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Editorial: As district lawyers step in, disappointing spin begins
Original post made
on Mar 1, 2013
As Palo Alto school officials brace for an inevitable lawsuit stemming from its failure to respond properly to the bullying of a special-education middle school student, the district's handling of the issue became even more bizarre this week.
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posted Friday, March 1, 2013, 7:52 AM
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Posted by Do your job
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2013 at 7:19 pm
From our superintendent, who apparently was not given notice today. You voted cor that board, not me.
As you may know, the Office for Civil Rights conducted an investigation into a bullying matter at one of our middle schools. This issue has captured parent, community and media attention. As we work to answer questions and allay concerns, I want you to know that we are focusing a great deal of energy and time into the examination of policies, programs and practices that help ensure we provide even safer learning environments for all students.
The District will be implementing a comprehensive training and outreach program which is, in many ways, an extension of your excellent work with students every day in classrooms throughout the District. We worked collaboratively with the OCR on this matter, and I believe that our agreement will further strengthen our programs and services that address diversity, inclusion, safety and acceptance.
We are at our best when we reach out to parents, share with them our challenges and work, and engage them in our programs. Below is a draft of a letter that we will be sending home to all parents tomorrow. I wanted to be sure that you have the information in this letter before it reaches our parent community, so that you are prepared to address any questions that might come your way.
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. And thank you for all you do on behalf of students in this area and in so many others.
Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
March 6, 2013
As you know, the topic of bullying in public schools has, understandably, captured the attention of our school community. Nationally, bullying is the subject of movies, media, legislative debates and policy discussions. Indeed, it is an issue of national importance, and also a priority concern in our District.
Our District addresses bullying through all types of lessons and conversations. Sometimes these lessons center on tolerance and compassion, inclusion and the power of personal choice; other times, lessons specifically address unkind, hurtful or harassing behaviors and words.
Recently, allegations of bullying at one of our middle schools became the focus of an investigation by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The OCR found that there was more work we should have done to prevent discrimination related to a student bullying case. To be clear, there were no findings of bullying by district staff. We worked cooperatively with the OCR to establish a process to review our policies, provide more training to staff, build student engagement messages and reach out to you. Over the coming weeks and months we will be updating the community in various ways about our pro-active efforts in this regard.
The good news is that we enter this work from a position of strength. I believe that every staff member is completely committed to creating the safest environment for all students. They are dedicated to finding ways to doing this work better. In addition, our surveys of students consistently reveal that rates of bullying are considerably lower than in other communities, while feelings of safetybroadly measuredare extremely high. Finally, we have much good work to build on as we move forward around social kindness, inclusive communities and school climate.
This is important work that we do best when we work together. I invite your involvement in addressing this most challenging work at the school site, at Board meetings and, perhaps most importantly, as you sit down with your own child(ren) over the kitchen table and share with them how you expect them to treat others.
Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
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