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In-depth report: How a federal inquiry is changing the way schools respond to bullying

Original post made on Jun 14, 2013

In a liberal-minded community that prides itself on top-notch schools, high-achieving students and progressive values, the idea of a civil rights violation is anathema. However, the results of a Office for Civil Rights investigation -- revealed in February of this year -- has sharply called into question local schools' capacity to deal fairly, effectively and legally with bullying and discriminatory harassment and highlighted the need for more leadership, training and accountability from the district.
• [Web Link PDF of entire package of stories]

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 14, 2013, 8:31 AM

Comments (64)

Posted by nothing to see here
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 14, 2013 at 7:09 am

Interesting. With all the PPR requests, interviews and effort put in by the Weekly for this report, it has been unable to provide any new information.
There is no new news here. The board's version of the events is vindicated. So much for the need for an independent inquiry.

Posted by Polly Graf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 14, 2013 at 7:59 am

Agree that there's not much new here. It's a rehash of the myriad of ways our superintendent is a liar, our lawyer misstated facts, and our board is useless. PAUSD has one lumpy rug at this point.

Posted by Baker Coming out of Shadows
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 14, 2013 at 8:34 am

This article deserves a medal. From all of the ones that I have read, even about the OCR, I grade an A+. Way to go Palo Alto Weekly and the author who wrote this. It gives me goose pumps to read it. Catherine Baker should leave the district, but instead she is one of persons in charge of leading the meetings about Safe schools, where they just want to move forward from the OCR, when one of the reasons that meeting is happening is because of the OCR. What an irony. Deep inside of me, I am hoping that she will learn from this experience, but I think I am being unreal when I think that. Thanks for bringing Katherine Baker out of the shadows. Yes even your title is really attention caller. I can tell the writer is very skilled at this. I wish our superintendent would be as smart.

Posted by Something to see here?
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 14, 2013 at 8:40 am

The board's version of events is vindicated? The board has been completely silent on this issue for months. It doesn't have a version of events, except "We're standing by our man." Dana Tom reminds me of all of those political wives who stand silently next to their husbands while they ride out the scandal.

Posted by Polly Graf
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 14, 2013 at 8:46 am

@something- thanks for the laugh. I pictured Tom in full Tammy Wynette. Yup.

Posted by Baker Coming out of Shadows
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2013 at 9:46 am

Nothing to See and Polyy Graff
I might be wrong, but you do sound like a school official. They do not see, hear or feell when a parent comes to them and complain about important issues such as the one involved in the OCR report. And even when they are in this big scandal like this one, they still do not see it. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by been there
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2013 at 10:39 am

I haven't been following this subject closely, but understand one of the "gists" is the District wanting to bury their heads in the sand. As a substitute special-needs teacher's-aid 25 years ago, I experienced something similar. The teacher I was assigned to was verbally and physically abusing her students daily. My concerns to the principal were brushed off, until I said I wanted to make an official report. Begrudgingly, the police were called. Of course, I was fired.
One police officer told me that at first everyone denied everything, but the teacher then broke down, giving a recitation of her recent marital problems as the reason she had acted out. Her contract was rescinded.
The initial official reaction was that this doesn't happen in Palo Alto, so it can't be real. But it was.

Posted by 35 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 14, 2013 at 10:51 am

Perhaps the problem lies with "liberal,progressive." Too much PC for everyone's good. Educators aren't allowed to effectively install discipline into the process. Some kids are disrespectful and push limits on a daily basis knowing they can get away with almost anything, including bullying,cheating,racism, etc. Worst of all, their parents back them up.

Posted by RussianMom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 14, 2013 at 11:11 am

My heart goes to EVERY child who is not feling safe at school. Not to mention the disabled kid! It is absolutely unacceptable. I feel parents pain and frustration from seing the suffering child and not being able to get much needed administrative support.
But on another note, it's not only PAUSD problem. Principal Becker is not 'coming out of shadows', but trying her best to deal and learn from the experience. My kid is seating (middle school) in a table group with a child with anger management problem. When the child is having anger outbursts, all other 3 kids are scared and don't know what to expect and how to deal with that. That's another form of 'harassment' and not all kids know how to handle it properly and who knows what will be this child's next step.
So, the more ALL OF US - students, school officials, parents, neighbors are involved, educated and work together, the safer is our environment for children. No bulling, education!

Posted by Thank you
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 14, 2013 at 11:39 am

Fantastic investigation and summary of events to date. After all the piecemeal stories, this put everything together in one place. It will be nice to see the future writing about closure here. A+. It would be nice to hear some of the stories, good and bad that you found in this investigation.

Posted by Principal Katherine Baker Out of Shadows
a resident of Fletcher Middle School
on Jun 14, 2013 at 11:58 am

[Post relocated from a duplicate thread]

I grade this article an A+. Way to go Palo Alto on Line. The district should NOT move on from the OCR investigation and findings as they want, when they are asked what are they doing about it. They have to keep it in mind in order to learn and do something serious about it. Not just pretend.

Posted by Of Two Minds
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 14, 2013 at 12:12 pm

While I agree that PAUSD has its warts and a major one is an extreme sense of entitlement and arrogance because a bunch of smart privileged kids from Stanford keep their test results high regardless of teacher/administration quality ...

I also think there's a good bit of tail wagging the dog in the disability realm. Disabled kids get huge amount of tax dollars to support them, and well no one said life was perfect or even fair. So parents of disabled kids should ALSO be counseled on how to deal with the inevitable issues their child will face throughout life. This is not blaming the victim, this is being realistic.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2013 at 12:18 pm

I thought the writer did a brilliant job of pulling it altogether. I agree with the principal, giving her an A+.

Posted by nothing to see here
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 14, 2013 at 12:40 pm

@Baker - "I might be wrong, but you do sound like a school official."
Nope, I'm not. But you sound like a WCDBPA member.
After all the histrionics, threats and demanding an independent inquiry and, if the board doesn't do it, you'll use PPR requests and do it yourselves...
Well, the Weekly did use the PPR requests and guess what? They found nothing new. As a number of other posters have said, this is just a summary of all the other stories the Weekly has previously posted.
It must be frustrating to find out the board was being open all along. All those conspiracy theories down the drain.

Posted by Dean
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Again, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm a former resident of Midtown.

Bullying is not something new in Palo Alto. Back in the mid-60s at Wilbur I remember being singled out by a tough guy and his "friends" along Louis Road on the way home.

I was burnt on the arms with a cigarette---I suppose because I was a little "different" (introspective). Later, I whipped that guy in an intramural wresting match at lunch....

Did I report the incident? No...just toughed it out and manned up. I bear no scars physical or mental, but it made more more compassionate for those who are less fotrnatunate than me and my family and probably led me to give back to those in need.

No community, no matter how liberal or kind-hearted, is insulated against hate. Compassion has to be taught at home or through the church/synagogue. The schools, no matter how elte, can't inculcate those positive beliefs and traits.

Posted by Seriously?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 14, 2013 at 12:50 pm


Funny how it's all in the eyes of the beholder isn't it? If you don't think these stories finally illuminate the problems needing repair, and the attitudes that led to them, then we must be reading different stories. Aren't we all searching for the same thing...a greater understanding of the forces that led these things to occur and how we might dig ourselves out?

Posted by I have a bridge for you
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jun 14, 2013 at 1:52 pm

"It must be frustrating to find out the board was being open all along."

This qualifies as an example of the "Tell a Whopper and Hope the Public Believes It" theory of public relations, a methodology also subscribed to by Laurie Reynolds, the lawyer who made what the Weekly called "misleading" statements to the board in February.

The board has been the opposite of open. They have held several closed meetings, and refused to make any public comment at all. They have acquiesced in Skelly's stonewalling. Their strategy is to shut up, and hope it all blows over.

But for "nothing to see here": Nicely played, sir! Go big or go home, I always say.

Posted by mutti
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 14, 2013 at 2:43 pm

I pulled my daughter out of JLS about 15 years ago because of bullying. Principal would do nothing.

That said, there are better ways to deal with this. The bullies at any school are always the minority by a large margin. Palo Alto parents running to the Feds are trying to make everything always "perfect" for their children. I like this approach much better: Web Link

Posted by A
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 14, 2013 at 3:05 pm

1. Skelly's policy of LEAVE UP TO THE SCHOOLS, and the princpals policies of LEAVE IT UP TO THE TEACHERS is to blame here.
2. You cannot have a LEAVE IT UP TO THE SCHOOLS/TEACHERS policy when it comes to following STRICT GUIDELINES to punish bullying.

So both Skelly and Katherine Baker should go. What are they doing all day?


1. Publish strict guidelines for a) complaints, b) follow through c) finding out who is doing the bullying d) appropriate punishments.

You cannot have a violation of policy when the district doesnt even have clear policies.

AND DONT FORGET it is those same nightmare parents who have made this the one of the best school districts. Its certainly not the administrators!

Posted by Paul
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 14, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Finally someone has taken a look inside the sick body of PAUSD and seen the true nature of this diseased organism. The entitled, overly aggressive "helicopter" parents flourish at Gunn High and other schools because the principals and their staff are ambitious. Their ambitions blinds them to doing what is right for what is easy. And Skelly, should be fired for lying to the board. A sin of omission is just as deadly a lie. How does this man keep his job?

The bullying doesn't just stop with the students. PAUSD employees are also bullied by out of control parents and gutless Main Office staff. Teachers are at the mercy of ruthless and neurotic parents and their offspring. The principals, VPs, and dept heads routinely throw teachers and aides under the bus. The are slaves to their ambitions.

Bravo to the parents who reported this sickness to OCR. I understand that several teachers have also filed complaints with OCR. Bravo to all who stand fro justice & fairness.

Posted by He is laughing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Go read Skelly and Young's Weekly Communication. They are both laughing while all this has and is happening. Skelly is so bold as to mention his evaluation in a joking sense. The joke is on you. He's won. I, too, will join in the laughter next week when he gets another year. Read the Weekly Communication, there's mention of the highly-paid PR person to combat the district's response to bullying and anyone who dares to point out its failures. Skelly, Young, Wade, Baker, do we have Grade A administrators?

Posted by Anonyous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2013 at 8:09 pm

These are an excellent set of articles summarizing the sad state of PAUSD compliance with civil rights regulations. Bullying and disability harassment are much more common in Palo Alto Schools than the administrators or teachers admit to. It hasn't been taken seriously and the complaint system has consistently walled off the "outsiders." PAUSD needs a standard, open procedure to deal with bullying and harassment. Currently, it resembles the military's treatment of sexual assault in it's lack of procedures and discretionary actions by superiors.

Posted by DuvMom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 14, 2013 at 10:05 pm

I love PAUSD. Great leaders and teachers. PA online is boring... How many times do we have to read the same old story? I can't help wonder why the hate. That might be a story.

Posted by Duveneck Parent
a resident of Duveneck School
on Jun 14, 2013 at 10:15 pm

head, meet hole.

Not everyone from Duveneck is this much in denial but a lot of them are. It's too overwhelming to admit the seriousness of the problem, which probably means that Grierson has to go. Instead they deny reality and rally around the version of events that they wish was true.

I wish the victim and family well. I hope you find peace and are better treated in middle school.

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 15, 2013 at 12:19 am

To Duveneck Parent,
I too hope that the family and the victim is treated better in middle school, that is if the child doe not go to Terman. I think that as long as we keep the same district and school officials, things will be the same. Now principal Katherine is famous but some people might not want to place their children in her school. I do not blame them.

Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 15, 2013 at 6:56 am

Very well written and balanced article. Nice to have a retrospective on this important issue with updates and links. Thank you Terri and The Weekly for your hard work and community service.

Posted by DuvMom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 15, 2013 at 10:29 am

Great idea Duveneck Parent - get another principal. Seriously? Super classy comment directed toward me. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Grateful
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 15, 2013 at 2:58 pm

I am incredibly grateful to Terri for all of the time, care, energy and compassion she has given this topic. Her synthesis and explanations are easy to understand and yet capture an amazing amount of information.

The stories are balanced with input and data from all directions (resisting calling them sides) and yet paint a very clear picture of what is going on. She did a fabulous job of letting people's actions and statements show us the problems. She also pointed out all of the many points at which these nasty cases could have been nipped in the bud and resolved constructively.

I hope our entire community takes the time to read her work and understand the trouble we are in. Please urge all of your friends to read this.

Posted by resident
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 16, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Excellent article, very comprehensive. Especially very useful for folks like us who recently moved to PA school district.

Posted by DuvMom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 16, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Welcome to Palo Alto. Overall, it is wonderful place to raise your children. Our family has been nothing but pleased with the schools. Please know, many of the people who comment here are a very small but small minority. Welcome.

Posted by Mom
a resident of Duveneck School
on Jun 16, 2013 at 6:14 pm

@Duveneck Parent: Grierson's head is on the chopping block when you don't know the full story? Ridiculous. Grierson is a bit immature but is not a complete idiot. Perhaps he needs to seek advice from other well-seasoned principals before making some decisions. We worked with him on an issue and had to negotiate but he was polite. Recent principals, Larry Thomas and John Lents were worse than Grierson.

Agree with "DuvMom" that these forums are opinions of the minority, not the majority. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

We have have been happy with PAUSD staff and administration, other than Superintendent Skelly (figurehead). Although Skelly's best trait is that he has hired some outstanding principals.

Posted by Dad
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2013 at 7:15 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by parent of LD student
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 16, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Grierson's problem with LD students is not just immaturity. My daughter, who has learning disorders and was in an IEP in elementary school (which she "succeeded" out of) had him for math a few years ago. During the SST meeting he had to be shushed twice for chatting over other speakers about his new computer to his seatmate (who appeared to be trying to ignore him). My husband has never had to hush an adult more than once during a meeting during his long business life. When it was Grierson's turn to add helpful comments, all he had to say was that our daughter needed to put her nose to the grindstone and work harder. (She had been falling asleep, while sitting up and crying, pencil still in hand, while doing her homework late into the night.) Due to the tone of arrogance and contempt in Chris Grierson's voice and face, our family was unsurprised to learn that he was embroiled in a situation demonstrating insensitivity and, yes, arrogance, when dealing with a special ed child.

Posted by Mom
a resident of Duveneck School
on Jun 16, 2013 at 10:16 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

@parent of LD student: Grierson is immature, but not arrogant. He sincerely cares about children and is quite kind. Seems Grierson was correct in advising your child needed to work harder, because you state she has "succeeded out of" IEP. One of my children is LD and PAUSD administration/staff (in 3 different schools) has been completely understanding, helpful, and professional. My LD child is not so LD that he is failing - in fact, he has good grades - but yes, he has to work so much harder and longer hours than other students. It's just the way it is and we accept it instead of blaming PAUSD. We have hired tutors to help him succeed and help him study for tests which are challenging for him. Parents of LD students have to help their children more to succeed; not every child is born the same and everyone has weaknesses somewhere.

Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2013 at 1:28 am

I think of the Federal investigation as a medical lab tests performs for a patient. If the results of the lab are concerning - the Dr. may advise to go for further investigation. Usually there is no way to treat a patient without fully understanding the illness. I think that the Federal investigation sounded the alarm, laud and clear. I doubt the illness is fully understood. There were many comments about the atmosphere, transparency etc. The following is a quote of the superintendent which I copied from one of the documents that were made public after the Weekly exercised the Brown Act:
"As I often say, the community and staff take their cues from us in terms of how they relate to each other." 9/2010
I have pasted the above quote, along several others here - (Web Link
It seems to me that the OCR have found pretty compelling samples of the cues given, and taken in terms of - how to relate to each other. I think of the Federal investigation as the first, alarming lab result. Transparency and accountability will be the first signs of change. I must be missing something.

Posted by PAUSD Grad
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 17, 2013 at 1:57 am

Sad to see that so many of the folks commenting here seem to be missing the point. That being said, a few of you have it spot on.

Sure, most people are stirring the pot in some form or another... But more importantly, isn't the point of all this to educate young people? With a sidenote- doing it while keeping the students safe...

The focus should be on the students, rather than the political back-and-forth between the adults. Put your differences aside and do what is best for the students rather than argue about whether this spread relays any new information or simply presents old facts...

As someone who has gone through the PAUSD system, I can say there are people in the district that are far from enjoyable to work with, so I chose to limit my interactions with them. By the same token, it has been a pleasure to collaborate alongside some of the great mentors this district has to offer.

I'm not suggesting anyone change their opinion... but I urge those reading this to remember why we're all here- parents, students, staff- and think about the impact that actions have on the futures of students in PAUSD.

Posted by outsider
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 17, 2013 at 11:19 am

I also award this article an A+. It's not just a rehash of already stated facts; Terri also explains the reality of Palo Alto school district culture in a way that no other writer has. She points out that there are insiders and outsiders, and that the "nightmare parents" are only small in number. And that the parents protecting their children and having issues with school staff over it are not necessarily nightmare parents. In my experience of protecting my kids from bullying, and that of other parents I know, by the way, John Lents was ineffective, unprofessional, [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff], and I am a polite, friendly and caring person. I'm so grateful he left the district. Like others who experienced him as a wonderful man, I also liked him until one of my kids was seriously bullied, and he turned on me in response to our reasonable, polite requests for help in a way that left us hurt and disillusioned. It was surreal.

Posted by Mom
a resident of Duveneck School
on Jun 17, 2013 at 11:27 am

@outsider: Yes, Lents only lasted a year at Duveneck. He was way too rigid and uptight. Larry Thomas was the extreme opposite - way too relaxed (and even wore a sweatsuit at Open House).

Posted by Jerilyn
a resident of Southgate
on Jun 17, 2013 at 12:14 pm

We are just shocked that the federal investigation did not recommend the termination of Kevin Skelly! He was far too complacent in all situations regarding bullying and harassment and is far too unsympathetic and unprofessional in general. His involvement in a prior scandal in another district should have precluded him from employment in this one....perhaps his employment history was not investigated? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Who is responsible for hiring when filling such an important and high profile position? Whoever it was at the time, they were obviously asleep at the wheel!

Posted by Laura Hershey
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 17, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Laura Hershey is a registered user.

This series of articles represents an incredible amount of investigation. Children with disabilities are not the only ones bullied, but they are often the most targeted. By clarifying what has happened in the past, definitions so we are on the same page as a community (and state and country), understanding the present conditions, and trying to bring us together on the same page, this reporter has done an excellent job creating a series to move us forward.

While some may focus on what could have been, and worked to vilify the victims, it is clear that what we should do at this point is figure out what leaders understand the positives and negatives in our system and how to take a step forward. Rather than pedaling backwards, and using political power to demonstrate a greater knowledge or vulnerabilities of a particular case, the repeated acts of trying to solve the situation which were not solved, whether there was intent to harm be harmed individuals, whether there has been intentional intimidation and anxiety cause by the district to victims or secretiveness around these cases - find a solution and move forward.

Every person has a flaw. Every person has strengths. It is up to us as an educational community to find strengths and every child, including children with disabilities, or gifts, or aspirations, and help them find a way to succeed.

Transparency. Accountability. Respect. Community.

Posted by parent of LD student
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 17, 2013 at 5:22 pm

@Mom, a member of the Duveneck School community: Grierson may not have been arrogant, dismissive and rude with you but he was with my family. Because you think he sincerely cares and is kind does not make it so. You did not have our experience, which is pleasant for you. As to your other points, yes, I did get my child outside tutors, paid for outside testing, etc, etc. -- since you appear to be questioning, by implication, whether I was doing enough. It is not JUST the parents' job to educate the children. It is ALSO the school's. And if my child is falling asleep, pencil in hand, still in her chair at 10pm at night from the time she got home from school, with tears rolling down her face, she is working hard enough. Chris Grierson was the ONLY one at that meeting who didn't have one, single helpful thing to say, and it was his class that was the primary problem. I noticed he lit up when talking about the high-performers but his expression was one of contempt (complete with eyeball rolling) when our SST group talked about learning disabilities in general. This is not just insensitivity, though it is surely that. Pausd staff has been helpful, understanding etc for us in two different schools -- Ohlone and JLS. Our mileage varied at Jordan and Paly, though there have been helpful people at both -- just not Chris Grierson.

Posted by Parent of 3
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 17, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Some of these parents with learning disabled children seem to think everyone should sympathize with their issues and give them special care. The parents demand so much of the schools. My nephew has a learning disability and his mom has taught him not to pity himself, but to work harder. If these parents think they are helping their children by constantly telling them they are subpar, they will always feel inferior. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by anon
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 17, 2013 at 10:28 pm

What's new in this story? It's rehash from what we've been reading in the local papers for months now. Weakly is grinding an ax and defaulting to its typical angle on this: Kevin Skelly bad, Ken Dauber good. You need an editor to tell the reporter who wrote this that she needs to find something new or it isn't "news."

Posted by Spelling counts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2013 at 10:46 pm

I see what you did there with Weakly. Adds credibility to your rant about Skelly and Dauber, of which you are half right.

Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2013 at 11:04 pm

I think the most interesting fact in this story is this:

When Reynolds spoke at the Feb. 26 board meeting, she incorrectly said that early resolution would have required the complainant's consent, implying that the student's family may have stood in the way of an early settlement. The Office for Civil Rights "Case Processing Manual" clearly contradicts this: "A complaint may be resolved at any time when, before the conclusion of an investigation, the recipient expresses an interest in resolving the complaint." This point was made at the meeting by We Can Do Better leader Ken Dauber and others and included in the Weekly's editorial after the meeting.

In a May 6 email, at the request of an unnamed board member, Skelly confirmed this understanding in a report he made to the school board on his conversation with Office for Civil Rights Acting Chief Attorney Gayle Sakowski.

"Districts can offer to resolve issues and OCR complaints at any time after the case is open. This process is open and if the district wants to resolve present cases they should contact the person handling the complaint. If district does not think it is at fault that's a decision they can make in terms of the process," Skelly wrote."

What all this shows is that:

1. Dauber was correct that the district could have resolved this matter prior to a letter of finding;

2. Reynolds misled the board about that;

3. The board did not entirely believe her, at least enough for one board member (probably Melissa Baten Caswell) to ask Kevin Skelly to find out and report back;

4. Kevin Skelly did report back that Dauber had been correct, and Reynolds had not been correct.

5. Neither Kevin Skelly nor the board ever circled back and informed the public that they had discovered that Reynolds had misled the board and community, despite the fact that the dispute was the subject of a scathing Weekly editorial;

6. The board renewed and increased Reynolds contract by 40% after her misrepresentation over the protests of Dauber and others who were concerned about the misrepresentation;

7. The board has still not corrected the error to the public or the press. Rather the Weekly reporter Terri Lobdell doggedly pursued the documents through the Public Records Act.

8. Just to close the loop on this, that is the same Public Records Act that Skelly and Barbara Mitchell often complain about the cost of complying with.

There is much here for the board to consider given that Skelly's performance evaluation is tomorrow. Kevin Skelly should be given an evaluation of "does not meet expections" because he:

A. Concealed the fact of the Resolution Agreement and Letter of Finding from the board and the public;

B. Sat silently while his attorney misled the board and public further;

C. Most importantly, Skelly has led the district into a series of entirely avoidable conflicts and federal complaints. Part of his job is oversight of his subordinates such as Young and Wade. Another part is community relations. I can say with authority that none of the families involved in these disputes wanted to file complaints; all did so as a very very last resort, often after begging both Skelly and the board for help and informing them that they felt pressed to file complaints. Most sent emails literally begging for minor accommodations. In the case of one family, reported in the Weekly, that family heard back from Skelly that they would be helped but then Skelly went dark, stopped answering their emails, and did not provide any assistance, virtually forcing the family to go to OCR.

The fact that these conflicts were all entirely avoidable is at the heart of the problem with this Superintendent. These conflicts have brought much negative publicity to PAUSD and harmed our schools because our reputation for good management is now in tatters. This if it continues will result in damage awards (and it already has resulted in payouts of summer school tuition because of another rights violation). This is all avoidable mismanagement. '

An employee who makes so many large mistakes and then, worse, conceals them cannot possibly be said to "meet" or "exceed" expectations. He was already placed on a performance plan by Barbara Klausner last year when he agreed to stake his integrity on running things more transparently. Then we descended into this chaos of the OCR situation from which the district will not emerge for perhaps several years.

Congratulations to Lobdell for doggedly following the trail of documents and piecing together the deceptions.

Posted by outsider
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 18, 2013 at 12:27 am

I agree with you Edmund. I think Terri did a terrific job of piecing together the deceptions. Skelly and other administrators protect(ed) ineffective principals with his site autonomy philosophy. Speaking of one of the principals he protected, why do the Palo Alto online moderators persist in protecting John Lents from negative comments, but not Grierson? Time after time I've seen such comments about Lents removed, yet similar comments about other school staff left as is. I really wish I knew why. We can get away with saying other school personnel are dismissive and rude, but not Lents, even though he was that way toward some parents too.

Posted by Helen
a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Google Gebser letter for bullying. This Canberra a powerful tool to get school officials to do what the law requires them to do.

Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 16, 2013 at 10:19 pm

How disappointing to see our school board has decided to hold secret meetings to discuss the possibility of resisting the federal civil rights laws. This is a big waste of time and money. Why aren't we just cooperating? Why isn't the board telling the public what it is doing? This is absolutely infuriating. I hope the Weekly will stay on this story, and continue to report on this debacle.

Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2013 at 6:30 am

Thank you PalyDad for saying what I am thinking. Where are our other elected representatives on this? We have a solid wall of Democrats who should be standing up for civil rights in this town, like Joe Simitian, Rich Gordon, Jerry Hill, Anna Eshoo. Some things are more important than back-scratching and trading endorsements.

Posted by PalyDad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 17, 2013 at 7:10 am

I am wondering where is the new PR officer? But more than just bad PR, the idea that our tax dollars are being taken out of the classroom and given to lawyers to promote continued sexual harassment at Paly is just too much. It's nto the best way to handle an investigation. Can this be put back on track? How?

Posted by finally starting to understand
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 17, 2013 at 8:42 am

The district hired a communications officer, not a PR person. They aren't there to spin. That where you got it wrong in the first place.

Posted by Check, please
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 17, 2013 at 8:53 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by embarassed
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 17, 2013 at 10:37 am

The board and Skelly seem to be making a statement that they are victims of the OCR investigations, and are actually openly accusing the OCR.

( board member Mitchell and PAUSD VP Barb Mitchell falsely accuses OCR of interviewing students without parental consent Web Link

They otherwise use denial to fend of accountability for what is and should be public management of school atmosphere (with equality for all). I imagine they use similar tactics with anyone challenging the district.

It makes PAUSD sound like a sect.

The only reason I can imagine Skelly and board have made such stupid decisions along the way is because of the elections last year, and the cat fight they have with the Daubers. These public officials took it personally and turned it into their own personal circus.

Posted by finally starting to understand
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 17, 2013 at 10:42 am

It's the other way around. Take a look at the reaction of the supporters of those that lost the election. This thread pretty much sums it up: Web Link
Get to the bottom of that thread and you'll see that those involved in the cat fight are moving to more fertile ground after losing the election.

Posted by embarassed
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 17, 2013 at 10:46 am

"In preparation for the Terman student interviews, documents show that Ram asked the school to send out notices to parents of all students who had been in the complainant's classes the previous year. The school then gave Ram a list of students with signed consent forms; from that list, Ram put together student interview groups of 4-6 from each class, with 35 minutes allotted to each group. There were six student groups altogether, one from each of four classes, and two from P.E. Ram asked that no school staff or counsel attend the student interviews. "

Regarding the Mitchell accusation, it appears the interviews were not as she characterized them.

I couldn't imagine the OCR, investigating bullying, would do what Mitchell accused them of, strong arming the kids.

Posted by embarassed
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 17, 2013 at 10:49 am


I disagree with you. I have no connection with the Daubers, and they can do anything they want. I hold the leadership of our district accountable for doing the right thing, not lying, and this mess about challenging the OCR is insane.

Posted by finally starting to understand
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 17, 2013 at 11:08 am

What do you disagree with? Do you know what happened after the election and who contacted the family and the lawyers?
You state the "public officials took it personally" when the behavior of the opponents as indicated in the above linked thread shows the opposite to be true. If you can't win at the ballot box.........

Posted by jls mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jul 17, 2013 at 11:20 am

jls mom of 2 is a registered user.

finally and other district defenders love to use We Can Do Better as a scapegoat every time the district staff makes any mistake. Don't look at the civil rights violations, look at Ken Dauber! Isn't he bad? And his wife? Horrible! Look over there! Don't look here at these five OCR investigations of bullying and discrimination. [Portion removed.]

What's actually interesting is that 2 years ago, the Daubers wrote an op-ed in which they suggested that Kevin Skelly might not be showing the right leadership qualities to manage the suicide crisis. They were right, of course, and they were more right than they knew, since that same lack of leadership ability has now placed us in the middle of a bullying crisis and, incredibly, a fight with federal civil rights oversight.

How did that happen if we have great leadership? The same inability to acknowledge any issues or problems with the schools that characterized the lackluster effort on suicide now characterizes our response to bullying, rape, and discrimination. "our schools are great, your critique says that they are not great, therefore you must be a bad person for saying so. You must be stopped."

All criticism, even when it is obviously correct and constructive is met with a wave of shooting the messenger in PAUSD. What actually ties these two situations together is not We Can Do Better PA but that everyone criticizing anything about the district is subjected to the same attack, the same shooting of the messenger, whether it is a parent organization, the media, or the federal government. All criticism, no matter how valid, must be stopped, and all critics silenced. Press, community leader, federal lawyers -- makes no difference. [Portion removed.]

We like to live on the edge in Palo Alto, with our zero accountability and reflexive support of the status quo. This latest school board episode of attacking the feds is bizarre and scary.

Posted by finally starting to understand
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 17, 2013 at 11:33 am

@jls mom of 2
If you accuse "public officials took it personally" you need something to back it up. The reactions since the last election show who took it personal. At least you don't deny the behavior of your group since the last election.
If you don't want to get side-tracked and find yourself on the wrong end of your posts, stick to the point and have data to back it up.

Posted by jls mom of 2
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jul 17, 2013 at 11:42 am

jls mom of 2 is a registered user.

I think you are the person who is side-tracking this discussion. This thread is about OCR's multiple civil rights investigations of the district for unaddressed serious, pervasive disability and sex based harassment. You want to talk about Ken Dauber. You are the one who is ratholing this discussion and shooting the messenger. You are the one who is dragging this off-topic in order to deflect attention from the very real problems facing the district.

[Portion removed.]

And what if Professor Dauber made a legal referral? SO WHAT? Do we think that a disabled girl punched in the face, teased, taunted for her disability, called retarded, hazed, pushed and kicked to the point that she suffered mental health consequences doesn't deserve compensation? I'm just glad she has a lawyer because usually access to justice for families without money is very limited. I support pro bono lawyering and I am relieved that however they found a lawyer they found one.

What are you saying? Are you saying that this bullied and tormented child should NOT be fairly compensated for her injuries? Are you saying she does NOT deserve a lawyer? Are you saying that there is something wrong with this child having a lawyer? Are you saying that making a referral is an evil thing? [Portion removed.]

If someone referred this poor family to a lawyer, good for them. I hope their child gets the help she needs. If someone is willing to represent such a family without charge, he is a hero. [Portion removed.]

If PAUSD would like not to be sued it should stop violating student rights. That is the fastest way to avoid litigation.

Posted by finally starting to understand
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 17, 2013 at 11:58 am

"I think you are the person who is side-tracking this discussion."
Then why are you saying "These public officials took it personally and turned it into their own personal circus." When the opposite is patently true?

Posted by Who's minding the store?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 17, 2013 at 12:17 pm

When I read this series when it was first published I believed as the above article states that PAUSD was on course "working towards compliance with two resolution agreements". Now we know that the board met in closed session with a plan to discuss the issues raised by Barb Mitchell's email that questioned OCR's authority to conduct investigations and enter into agreements with school districts to assure compliance with civil rights legislation.
Board members are supposed to represent the public and their first concern should be ensuring a safe school environment for all. So far only two board members,Caswell and Emberling, have been willing to go on record in support of working with OCR to improve our systems and policies to protect our student's civil rights. I don't understand why board members would oppose this work.

Posted by embarassed
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 17, 2013 at 7:43 pm

finally starting to understand,

Your moniker indicated that you agree there is political fighting going on,except instead of the board and Skelly reacting to issues because of the election, and the tension with the Daubers, you say "it's the other way around."

I can't "back up" my incredulity about why on earth the board and Skelly would be challenging the OCR, or why they are acting like victims. That was my whole point - the only reason I can imagine is that it was politically motivated during the elections last year (the hiding), and that it's now plain messy, or personal.

Can you back up the "the other way around"?

Are you saying the Daubers caused the OCR investigation? Can you provide a timeline instead of these long threads to catch some random comment?

If Skelly was hiding the first OCR investigation, how could the Daubers cause it?

As for the investigation based on the Verde rape articles, the Daubers did the district a favor advising them of the obvious.

Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2014 at 9:59 pm

The title of this thread - In-depth report: How a federal inquiry is changing the way schools respond to bullying.
Published - 6/14/13 (more than a year ago).

I commented, above, on June 17, 2013. I ended my posting stating- "...Transparency and accountability will be the first signs of change. I must be missing something."

I am sorry. I did not understand.

My questions - How a federal inquiry is changing the way schools respond to bullying? What have changed?

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