Post a New Topic
School panel backs limited bullying policies
Original post made
on Jan 10, 2014
Despite protests by some parents, a Palo Alto school board committee gave a tentative go-ahead Friday to new policies and procedures aimed at resolving its violation of federal civil rights laws in connection with its mishandling of a bullying case involving a disabled student.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Friday, January 10, 2014, 5:06 PM
Posted by Edmund Burke,
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2014 at 10:52 am
"a year" asks the following question:
How does Options' comment about a multi-school complaint procedure square with a one-tier bullying policy vs a two-tier policy or a zero policy for students who are not in a protected class?
We know this much, there is at least agreement about one policy for protected classes, and that policy has a uniform complaint procedure.
For the rest - is the policy itself a referral to school specific complaint procedures?"
"Year" thank you for your question.
I will try to be as clear as possible in giving you a chronology of where we are and how we got here, though please note that the board and the staff have been clear as mud, and just as transparent so it may be hard for people to follow and I am in the dark about some details myself.
1. PAUSD has never had a "bullying" policy. The district first began to consider a bullying policy during the summer of 2012. By that time, the district and board knew (but the public did not) that Terman had been found to have violated a student's civil rights by failing to respond correctly to disability-based bullying. One of the issues identified by OCR at that time, but not disclosed to the public, was that the district lacked compliant policies on discriminatory harassment. Our policies failed to comply with both federal and state law. We did not use the Uniform Complaint procedure, which was required by law for many years (since 1999). There were other policies and procedures that were not correct. Part of the Resolution Agreement in the Terman case was that PAUSD would use the UCP for discriminatory bullying complaints and that it would, essentially, follow the law from now on.
2. The public knew nothing about any of this. But Dr. Skelly and Charles Young and the board knew that the district had some kind of issue with bullying, the federal government, state law, and policies and that there was a need for improvement.
3. That summer, in 2012, Dr. Skelly hired Brenda Carrillo, PAUSD's new director of student services, was from Santa Clara County board of education, where bullying was one of the issues she worked on.
4. One of the first things Carrillo did was to begin work on a comprehensive bullying policy for the district.
5. In December 2012, Dr. Skelly received an OCR Letter of Finding against the district as well as signed a resolution agreement with OCR regarding bullying. This agreement obligated the district to use the UCP for all discriminatory harassment complaints (which we did not at that time do), and to conduct training and produce a Notice to parents and a Guidance Memorandum for staff regarding these policies that did not yet exist.
6. During this time Brenda Carrillo continued to work on developing a bullying policy, but it did not comply with the OCR resolution agreement because it did not use the UCP for discriminatory bullying but instead had a site-based investigation procedure.
7. Still nothing was disclosed to the public. THe board was told that there would be training of staff on bullying but they probably assumed that this was just routine. It was not disclosed publicly that the training was the result of a Resolution Agreement with the federal government.
8. In February 2013, the family of the Terman victim went public and gave information to the Weekly to publish about the case.
9. At that point, this issue burst into public view. The district's response to the concerns of the public was that it was working on a comprehensive bullying policy that would be forthcoming and would address these issues. The board also made promises about a forthcoming "comprehensive, consistent" bullying policy. There were many many speeches and statements about the need for and promise to have a comprehensive, consistent bullying policy -- even though that was somewhat orthogonal to what happened with OCR.
10. Various task forces, climate committees, and stakeholder groups were hastily organized and promised a comprehensive consistent bullying policy throughout the next year. Over the summer, at least 2 such groups were convened.
11. During this time (February - current) the board began to hold regular closed meetings to discuss the OCR mess, which was rapidly becoming a fiasco and more parents learned about OCR and began to file their own complaints in hopes of getting some help for their disabled children. While most of these complaints do not meet the high evidentiary bar for proving discrimination, they signal a problem with the district's lack of clear procedures for handling such complaints.
12. Also in February, 2013 Paly published a story about Rape Culture which made it clear that the district also lacked a valid Title IX investigation procedure. OCR launched its own sua sponte investigation into that.
13. In March 2013, district lawyer Laurie Reynolds appeared before the board and gave a presentation that the Weekly called misleading and obfuscatory about the Terman case. She did not mention the procedural issues.
14. After her drubbing in the press for her lack of candor, Reynolds disappeared from public view and is replaced by Dora Dome, an Oakland based consultant who primarily conducts trainings on school discipline. Dome takes over negotiating with OCR. It is not clear whether she is acting as a district attorney or training consultant.
15. Through the ensuing months (spring, summer, and fall 2013), the board repeatedly stated that it was not discussing the matter publicly but it would soon, because the new comprehensive consistent bullying policy was coming, and when it was ready we would be moving to adopt it and put this whole rather sordid mess behind us.
16. Dome continued to work with OCR throughout the summer of 2013 to complete the drafting of a bullying policy that will satisfy OCR. The Carrillo draft was rejected by OCR because it did not use the UCP but had a site-based process instead. In order to satisfy the goals of having a comprehensive, consistent policy which was promised to the community and of satisfying OCR that PAUSD would follow anti-discrimination law and to satisfy the goal of site-based control, the policy was two-tiered. Discrimination complaints are heard through the UCP in compliance with the law. Regular bullying had a site-based process laid out similar to what is in current policy and similar to what Carrillo had drafted in her first cut at this.
17. In August, 2013 OCR approved this two-tier policy. Discriminatory bullying would be handled by the UCP and regular bullying by a site-based process. CDE and CSBA also approved it in November. It was about to be adopted. That was in December 2013 (last month).
18. Many in the community, including me, expressed reservations about the two-tier system, saying that it was both inequitable, and also would lead to mistakes. Dr. Skelly said he would revise the procedure to send all bullying complaints to the UCP.
19. Suddenly on December 20, Dr. Skelly sent a memo to the board slamming the brakes on the long-promised comprehensive consistent bullying policy. Instead, he notified the board that he had abruptly changed course, thrown away the bullying policy that was over a year in the making, and gone back to the drawing board with OCR. He was now doing the legal minimum, whatever was required to "get legal" on discrimination. There would be no bullying policy at all for the time being for ordinary bullying not based on a protected class.
20. That has left PAUSD with no procedure at all for the investigation and handling of ordinary, nondiscriminatory bullying complaints. Although Dome claims that we have our suspension and expulsion process, this claim merely serves to demonstrate that the Oakland-based Dome doesn't really understand Palo Alto, doesn't understand that we rarely use that process, and doesn't understand that we don't want more suspensions and expulsions here. Instead, we need a complaint procedure that guides principals and other staff as well as parents on what to do if there is an issue.
21. Dome also does not seem to understand that the suspension and expulsion due process accords rights to the accused but is not an investigation process for complaints in any way. It is revealed in the same meeting that the bullying forms that the district recently produced that do not comply with the UCP were modified disciplinary forms provided by Dome and that is why they did not work for the purpose to which Palo Alto was trying to put them. It is beginning to become clear that Dome is advocating either a radical increase in school discipline in Palo Alto or a situation in which there is no response at all to bullying unless it is so serious it results in suspension or expulsion, which is to say, virtually never.
22. The district currently has a Conduct Policy (5131) See: Web Link. As you can see, there is some language about bullying in this policy. It says that complaints will be handled under AR5145.7.
23. AR5145.7 is found here: Web Link. This is a site-level investigation process that is a lighter weight process than the UCP. It is this process that more or less formed the basis for the proposed second tier of the now-discarded two tier policy. This process is not consistently utilized but it is our actual process on the books currently.
24. Dr. Skelly recommended the deletion of this AR at last week's BPRC meeting. That means he recommended deleting the only process for investigating complaints of ordinary bullying that the district has.
25. At the BPRC meeting it was clear that neither the board members, nor Dome, nor Dr. Skelly even understand precisely what our current procedures are, what the effect of Skelly's proposal will be on them, and what will happen next. Both board members said that they wanted "something" that would tell people what to do, but did not understand that they were approving Dr. Skelly's proposal to delete that very thing that they were asking for. Dr. Skelly for his part said that he would now start the process over of writing something that was alternatively discussed as a new AR, a website, a flowchart, a set of forms, and "something, whatever it is" that would guide people.
26. Of course, that is what the two-tier policy that they just threw away was. And it is what the AR5145.7 that they just deleted was. So it is not clear why they are going back to the drawing board and starting over to make "a new AR, a website, a flowchart, a set of forms, and "something, whatever it is" that would guide people" or what that something would be or when it would happen.
That is where we are today. Fifteen months have gone by and two things have occurred: A. We have a process for handling discriminatory bullying that if adopted will comply with the state and federal civil rights law; B. we have less process for handling ordinary bullying than we had at the beginning. Today, under the current plan, we have deleted what process we had and we now will have nothing. We might eventually get "a new AR, a website, a flowchart, a set of forms, and "something, whatever it is" that would guide people."
Unaddressed is why Dr. Skelly and the board decided, out of public view, to eliminate the two-tier policy. They explained why they did not want a one-tier policy: staff did not want to have to send all bullying complaints to the district office. But why, given that, did they not just revert to the 15-months-in-the-making December 2013 draft of the two tier policy that had been approved by OCR, CSBA, and CDE? Why did they decide to trash that, waste all that work, and start over from scratch?
The answer to that was doubtless discussed off-line in the tangle of closed meetings that have been held. The public has been given no answer to this question.
As of now, every school is on its own to decide how and whether to investigate bullying complaints. If parents are dissatisfied, they can file a complaint against the principal or teacher. There is, of course, no criteria to determine whether or not a principal or teacher has or has not acted properly so no basis for the district to overrule them and no information for parents as to what basis there might be for complaint other than "I don't like this result." Thus, one can imagine how these complaints will be handled.
If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.