Board of Education president Dana Tom is refusing to provide details under a state law that allows secrecy when discussing facts that are not yet known to potential plaintiffs. The use of this Brown Act provision, intended to allow the board to assess litigation exposure without setting off new lawsuits, raises the prospect of other cases not yet disclosed.
PAUSD is currently the subject of five complaints by parents to the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The first resulted in a finding that the district violated federal law in failing to protect a disabled child from harassment. Another case resulted in a settlement agreement between OCR and the district over 504 procedures. Three complaints of race and disability discrimination are still pending.
PAUSD is also conducting an investigation under Title IX of possible sexual harassment and discrimination at Paly, following the publication of an article on "rape culture" in a student magazine.
Tom's two previous attempts to schedule closed sessions on the OCR matters both ran afoul of the Brown Act, the state's open meetings law. The first was cancelled "on advice of counsel." The second was cancelled after a story in Palo Alto Online pointed out that the agenda lacked a required disclosure of the facts to be discussed.
Tom has so far declined to discuss the civil rights violations at a regular meeting of the Board of Education, despite public commitments to do so. The most recent such promise was at the May 7 school board meeting.
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