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About this blog: There are few issues more controversial and emotionally charged than education in Palo Alto. For this reason, I have chosen to write under the pseudonym Edmund Burke. Burke was an 18th century philosopher, statesman, and political...  (More)

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Seven Reasons Palo Alto's New Bullying Policy is Bad for Kids, Parents, and Teachers

Uploaded: Nov 21, 2013
In my last post I discussed PAUSD's new proposed policies and procedures for addressing bullying. The policies adopt an unprecedented, complex, two-tier system of procedures in which children who are the victims of "regular" bullying are accorded lesser protection than those who are bullied based on the basis of a "protected" characteristic (i.e., disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics).

What are some of the reasons that it makes sense to apply the more protective procedure, known as the Uniform Complaint Procedure, to all bullying complaints even though it may not be required by law?

Preventing Mistakes. First and most importantly, this proposed new two-tier policy is so complicated and so vague in parts that it is guaranteed to lead to mistakes. Some complaints that are in fact based on protected status will inevitably be misclassified. This can result in discrimination, in legal violations, and in potential liability for the district.

As an initial matter, the district's proposed bullying policy provides no procedures whatsoever for making the determination whether a complaint or bullying incident was based on a protected status. There is no effort to specify who will make that determination or when or based on what evidence. There is no guidance in the 8 single-spaced pages of the bullying administrative regulation for teachers, administrators, or parents on how or when or by whom it is to be determined whether or not a complaint is based on a "protected status."

Consider a hypothetical situation. Assume a teacher is supervising lunch when a fifth-grade girl approaches her and says "Joe is bullying David." The teacher finds David sitting alone and asks him what happened. "Nothing," David says. "Joe took my candy bar. He's always just mean to me." The teacher asks him why Joe is mean. "I'm not good at sports," comes the answer. Joe denies doing anything wrong, and says David "gave" him the candy bar. The teacher regards this as an argument between the boys, makes Joe return the candy bar, and does not report the incident to anyone.

What the teacher doesn't know but which would have been discovered in a more thorough investigation of the situation, including interviewing student witnesses, is that Joe often teased David about sports because he regards him as effeminate, and David was simply ashamed to describe why he was being targeted when the teacher asked him. Joe has called him a "fag" and a "queer" and has told him that he will punch him for being so "gay." When this finally comes to light, David has headaches and stomach aches and does not want to go to school. His parents are furious that months have now gone by during which their son was subjected to bullying based on gender and they did not even know what was happening.

No one in this scenario violated the proposed district bullying policy. (Indeed, it's not even clear that the bullying policy would apply to this case at all, given the narrow definition of "bullying" chosen by the district -- a separate problem which will be the subject of a future blog post.)

By default, because the policy provides no guidance, the teacher or the principal must make a quick decision whether or not the bullying is based on a discriminatory motive, based on whatever information they have at hand. The decision must precede the investigation because the procedure that will be followed is determined by it. And, as discussed in my last post, if the teacher decides that the bullying is not based on a protected status, she is required to tell no one.

Even district lawyer Dora Dome, the policy's author, admitted to the Weekly that people won't understand what a protected class is and staff will need training on how to make that determination and to "err on the side of caution."

There are other failure points in the policy. For example, the requirements for documentation at the site level are unclear and the language is confusing. The principal is to document in writing all complaints "regarding discrimination, or other forms of, harassment, intimidation, and/or bullying," and then ensure that "all complaints of discrimination, including discriminatory, harassment, intimidation, and/or bullying based on a protected status" are sent to the Compliance Officer. Requiring principals to parse this dense, tightly worded paragraph --- which actually provides two different sets of documentation requirements in very similar language -- is a prescription for error.

Because the policy is completely novel and not in use elsewhere it is impossible to say what the error rate will be, but we can safely predict that there will be problems.

Moreover, the new two-tier procedure creates incentives that make errors more likely. Most people do not want to call the attention of their supervisors to situations that will lead to scrutiny of their own work and methods, and cause them to have to spend time on investigations and paperwork. Teachers do not necessarily want to report things to principals and parents that they feel that they can handle themselves. Principals likewise may feel nervous about reporting things to the district office and generating an investigation of bullying at their site. Even if everyone has the best of motives, it is easy to see how cases might be retained at the site level rather than reported as potential discrimination.

Thus, while the two-tiered approach may be legal on the face of the policy itself, it is quite likely to lead to illegality as applied to actual cases.

Ensuring Timeliness. Earlier this week, Kevin Skelly told the school board that he supports the two-tier policy despite the criticism it is encountering in the community. Skelly contended that the Uniform Complaint Procedure, which is mandatory in cases of discrimination is a "lengthy and prescribed process that allows 60 days to find resolution." According to Skelly, the two-tier procedure is better because it will provide a "much quicker timeline for students who are not in the legally protected categories as a proactive step to resolving any issues as quickly as possible."

There are several problems with Dr. Skelly's rationale. First, under Palo Alto's new UCP procedure, there is a 10 day window during which any complainant can choose informal resolution at the site level. Records will be kept and at the end of the 10 days, the principal must report to the Compliance Officer whether the effort at informal resolution was successful. This means that even if the UCP is applied to all bullying complaints regardless of whether the target is in a protected class, many cases would still be resolved quickly at the site.

Second, the 60 day time limit to reach a determination under the UCP is a maximum, not a minimum. The district is permitted to resolve complaints sooner than 60 days. It can resolve them at any point. The district controls the speed of the investigation and resolution. There is nothing that must occur pursuant to the UCP that is so burdensome that it cannot be done more speedily.

In addition, the Site-Level Investigation Procedure is not necessarily quicker at all. That's because even though a principal is to issue a decision within 15 days, if the parent disagrees with that decision they can appeal it to the district, which has no time limit within which to decide that appeal. There is no guarantee that "non-protected" status children in the second tier of the procedure will have a final resolution within 60 days. The idea that the Site-Level Procedure is quicker may well be illusory. It could take longer than the UCP.

Promoting Accuracy. Most importantly, the goal in bullying cases is not speed, it's accuracy. We want accurate, clear resolutions that ensure safety for targeted children and pedagogically appropriate consequences for accused students. All of this should be handled in a thoughtful manner. Meanwhile, the UCP provides for the district to create interim accommodations for victims to ensure that the bullying stops and the effects are remediated during the investigatory period. There is no need to rush to judgment -- although there is also no need to take the full 60 days maximum allowed under the law in every case.

Increasing Consistency. Treating all incidents equally under the UCP will lead to predictability and consistency. Everyone in the situation, from teachers, to administrators, to parents will know what to expect when a bullying complaint is made. All complaints will be handled according to the same system. As the CSBA model policy states, "CSBA strongly recommends that districts use their uniform complaint procedures when investigating all bullying incidents to ensure consistent implementation by district staff."

The two-tier policy lacks this clarity and consistency. It will prove needlessly burdensome to staff, who should devote their time to teaching not to becoming expert in anti-discrimination law. It is also confusing to parents who should have a clear understanding regarding how complaints will be handled, and should have confidence that they will be notified of any bullying incident that involves their child.

Enhancing Transparency. Following a uniform policy will increase transparency. All complaints will be logged and recorded in a centralized system as required by law. This will allow for data collection that will provide insight into bullying frequency in the district, and also into such questions as whether disabled and gay students are in fact bullied more than their peers.

District consultant Dora Dome told the Weekly that she invented the two-tiered procedure because she believed that there would be "hundreds of complaints a month" of ordinary bullying that would overwhelm the district office. This is extremely dubious as a factual matter. But if it was true that PAUSD has thousands of bullying complaints per year, it would be indicative of a very serious problem in a district this size. The district would be well-advised to track and resolve that many complaints in a systematic manner so that it can find out what is wrong and fix it.

On that note, using a standardized UCP process for all complaints will enable the district to link the number of bullying incidents to the variety of bullying prevention programs that are in place at the various sites. A recent California state audit of school district implementation of anti-bullying laws recommended that district use UCP complaint logs to help gauge the effectiveness of their prevention programming. In a matter of just a few years the district will have accumulated evidence that will help determine which of these prevention programs is working better and which are working less well.



Preventing Liability. As district consultant Dora Dome states in this video, civil litigation against school districts due to bullying is on the rise.
Increasingly, litigation over bullying is not limited only to those cases in which there was discrimination. In Texas, a family recently brought a $20 million dollar suit against middle school administrators after their 13-year-old son, Jon Carmichael, pictured above, died by suicide following severe bullying that occurred "for reasons no one quite understood" and which was allegedly mishandled by the school. Some of Jon's friends thought maybe he was bullied because he was short.

As discussed in my last post, Florida pre-teen Rebecca Sedwick was bullied by other girls for reasons having nothing to do with being in a protected class. Her family is also suing, and some media accounts suggest that the school may not have responded adequately. While suicide is complicated and should not be attributed solely to bullying or any other single cause, it is indisputable that bullying harms and damages its victims.

One basis for such suits is that the district ignored its own policies -- a real risk with Palo Alto's exceedingly complicated, vague, and confusing procedure. While bullying cases have not found much traction in the courts to this point, that could easily change given the increase in the number of cases being filed. But even if a case does not go to trial, the legal fees and negative publicity associated with it argues in favor of adopting the UCP for all instances of bullying.

Promoting Fairness. Finally, it is just fundamentally unfair to treat bullying complaints differently and accord greater rights to victims who are bullied for discriminatory reasons. These are complaints about children who are in many cases being made miserable by the abuse they are suffering. Some are experiencing anxiety or depression. Some will contemplate suicide as a result. Some will want to stop attending school. We should want no one to experience this and should want to use the best, most equitable procedures we can in order to ensure that when bullying is alleged to occur we have procedures in place that are designed to provide a prompt, impartial investigation that will stop the bullying.

While Palo Alto has made progress in developing its new complaint procedures, it has also made the task needlessly complicated. The new two-tier bullying complaint procedure should be discarded. Instead, PAUSD should follow the advice of the California School Board Association and OCR and utilize the UCP for all bullying complaints.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Keep it simple, a resident of Community Center,
on Nov 22, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Thanks Edmund for your clear analysis of the two tier system. My first reaction to this proposal was that it would place an undue burden on principals to determine whether bullying encompassed the definition of harassment of a protected class. Even if they have a clear understanding of the definition, as you point out in your example, what on the surface looks like typical school yard bullying upon investigation may turn out to be harassment of a protected class. This notion was confirmed by a high school principal last year in this newspaper:

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. "If you take the time and are patient enough to strip it away, absolutely," he said. "I've never not seen it that way."
Web Link

I also doubt that having one policy for all bullying would result in hundreds of complaints per month. I agree that if bullying that rises to the level of administrative intervention is this rampant in PAUSD, then this is something our Compliance Officer should be aware of and tracking. With data collected through the Uniform Complaints, the Compliance Officer would see if it is a site based or district wide problem and then could implement systemic changes in staffing or training to reduce the problem.

Thanks for pointing out that although the superintendent claimed the second tier was for the benefit of bullying victims, in that it would streamline resolution, that in fact there is no timeline provision for resolutions of complaints that are appealed to the district.

Why are we going against the recommendations of CSBA? If we had followed the advice of the CSBA in the first place and adopted their boilerplate policy on harassment with the UCP provision when it came out many years ago we would not be in this mess today. In addition if we do not adopt the CSBA policy we will not have the benefit of applying their updates in the future which means more legal bills for policy review and potential lawsuits for policies that are not in compliance with state and federal laws. Although CSBA does not understandably provide legal indemnification they are still the gold standard for legally compliant policies.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Fairmeadow parent, a resident of Fairmeadow School,
on Nov 22, 2013 at 12:53 pm

I haven't yet heard from the district about why we can't just use a simple one-tier system. Dr. Skelly's argument at the board meeting that the UCP would take longer than the "site-based" process isn't persuasive. Is it because we want to maintain the "site-based control" for bullying complaints? I think getting consistency across sites is important in this case.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jordan parent, a resident of Downtown North,
on Nov 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm

@fairmeadow parent
I share your concern about the deference for site based control by our district leadership. While touted as empowering for each site it often results in abdication of responsibility at the district level.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Keep it simple, a resident of Community Center,
on Nov 22, 2013 at 2:51 pm

@Fairmeadow parent
I assume that we will hear from the district about why they are recommending a two tier policy at the next Board Policy Committee meeting. I read in the Weekly that the meeting that was scheduled for November 15th had to be cancelled when it was discovered that the BPC was operating illegally outside the constraints of the Brown Act that requires public noticing and public participation for standing committees such as this. Does anyone know if this meeting has been re-scheduled? I hope that it is taped so that we can all hear the reasoning behind this recommendation. There did not seem to be much clarity around this issue when the Weekly interviewed Dr. Skelly and Melissa Baten Caswell.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by history is our guide, a resident of Professorville,
on Nov 22, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Edmund,

THANK YOU for laying out all of the information in such a clear and logical way. I had just read the Superintendent's message about this and was totally confused about what exactly he was trying to say (guess the communications director didn't scrub that one well enough!). It is a breath of fresh air to get the information presented by you.

Reading through all of this, I was struck by the similarities of this problem to that faced by women and men in the military who have suffered sexual harassment or abuse. In both cases, the administration is trying to keep assessment, judgement, and enforcement close to the incident site. In both cases, the administration is trying to block accountability and accurate reporting of incidents. In both cases, the administration is relying on the managers that oversaw the abuse to overcome the abuse appropriately.

Isn't the evidence pretty clear that none of these approaches work? How many more military personnel need to be raped and how many more kids need to be bullied (to death) before we get serious about addressing these problems?

Putting blind faith in individual managers whose careers and jobs are on the line if they don't handle bullying correctly is just setting up EVERYONE to fail.

We are all tired of the district trying to avoid the problem with double-speak and contradictory instructions. All they have succeeded in doing so far is opening up the district to law suits, OCR investigations, and community ire.

PAUSD Administration - take bullying seriously, follow a straight-forward policy consistently, track your results, improve your process, and start obeying the law.

Especially today, the anniversary of Kennedy's assassination, our elected officials should be ensuring that all men, women, and children are equal under the law.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Keep it simple, a resident of Community Center,
on Nov 22, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Here is a link to The Superintendent's newsletter addressing the the bullying/harassment policies. Web Link The newsletter says that "the next [Board Policy Review Committee] meeting is scheduled for December 3 from noon to two in the Staff Development Center at the district office. We will review these [bullying and harassment] policies at this time, unless we are still waiting for feedback from CSBA/CDE."


 +  Like this comment
Posted by parent , a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 23, 2013 at 8:22 am

As the parent of children who fit into one of the categories which is protected, I am against the two-tier system. Most students encounter bullying in their school careers at some point. While it is true that students in the protected categories are more vulnerable, the worst bullying any of my children ever encountered was for being overweight. It was much more intense and frequent and hurtful than any of the other incidents. It is still perfectly okay in this society to bully people for being ugly and fat and it happens in our schools everyday.

I think Phil Winston is just quoting the party line when he says all of the bullying can be stripped down to those protected categories. Another example would be the many straight but uncoordinated people out there who get made fun of for not being good at sports. Sometimes a cigar......


 +  Like this comment
Posted by village fool, a resident of another community,
on Nov 23, 2013 at 12:25 pm

@Emund Burke – Thank you for your thoughtful blog, for responding attentively to questions and for providing a space free of content editing/censoring(?).

With all due respect, it seems to me that at this point, analyzing the policies suggested by PAUSD is, unfortunately, a waste of your time. Your response to my question in your first post (link #1) verified to me that my understanding of the current situation is correct. I asked:
...
Your response verified to me that basically PAUSD seems to be repeating the same pattern of not promptly disclosing an on going investigation to the public. The investigation du jour: CDE.

What's next? a year long deliberation of what investigation is? What should the public know? Why should the public be informed? who is the public?
It seems to me that there is no way around the simple need for going back to basics. Transparency, accountability etc. Yes – back to the need for an impartial investigation that will spell out loud and clear all that went wrong. Or if not all, most, or at least some of what went wrong.
...
I posted just ten days ago my perspective of a backward process. Policies preceding findings. I did not know then, just ten days ago, about the CDE investigation.
Your blog presents a very different approach to questions and perspectives. I hope you will be able to continue this way. I wish you were in charge back in July when the thread dealing with secret discussions by PAUSD Board, discussions about what seemed to be the possibility of challenging the OCR "Standing" in PAUSD was published. The title of the thread was: "In secret, school board weighs not cooperating with federal agency" (link #2). I think that this was one of the most important threads in the past 6 months. Unfortunately, many posts disappeared or were cut (mine included). I posted on July 15 a short question: 'I am confused – is it certain that the recent agreements with the OCR will be followed?"
...
Here we are, only a year after the OCR investigation was NOT made public by PAUSD, realizing that another investigation is going on while PAUSD officials present to the board great successes, not mentioning the CDE ." Let's cheer" noted that only Ms. Gaona Mendoza reminded the truth (link #3). That thread was locked, completely. Why?
I want to thank, again, the family who came forward to the Weekly with the settlement. I hope that your courageous act was not wasted. It seems to me that sadly, so far the education system did not learn much. Sadly, since by the end of the day it is about children.

The above is an excerpt from my post, here - Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Keep it simple, a resident of Community Center,
on Nov 23, 2013 at 3:07 pm

@ parent
In regards to Mr Winston's comment you should read the article Web Link to get the full context. My take away from the article is that an administrator should handle all bullying that rises to the need for adult intervention in the same manner, protected class or not. Gunn High School Assistant Principal Trinity Klein echoed this sentiment saying: "Bullying and harassment, for working purposes, don't differ very much." We expect principals to protect all of our children. Why burden principals with a two tier system?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by WH Dad, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Nov 23, 2013 at 4:32 pm

EB,

Thank you for this blog and thanks to the Weekly for letting you have it. I have long enjoyed reading your posts. You provide cogent, detailed analysis. I know that these posts must take you some time to draft and edit, and I appreciate your dedication to these matters.

Whether you are a lawyer or not, male or female, should not matter. If anything, it is a sad state of affairs if many people believe that only a lawyer can draft reasoned, fact-based mini-essays. I only hope that the Palo Alto schools help train my children to write as well as you do.

You have made many of the arguments that I have made when I discuss these issues with my wife. The points I want to highlight:

1) A one-tier system allows for no confusion. If any adult believes there is bullying, it gets reported.
2) The UCP's should be centrally collected so we get accurate data as to the extent of the problem. Only with data can we analyse where problem spots are and turn things around.
3) After all that has happened, PAUSD should strive as much as possible for transparency. Having the data will let us, the parents, know what is going on.
4) It seems that the best argument that PAUSD has against a single-tier is that the district office will get overwhelmed with complaints. If that is the case, I do not see why the district simply could not hire a compliance officer. Part of a recent Board meeting was devoted to how to allocate $2 million in "found" money. Seems to me that shoring up some of PAUSD's weaknesses would be the best use of the funds.

Keep up the good work EB.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 23, 2013 at 4:47 pm

@parent

I agree that the two-tier policy will be difficult for administrators to manage. That is one reason that it is going to lead to errors. Some "protected status" cases will be misclassified as a result. Administrators who mean well simply will not have sufficient information about what happened at the point at which this policy requires that they make a decision. The determination whether or not an act of bullying or aggression is linked to protected status simply cannot be made before the investigation.

This policy is something that looks "legal" and appears to work only on paper, if at all. Once an effort to actually implement it is made in the real world it will become clear very quickly that it will be difficult to administer. The lack, for instance, of any guidance about how to make the decision about "protected status" will be a failure point, as will documentation.

@village fool

Thank you for your trenchant observations. You ask "isn't this a waste of time"? You, with some justified discouragement, note that it was less than a year ago that we discovered from the Weekly that PAUSD had been investigated and found to be noncompliant with federal civil rights law by the OCR. We learned that Dr. Skelly and his staff had failed to handle that bullying case within the law and then had failed to disclose that fact to the board and to the public, a failure for which Dr. Skelly publicly apologized and promised not to repeat.

Now, we learn -- again from the Weekly -- that the district is under investigation by CDE, and again we learn that the district has not apparently not disclosed the reason for that investigation to the board or the public.

In the face of this somewhat repetitive situation you wonder whether it matters what policy is adopted. Without appropriate transparency, you ask, how will we ensure that the policy-- whatever its provisions -- is properly implemented and that rights are protected? In your view, the process is backwards. You write that a new policy is of little value without a "culture of transparency and accountability" in which PAUSD has an "impartial investigation that will spell out loud and clear all that went wrong. Or if not all, most, or at least some of what went wrong. . . .[and] identif[ies] the patterns that enabled those occurrences."

You conclude that "A culture of best practices and trust can not emerge before such an investigation is performed, and the findings are presented in a simple way."

In principle, I can agree that it would be preferable to have an independent investigation conducted by an impartial inspector with full public participation and transparency (other than needed to protect confidentiality and student records) prior to engaging in policy drafting.

However, it seems unlikely that such an investigation will be performed. Many citizens have called repeatedly for an independent review of the district's conduct with respect to disability based bullying. The district and board have ignored these requests.

Transparency of the sort you are suggesting is even less likely. Both the board and the superintendent are seemingly growing less transparent over time. The district takes far too long to comply with the Weekly's Public Records Act requests -- sometimes months elapse before requests are fulfilled. When the documents are given to the Weekly and posted to the internet, much of each document is blacked out under a claim of legal privilege -- many of which claims seem spurious. The Board for its part has violated the Brown Act by creating these policies in the the Board Policy Review Committee, a standing committee subject to the Brown Act but which has held closed meetings that did not have any published agenda or noticing.

Under current conditions, you suggest, there is little point in writing new policies. We don't know why the old policies were ignored or by whom, so we cannot know whether new policies will work or not.

While your perspective is not without merit, I think it is worthwhile to try to ensure that policies are adopted which will enhance transparency and accountability in the future if properly implemented. It seems nihilistic and defeatist to do otherwise.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 23, 2013 at 5:00 pm

@WH Dad

Thank you for your comment. I agree with your observation that the district would do well to hire a dedicated Compliance Officer, preferably one with a law degree and experience in education and/or employment law (given that educational civil rights laws are modeled on employment discrimination law, and the caselaw is very similar).

I am confident that there are many skilled and elite educated lawyers who have left or would like to leave high-pressure large law firm jobs and who would very much like to have the opportunity to have a part-time job as the inside counsel/Compliance Officer of PAUSD. This would both cut legal bills and increase access to legal services and advice within the district. As you point out, the district is in a position to afford to hire inside counsel because there is a surplus.

In addition, often such hires help to pay for themselves because would help to reduce legal bills by increasing compliance. I strongly suspect that would be the case here. Studies have shown that legal compliance in organizations improves when inside counsel are present.

Such a hire seems like a much better and more rational investment than a PR officer, so if need be that position could be eliminated in preference to the Compliance Officer.

This will be the subject of a future post, so please be sure to keep reading.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by PA citizen, a resident of Ventura,
on Nov 23, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Perhaps hiring a compliance officer might even give the PR officer fewer messes to clean up after. Killing two birds with one stone, as it were.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by village fool, a resident of another community,
on Nov 25, 2013 at 7:41 am

@Edmund Burke – Thank you for your very detailed response.

The bottom line seems to be that we do agree regarding these policies. You concluded that the policies that were drafted by PAUSD were not reasonable for all the legal reasons you so nicely articulated. In this case I got to the same bottom line as you did for very different reasons, while armed with none of your legal knowledge. I happen to believe that I cannot trust policies that are drafted by an organization which consistently refuses to bear some accountability and transparency.

On June 14 the Weekly published several articles related to the issues being discussed now. One thread was titled: "In-depth report: How a federal inquiry is changing the way schools respond to bullying" (link #6). I had no way to express my astonishment. Only later we learned that... I ended my comment saying that "… Transparency and accountability will be the first signs of change. I must be missing something."

I think that the fact that PAUSD failed to promptly let the public know of the current CDE investigation is yet more evidence that nothing has changed, even given the OCR settlements etc. ...

On the same day, June 14, I responded to a thread dealing with the possibility of PAUSD having an Ombudsman (link #5). I wrote, asking:

Will the ombudsman report to PAUSD Board? Superintendent?

My responses back in June apply to any suggestion that has PAUSD monitoring itself. Sadly, since nothing seemed to have changed...

The above is part of my post here - Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 25, 2013 at 8:50 am

@village fool

I went to your blog and read your post. My suggestion would be to post your entire posts here rather than just a piece of it. It is losing something by being shortened and it is a very cogent statement in its original form. I think you have an excellent point, which is what good does the UCP do in the absence of transparency? How will the public have confidence that it is being correctly and fairly administered? How can special education parents whose trust in the district has been damaged or eroded by the mishandling of the bullying of disabled students have their confidence restored? How can they trust that the UCP will be fairly administered?

I particularly like your formulation "the dogs bark but the caravan moves on." Parents make a stir, some go to the board meetings, Edmund Burke makes a post, but the systemic changes are not made.

While I continue to think that this is an overly bleak outlook, I certainly can understand your view. One aspect that I find hopeful is that decisions made under the UCP are appealable to the California Department of Education and parents who file a complaint will be told that and given the appeal process.

In addition, if PAUSD fails to implement the UCP parents can directly appeal for CDE intervention. This was always true, of course, and few took that step. Perhaps in light of the CDE compliance audit and the publicity it will generate more will do so.

There is no perfect legal response to what is at bottom a political problem. As you correctly note this is a problem of political accountability. Legal solutions can help individuals to vindicate rights, and can help to bring about change through oversight and through publicity, but ultimately you are correct that change emanates from a political rather than legal process.

By the way, these debates are not new. There has long been a vigorous debate in public interest law about whether or not law can bring social change or whether law only reinforces existing patterns of dominance and inequality and for real change you need political and social movements. The general consensus is that law plays a role in building a successful social movement in inspiring and energizing people by educating them that they have rights (i.e., right to vote, right to use public accommodations, right to equal education, right not to be bullied).


 +  Like this comment
Posted by District parent, a resident of Fairmeadow,
on Nov 25, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Thank you "village fool" and Mr. Burke for these thoughts. As to political accountability, what I have been most surprised and disappointed by is the role that the school board has played in these events, and in particular the Board President and VP, Dana Tom and Barb Mitchell.
It is not quite true that "the caravan moves on" without interruption. In fact, the board has discussed extensively how to respond to the OCR complaints and findings, and now the CDE -- but it has done so almost entirely in secret, behind closed doors, with no public accountability.
One mechanism for doing so has been a series of closed meetings, improperly noticed in violation of the Brown Act. For coverage, see Web Link. At those meetings, Barb Mitchell has advocated resisting federal authority over civil rights in Palo Alto.
Since the meetings have been secret, the public has no way of knowing whether the district is pursuing Mitchell\\\'s advice or not.
Another mechanism has been the misuse of the attorney-client privilege to black out dozens of emails and other documents relating to the district\\\'s handling of OCR and CDE regulations. In fact, Mitchell\\\'s memo advocating resistance to federal authority was entirely redacted by the district, and its content only came to light through another unredacted version. For coverage, see Web Link.
Yet another mechanism has been the discussion of the bullying matter in multiple meetings of the Board Policy Review Committee without notice or public agenda, another violation of the Brown Act.
Until the school board decides to follow the law and have its discussions in public, we are not going to get full public accountability or participation in these decisions.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 25, 2013 at 4:14 pm

@district parent

You are correct that there have been irregularities concerning some of the redactions and closed meetings, as well as a Brown Act issue with the Board Policy Review Committee that created these policies.

These events tend to support village fool's perspective that trying to create good policies is a fool's errand in an environment that has little transparency and low accountability.

I continue to believe, perhaps against the evidence, that educating parents about their rights, and trying to put policies into place that protect those rights will help to bring about that accountability. In my view, the empirical evidence on social movements and legal rights support the notion that when people understand their rights, they begin to organize to protect them and enforce them. Rights can be demotivating "fly paper" that stick people in hearings and processes. But they can also be inspirational. When people understand that their rights are being violated, they often organize to stop the violations.

Some of the rights that people will want to see enforced are rights to an equal education. Some are rights to an open and transparent government.

A legal strategy is part, often a critical part, of a reform movement. The Brown v. Board of Education litigation and decisions did not desegregate any schools. But the symbolic importance of the rulings in the case launched the largest and most far-reaching social change in the history of the US -- including making it possible for Barack Obama to be President only 60 years later.

Despite the facts that you recount regarding secret meetings and closed sessions and excessive redaction and other efforts to keep the public from participating in the public's business, I do not think it is at all beside the point to engage in education on this subject. On the contrary, I think it is directly on point.



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Posted by Single Plans for Student Achievement, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 25, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Elementary Single Plans for Student Achievements (SPSAs)
The video from this meeting is online:
Web Link Elementary Single Plans for Student Achievements (SPSAs)

A presentation by a speaker who does not give his name at about 40 minutes in makes some dubious claims. He gives the false impression that services are being provided for all schools when they are not. He says for the past three years "our speech language pathologists now do small group instruction in the actual classroom" and that "we once had a model known as pull out, and we now have the opposite known as push in."
This is not accurate. Maybe at his school, but it is NOT done at our school. Kids fail at group work but they don't do speech language push ins even if parents ask. They say it is not possible.

The presenter speaks of the success of TOSAs, saying they have taught teachers "...how to engage students with autism, or Asperger's or whatever it might be." This did not happen in the last two years, as both school years the teachers told us they did not receive training to work with "autism or Asperger's or whatever it might be."

He speaks of no more fixed support and now doing a fluid consultancy. He sites Occupational Therapists no longer have "fixed niche of expertise." That is what Occupational Therapists are, that is why they have to have licenses to do it. Are therapists who are NOT specialists in their fields providing therapy? Does this mean therapists now only give consultancy but do not provide the actual services to the disabled children?

He says the therapists now do "co-teaching." Occupational Therapists and Speech Language Pathologists are not general education teachers and do not have teaching credentials. They should not be teaching. Does this also mean teachers are now expected to provide Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy in the classroom based on consultancy? He speaks of the new model providing services to 22 or 24 kids at once. Are licensed therapists expected to provide services to 22-24 kids who don't need it?

He sights a conclusion of exceptional benefits and faster academic gain. We have seen just the opposite, with dramatic decreases in academics under these new policies. It is not accurate that all children benefit and do better by providing watered down push in services and co-teaching to disabled students. When he says push ins for disabled kids include "all 22 or 24 kids... at one time", that means they are not actually helping the children on the Individual Educational Plans. It means they are providing more help to the other children who already have a teacher trained to teach them effectively.

He says "and this year... all students were welcomed into general education communities..."
Maybe welcomed in word, but not in action. The schools did not have Special Education staff present at the beginning of the school year for both of the last two school years are not really welcoming.

He speaks of how families feel more connected, how disabled kids are included on field trips, birthday parties. He goes on to speak of "great academic outcomes" and how "we are seeing so many families report on" increases in empathy, resilience, hope, optimism. He says it is a wonderful place.
These are pretty extreme claims to make, that PAUSD has achieved such success and such joy and happiness in one-two years? Would he share his data and report? If he is citing only parent anecdotes, he should also cite anecdotes from the families who it is not working for. It is doubtful the bullied kids and families of children failing in mainstream feel this way.

It is okay for him to say these things about his school. It is okay to say them if he really believes it. But it is wrong to present it as occurring at all PAUSD schools.

This statements are dangerous. They lead the public and the Board of Education to believe services are being provided at all schools when they are not. It means they can stop trying to provide them since it's been done. By leading the Board to believe this, they are harming disabled children.


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Posted by village fool, a resident of another community,
on Nov 25, 2013 at 11:52 pm

@Edmund Burke - Thank you!
You wrote - "I continue to believe, perhaps against the evidence, that educating parents about their rights, and trying to put policies into place that protect those rights will help to bring about that accountability."

I totally agree with your take about educating parents, and education in general. Knowledge is power. However, I cannot start to address policies when fundamental failures are going on such as having secret meetings to discuss the "standing" of the OCR, not letting the public know of investigations, etc. That was the reason that had me address Ken Dauber, back in March, calling to form a Shadow Board - (link Web Link). That was a very weird thread, I know. I could not think of another way to "force" a check. A Shadow Government is a mechanism of "checks and balances".

Here is my most recent post, as you requested - copied from (Web Link)

@Edmund Burke – Thank you for your very detailed response (link #1).

The bottom line seems to be that we do agree regarding these policies. You concluded that the policies that were drafted by PAUSD were not reasonable for all the legal reasons you so nicely articulated. In this case I got to the same bottom line as you did for very different reasons, while armed with none of your legal knowledge. I happen to believe that I cannot trust policies that are drafted by an organization which consistently refuses to bear some accountability and transparency.

On June 14 the Weekly published several articles related to the issues being discussed now. One thread was titled: "In-depth report: How a federal inquiry is changing the way schools respond to bullying" (link #6). I had no way to express my astonishment. Only later we learned that the principal was to move etc. I ended my comment saying that "… 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."

I think that the fact that PAUSD failed to promptly let the public know of the current CDE investigation is yet more evidence that nothing has changed, even given the OCR settlements etc. I am asking myself – would the Kings families (whom I addressed here (link #2)), or BusyMom (to whom you responded here (link #3)) buy a used car from PAUSD? The Kings families and BusyMom are just a tiny sampling of very different situations. It seems to me that many who need to rely on PAUSD for the well being of their kids have lost trust.

On the same day, June 14, I responded to a thread dealing with the possibility of PAUSD having an Ombudsman (link #5). I wrote, asking:

As to the ombudsman – Will it be a paid potion? if so – who will pay? PAUSD? Salary, health, retirement? To who the ombudsman will report?
I can not see how an ombudsman can be independent if it will be a paid position, and salary and benefits will be coming out of PAUSD budget, or controlled by PAUSD officials.

The following is copied from – (Web Link), ombudsman in organization:


Will the ombudsman report to PAUSD Board? Superintendent?

My responses back in June apply to any suggestion that has PAUSD monitoring itself. Sadly, since nothing seemed to have changed, I do not know if the Kings families would trust PAUSD to check a UCP. You remarked on the consistent refusal to enable more transparency, and to bear some accountability. I believe that given all we know, PAUSD can not be trusted to supervise itself for any correction needed. It seems to me that the past shows us that what we know is possibly only the tip of the iceberg, mentioned in the editorial accompanying the story of the OCR in PAUSD.


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Posted by Public Information Link, a resident of Downtown North,
on Nov 26, 2013 at 11:48 am

Some questions about why the CDE audit is occurring might be found in the documents posted as a result of a Palo Alto Weekly public information request:

Communications regarding California Department of Education pertaining to the special education audit
Web Link

There is also a link about Bullying Complaint process.


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Posted by middle school teacher, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Nov 26, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Edmund, thank you for the article. Detailed, informative, and way more information than we have received here in the trenches.


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Posted by I am Thankfull, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Nov 26, 2013 at 12:25 pm

To ED and Public Information Link,
Thanks for what you are doing for our kids. I went into the link, and I was dismayed of how much money the school district has spend on lawyers' fees, when they could had very well provide an aide for the child in the first OCR case. That is really a waste of our tax $$. Also, I see the district knew about the review from CDE and my question is why? Why? Why did they decide to invite only few people to this important CDE review meeting? They are really acting fishy. It seems to me that they tried to leave out any people who might complain. I and other parents only attended the meeting, because someone mentioned about it in post here at Palo Alto On Line and we started to ask if it was true or not. Even when I was getting to the meeting I was almost sure that it was not going to happen because we never got noticed of it. We have more than one kid in IEPs. I can't believe that the media is doing more than the district to help our kids.
In another link, someone mentioned that Scott Bowers should be the superintendent. Please think about it before you consider making this change. We need fresh and unbiased people to support our kids. Remember Scott Bowers, also agreed on hiring the former principal at Terman, and gave her the promotion to become assistant superintendent after she very clearly violated the special education student involved in the first case. They were all involved in the violation of the child's rights, Scott Bowers supervises Young, Holly Wade and all credential Palo Alto School District workers who work with our kids. He knew what was going on too, and I believe he is as guilty as Skelly Young, Katherine Baker, Holly Wade and the rest of the people who violated the rights of this child. Keep him out!


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Posted by Jordan mom, a resident of Jordan Middle School,
on Nov 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Edmund for PR officer! Facts not spin is refreshing. Not to mention the 150,000 dollars we could spend in the classroom.


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Posted by Public Information, a resident of Downtown North,
on Nov 26, 2013 at 1:57 pm

There is a presenter on bullying in the PAUSD Elementary Single Plans for Student Achievements video starting at about 1:25 into the meeting -
Web Link
He doesn't give his name or position or school. His comments show how out of touch the District is. He says he only just heard an advertisement for anti- bullying for the first time? These ads have been produced for a long time. Bullying has been unacceptable to the society for a long time. It is only PAUSD who has just figured that out.

He presents a belief in PAUSD when he says, "I think the pendulum is way out to one end, though, and I think a lot of the parents especially are super sensitive to small issues or small behaviors that are bullying or their child is sensitive to this."
Accusing the victim of being too sensitive is a major sign of an abuser. The abuser uses their imbalance of power (a school district requiring child to be in a place while harming them) over the weaker party (disabled children and their families, children who have to remain under school District control because it controls if they receive a free and fair public education). They demean the weaker party to try to make them feel responsible for what happened, to make them think the harm inflicted is "small" and not as bad as it really is, to prevent complaints so abuse can continue. He says he wants the pendulum to swing back and be more "balanced", then reads parent statements about how great 'Steps to Respect' is. Trying to lower the self esteem of children and families who had to remove their children from your public school District as the only way to protect them is not respectful, it is hurtful and insulting. It showed very little respect for parents when abused children are denied a FAPE.

He reads parent reflections from a survey from last year. Please provide the results of the entire survey you site, both data and comments. Reading a few hand picked positive statements is not balancing the pendulum. He says kids now understand. Where is the data? Which kids understand, and what do they understand? Where is the report on this? FYI, the belly breathing you read about that parents say is so effective - your teachers are not interested in it.

You emphasize parents at home, although the bullying is happening at your schools, not in our homes. You read a parent comment "...we as parents should be educated about where learn how to draw lines for bad behavior. We should learn these lessons." Blaming the parents for what happens at your school is not respectful nor effective. You indicate that through parent education nights YOU have now taught parents to be better parents. You say you hope parents will change their cultures at home. It is not your role to change a child's family culture. Despite what your PAUSD culture tells you, parents do not attend your school and do not control bullying that happens at your school.

You do illuminate a common element of PAUSD culture, which is to blame and criticize the parents for their children's disabilities. Parents commonly hear schools say it is all bad behavior at home, just bad parenting, not enough homework pressure at home, not making the child be deep enough, not doing the homework for them to contribute to an inquiry fair or class group project. Parents know you blame them, but what parents also learn is that school officials are here one year, gone the next. Parents will care for the disabled child all day, every day, for the rest of their lives. Parents have respectfully listen when you told them their child is not disabled because your latest Special Education policy says it, so the real source must just be a problem at home. And we have seen that you are very, very wrong. We respectfully pay attention in IEP meetings when PAUSD blames parents for a disabled child's inability to do the homework they do not understand, despite the enormous amount of data the District said is being taken every day on all the other children. Eventually, what parents learn is that the worst thing to do is to let you judge them for having a disabled child and interfere with their private home life. For your part, the best thing for you can do is to work to reduce the harm you do to children at school through bullying and your failure to provide inclusion services. You can let parents take care of their children at home.


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Posted by I am Thankfull, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Nov 26, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Wow! so many things happening in our so sophisticated school district. It was an aye opening experience to see so many requests for copies of e-mails between skelly and the OCR cases, and a lot more of what we knew. Do not even starte to dig into employee discrimination because you will find that a lot of our tax went into settlements too. Thanks again to the media and all the people speaking of behalf of all parents and students. I know that some families might know the law, and do not need help, but many of our parents know. After IEP's I felt like a rat trapped in the PAUSD mouse trapped, and that I could do nothing but cry and ask God to help me and my child pass the school years. Finding that my child had a disability was nothing compared to dealing with teachers, administration and special ed. representatives.


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Posted by village fool, a resident of another community,
on Nov 27, 2013 at 5:08 pm

@Edmund Burke -
An off topic question - I wonder what the late Edmund Burke would have advised about my dilemma regarding my postings in your blog. My posts seem to be protected by you. I doubt that my comments would have remained untouched without your protection.
I have posted few samples of editing/censoring(?) before&after here - Web Link

Wishing us all that a time will come, hopefully soon, when your very informative and caring blog will not be needed anymore. Meanwhile, Thank you!


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Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 27, 2013 at 6:50 pm

@village fool

Thank you for your question which gives me the opportunity to discuss Burke's political philosophy and how it is relevant to our local school politics.

Burke was an 18th century philosopher, statesman, and political writer who was best known for his advocacy against the arbitrary abuse of government power, and against injustice. President Theodore Roosevelt was a student of Burke, and famously quoted him during his April 1907 Speech at the Jamestown Exhibition announcing his plan for economic reform. Burke, according to TR "combined unshakable resolution in pressing the reform with a profound temperateness of spirit which made him, while bent on the extirpation of the evil system, refuse to cherish an unreasoning and vindictive ill-will toward the men who had benefited by it. Said Burke : "If I can not reform with equity, I will not reform at all. . . . (There is) a state to preserve as well as a state to reform."

Though Burke came to be seen as a conservative due to his opposition to the excesses of the French Revolution, this is an oversimplification. According to one biographer, Conor Cruise O'Brien, Burke had four primary causes all of which were characterized by his zeal against the arbitrary use of power. As an Irishman serving as a British Member of Parliament, Burke advocated the cause of the American colonists against the Crown, for the rights of the Catholic minority in Ireland, against the excesses of the French Revolution, and against the exploitation of India by the colonial government. According to Yeats, resistance to the unchecked abuse of the individual by the powerful state was the "great melody" of Burke's career. As he wrote in his most famous work, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), "Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society; and any eminent departure from it, under any circumstances, lies under the suspicion of being no policy at all."

In modern society the relationship between the family and the school is one in which student confidentiality, lack of clear procedures, and the lack of accountability can combine to produce the very sorts of arbitrary abuses of the individual by more-powerful government actors that concerned Burke (albeit on a smaller scale). No where perhaps is the individual more vulnerable to the state having "no policy at all" than when a parent turns over his or her child to its care. Real procedural and substantive protection against arbitrary state action, including arbitrary state inaction, must be provided and enforced. And, in Burkean tradition, reform must be pursued with vigor but also with care to preserve the institutions that are needed for the crucial task of educating and caring for our children.

We need to take care that we do not attack or censor those in the community, like yourself and others, who are pursuing reform by raising difficult issues and shining a light on questionable practices.


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Posted by J Birch, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 28, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Edmund,
Your sound arguments ignore a critical element in the district's decision making, their underlying libertarian social and political philosophy that has quietly driven PAUSD decisions in recent years. This mindset of fighting for the least and most de-centralized government explains both the district's opposition to state and federal regulations and their adherence to school site based autonomy. Our strongest and effective (at achieving their agendas) have been successful at transforming what was once a progressive and innovative district focused on a broad education into our present quagmire. Super Skelly has willingly aligned himself with this outlook for reasons that are worth a separate discussion.
The rest of the board has been willing to go along or too ineffective at governing to alter the course.


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Posted by village fool, a resident of another community,
on Nov 28, 2013 at 3:42 pm

@Edmund Burke - Thank you for your fascinating writing about Edmund Burke. While I was intrigued by a Burke quote I found back in March when I started a thread trying to get feedback about fear of retaliation within the school system (link- Web Link), all the rest is news to me. Back in March I cited:

"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.

I dare think now, that my following comment on my blog, written on Oct 15 regarding the recent CF law suit had grounding in the Burkeian philosophy as you so nicely explained it, above. (link- Web Link):

Responding to the article about the CF carrier lawsuit titled: "Family says teacher breached son's privacy" (Web Link).

The family faced, then, an arbitrary decision. There was some discussion, then, about discrimination (Link #1). Luckily, the family was able to challenge that decision, and won in court (link #2).
I think that situation gave a glimpse of the modus operandi of PAUSD. All is not disconnected from the recent discussion about Special education, the reasons that brought the OCR to PAUSD, the lack of accountability, lack of transparency , and yes – a much needed independent investigation.
While I hope that the court looking into "behind the scenes" of this matter will unveil some of the practices, I assume that this law suit will be signed, privately, and we'll never know the details.
I think that the family suing is not the right "address" for complains, but the PAUSD officials who got used to operating without accountability. Ms. Mendoza who addressed the PAUSD Board last week is another example of parents who had enough.
I would not be upset by the family suing, I think there is no way to imagine the impact of an arbitrary decision made by those in power. It seems to me that the community can benefit from an objective inquiry that may spare others these type of situations.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 28, 2013 at 11:35 pm

@JBirch

Thank you for your post. Yes I agree that the policy of site-based control evinces an ideological bias that is aligned with small-government conservatism. In fairness many people feel comfortable having decisions made by those who know their children (and themselves) best. This has likely inhibited a parent demand for district control over certain issues.

However, the last Strategic Plan survey showed clear majority support for handling bullying at the district level.

Nevertheless, the district's policy which I discuss here, as well as its new bullying forms, which I will discuss in my next post, show a clear intention to keep the handling of bullying at the site level, including discriminatory bullying, to the maximum extent possible. This is directly in conflict with state law (indeed the district's bullying forms conflict even with its new policy on this score). Doubtless you are correct that site-based control reflects some resistance to state and federal control of education for at least some board members.

You write "Super Skelly has willingly aligned himself with this outlook for reasons that are worth a separate discussion. " I wonder if you care to elaborate on this statement as I do not have a well-developed theory regarding his reasons.


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Posted by Outed?, a resident of Professorville,
on Dec 2, 2013 at 10:49 pm

If my child gets bullied, how could the school administration possibly know if my child is bisexual? American born and white but Latino? Have a disability that we have opted to keep private? Very curious how this triagging will take place without violating privacy? Is it really any of the administration's business? Shouldn't they instead be focusing on the perpetrator and the bullying actions?

How about we just declare every child in Palo Alto in a "protected" class and actually protect them?


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Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 2, 2013 at 11:54 pm

Outed, you raise a very good point, and one I also have concerns about.

When a teacher or principal receives a report of bullying, they will be required under the two-tier system to make a determination about whether or not it is based on a protected characteristic. There are no guidelines in the policy for making that determination. The training that has been provided does not appear from the powerpoint slides to have covered it. Nor do the forms distributed by the district to teachers and principals acknowledge that this is a step that has to occur or give any information (or even checkboxes) to assist in this task.

This leaves teachers and principals in the unenviable position of having to guess whether or not a student is gay, for example. Will they begin to ask this question? Surely that is not the right result, and may itself pose legal difficulties. The same is true of certain disabilities, gender identity, and more. This policy, which may appear to be "legal" facially will pose insurmountable obstacles at the level of implementation.

I myself am quite skilled at the interpretation of policies and procedures and had great difficulty deciphering this policy, spending hours poring over the various pieces and flipping back and forth among the UCP, bullying, nondiscrimination, and conduct/discipline policies, CDE regulations, and statutes. Is that what we want our teachers and principals to do with their time rather than teach our students? Or do we want a skilled Compliance Officer at the district level to handle all complaints cleanly and clearly under one policy?


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Posted by village fool, a resident of another community,
on Dec 3, 2013 at 12:15 am

I cannot understand how any bullying can be disconnected from discrimination? When the Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the bullied is in the whim of the bully, losing voice. It seems to me that whenever a whim becomes bullying, it is discriminatory. Whatever the whim may be. Discrimination is the act of the bully, the powerful. An arbitrary act that many times does not fall nicely into predefined category. The definitions have changed during the years, a work in progress that takes attentive listening to those who were bullied.


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Posted by WH Dad, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Dec 3, 2013 at 7:29 pm

@ JBirch
I think a proper analysis of the site-based control would analogize to states' rights versus federal control that has been a tension in our system since the founding.
What makes sense to keep at the state (i.e., site-based) level?
What makes sense to keep at the federal (i.e., district) level?
As we learned nationally, discrimination laws had to be federalized because certain states would not protect their citizens who were being discriminated against. In the same way, the bullying policy should be centralized at the district level because certain schools have proved unable to protect those students being discriminated against.

I am somewhat new to the site-based wars, but I would appreciate reading a short history of it sometime, and especially an explanation by proponents of site-based control as to what functions they think are best handled at the site and what functions are best handled at the district.

I believe that we should treat the principal as the CEO of the school, with broad powers to run the school as she/he sees fit. This also would create increased accountability, and we would hold the principal's feet to the fire when mistakes happen. On the flip side, we also need strong controls in place so that a bad, or even so-so principal, can be brought to account by the district. Sort of how the SEC has oversight of public companies.

I don't know where the line should lie, and unfortunately, do not have the time to think it all through, but would enjoy reading the work of someone who has thought it through.


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Posted by village fool, a resident of another community,
on Dec 4, 2013 at 10:57 pm

@Edmund Burke - another off topic question:
John Mack wrote here (Web Link) -
"...Let's remember how we got this "consultant" in the first place. Skelly hired Dora Dome to provide training on bullying and civil rights, rather than having OCR provide free training. Why? Because the OCR resolution agreement requires the training, and Skelly was still trying to comply with the agreement while keeping the fact of the agreement secret. Having OCR lawyers in town giving training would have made that impossible..."

Would it be reasonable to expect a federal agency which found issues in need of correction to make that fact known to the public (without names of specific children etc), and not count on the investigated entity to let the public know?
If you think that this is a reasonable expectation, does fulfilling it call for legislation changes?


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Posted by rainer, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Dec 5, 2013 at 2:09 am

As a son, brother, and uncle of teachers, and having studied Education myself without becoming a teacher, I am missing here any effort on how to prevent bullying in the first place?

Prevention is possible! There are institutions in the world who effectively have eradicated bullying. Even military academies (outside of the US) have succeeded [Web Link] .

Hint: one element in all this cases was to make the whole group/team/class responsible for it.

I have only seen one high school football coach ever grounding the whole team, because they allowed bullying to take place [ Web Link ].



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