Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 31, 2014

School board favors proposed rules protecting disabled, other minority students

But parents unhappy that a bullying policy for all students is not up for a vote

At a Palo Alto Board of Education meeting that stretched into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, board members expressed support — in advance of a final vote Feb. 11 — for new district policies governing the bullying of disabled and other "protected" students.

Superintendent Kevin Skelly said the policies should satisfy a federal agency that in 2012 found the district in violation of civil rights laws.

But five parents who waited until the bullying item came up after 1 a.m. expressed frustration that, after a year of work to revise bullying policies, the new policies apply only to legally "protected" classes of students, based on such characteristics as race, disability and sexual preference.

"I believed we were going to protect all students — not just protected classes — and now I stand before you and ask, 'What happened?'" parent Christina Schmidt said.

"You had a well-crafted policy. It took a long time to get to it and a lot of people worked on it and — after sending these documents around and having them approved by everyone — they're now off the table."

Skelly said he would return to the board by March with a general bullying policy.

"I understand the frustration of the speakers but, frankly, we're just not there yet," he said. "I can't bring something to the board that runs the risk of turning every issue that can be a learning experience between two kids in a classroom into something that has to be reported to the district level and run the risk of not having these things resolved where they could be real learning experiences for folks."

— Chris Kenrick

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