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Edmund Burke and others who care about PAUSD -

Original post made by village fool, another community, on Mar 11, 2013

Most frequent commenters regarding PAUSD stopped posting once thread became available only to those logged in.
Short time ago, after the OCR report was published, a parent chose to post a comment under "Too Scared to speak out". I asked, "Too Scared to speak out" response was pretty compelling. No way to check anything, of course. Web Link

Trying to ask now -
1. What holds you from commenting, even anonymously?
2. Do you think that anyone will come forward with any unresolved concern?

This thread is open, now - no need to sign in.
I'm totally aware I'm posting anonymously here. I am not proud of that.

Comments (11)

Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2013 at 10:04 pm

To the first question, many people do not post under their own names because they fear retaliation against their children. That has been expressed on these forums many times. Parents legitimately worry about their childrens' privacy. Special education is still stigmatized in this community and they don't want to bring further humiliation or bullying on their child by "outing" them as a special ed student or as a target. Others may be insiders and employees who fear retaliation either at work or in district support roles.

Many parents fear that making a complaint will lead to them losing whatever hope they have of gaining the help of a principal or teacher. Because the district's lack of appropriate or legally compliant policies have forced people to "work it out" at the school level and there is has been little or no help from the district as the OCR report details, these families fear alienating the person who has day to day control over their child. Many would like to help but they don't want to make waves where their own child's happiness is at stake.

Others may simply fear social retribution from community members including those in school support organizations who have been quite harsh in their judgment of district critics. Such individuals have little moral compass and simply want to "protect the PAUSD brand" at all costs. Even as they agree privately that district staff have made errors of judgment and action they feel the most important thing is to secure bond votes and donations for gymnasiums and PIE. They retaliate against those who complain publicly about the discrimination by whispering, snubbing, and other methods.

This is not a new problem in the civil rights struggle by any means. It is an old problem.

The people who are dispensing this social retribution claim, like earlier moderate opponents of civil rights struggle, to be "people of good will." They may claim that they agree with the idea that disabled or gay or minority students should not be bullied, but just think that the "tactics" of exposing to view the reality faced by the disabled students in our district will be counterproductive. They claim that public protest of civil rights violations hurts the 'brand" and hurting the "brand" will somehow hurt the disabled students by starving the district of resources that would otherwise be used to help them.

To quote Dr. King's famous Letter from the Birmingham Jail, the "people of good will" of Palo Alto are the "great stumbling block" in the struggle of disabled students to receive equal treatment. These people who attack those who are trying to attain equal rights for the disabled, and gay, and minority students who face a hostile educational environment may say "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action." They would like advocates against disability bullying to wait for a "more convenient season." As Dr. King said, "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

To your second question, there are many other families who have similar problems. They are watching the public treatment that the community is giving this case. They see that Dr. Skelly did not reveal it, that the district did not respond appropriately, that Barbara Mitchell implied in the Weekly that there were private facts about the family that justified the district's response. They are fearful of being treated this way. It is certain that some are going to come forward but equally certain that others will be deterred.

Posted by also scared
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Here are my reasons

My kids are in elementary school in PAUSD. I have volunteered a huge amount. At our elementary school the rules are simple - if you disagree, no matter how calmly, you child will be assigned the lousy teacher. There aren't many, but there are a few and they are spread across grades, one of them in 5th. If you get on the wrong side of the administration, your child will pay.

If you want to get your kid into private school - and by the way the number of kids applying to get out of our school is shockingly high considering PAUSD is supposed to be so great (about a quarter or the grade) - you must tow the line - completely. There are a few teachers who actually extort parents into "volunteering" - with the understanding that in return, their child will receive a glowing recommendation.

If you look at the most recent PTA presidents, Site Council Chairs, etc. - 90% have something in common - they put their kids in private school immediately after elementary. Most of them started out wanting to help, but as they acquire a deeper understanding of the District, they become very discouraged and then turn their game plan into ensuring their kid gets into private.

Because I've been around so long, and because I'm friendly and don't make waves, a few teachers and other admin in our school office feel they can speak more "freely" to me - and what they say is shocking. They trash other parents and one teacher said explicitly that if she doesn't like a parent, she has ways of "getting even."

I think there are A LOT of parents who would love to speak out, but feel they can't. Our principal encourages people to come forward with ideas and respectful criticism, and then punishes them when they do. I have watched very thoughtful, good-hearted people make the mistake of asking about a certain situation, or coming forward with an idea that isn't in line with the principal, and I have watched them be crushed.

Posted by lies
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 11, 2013 at 10:54 pm

sour grapes and a lot of paranoia.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2013 at 6:42 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Eileen
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2013 at 9:49 am

I stopped posting for a different reason than the above. My registered name is not Eileen. When the threads were closed to unregistered members I realized that I was not posting with my registered name! This is the first topic on "Town Square" that I have posted on repeatedly and I haven't been knowledgable about all of the commenting rules. I did not want to start posting with a different name and lose my connection with things I had already posted under the name "Eileen."

My children are graduated out of the school district. Palo Alto Unified does some things very very well. However, many of the children who do well in school and go on to excellent colleges would do well where ever they went to school. Palo Alto parents tend to be extremely well educated themselves. They offer lots of enrichment to their children just as a matter of course. I was shocked to read that the district was investigated by the United States Office for Civil Rights and found against. As a community we have an obligation to educate and protect our children. Clearly the district failed with regards to this specific child, and apparently many of the families in the district with children who are receiving special education services do not feel that their school deals with them collaboratively. This is a problem.

I urge anyone in Palo Alto who is dismayed by our district's failure to protect this student's civil rights to come to TONIGHT'S School Board Meeting at 6:30 and voice your opinion to the board during the open comments section. The meeting is held at the district offices at 25 Churchill in a meeting room towards the back of the building.

Posted by Fear for kids
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 12, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I do not log in because I have been harassed in the past when someone figured out my real identity. Vandalism and hate mail were involved, and the police had to be called. If you are a registered user, someone can hack into your information and get your real name, email, and home address. If any other family members register, this can happen to them too. As it happened, my son, husband, and daughter-in-law had their identities discovered this way as well. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by No Name Required
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2013 at 10:01 pm

"also scared" nailed it

It is well known that those who volunteer the most end up worst teachers because they're the least likely to turn around and complain. By the same token, those that complain are the most likely to get the worst teacher, because if they're already vocal, then their complaints can be explained away by saying the parents are "difficult."

With multiple kids in school, speaking out is impossible.

Additionally, anyone applying to private schools needs recommendation letters from at least 2 previous teachers and the principal. How can anyone be critical or vocal about what's wrong when they depend on those recommendations?

There must be a statistic of how many kids leave the district for private school, but an even more interesting statistic would be how many apply to schools and don't get in. That's a better indicator of how many are unhappy in the district.

It would be a good idea if the district would perform some kind of anonymous survey of families who applied to private school or are leaving PAUSD for private school. That's a good way to understand what the concerns are: academic? bullying? special needs? social/emotional needs? sports?

We'll never know if we don't ask - but requiring a name pretty much makes it impossible to get an accurate answer.

I understand folks would say the data could be skewed or hijacked by groups with agendas - but without any data (skewed or otherwise), how will we know?

Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2013 at 10:06 pm

I do not believe that you should be intimidated from speaking up because you fear not gaining entrance to private schools. I recall seeing in these forums a discussion of the fact that one of the district's strongest advocates for social emotional wellness, for minority rights, and for transparency has a child in an elite area private school. This child must have received stellar recommendations despite the parents' well-known activism. Do not be deterred from standing up for your children or for others. This is a myth intended to keep people from complaining.

Posted by No Name Required
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 7:41 pm

And yet, to my knowledge, the school has no actual policy strictly prohibiting retaliation. Even if it happened, it would be hard to prove, but it isn't explicitly written anywhere.

Posted by Thanx
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Mr Burke, you are so spot on with that one. Parents must become professional advocates for their children sometimes, lots of times. It is part of doing right by them.

Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Thank you for your thoughtful responses. I am not surprised.
Fearing retaliation - type of bullying, I believe - would most likely not exist in a transparent atmosphere. Fearing about one's kids - that is a paralyzing fear.
Many times those who experienced bullying find the by-standing "by product" harder to cope with. Sometimes coping with the by-standing is harder than the bullying itself. An atmosphere described above by few is the one enabling bullying, so it seems.
@Edmund Burke, the first Edmund Burke, above- I found the following pretty intriguing:

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke.

"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

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