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In unanimous resolution, Palo Alto school district challenges federal agency

Original post made on Jun 4, 2014

The Palo Alto school board Tuesday unanimously resolved to seek redress against a federal civil rights agency that is investigating the school district, saying the agency has refused to correct "errors" in its investigation processes, which board leaders called "purposely confrontational and disruptive."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 9:44 AM

Comments (81)

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Posted by yeah!
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2014 at 10:19 am

A victory for common sense!


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Posted by Thanks Weekly!
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 4, 2014 at 10:22 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Thanks Weekly!
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 4, 2014 at 10:29 am

Here's one to fact check:

Graff said there's been little or no media coverage of the agency's activities in other districts.

"OCR is very much used to operating under the radar...," he said. "It has come under a lot more scrutiny because of the media attention (here)."

Read the newspaper or blogs much? Anyone check that on Lexis? Seen Time Magazine? How about the New York Times? OCR is one of the most reported on topics in America right now, but don't let facts get in the way of merely typing up whatever spin Chad throws your way. I guess the Weekly has had enough of being criticized by the district and is deciding to back away. That's a shame.


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Posted by Real American
a resident of Mayfield
on Jun 4, 2014 at 10:51 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 10:54 am

Alabama? Are you kidding?!

Kirkman's idea to hire a general counsel is a good idea though.


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Posted by ndtn
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 4, 2014 at 11:17 am

[Portion removed.]

Kirkman either is ignorant of the history of the PAUSD or choses to ignore it [portion removed.] She says "It shocks the conscience that we would consider aligning our community with Alabama and other places of ignominy that have resisted the vindication of our civil rights by the federal government. Palo Alto has always been an open and welcoming community…"

Really?

What was the resolution of the Tinsley suit but the written acknowlegment of active discrimination against African-American students and families?

I remember when my child attended PAUSD schools in the late 80's. There was plenty of discrimination and not only against African Americans, Filipinos, Asians and others also. Some teachers were exemplary in their behavior but others were all to happy to either actively or by omission discriminate, with the district happily going along.
[Portion removed.]

PAUSD and the Palo Alto schools have a long and active history of discrimination.

[Portion removed.]

I don't know what happens in the district nowadays because I no longer have children attending the PAUSD schools, but I wouldn't be surprised if the findings by the federal agency are correct. Maybe the district can respond adequately, but in any case history is not easily dismissed and indignation is misplaced.
Btw, I am not African-American.


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Posted by Annoyed
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 4, 2014 at 11:30 am

The board in the past year or so has consistently "sided" with PAUSD. There has been EXTREMELY LITTLE independent thought arising there. They have forgotten that the PEOPLE voted them in-NOT PAUSD. They have failed the community. Yes, I know it's a thankless job-but they signed up for it. There's collusion all around.
It's no surprise the OCR is filing against them and it's no surprise that they are reluctant to share their findings. If you had evidence that a bully bullied, would you permit the bully first crack at the evidence?
What has bothered me in the past year, is how the board is so willing to hire lawyers and PR people instead of just doing the RIGHT THING. So glad none want to come back.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 4, 2014 at 11:30 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This is an incredibly stupid move by the school board. The net result will be increased scrutiny of PAUSD by OCR and the management of that OCR scrutiny will now be at the highest organizational level in OCR rather than at the previous staff level.

As a former Federal regulator I can assure the board that all they have done is to have greatly increased the level of their OCR problems.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 11:52 am

> s a former Federal regulator I can assure the board that all they
> have done is to have greatly increased the level of their OCR problems.

So .. are you saying that the OCR is going to become vindictive, and not follow the rules which they have put in place for dealing with school districts?




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Posted by yeah!
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2014 at 11:56 am

Peter, the OCR basically said: "we don't need to respond to your FoI requests and if you don't like how we work, sue us". I can imagine what your response would be if the district did that. Apparently your version of transparency doesn't extend to the Feds.

It's all there:

"They chose not to respond to those letters in writing. That is why there is no comment from OCR in this report. The only written responses we have received from them have been denials of our Freedom of Information Act requests"

"In conversation with OCR attorneys at one point over a late response from the agency, Graff said an OCR lawyer suggested that Graff could sue the agency."

The district just called their bluff!

[Portion removed.]0


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Posted by theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 11:56 am

Peter Carpenter,

"the management of that OCR scrutiny will now be at the highest organizational level in OCR rather than at the previous staff level."

I'm not sure it will spook anyone to have to deal with someone at the "highest" organizational level. That's usually a good thing anyway.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 4, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The OCR will not be vindictive but it will respond with vigor and focus to PAUSD's challenge.

PAUSD's only hope is that the district is squeaky clean.


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Posted by yeah!
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2014 at 12:10 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Jared Bernstein
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 4, 2014 at 12:34 pm

EVERYBODY's hope is that the district is squeaky clean. Not just in this matter, but in all it's practices. Of course!


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Posted by Reality check
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 4, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Chad was sweating bullets last night. At some points his voice was shaking. Why didn't he seem triumphant? Because he's the guy who has to go deal with OCR on behalf of an uncooperative district that has just poked it's finger in their eye. He also has other clients. Not a smart move, but a fitting final act from Skelly and Mitchell.
Thanks also to the speakers for injecting the only note of common sense.


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Posted by School Board Watcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Could't agree with "annoyed" more (see comments above). It's a disgrace that the people we elected to serve our district and keep our children's best interests in mind and heart are going on the offensive against the OCR. [Portion removed.] Why would one even want to go on the defensive at this level when so many of mistakes the district has made are indefensible? It's time to become totally honest with the public they serve. The current board has been in the pocket of the higher up admins in the district and don't give a darn about the people who elected them. I hope that the new Supt. McGee will have the benefit of being directed by a school board that is not of the low quality of the current board. I hope the newly elected board will be able to work with Supt. McGee to realize the best benefits for ALL of our students. I hope that we have not need to put out tons of money on lawyers and district employees to work overtime finding the papers that the public is entitled to see. If we were doing things right in the first place there would no need for all of these attorneys and public record hunts. The school board last night appeared to be a bunch of cry babies who were caught with their fingers in the cookie jar and then cry, "no fair!" when they are called on it. Why would they [portion removed] want more light shed on their abominable operating proceedures during the end of Skelly's reign? Let's start fresh and do it right this time! Our kids deserve much better!


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 1:17 pm

This shows me just how out of their depth this board is. Now as people they are all great, as volunteers, I am grateful for their time. But being personable and willing are not qualities that are necessarily the best for a school board.

It is about time that we had a board with members who know about education, how to run a department and how to lead.

Where are the next board members now? We must have some capable people who know what they are doing. This time round, I am not looking for anyone who is a willing, experienced PTA member who wants to go up a notch. I am not looking for someone I personally know and like. I am not looking for more of the same, but someone who is prepared to do what it takes to lead this school district and make waves. They probably have experience of doing this in the private sector, probably used to making tough choices and getting disliked for it, and willing to get their hands in the pudding mix to find out where the lumps are.


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Posted by yeah!
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Annoyed & SBW, you really believe OCR can refuse FoI requests with impunity? Is that the state of government we've come to where they are no longer answerable to anyone?


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 2:04 pm

"The district just called their bluff! "

The district has no "bluff" to call. The district is a funding recipient of the federal government. As a funding recipient the district must comply with federal laws and guidance on the interpretation of those laws issued, in this case, by the Office for Civil Rights.

Many of the statements made by the board in its ill-advised resolution are not true. For example, the accusing against the agency that it fails to complete investigations in a timely manner. Under OCR's procedure manual the timeframe within which most investigations will be completed is 6 months (180 days). Most of the cases do have investigations completed within 6 months. That 180 day timeline does not include however the negotiation of the Resolution Agreement, which can take longer and which timing is not solely within the control of OCR.

Likewise, if the district hires Chad Graff to stall, delay, and obstruct the investigation by throwing roadblocks in the path of interviews of students, for example, that can extend the 180 day period. While all the documents have not been released by Palo Alto and much is still hidden from view, it appears clear from the discussion last night that PAUSD has stalled, delayed, refused to answer document requests, tried to block or blocked student interviews, and so forth. It now complains that the investigations took too long -- in part due to its own delaying tactics.

Regrettably our school board [portion removed] believe that anyone in government will be fooled by that. They believe that they have "called someone's bluff," and that now things will go differently. Heidi Emberling, believes that Barbara's Mitchell's aggressive hostile act of open resistance to federal authority that aligns PAUSD with the most conservative forces in America will now usher in a new era of cooperation. Yes, just like the firing on Fort Sumpter ushered in a new era of cooperation between Lincoln and South Carolina.

OCR is not going to be intimidated. It will only look all the harder at PAUSD, all the more patiently. PAUSD has somehow arrayed itself against the awesome power of the US government. That means that they, the government, has called our bluff and not the other way round. Again, these people are the baby at the bottom of the well.


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Posted by concerned
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 4, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Mr. Burke - My only concern is why the OCR has not responded to the requests that Palo Alto said they maid. Is there a reason for that?


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Posted by yeah!
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2014 at 2:40 pm

The district has complied and continues to comply. Four recent OCR findings show the District was in compliance in completed investigations.

In any case, your straw-man fails. This isn't about district compliance, even though all evidence shows it has complied, it is about OCRs procedures, which are shown to be sadly opaque.

So, yes, the district just called OCR's bluff.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 3:08 pm

@ Peter,
"The OCR will not be vindictive but it will respond with vigor and focus to PAUSD's challenge.

PAUSD's only hope is that the district is squeaky clean. "

They're not, and everything thing claim about the OCR, they are much, much worse towards parents about. I hope you are right, because it strikes me as a calculated move to make the feds go away.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 4, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"it strikes me as a calculated move to make the feds go away."

As a former federal regulator (Deputy Executive Director of the US Price Commission - which controlled every price charged in the country for 18 months) I can assure you that the adopted resolution will simply increase OCR's focus on PAUSD and will move the point of responsibility for OCR's interaction with PAUSD much closed to the top of OCR to someone with more experience and more resources and more political acumen.

Spitting into the eye of the tiger just isn't very smart.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 3:23 pm

I think the only people who are for this are those who really have never had to deal with our district when there's a problem. Our board is so disconnected and shows that they really have nothing better to do with their time than go up against an agency that has done more to get them to protect vulnerable students than they ever did. Where do I thank the OCR for being the only recourse?

If this board wants to spend its time challenging bigger issues, how about the overdevelopment in this town that will so impact our schools and safe travel to those schools? All our board representatives to the City Council do is sit and sycophant (new verb, totally appropriate).

Do they really have no idea how they are SO much worse to parents than anything they are claiming of the OCR? And they at least get PAID, LOT OF MONEY in exorbitant salaries to spend whatever time, parents have little recourse.

Man, it just makes me want to shake them! Or recall them. Seriously, can someone please send a link to how that's done?


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 3:29 pm

@ concerned,
"Mr. Burke - My only concern is why the OCR has not responded to the requests that Palo Alto said they maid. Is there a reason for that? "

Oh, I don't know concerned, could it be because the OCR deals with 14,000 school districts in this country, and their lawyers are probably paid half of what we pay ours and all those administrators for a handful of schools?

Mr. Burke, did someone at least stand up and point out to Camille Townsend that OCR doesn't investigate if there is current litigation, in the case of the Saratoga situation? And that she could have learned that just by reading the OCR's FAQ page [Portion removed.]


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Posted by concerned
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 4, 2014 at 3:31 pm

I love empty threats! Here parent, is the link: Web Link Guess you just couldn't figure it out yourself. I would love to see someone take parent up on the threat. People love to complain but won't actually get involved or even go so far as to understand the issues. Easier to just go with what they believe.


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Posted by Camille
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 4, 2014 at 4:29 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Well the lawyers are certainly winners out of this. PAUSD should be paying more than $500K per year for this action for at least a few years. I don't see how this benefits the students at all.


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Posted by Cleared for Cruelty
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 4, 2014 at 4:50 pm

I was one of the parents who sought help from the OCR when the district did not ensure a safe environment for my child. The OCR investigated and documented that my child had a miserable year, was mocked and bullied, missed class and needed learning as a result of the harassment, and that the school knew about it the entire time. However, because the OCR could not prove that the harassment and bullying was directed at my child because of their disability - and therefore did not indisputably fall into OCR jurisdiction - they could not find against the district. Skelly promptly sent out a press blurb in the ENews stating that the district had "won" that investigation.

For PAUSD, winning means getting off the hook, through technicalities, and allowing known abuse to continue.

The district management sees itself cleared to continue permitting and condoning cruelty to disadvantaged and at-risk children.

This latest gambit is them trying to get even more free reign for abuse.


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Posted by Parent aka Started Measure D
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Ha, ha. Empty threats. That's rich. We tried to warn the City Council and get them to work with us before Measure D, too, and they wouldnt listen. This board is even more deaf and oblivious than our Council.

We parents have exercised a lot of restraint, too, just like OCR has because the kids are the focus. But you have shown utter disregard for the kids with this caustic waste of time. It's like whining that you are being punished for whining too much.

So, quick question that no one answered - when are Abarb Mitchell and Camille Townsend out if no one acts?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 4, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

IF the PAUSD Board were
1 - smart
2 - really believed that the OCR had acted inappropriately
3 - understood how the federal government works
4 - understood how the federal government is organized
5 - had good legal advice

then they would have simply sent a one page letter to Michael E. Horowitz who is the Inspector General for the Department of Justice (DOJ) raising their concerns about the OCR.

And then they could have gotten back to their real job of providing oversight for the school district.


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Posted by theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Edmund Burke.

"It will only look all the harder at PAUSD, all the more patiently. PAUSD has somehow arrayed itself against the awesome power of the US government."

In terms of looking harder, what does that mean? They haven't found anything so far?

You have to admit there is something weird if they have received thousands of papers in documents, they have probably talked to a lot of people but they still can't find anything so they need to talk to students during finals?

I don't think the board acted on their own. I think they got word from the dozens of people interviewed and those people told the board, do something.

I know I would if I had some person fishing around for something that may not exist. Can the OCR just say what they are looking for? Only the students can say?


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 4:59 pm

@Cleared for cruelty,
Thank you for speaking up. So sorry to hear your child's experience, and yours with the district. It's all too familiar.

Please keep speaking up. When you do, others know they are not alone in their experiences. We have a chance here in the next few years to change things, we need your voice. You have to keep telling what happened or the district people will just keep repeating the lies.

Hugs to your child. I hope you find help in he new Superintendnt.


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Posted by yeah!
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2014 at 5:06 pm

Ah, Peter, you're finally getting it. They can't send even send a one page letter to Michael E. Horowitz without board approval for this resolution:

"NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education will expand its pursuit of a just review and remedy of substantial OCR errors in case no. 09-11-1337 and of fair, prompt, and reviewable investigation practices through correspondence and meetings with elected representatives and education coalition affiliates."

Now they can do whatever is required.


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Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Good job, PAUSD Board and Dr. Skelly! It's about time we stood up to this out-of-control Federal Agency, the biased Palo Alto Weekly, and the [portion removed.]

Mr. Dauber, I don't care whether the leader of the OCR is a Paly graduate or not. She is still obligated to follow the law and the requirements for fair and consistent interactions with educational organizations in the US. If she--and the OCR--do not, they can be challenged in any number of legal ways. Good for the PAUSD for doing that!

Edmund Burke, your rhetoric is unbelievable! Fort Sumter? Barb Mitchell, active in the district PTA for years and now aligned with the most conservative forces in America? Wow! Kind of like Pathetic on another thread who accused her of being a tea party libertarian!

I admire the District for standing up against this powerful and out-of-control Federal agency, just as I admire individual Americans who ask for, and demand, a fair hearing when the powers-that-be inflict injustices on the citizenry.


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Posted by Laura's Mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 4, 2014 at 7:15 pm

To Cleared for Cruelty:
Thank you for sharing your story. I too am so sorry to hear about what your child had to endure. And I thank you for taking this to the OCR. The district did not "win" your case, and your complaint helped inform other parents of how poorly these situations are dealt with. I admire that you did everything you could to keep your child safe. Many parents don't have any idea what else they can do. Instead they transfer out and I don't blame them.

I fully understand what you had to go through with the school and district as my family experienced the same mismanagement this year when our daughter was harassed and assaulted. We are also seeking help from the OCR to ensure future cases are handled properly.

Unless a parent has a child who has been bullied or harassed, and has personally witnessed how the schools handle these situations, they really have no idea what goes on. It's very hard for me to understand how people can so easily criticize and blame the OCR, the parents, the Weekly, and even the victims, when they have no personal knowledge of how these situations are handled. So again I thank you for speaking up. We need to keep sharing our stories, just as Sarah Van Zanten and "Diana" did in the Weekly 2 weeks ago. This attack on the OCR saddens me really, but I am trying to remain hopeful that our new superintendent and board members will bring some much needed change and more pro-active attitudes in the district. But I won't hold my breath.


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Posted by Tea party
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 7:34 pm

So is the lesson here that the federal government is the problem, but not our local government, in this case the PAUSD school board, led by Barb Mitchell? Is Tabitha Hurley, FFF, and Kevin Skelly working with Mitchell to get my mind off their mismanagement so I'll start blaming the federal government for the last seven years of ineptitude?


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Posted by Matthew 7:3
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2014 at 7:50 pm

Thank you to those parents who are speaking out about what led them to go to OCR. We need to hear your experiences.

Thank you also to those parents who take the time to go to school board meetings and speak common sense in the face of spin. The board members ignore you as if you weren't there in favor of congratulating staff and each other, but your efforts at least provide a counter-narrative in the press.

I agree with Mr. Dauber. The OCR finding and resolution agreements have been a giant missed opportunity. Many of the issues that parents are writing about could have been avoided, had the school board and district staff focused on improving the district rather than criticizing the federal government for how it is investigating us.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"


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Posted by what's next?
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 4, 2014 at 7:51 pm

@Cleared for Cruelty: thanks for sharing your story - it helps to hear about specific cases as opposed to the generalization that tends to happen in these comments. One question, though, if I may ask: What exactly happened in your case after the OCR investigation?

also, although I believe that bullying needs to be prevented, I feel uncomfortable putting every case of bullying in the corner of "civil rights" issues. Bullying has always happened and - to some extend - will always happen. So let's make sure we are not using a sledgehammer to crack a nut...


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Posted by concerned
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 4, 2014 at 8:00 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by My Take
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 4, 2014 at 8:38 pm

Because this has always been a personal vendetta, in which families have been used as pawns, all of this is hard to sort out for most of us. The OCR has an important mission, but in this case has been called upon to punish our district for things that have nothing to do with civil rights. For some reason the Weekly has lined up with its own personal vendetta. Nothing can be gained by this sort of behavior, and the efforts to defend themselves by the district and school board are distorted by the disingenuous nature of the attacks. Our students continue to be sacrificed as the result. Once again, I ask all of you to stop this. It is wrong. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by Richard C. Placone
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2014 at 8:59 pm

I've been following this story through the article in which the PAUSD board announced its intent to challenge the OCR, as well as most of the posts that followed. Now in the current article I see the board has gone ahead with its threat. I've read all of the posts above. Some of these should be sent directly to the board members, since I doubt many of the board read these. I find Peter Carpenter making the most calm and reasoned sense.

What I have not seen here, however, is any direct comment about the Weekly printed edition of Friday, May 23. The cover story was a well documented story about a family whose daughter was harassed by her former boyfriend after she broke off the relationship. He ultimately resorted to stalking and then physical assault. He was finally ordered by the court to remain 300 yards from the girl for a specified period of time, an order which he disobeyed.

What really caught my attention about the story was the response to the situation by various agents of the district. They repeatedly denied that the district had any obligation to obey the rulings handed down to it by the government agencies that eventually got involved, claiming that they could follow the district's own policies and procedures instead. It was told to these agents by government officials and lawyers that indeed the district did have to obey the rulings in this case. The ordeal was and I assume still is a frightful experience for the girl and her parents. The district staff seemed unconcerned to the level I would have expected. The boy's behavior is foreign to me - when I was a teenager, if a girl brushed me off, that was her loss (In my youthful arrogance) and I moved on, as did she. Unfortunately this puts me in mind of UCSB of recent time where my grand daughter is a freshman and quite traumatized, though unhurt.

Astounding is all I can say. And now having read these two stories and attendant posts, I wonder what kind of people we have running this district, and I even wonder about some of the board's strongest supporters.

Full disclosure: 1) I have had significant experience in getting stories in the Weekly about issues of interest to me, and find its reporting to be accurate for the most part. 2)I no longer have children in the district, though my three went through the district years ago and now all have advanced degrees as practicing professionals. We have lived in this town since 1962 and have never heard of anything this bad up until now. Something is indeed amiss, IMHO.


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Posted by June Morris
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 4, 2014 at 9:13 pm

Mr. Placone, thank you for your comments. I find them clear and sensible. Reading the experience of some parents with the school district, and the coverage of the Office of Civil Rights findings and various agreements, I am hard pressed to understand how some people see that agency as the problem. My brother is a government lawyer in the EPA. I can assure you that such lawyers are evaluated on their results in enforcing the law. The idea expressed by a person above that this agency "in this case has been called upon to punish our district for things that have nothing to do with civil rights" is just nonsensical.


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Posted by Boardthink
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 4, 2014 at 9:13 pm

From Web Link

"Groupthink, a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972), occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of "mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment".

Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups.

A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making. ...

Symptoms of Groupthink: Janis has documented eight symptoms of groupthink:

1. Illusion of invulnerability –Creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks.

2. Collective rationalization – Members discount warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions.

3. Belief in inherent morality – Members believe in the rightness of their cause and therefore ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.

4. Stereotyped views of out-groups – Negative views of "enemy" make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary.

5. Direct pressure on dissenters – Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group's views.

6. Self-censorship – Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.

7. Illusion of unanimity – The majority view and judgments are assumed to be unanimous.

8. Self-appointed 'mindguards' – Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group's cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions.

When the above symptoms exist in a group that is trying to make a decision, there is a reasonable chance that groupthink will happen, although it is not necessarily so. Groupthink occurs when groups are highly cohesive and when they are under considerable pressure to make a quality decision. When pressures for unanimity seem overwhelming, members are less motivated to realistically appraise the alternative courses of action available to them.

These group pressures lead to carelessness and irrational thinking since groups experiencing groupthink fail to consider all alternatives and seek to maintain unanimity. Decisions shaped by groupthink have low probability of achieving successful outcomes."

Sad.


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Posted by perfect description
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 4, 2014 at 9:26 pm

Boardthink, that is a so perfect description of the OCR. This is so what the board has had to deal with. I especially like #1. They're about to find out they're not so invulnerable after all.


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Posted by concerned
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 4, 2014 at 9:30 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Volunteer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 9:37 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by parent
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 4, 2014 at 9:42 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Disappointed
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2014 at 9:45 pm

As a parent whose kids attend school in PAUSD, I am shocked and saddened that the Board is challenging the OCR. I attended a Safe and Welcoming Schools meeting last Fall and was surprised by the amount of deflecting and smoke in mirrors by district staff. Us parents wanted more information exchange about managing bullying issues as they arise. The staff overwhelmingly directed us to talk to our respective teachers and did not give us any other reassurances beyond that.

Bullying is a huge problem in our local schools. I have witnessed so much emotional devastation in our youth from bullying. As a tax payer and a pediatric specialist, I want my dollars to be invested in anti-bullying measures. To challenge the OCR is to run counter to what I want. If this is where my PiE $$$ go, I will not be donating as much this coming year.


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 9:53 pm

A number of questions have been directed at me. I don't have time to get to all of them right now and I hope to post to my blog soon to address this subject. For right now I will say the following:

One reader asks: "My only concern is why the OCR has not responded to the requests that Palo Alto said they maid. Is there a reason for that?"

Concerned reader: Thank you for your question. Unfortunately the district has confused you by combining many issues that are unrelated. The district has made several requests of OCR. One is that they have made FOIA requests for all the documents underlying the Terman bullying case and the Jordan race discrimination case. OCR denied those requests. They have been appealed to the Office of Management of the Department of Education which has not yet responded to that appeal. That is not OCR. OCR responded to the FOIA request by denying it. The appeal is handled by another part of the Department of Education entirely. It is misleading to contend, as Chad and the district do, that it is OCR that is not responding to their FOIA appeal.

It is also wildly hypocritical, given that the district has failed to respond in a timely manner to any of the Palo Alto Weekly's Public Records Act requests and has delayed for months in many instances only to release documents that are entirely redacted. The district does not have clean hands on the subject of transparency.

In addition to its FOIA appeals, that do not concern OCR, the district has tried to have the Letter of Finding reversed, changed, amended, or rescinded. The district has falsely claimed, with no support, that OCR has violated its own procedure manual in that it has failed to reply to its appeal. But the OCR has no appeal for funding recipients like PAUSD. Complainants have an appeal that they can file under the Case Processing Manua; but districts do not. See:Web Link, section 306.

PAUSD has falsely claimed that OCR has failed in some way to respond to its "appeal." There is no such appeal, no process for such appeal, and no deadline for responding. PAUSD met with OCR, wrote a letter asking for reconsideration, and OCR's managers told PAUSD that they would take their letter under advisement. I would assume that they have done so. They have not violated any "rule."

Furthermore, this is a particularly interesting complaint. OCR issued its letter of finding in December 2013. PAUSD claims that OCR found some facts incorrectly. It contends that there are some inaccuracies in the letter (though, it must be noted, none that would appear to change any material fact or the outcome of the case. For example, whether or not Catherine Baker actually said that her staff is "very sophisticated" or not is not germane to whether or not the district responded promptly and equitably to disability harassment, even if it is relevant to her judgment).

If PAUSD believed that material facts had been improperly found, why did it wait until May 20, more than five months later, to inform OCR of those incorrect facts? Why didn't Kevin Skelly contact OCR as soon as he received the letter -- certainly within 30 days -- and ask for reconsideration or revision of the letter, presenting his corrected evidence, if such evidence exists?

There is no such thing as an "appeal" to be made within 5 months, even if such an appeal right existed which it does not. Appeals must be prompt and this is not prompt. The district delayed making any "appeal" to the OCR for five months, and then out of nowhere launched this barrage against it, demanding to have its complaints heard now.
This is disingenuous at best.

Likewise, the district's hysterical claims of "document tampering" are related to a closed case in which the district prevailed. There is nothing for the district to appeal in that matter even if an appeal was allowed, which it is not. The district's motive for wanting such a document, even were tampering proved, are highly questionable. OCR protects complainants from retaliation. Given that the district prevailed in that case, and given that it was OCR itself that noticed that there was a discrepency in that document, the district's motives are questionable and OCR may have decided that there was no reasonable basis other than retaliation for the district to request that document.


Another alert reader says:
"You have to admit there is something weird if they have received thousands of papers in documents, they have probably talked to a lot of people but they still can't find anything so they need to talk to students during finals? I don't think the board acted on their own. I think they got word from the dozens of people interviewed and those people told the board, do something. I know I would if I had some person fishing around for something that may not exist. Can the OCR just say what they are looking for? Only the students can say?"

There is nothing about the OCR investigation at Paly that in any way suggests that "they still can't find anything." OCR has already, I suspect, found plenty including handbooks with incorrect and inaccurate sexual harassment policies, a streaking epidemic, a Principal removed for sexual harassment who made some very improper verbalizations [portion removed], rape culture, a sexualized work and educational environment, and more. OCR also may have found that the district failed to cooperate with its document request [portion removed due to unverifiable assertion of fact.] This is far from nothing.

At Gunn matters are worse. Even the most rabid of defenders of Kevin Skelly have great difficulty defending what happened at Gunn. It was evidently part of a pattern or practice of failing to respond to sexual harassment and gender violence. Gunn also had incorrect handbooks, policies, and poor training. Charles Young the Title IX coordinator was entirely absent from the Gunn situation despite the fact that he supervises Baker. Enough said.

The idea that OCR isn't finding anything is silly.

Students will give OCR information about the most important facts: what is it like to be a student in this place? What was it like to be a 14 year old girl at Paly when there were naked 17 year old young man [portion removed] around campus. [Portion removed.] The students also could shed light on the feeling about rape culture.

As to the loss of staff time that the district complains of for these interviews -- the actual interviews with staff were under an hour each. However, Chad and Lenore and the other FFF lawyers also wanted time to meet individually with each staff member to do witness preparation and tell them what to say and how to say it. That was both expensive to the taxpayers for FFF time, but also a waste of staff time. Why did the district do "witness prep"? Don't we just want the staff to tell OCR the truth? Chad and Lenore do not represent the teachers. There was no reason for them to be present in the interviews and under the law and OCR's Case Processing Manual they had no right to be there. None. Yet there they were, protecting the district -- not the teachers.

Was that a reasonable outlay of parent money? Parents are paying for Chad and Lenore and Laurie and the FFF lawyers. OCR is there to protect our children [portion removed.] Is it right that we should pay for the district's lawyers to try to shape the interviews of our teachers? Shouldn't parents want the truth to come out without district lawyers? What is the interest of the parents in protecting PAUSD's district administration.

The interest of parents and students is that staff and students will be interviewed and that the truth will come out. Changes will be made. Students will be protected. Harassment will stop. Girls will not be beaten up on the way home in assaults that could have been prevented if proper actions are taken. [Portion removed.]

That is what parents should get. Not Chad, Lenore, and Laurie covering up for Catherine Baker, Charles Young, and Kevin Skelly.


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Posted by Kara
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2014 at 10:14 pm

Thank you Mr. Placone for pointing out the May 23, 2014 article Web Link . I can see why the OCR was pursuing Title IX issues. I found it very upsetting. Scary that our kids should have to face these issues in their educational environment. It should be a concern to all parents in the district that this could so easily be their child. To think the district did not immediately ensure that a court restraining order was adhered to is reprehensible. Parents should welcome an OCR investigation so that their children will be in a safer environment. Its disappointing the board is not spending its money on ensuring a safe environment for students but instead trying to save their personal reputations. Seems like a conflict of interest to use district funds. If you want to save your personal reputation, make a positive impact on the education and safety of children. Let another school district take on the OCR and get back to the education of PAUSD kids and ensure they are in a safe environment. Shameful.


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Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2014 at 10:19 pm

Here are all the times I have been on the Paly campus: I was there to watch my son who is now 27 play on the Palo Alto Knights football team when he was in 8th grade. I watched my daughter play softball against Paly in 2009. I was also once in the parking lot during the Paly/Gunn football game 2 years ago. In 2002 I took a class in making jam and jelly at the Palo Alto adult school that met at Paly.

When the rape culture story came out I had an exchange with Paul Kandell via email in which I attempted to explain Title IX to him. He was not interested, to say the least. I offered to come meet with his journalism class and give them a chance to learn about the law and ask me questions about it. I did that even though I knew at the time that they might ask hard questions. I felt that would be a hard conversation but a good one for them. Evelyn Wang who was verde editor at that time was anti title ix but has since learned about it in college and recently supported the OCR title ix investigation in comments to the campanile. Mr. Kandell declined that offer, though he later emailed to ask whether we could revisit it because he had had a change of heart about Title IX.

Indeed the only time I talked with any Paly students about title is, rape culture, or any other subject related to this or any OCR investigation was when reporters from the student publications contacted me for comments on their follow up stories.

I am tired of being the focus of the hysterical accusations on this forum. I am a nationally respected expert on the subject of sexual harassment and assault and Title IX. I am also just a mom and a member of this community.

Over the years I have taken positions on the schools that have been unpopular with some people. We have disagreed. I do not understand why I have become the focus of so many unfounded accusations. I have expressed my views, which clearly differ from some peoples' and I have done so publicly and in my own name. It is unfortunate that people are treated this way when they hold views that are not popular, apparently including the notion that PAUSD should protect girls from gender violence. The personal animus and attacks that I have experienced are a big part of why people are anonymous on this website, something I do not personally like or think adds to civility.

I have not been to Paly, talked to or "harassed" students. I categorically deny that this occurred, ever. The accusation is defamatory, and intended to damage me in my profession. The person who is making this comment is hereby advised to stop.


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Posted by perfect description
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 4, 2014 at 10:21 pm

"OCR responded to the FOIA request by denying it. "
followed by
"It is misleading to contend, as Chad and the district do, that it is OCR that is not responding to their FOIA appeal."

This is just brilliant! Joseph Heller couldn't come up with a better argument.

The district should try that with the PRRs. Just outright deny them and let the applicant appeal. Then the district can claim they are responding to PRRs in a timely manner and doesn't need to release any PRRs. Huh! Just too perfect.


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Posted by anonymous parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 10:22 pm

"It is also wildly hypocritical, given that the district has failed to respond in a timely manner to any of the Palo Alto Weekly's Public Records Act requests and has delayed for months in many instances only to release documents that are entirely redacted. The district does not have clean hands on the subject of transparency."

I need to say this anonymously: when I have made public record act requests of the district, they have rarely fulfilled them, but always complained mightily about the imposition. They have used incorrect information against my child, yet failed to provide the information from the record that would straighten it out in numerous requests over a very long time. I could say more.

This letter they approved is the very, very sooty pot calling the kettle black. We have needed the OCR in this town, I find it utterly sad that the people at the top are fighting for their egos instead of considering how they could learn from this for our kids.

I would say the OCR has acted with the interests of the kids in mind far more that our sad district officials, speaking from more than just kneejerk opinions like many of those above. Our kids' well being is at stake, and we have something very wrong in this district - please don't out of ideology/ignorance of the situation give wind to those who are absolutely going in the wrong direction when it comes to serving our kids, and wasting parents' money on lawyer NOT serving the kids.


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Posted by Laura's Mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 4, 2014 at 10:29 pm

@Volunteer - I find it very insulting that you believe that I can't even think for myself or make my own decisions. You don't know me - how dare you accuse me and others of filing OCR complaints because of Mr. Burke. No one harassed me into filing my complaint. The only people to blame for my OCR complaint are the district administrators. I offered 3 times to meet with them so I could fill them in on all the details that happened at Gunn in the hopes of them learning from my experience and ensuring it would not happen again. But they were not interested in my offer – a clear sign that they were not at all interested in changing their practices. That's who to blame.


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Posted by concerned
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 4, 2014 at 10:36 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Theater
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 10:37 pm

Edmund Burke,

Wow, got to give you credit for explaining so much.

May I first agree that PAUSD is pitiful at policies, procedures and all that is necessary to maintain sanity and equity for all. Stuff was bound to hit the fan because of incidents that are ultimately violence issues. OCR is doing the right thing. Too bad they can't help with all the other nonsense that could be better managed. Theater has become the norm because PAUSD is behind the curve on managing, It just sort of waits until something blows up.

This being said, the stuff you think OCR is supposed to find out from students is NUTS!

"what is it like to be a student in this place? What was it like to be a 14 year old girl at Paly when there were naked 17 year old young man [portion removed] around campus. [Portion removed.] The students also could shed light on the feeling about rape culture."

and you say these are the most important facts?

What is it like to be a student in this place? - This is not Mars. It's High School It depends! it can depend on hormone levels, it can depend on your parents having a job, if they are married or divorced, it can depend on your grades, it can depend on if you made the team, it can depend on if you have acne or not. It can depend on how many AP's you are taking, it can depend on your FRIENDS.

"What was it like to be a 14 year old girl at Paly when there were naked 17 year old young man [portion removed] around campus. [Portion removed.]

Let me think. Ewwwwwwwwww, Yuk, Gross?

"The students also could shed light on the feeling about rape culture"

Oh yes, of course! Which rape ARTICLE are we talking about? Hmmmm, ooops I do recall that article. How do I feel about it? Bad. Not nice. As a 14 year old girl, I feel it's not a good thing. DId I answer correctly?

[Portion removed.]

No way I would want you or OCR near my 14 year old.


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Posted by concerned
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 4, 2014 at 10:52 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by I guess you could Google it
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 4, 2014 at 10:58 pm

@concerned

Here's how I found out how to make an OCR complaint: Web Link

Here's one for what OCR does: Web Link

I don't think an adult inhabitant of the 21st century needs any special help to figure this stuff out.

Given that you're posting anonymously, it's a little rich to say that "it is time to get this all out in the open." Why don't you go first?


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Posted by Edmund Burke
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2014 at 11:29 pm

Edmund Burke is a registered user.

Dear Theater:

Perhaps I was not clear. When I said that student comments are important perhaps you did not understand me. Student comments are important because they establish whether or not a hostile environment existed. The facts reported in the Verde story are that a student was slut-shamed so badly on campus that she was forced to leave school. That is evidence of a very hostile environment indeed.

In the ordinary case, there is no Verde story. So it is necessary to get the student perspective and hear from students their experience in order to determine whether or not there is a hostile environment.

The district knows that student statements are necessary to prove a hostile environment, which is a crucial element in the case of whether or not the district complied with Title IX. That is precisely why Chad Graff and Barbara Mitchell and the rest of the board are determined to stop it from happening.

PAUSD should let the students speak for themselves. These aren't elementary school children. I think we all know that. We all understand what the board is really up to. OCR also understands. That's why this is a very bad strategy.

Skelly and Mitchell will be gone in a few months but PAUSD will continue to pay the price for this conduct.


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Posted by George Orwell
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 5, 2014 at 4:40 am

George Orwell is a registered user.

Bravo! Restrict the thread, silence the discussion!

"Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations." G. Orwell

Looking back I would have articulated a bit more adding timing:
Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed, when someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.


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Posted by Those 183 Votes
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 5, 2014 at 9:32 am

Those 183 Votes is a registered user.

@Perfect, I think Hellerism refers to something else but would also apply to Edmund's posts.

On the other hand, Mr. Heller must have been thinking of the OCR when her wrote this:

"The Freedom of Information Act, the chaplain explained, was a federal regulation obliging government agencies to release all information to anyone who made application to it, except information they had that they did not want to release. And Because of this one catch in The Freedom of Information Act, Yossarian had subsequently found out, they were technically not compelled to release any information at all. Hundreds of thousands of pages each week went out regularly to applicants with everything blacked out on them but punctuation marks, prepositions and conjunctions. It was a good catch, Yossarian judged expertly, because the government did not have to release any information about the information they chose not to release, and it was impossible to know if anyone was complying with the federal law called the Freedom of Information Act."


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Posted by George Orwell
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 5, 2014 at 10:35 am

George Orwell is a registered user.

"Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you" - J. Heller


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Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 5, 2014 at 11:37 am

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

Although perhaps Heller was actually thinking about PAUSD? Here is a link to the version of Ms. Mitchell's memo about resisting OCR that was provided to the public, with redactions: Web Link

And here is the link to the one that was inadvertently released, and that she demanded be returned lest the public see it: Web Link

Those who have taken the trouble to look at the district's public records responses have seen hundreds of similar, fully redacted documents. Ms. Mitchell has never spoken in public about her memo, either its substance or why she thought it deserved to be shielded from public scrutiny.


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Posted by Those 183 Votes
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Those 183 Votes is a registered user.

Possibly, but PAUSD has actually released documents: Web Link

Whereas: "OCR responded to the FOIA request by denying it."
Obviously: "they were technically not compelled to release any information at all".


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Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 5, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

I myself would not call a fully blacked out document "released": Web Link. Evidently Barb Mitchell didn't think it was really released either, since she demanded that the Weekly return the unredacted version to her when it was inadvertently released. It is interesting to compare the redacted and unredacted version (Web Link), and to see that that Mitchell and the district had no basis for withholding it from the public other than to conceal the fact that Mitchell was seeking to limit OCR's ability to conduct investigations in the district.

Undoubtedly some of the documents released by the district with its resolution have previously been "released" in fully blacked out form, once again to conceal information from the public rather than for any legitimate purpose.

Public agencies, including PAUSD, can deny public information requests if they have a lawful reason for doing so. In the case of PAUSD, I don't see one. Ultimately the Dept. of Education will resolve PAUSD's request either by providing the information or not, at which point PAUSD could sue and assert that they have a legal basis for getting them.

As a taxpayer in the district, though, I am at a loss to understand why the school board is occupying itself this way, rather than trying to get to the bottom of the issues already found by OCR. If I were more cynical, I might think that they are simply trying to distract our attention from those issues.


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Posted by Those 183 Votes
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 5, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Those 183 Votes is a registered user.

No, but you'd have to agree with the other hundreds of thousands of documents that PAUSD has released un-redacted: Web Link

As a US citizen and tax payer, I expect government agencies such as the OCR to abide by the laws of our country. Dismissing FOI requests out of hand and saying "sue me" is not only arrogant, it's illegal. That OCR has fallen to this level is a sad reflection on the state of our government.


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Posted by PA mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 5, 2014 at 3:10 pm

PA mom is a registered user.

I commend those brave parents who shared their stories on this and other threads. I, too filed an OCR complaint When my daughter (in two protected categories) was bullied to the point of depression the school refused to respond to our report; when I brought it to district level the principal refused to investigate. On top of that, the principal ratted me out to the bully's parents. The principal harassed me with an angry accusatory phone call, and the parents with repeated confrontations at my front door, physical confrontations and legal threats. They filed a restraining order taking my rights away to protect my daughter from further bullying. The judge and mediators talked the parents out of their case and they dropped it, but It all resulted in our feeling forced to move and switch our daughter to another school while the bully went her merry way bullying other people (I was told) and getting away with it. We sent two complaints to the district and never got a response.

The OCR complaint was dismissed for lack of evidence. That girl was later expelled from two middle schools and is now in juvenile hall; I was told by former neighbors that her family went on to target five other neighborhood families in similar ways and then left town. That principal was transferred to another school and then left town a year later.

Throughout all this I was polite in all my communications with everyone. When my son was in school he had a disability he was teased for, and the school psychologist said he brought it on himself for the length of his hair and, I kid you not, for tucking his shirt in. She even defended another boy for acting like a clothing cop and ordering my son to untuck his shirt. In spite of all that I was always tactful and diplomatic with her and the other school staff and it went well. Another parent with a special ed kid, with a more unpleasant experience was appalled when she learned how well we got along!

After everything my family has been through it upsets me when parents post comments insisting that all parents who complain are just being "difficult" or "bullies", etc. I think there are some bad apple parents who bullied school staff and gave all the rest of us with valid issues we brought to their attention, politely and with a "we're on the same team" approach a bad name. It saddens me that the schools, district and school board seem to have an "us against them" point of view.

Michelle Dauber, I have also been criticized on these threads for sharing my experiences. After being so harassed by the bully, her parents and their friends that I feel stigmatized and worry whenever I go to school events that some parents may still be brainwashed by that family into thinking I'm some kind of horrible monster for protecting my child, I am too scared to post under my real name. It is hearing other people's similar stories in this district that helps me realize I'm not alone.


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Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 5, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

I don't see any evidence from the school board's resolution or documents that OCR "dismissed FOI requests out of hand." It seems that they rejected the district's requests based on the agency's interpretation of FOIA, and the district has appealed that rejection to the US Dept. of Education. That's certainly not illegal, and I don't see how it's arrogant. The district does have the option of suing the federal government, of course, if its administrative appeal is rejected.

I gather though that you are more bothered by OCR's rejection of the district's FOI request for investigation documents than by the district's redacting of documents reflecting policy discussions and proposals among our elected school board officials. You are entitled to that view, but I don't share it.

For one thing, hiding Ms. Mitchell's memo enables carrying out a policy secretly in a way that is unaccountable to the voters. On the other hand, the district already has all the information it needs to address the problems that OCR has uncovered. The fact that it isn't doing so isn't because OCR isn't giving it documents. It's because Ms. Mitchell and the other board members apparently don't want to address those problems, which seem likely to involve failures by staff members to be aware of and implement correct procedures.


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Posted by PA mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 5, 2014 at 3:21 pm

PA mom is a registered user.

Forgot to say that two other parents shared awful stories involving the same principal when their kids were also bullied, who knew of other parents and even staff's similar experiences . . .

Also forgot to say that it upsets me a lot that PAUSD is putting our money and their energy into fighting OCR rather than getting their own act together. They have a "protect their own" mentality that seems corrupt.


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Posted by Those 183 Votes
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 5, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Those 183 Votes is a registered user.

Well, you can try and put words in my mouth but you should go back and read what I wrote.

I am simply surprised that you claim Heller's quote applies more to PAUSD when they have released hundreds of thousands of un-redacted documents. You can point to one.

When an agency turns around and says "sue me", then yes, they are treating you with contempt. We will find out if the refusal was illegal.

As a side point, and even worse if you believe Peter's claims, Federal Agencies practice retaliation if you challenge them. When dealing with reports to HR In a corporate environment one of the primary focuses is to ensure retaliation does not happen. If Peter is correct and Federal Agencies haven't begun to understand this and we've moved out of Heller's world into into an Orwellian one.


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Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 5, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

PAUSD has redacted hundreds of documents before "releasing" them to the public, not just Barb Mitchell's memo advocating resisting OCR's investigative authority in Palo Alto (Web Link). We are fortunate in having Ms. Mitchell's original memo (Web Link) to compare it to, so that we can see that there was no justification for the redaction other than to conceal from Ms. Mitchell's constituents the course she was advocating (and that the school board in fact seems to have embarked on).

When elected officials deliberately conceal the policies they are advocating and the actions they are taking, they violate the fundamental principle of accountability to the public that is required for democratic government. That has regrettably happened in Palo Alto with our school board. Some may think that is inconsequential. I don't.


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Posted by Those 183 Votes
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 5, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Those 183 Votes is a registered user.

You've pointed to the same document 3 times now. That does not make it 3 documents.

Please point to these "hundreds of documents" with "everything blacked out on them but punctuation marks, prepositions and conjunctions." that Joseph Heller refers to.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 5, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"and even worse if you believe Peter's claims, Federal Agencies practice retaliation if you challenge them"

Interesting that the school board supporters have such a hard time comprehending simple English statements:
"I can assure you that the adopted resolution will simply increase OCR's focus on PAUSD and will move the point of responsibility for OCR's interaction with PAUSD much closed to the top of OCR to someone with more experience and more resources and more political acumen.

Spitting into the eye of the tiger just isn't very smart."



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Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 5, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

'Please point to these "hundreds of documents" with "everything blacked out on them but punctuation marks, prepositions and conjunctions." that Joseph Heller refers to.'

The best pointer is the link that you have already provided: Web Link. Here's an abbreviated list that illustrates my point:
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link

And so on, just look for titles that involve the Board, essentially.

I do notice that you have not commented directly on the Mitchell memo and whether it should have been released to the public. Since you seem fully stocked with opinions, care to offer one on that point?


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Posted by Those 183 Votes
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 5, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Those 183 Votes is a registered user.

Yes, I now see you link to the hundreds of thousands of un-redacted documents. I think that proves my point.


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Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 5, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

@Those 183 Votes

"Yes, I now see you link to the hundreds of thousands of un-redacted documents." In fact, the filenames on these PDF files all contain the term "Redacted" because they contain redacted documents.

Ironically, the third document in this set: Web Link looks like one of the district's FOIA appeals to the Office of Management at the US Department. Why was it fully redacted? Presumably so that the public would not be aware that the district was involved in an arguing with OCR about its investigations, based on the Mitchell memo.

I wonder whether the school board subscribes to H.L. Mencken's comment that "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people"?

I do note that you have not yet commented on whether Barb Mitchell acted properly in concealing the contents of her June 2013 memo from the public.


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Posted by George Orwell
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2014 at 7:51 am

George Orwell is a registered user.

I commented here (Web Link) on Apr 12th regarding a document which was provided by PAUSD titled: "Request for Reconsideration of Opening of Investigation.", dated to June 14th, 2013.

Even I could not invent this - Web Link


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 6, 2014 at 8:01 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

George - Thank you, sometimes the absence of information is the most powerful information.

For an public organization which should have nothing to hide the PAUSD seems to spend a lot of its time hiding information. This is particularly strange when the people they seem most concerned about seeing that information, the OCR, has ready access to judicial review of any such redactions. Perhaps their goal is simply to keep the citizens whom they are sworn to serve in the dark.


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Posted by rick
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2014 at 9:17 am

rick is a registered user.

George - that's hilarious. We sure have a district with attitude!


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Posted by George Orwell
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2014 at 10:33 am

George Orwell is a registered user.

Dear Mr. Carpenter and rick,

You're welcome. It so happens that the date of the doc I mentioned above, Jun 14th, 2013 seems to fit nicely in a timeline provided by "JLS mom of 2" here - Web Link

Even I am could not have invented any of this.


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