fear is that it’s not over. The OCR oversight will be gone before the long memories of those harboring grudges.


14 people like this
Posted by Bye bye women
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 12, 2018 at 12:02 pm

I applaud the hiring of Paulson. [Portion removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 12, 2018 at 12:07 pm

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 12, 2018 at 2:15 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

I told you so,* I told you so *, I TOLD YOU SO!!!! I even outline a response for PSUSD to follow. If my recommendations that were made by my Special Ed teacher, principal and finally an Assistant Administrator parent had been followed, this issue would not have surfaced again.
I guess the " rocket scientists " have created a failure, so it is back to the drawing board...again..and again..
Everyone has to pay for your failures. How many $Millions were spent to try to beat a Federal " rap " by doing the opposite of what the OCR required?
Not only this family has been scapegoated for doing the right thing, there are many students who are or have been victims that did not get recognized because they had harassment issues that were " minimized " because of deliberate PAUSD " unwritten policies " to minimize actual problems, even after an OCR visit that made the OCR " recommendations " ( that are low key orders, because an existing issue can turn into a real problem if the Feds are forced into taking care of an issue that M$M could turn into news. Good or bad, the PAUSD would not be flattered as the world spotlight is turned on them. Hey, its all about money and plenty of money is what Palo Alto is about, right? I *suggest* that you had better look at the many *suggestions* the OCR has made with a quick response and actual timetable to meet the *suggestions* the OCR has requested.


5 people like this
Posted by You are pigs
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 12, 2018 at 3:35 pm

[Post removed.]


18 people like this
Posted by Title IX is a disaster
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 12, 2018 at 4:19 pm

Hopefully DeVos can roll it back. Putting school administrators in role of judge and jury of sexual assault cases only invites problems like this. Additionally the "Dear Colleague" letter changes criteria from clear evidence to preponderance of evidence, an unfair process for he said/she said cases. We have a judicial system to deal with this, use it.


34 people like this
Posted by unnecessary editing
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 12, 2018 at 4:50 pm

Why cross out Paly staff members' names?

The "public interest in disclosure of a report of a personnel investigation finding a teacher had violated his employer’s sexual harassment policy outweighed the teacher’s privacy interests...regardless of the fact that [he] was not a high profile public official [because] he occupies a position of trust and responsibility." Web Link ("Court of Appeal Holds that Personnel Investigation Report is Subject to Disclosure" February 2, 2012)


50 people like this
Posted by Green Acres parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 12, 2018 at 8:10 pm

This no doubt explains why they stonewalled the Public Records Act request for so long - and why they redacted it so heavily. They wanted to promote Paulson before his reputation was tarnished. The district seems more concerned with protecting administrators' jobs than with protecting our children. Is it too much to ask that our district simply follow the law?


23 people like this
Posted by white elephant
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 13, 2018 at 12:02 am

Where along the way, did adults put in charge of student education and wellbeing at schools, lost their souls and their humanity? I do not believe any adult paid for such a responsibility needs additional classes and training, nor do they need to be a lawyer to know that one does not continue to put the victim in the same class as the offender. Given that the police had already, reported to Paly that the offender had sexually assaulted another teen in church (prior to the Paly assault) . Why can't anyone of these adult admin. own up and apologize for their lack of responsible behavior, and say that they will change their poor policy (“deliberate lack of documentation to avoid leaving a trail of consistent failure in doing their job”) . Why do we promote irresponsible admin? These admin. were found at fault by independent investigations? Why should the public not see the complete Cozen report with redaction of the names of victims and offenders only (for obvious reasons)? We paid for this investigation, and the admin. are public figures with salaries paid by taxpayers? Our children go to school everyday and we have the right o know the character of the admins. in charge of our children's safety. No public apologies have been made, no principal has publically said " We will not tolerate harassment, assault, and bullying in our school. We have an anonymous method or reporting incidents when they are witnessed or occur, we will investigate each incident reported " how hard is it to stand up and say “NOT IN OUR SCHOOLS"?


28 people like this
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2018 at 3:24 am

@Collaterally Damaged, Thank you for sharing your experience. We also have been severely retaliated against, and people refuse to believe it is true and label us as unstable. The school with stop at nothing! We experienced such sick behavior from personnel at every level that my child stopped going to school for their mental health. We are out of this sick town.

Being transparent and honest just makes families targets, staff including teachers circle the wagons and get their stories straight and attack the family. Unbelievable stories made up and yes lots of personal sensitive private information free flowing....Unfortunately, some good teachers got a load of bull from the CYAers to joined the kick the kid party.

Not a single helpful safe adult at school my child could go to that would actually be helpful without twisting and attacking even more.

Go Eugenics! Your strategy is working. Us unwanted are leaving, totally damaged, broke and facing a huge uphill battle, thanks for ruining our lives PAUSD.


34 people like this
Posted by NoAccountability
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 13, 2018 at 6:25 am

Three years. It took THREE YEARS to investigate this fully. And honestly very little accountability: DiOrio was allowed to resign, Paulson promoted and Max retired.

None were terminated for cause.

Three years is a lifetime for this student, who, in the end, saw no justice.

When admin, staff and teachers fail in their jobs, our district puts endless energy and time into preserving the employees career, and zero effort into providing for the students, their well being and ensuring a just outcome.

The students come last in this district. This issue should have been investigated, resolved within a month, and failed employees marched out the door within the same school year.

Not Three Years Later.(and allowed to dance out on their own terms)


27 people like this
Posted by Collaterally Damaged
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2018 at 11:46 am

@PA Resident,
I am so sorry to hear it happened to you, too. I truly think most of the teachers are good people so it's doubly awful that they become unwitting accomplices because of this backbiting culture from above. This district *must* find a way to create an administration that supports everyone at doing the right thing, and values like trustworthiness and honesty.

Like you, we went broke on legal and other costs the district forced us to incur (some they were supposed to reimburse but never did). We are still licking our wounds. We're afraid to even ask for records, it never got them for us and it typically resulted in someone doing something else overtly nasty (and creating a written record of having complied with the records request when they never did).

The silver lining is that when we left, our child's education could be focused on learning, on being balanced, and lo and behold, tests scores went up along with the more balanced life. Academic problems this child was made to feel inferior over worked themselves out when there was time to just read. Having agency and control over learning and life have improved our lives more than I could describe here. All that suffering was not only unnecessary for our child to get an education, it turned out it was stunting it. Nevertheless, we have to scrape by when even a quarter of what we pay in taxes for the district to educate others would make a huge difference to our child's education.

I know others who have left, though. Sending you positive thoughts. You are not alone.

My worry is that those who complained over this latest Title IX round will get the same treatment. I can't see any reason to believe it's over.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon-Parent4
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 15, 2018 at 11:05 am

There still needs to be due process and examination of evidence, even for Title IX. Otherwise, it's all onesided.


1 person likes this
Posted by George Polk
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 15, 2018 at 11:17 am

Consent remains a very challenging issue in these cases, especially when there is alleged criminality. It's hard for Juvenile Courts as well. In some cases the students are very close friends that have known each other for a long time.


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