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School board to discuss Gunn sexual harassment case

Original post made on Feb 5, 2019

The Palo Alto school board is holding a special-closed session meeting on Wednesday morning to discuss the school district's response to a Gunn High School sexual-harassment case.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, February 5, 2019, 9:06 AM

Comments (10)

Posted by CYA
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2019 at 9:38 am

CYA is a registered user.

Board "Oh crap, the public found out that we let that sexual assailant back into Robotics! We'd better make up some story about how the boy's family got mad and appealed or threatened to sue and we're trying to do what's best for everyone and we didn't have a choice."

Isn't this what happened last year? 1) District doesn't protect students who were assaulted by classmates. 2) Victims speak out. 3) District acts as if they didn't know what was going on. 4) District pays money to have someone else tell them they screwed up and need to do what's right. 5) District doesn't change anything and hopes the stories that go public cause less damage than the ones they keep quiet.

Rinse and repeat.

Posted by Truth and Reconciliation
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2019 at 9:50 am

Good luck to the girl and her family after all this is over, it won't be over. You have no idea what is going to hit you with the retaliation culture in the district, once your lawyers are not on retainer for this suit anymore. Actually, employees are probably already holding you at arm's length -- meaning, how you are talked about behind your backs, how you are treated in the community -- using the lawsuit as an excuse.

Talk to some of the people who complained to the OCR about how they were retaliated against. So many were hounded out of the district, you'll have to expand your search, though.

The district will never be in a situation without problems to solve. But it cannot move forward without the damaging behavior of the past if it does nothing about understanding or doings something about the worst of its culture (unless forced in narrow ways to from OCR complaints). The district has never dealt with both the inclinations and lack of protections that result in families who complain about very real problems being retaliated against.

Posted by Truth and Reconciliation
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2019 at 9:56 am

Our district operates very much by connections. The decisionmakers in the district probably like the boy and probably don't like the girl because she made life hard for them by complaining about being assaulted. Complaining families then get treated like dirt, giving them more to complaint about, which results in retaliation if they have the nerve to stick up for themselves. In the meantime, those in the wrong can continue to curry favor and this district LOVES lying suck ups (pays for their degrees, gives them raises, ignores their illegal and destructive behavior), especially in its administrators, so yes, it's lather, rinse, repeat.

Posted by CYA
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2019 at 10:05 am

CYA is a registered user.

Where is the RISE task force in all of this? Isn't the Assistant Superintendent, Karen Hendricks, a member of RISE? Wouldn't she also be involved in the decision to withhold an educational opportunity from the girl who was assaulted? How can the district be so proud of a Title IX coordinator, Megan Farrell, who is basically just another employee of PAUSD and seems to only be looking out for the district and not for the safety of the students she is supposed to be protecting?

Posted by The Public Interest
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 5, 2019 at 7:29 pm

Why does the Board need to discuss this? Apparently, the Board already decided to permit the sexual harasser, who was deemed to have violated laws and policies, to be in close proximity to his victim.

Posted by Ugh!
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 5, 2019 at 10:10 pm

It is utterly outrageous that no one within the district or high school office was willing to take responsibility for the change in disciplinary action. The family of the girl asked for an explanation as to why PAUSD went back on its own plan after the sexual harassment investigation. They were met with a whole lot of "it's not my responsibility" and "because privacy" and no one would say the "changed decision was made by _____ because ______".

When will PAUSD learn?
Weren't they just required to put a new, effective process in place to handle these situations? If there is such a process, it should clearly state WHO is responsible for enforcing and/or altering disciplinary actions.

This should not come down to caving into each latest lawsuit. Did the boy's family protest behind closed doors and get the outcome changed? Isn't there a Title IX officer who should take responsibility? Or else it must finally land in the Principal's and Superintendent's laps!

PAUSD, stick with the expected process!!!!

Posted by BP
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 5, 2019 at 10:45 pm

It is Pathetic that this is how PAUSD administrators act regarding a sexual assault. I guess the title IX admin really was hired to protect the schools and not students. Short of a capital crime on campus, I bet students can do anything they want without PAUSD punishment.

Posted by This is Crazy!
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 5, 2019 at 11:22 pm

@Truth and Reconciliation: You are abso-freakin-lutely SPOT ON in your analysis of the current situation. You are so correct in that this family is fighting a tough battle....but the reality is... they are on the right side of the fight...and I support them!

@CYA: I love your questions. You should keep asking all of the questions you want...I am hopeful the new superintendent reads these comments. I can assure you the school districts he came from (Huntington Beach & Laguna Beach) would not support this admin manure running in their Schools.
It's time to drain the swamp - Yeah...I said it.

The truth is...are we really surprised that this is happening to us again?

Let's break this down...the current GUNN principal was the previous Vice Principal who was part of the Paly fiasco when a student, who was convicted of assault, was allowed to return to school and the victim's rights were completely disregarded and I can continue on and on - but it makes me ill to think about it.

Fast forward to GUNN. This very same administrator is confronted with a "situation" which, after an investigation concludes that this boy sexually harassed this victim, instilled disciplinary action of being banned from the robotics team ( I presume there were more consequences for this boy than just the "ban" from the robotics team) only to find that the "no more robotics team" disciplinary action is overturned??? WHAT?

Let's break THAT down.....Here is the deal....if you are found to have sexually harassed some one else at this LOSE privileges….PERIOD....
Like I mentioned earlier, I HOPE that there were more consequences as part of this sad conclusion. Let's think about he allowed to attend any of the dances? is there mandatory therapy to deal with whatever manifested this behavior? What were the consequences? I guess we will never know....

Here is what I DO KNOW....I support the parents of this young lady. They are fighting for their daughters will to feel secure in her learning environment. She shouldn't be exposed to this boy....

It's a shame that this even happened...

Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 8, 2019 at 10:52 pm

This is ridiculous. If the PAUSD board has no clear cut form of acting based on :
1. bullying
2. sexual harassment

Both of which are obvious in this case.... and they can not expel the male student, nor in the very least prevent him from coming into contact with the girl.... and they need to have a "close door discussion" on how Gunn handled it... it's a bit outrageous.

COME ON. There should be CLEAR guidelines. Was bullying happening? Was sexual harassment happening?

The PAUSD board and PALY and GUNN both need to realize what sexual harassment is. It is a very specific form of bullying. Period. There should be consequences to the harassing teen, as well as protocol in place to protect the victim.

America is a culture where violence reigns supreme. Americans die from gun violence in 2 years, more than the amount of men have died in the Vietnam war. That is how violent America is.

Secondly ... this is also the culture where Hollywood movies and tv shows that PERSISTENCE and PERSEVERANCE pays off. It will ultimately lead to success in this world. Think of the movie The Graduate and how Dustin Hoffman's character wins the girl. He refuses to take the word "NO" seriously. There is Robert Redford in Indecent Proposal where he chases after Demi Moore's character. He literally stalks her and shows up at her work site uninvited. Hollywood continues to show men refusing to take "no" as a real "no" and showing up .. is somehow romantic and good. It eventually wins the girl over.

In a country where women say "no" and men continue to chase them... and pursue them.... pressing their desires and wills upon females... because it is their right.. something is quite wrong. When schools condone a male teen in pressing his desires for a certain act upon the teen girl, then brags about it and tells everyone... and also makes her feel worthless.... and distinctly uncomfortable.. how is that not bullying.

When high schools and PAUSD writes this off as "boys will be boys" and "it's just teen drama"... it's just ensuring we propagate the poor treatment of women in this "me too" era. No wonder girls go off to University campuses, get raped and fail to report and blame themselves. No wonder, boys go and push their desires (unwanted and uninvited) onto young women, and then say they are innocent (even if done in the dark, on the ground, behind a dumpster and caught red handed).

It starts here. It starts at PAUSD. It starts at GUNN. It starts at PALY. It starts in the computer lab. It starts in the after school programs on campus. It starts when the boy is allowed to return to his normal schedule and ongoing contact and harassment and bullying and stalking fo the girl. When PAUSD turns a blind eye.. to all things.

Posted by Truth and Reconciliation
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2019 at 11:48 am

"They were met with a whole lot of "it's not my responsibility" and "because privacy" and no one would say the "changed decision was made by _____ because ______"."

Unfortunately, the idea that. one person is going to take responsibility or that we could trace things back to one person isn't realistic in our district. First of all, there is still a very strong ethos, including among the board, that dealing in a healthy way with problems and taking responsibility for doing something wrong isn't supposed to be a normal part of an organization that deals with the public like a school district.

They sweep things under the rug, point fingers at others, intimidate and lie to parents (or even make overt efforts to stress them or even bully their kids in school), and give big raises to administrators who lie to and pull the strings of teachers and site employees to get them to do their dirty work. Are any of those employees going to feel responsible when they were just, like Kim Diorio, doing what they were told? This is the opposite of a well-functioning organization.

When things get bad enough that there is another OCR investigation, responsible persons bail to other high paying jobs in education (having never been called to account for their behavior), and locally they think everyone has forgotten the last time they promised turnover of a few people was the same as cleaning up the toxic environment they created.

There is a whole field of Failure Analysis, such as Root Cause Analysis - a formal methodology for getting to the root cause of of organizational failure and setting in motion actions that prevent the failures from happening again. They are explicitly not about blame, but about making sure that in a complex circumstance, the organization doesn't keep failing, like this one does. While these methodologies have been very successful in preventing accidents, such as in the nuclear power industry, and have been employed with some notable successes in the health care industry to reduce medical errors, recent research in the latter case have found that even those tools can go wrong if people employ them with inflexibility and their brains shut off. There are many different approaches that fall under the umbrella of Root Cause Analysis, too.

That said, the most important aspect of all the approaches is that first you have to investigate and understand what happened. Those involved in the failure (and probably those who have any part of their anatomy to cover) should not be a part of the analysis. While the district thought they did this in the sexual assault case, they have never done this for the organization itself, so they keep creating these SNAFUs. And they will keep creating them so long as they believe that being forced to deal with a problem by the few willing to push them, and the turnover that happens over and over again the wake of such things, is a fresh start and all they need.

Until this district is willing to do the Failure Analysis for the ORGANIZATION -- starting with the retaliations and conflicts we all know about (and those only they know about) -- these things will continue to spool out in a way that violates students rights and cause harm to them, trust, and frankly, the careers to employees. One of the essential aspects of Root Cause Analysis is that it involves actions that prevent the organization from malfunctioning to the point of failure again.

If you agree with me, tell the district so through their Let's Talk web tool:
Web Link
Supposedly this provides a third party who protects the identity of the complainant and let's you tell them what they need to hear. Of course, you could also go to School Board meetings and tell them it's time to do the Truth and Reconciliation/ Failure Analysis for the organization, too.

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