Town Square

Post a New Topic

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.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 1, 2013, 7:52 AM

Comments (223)

Posted by Mom, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 1, 2013 at 8:14 am

Great article!


Posted by Fresh air , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2013 at 8:57 am

The culture of coverup that led to this mess is not being addressed. I commend Melissa, but she's not nearly doing enough.

Skelly et al should be put immedately on adminstrative leave pending an investigation.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2013 at 9:00 am

We have a failure of leadership in PAUSD, plain and simple. For an example of appropriate leadership in a similar case, see the attached article in which the Brentwood District in the East Bay just fired its Superintendent for failing to discipline a teacher who kicked a special education student. Web Link

See, Dana, Melissa, Camille, Heidi, and Barbara? It's really not that difficult. Grow a spine.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2013 at 9:09 am

This is a case about a little disabled girl with pretty brown curls and a beautiful smile and a speech and language impairment. She wanted to go to school like everyone else. She wanted to make friends, have fun, and learn. Instead, she was kicked, pushed, punched, and savagely mocked and tormented. She was ridiculed and told that she was stupid, retarded, and hated by everyone.
She told five teachers but no one stopped it. Her parents told everyone from the teachers to district staff to the school board but no one intervened effectively to stop it. No one even told them how to use the state complaint policy to get help. As a result of that, the little disabled girl has been very very hurt. The district's paid lawyer does not want to talk about that. She was paid to come and change that subject. In the process, the district's paid lawyer told the public and the school board some things that weren't true. But she's not the only one who knew that some of the things she said weren't true.
She knew that OCR never asked for training just at the school where the little disabled girl was hurt. She knew that OCR wanted annual professional training at all the secondary schools for all teachers and administrators. The Superintendent knew that these facts weren't true when the district's paid lawyer said them. The Superintendent knew what the first draft of the Resolution Agreement said. Charles Young also knew what the first draft of the Resolution Agreement said.
So when Dr. Skelly and Charles Young sat silently while the district's paid lawyer told the public and the board things that aren't true, knowing those facts aren't true, they were using the district's paid lawyer to tell the board and public things that weren't true. They were using the district's paid lawyer to mislead the public for them.
The truth is that PAUSD negotiated against OCR's desire for annual training for all secondary school staff.
The truth is that PAUSD negotiated against OCR's desire for professional training of teachers, opting instead for having the principals train the teachers.
Instead of OCR training the teachers, the principals will train the teachers -- including the principal in the school that was found to have violated the disabled little girl's rights by not stopping the bullying. That same principal who told the federal investigators that she and her staff did not need disability harassment training because they were "very sophisticated." That same principal who told the federal investigators that there was no harassment because"if it's different kids then its not harassment." [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
The district resisted and negotiated against training being conducted annually. They only want to do this one time. It was not only the district's paid lawyer who was inaccurate and misleading to the public. Charles Young also misled the public when he also stated that the district wanted to hire a professional private trainer, Dora Dome, rather than use the free training provided by OCR. Charles Young stated that a private contractor was hired because OCR would only do training once time. Charles Young stated to the board that the contractor was selected because she would "provide these trainings over a longer period of time." (Web Link) But that wasn't true. Because PAUSD isn't providing training over "a longer period of time." PAUSD is only providing it one time. The federal government wanted PAUSD to provide annual training for all staff, but PAUSD's paid lawyer bargained it down to one-time training for administrators only.
Dana Tom the school board president also misled the public by omission. Dana Tom wants you to believe that the first he heard of this was when the story appeared in the Weekly two weeks ago. But that's not true. Dana Tom knew in March 2011 that the little disabled girl had been hit in the face so hard she had to go to the doctor.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Now Dana Tom the school board president, Melissa Caswell, Kevin Skelly, Charles Young, and the rest of the district officials have chosen to hire a paid lawyer to try to control the damage they have done and save their careers and reputations.
The district's paid lawyer is pretty good. The district's paid lawyer thinks she is very smart about Palo Alto. She has been representing PAUSD against special education parents for many years, helping PAUSD to give only the bare minimum in services to disabled children. She knows a thing or two about Palo Alto and its feeling about its schools. She thinks that Palo Alto parents want so badly to believe that our schools are wonderful and exceptional and that PAUSD does better than everywhere else that they will believe that even when PAUSD is being called on the carpet by federal investigators PAUSD received a gold star. She thinks you will believe anything. You have to show her that you won't. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]




Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 1, 2013 at 9:10 am

Spot on editorial, but even more damning is that while the district's lawyer was misleading the public (and perhaps the board), Superintendent Skelly was listening with full knowledge that she was misstating the facts. The best explanation for that is that Skelly enlisted the district's lawyer to save his job by misleading the board. In any other district that would be a firing offense by itself, but with this board --- who knows what the limits are?


Posted by Where's-The-Outrage?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2013 at 9:16 am

> Credit trustee Melissa Baten Caswell for her
> admonishment at Tuesday's meeting that the
> district should never again enter into an
> agreement in response to an inquiry or
> investigation from an outside agency without
> the board's full knowledge and approval.

Caswell's admonishment does little to suggest that she has any idea as to how to set up a governance structure for a large organization. What is needed for situations like this one is a requirement of public notification for all legal actions that have been initiated against the District—so that not only the Board knows what is going on, but also the public knows.

It's pretty clear from the "wall of silence" that seems to permeate the PAUSD, that no one who has ever been on the Board, or the general Administrative Staff has any belief that transparency is a desirable aspect of the operation of a public school system.

Caswell is right to expect transparency—but doesn't seem to have much of an idea of how to achieve transparency.


Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Mar 1, 2013 at 9:16 am

Gotta wonder who the parents are of they bullying kids. Probably well heeled and connected. I'd bet (and give one good odds) that the school administrators feared angering them more than they did allowing the possibility that this may blow up in their face.


Posted by Weekly Reader, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 1, 2013 at 10:02 am

Dr. Skelly's contract came up for renewal last year. I think it was in the fall, but could not find the minutes where it was approved on the Board's website. I also understand that he may have gotten a raise. It seems that at least Dana Tom was aware that the OCR had initiated an investigation at the school site and approved the Superintendent's contract anyway. It also appears that all of the members of the Board were aware of the pattern of bullying since the family had come and spoken at Board meetings. Am I drawing the wrong conclusion that the Board was aware of the bullying, and some members were aware of the OCR investigation and they awarded Dr. Skelly a contract renewal and a raise?


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2013 at 10:08 am

Weekly Reader:

You are correct that every member of the Board was well aware of the both the facts of this particular case involving the little disabled girl and the extent of the physical and verbal abuse, as well as the fact that the school was not intervening effectively to stop it. None of them informed the family about the district's complaint policy or how to appeal to the California Department of Education in accordance with district procedures.

The board was informed in April 2012 that OCR had made findings against the district. It does not appear that the board was aware of what happened after that. However, without a full investigation it will be impossible to know what the board members knew and when they knew it.

The Weekly is doing an excellent job of obtaining documents but the Weekly can only play whack-a-mole, obtaining documents to prove the district is not telling the truth after misstatements are made. A full investigation and transparency would look very different and would provide for real accountability.

That will be provided through subpoena power when lawsuit are filed and discovery begins. The district knows that. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Not With OUR Money!, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 1, 2013 at 10:17 am

Edmund Burke and the Palo Alto Weekly have continued to shed light on what has transpired in this case. I witnessed the board meeting and was flabbergasted at the flagrant lies that were told by the school district's attorney.

Edmund stated, "Now Dana Tom the school board president, Melissa Caswell, Kevin Skelly, Charles Young, and the rest of the district officials have chosen to hire a paid lawyer to try to control the damage they have done and save their careers and reputations."

I say, "SHAME on you Board and administrators for using OUR money to save your careers and reputations. SHAME on you for failing to protect this disabled little girl's civil rights!" If you need to hire an attorney, use your own money not mine! We, the public pay your salaries, entrust the school board to protect our children and we are tired of all your lies, spin and damage control. I hope that all the horrible details are revealed in a court of law some day. I don't relish our money going to pay for that but if that's what it takes, then so be it. I would rather our money pays to get the facts uncovered than our money being used to pay for a PR SNOW JOB put on at a public school board meeting! I say, SHAME on you!

Where is this community's compassion for this disabled little girl anyway? As Edmund has stated many times, WE NEED TO BE HER VOICE!!. The more the district tries to deny the facts, the more hurt that is heaped on the disabled little girl's family as well as the families of others who have faced or will face similar treatment by PAUSD staff and administrators.

Thank you Weekly for all you do. You are the journalistic voice for our students who are still suffering.


Posted by Weekly Reader, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 1, 2013 at 11:06 am

Edmund and all,

I understand now. We cannot find out who knew what when until subpoenas are issued. So the public has to wait to find out if the Board members voted to continue Dr. Skelly's contract and give him a raise with full knowledge that the District was under investigation by the Office for Civil Rights and that a disabled child on a PAUSD campus had been subject to physical and emotional abuse without appropriate adult intervention. As a mother and a school volunteer, this is hard to accept.

So if we cannot easily go backwards, what about looking forward. The agenda for the next Board meeting shows that they are going to discuss and adopt a policy on bullying. I really don't understand. I thought that OCR had found that we had a policy that the district did not follow it. Why are we creating additional policies? That is not what is required by the Agreement that Dr. Skelly signed.

The attorney at the Board meeting talked a lot about how the law is not clear. The OCR report did not sound unclear to me. Are we going in the wrong direction here? Why are we creating new policy when the failure is training and implementation?


Posted by Observer, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Mar 1, 2013 at 11:27 am

Weekly Reader, Thank you for stating what happened without the purple prose. I read the OCR report and it seems the school anti bullying policies did not include anything about disabled or special needs targets. I believe that is the part that has to be fixed in terms of the policy. I would appreciate if everyone agreed to refer to this individual, and any other targets of bullying in more respectful terms. I understand why it might seem best to play on our emotions by painting a picture, but it does the target and any others a disservice by making her seem pathetic. No student with a disability should be left without help from district staff, no matter their personal attributes. That is the law. Whether it is a girl or boy, or she or he has ringlets, is small or large, these are not part of the equation that matters. Using that is distracting, and while it might score points in the short run, it is disrespectful of the individual and weakens the argument against district staff, who apparently did nothing, again and again.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2013 at 11:29 am

Weekly Reader, Outrage, and others:

There is another way.

Palo Alto can show the district's paid lawyer that it does not believe her. Palo Alto can show Dr. Skelly and the School Board that it stands with the little disabled girl who was mistreated, not with the district's paid lawyer who misled the public about the case.

It will take some courage to do this. Most people don't want to make trouble. They just want to trust the school staff and believe that things are going along fine. But now we know that things were not going along fine. The law was broken. A child was grievously hurt as a result. And when that happens, when things break down, when the law is not followed, we have to fix it. That's the definition of a civilized society -- one that follows the law wherever it leads, where we have a rule of law and everyone, even the principal, even the superintendent, has to follow the law. Otherwise, we are all at risk and what happened to this little disabled girl can happen to anyone's child. If there is no way to enforce the law then we are all in danger.

If you think would be hard to stand up for those children, think about the courage it took for those children just to go to school every day. Think about the courage it took that little girl to go up to children in her school and ask them to be her friend day after day when all she got back was cruelty. Think about the courage it took her to tell FIVE teachers who did not help her. Until she just didn't have the strength to ask them for help anymore.

You can be her voice. You can be her courage. You can come to the next school board meeting and you can put in a card to speak for her at open forum. You can say "I am here to speak for the victim of harassment, because she cannot be here to speak to you. I have lost confidence in Dr. Skelly and Dr. Young. I believe that the public has been misled enough and it is time for the truth to come out. I stand with the victim."

Can you do that Palo Alto?


Posted by dawning on me, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 1, 2013 at 11:50 am

Edmund Burke, are you a real person or are you named after the famous Irishman?


Posted by Crescent Park Mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2013 at 11:56 am

What about the children who did the bullying? Another child hit her in the face? What kind of child does that to another child, disabled or not? I'm horrified that a middle school child would have so much hatred for another human being that they would think to do such a thing. Those children and parents should be held accountable as well. We don't need those bullies in our schools influencing the other children. They should be removed....


Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 1, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Now that the Weekly has posted the first draft and final version of the OCR resolution agreement with the district (linked in the editorial), it is possible to compare what the district was initially offered with what it got after OCR completed its investigation and found that PAUSD violated civil rights law.
The final version includes an enforcement clause at the end that is not in the first draft, in which PAUSD acknowledges that if the district fails to implement the agreement PAUSD can be administratively sanctioned (probably by losing federal funding) or sued in Federal court. That continuing vulnerability to sanctions is part of what the district earned by not settling earlier through Early Complaint Resolution. It also makes the lawyer's contention that the OCR process was "non-punitive" a little hard to swallow. This is essentially a settlement agreement in lieu of enforcement, which remains an option if the district screws up.
I wonder who at the district decided it was worth taking on that long-term risk?


Posted by Parent of autistic child, a resident of another community
on Mar 1, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Welcome to the world of special ed parents! The school district views you as an enemy when you try to assert the legal rights your child has under 504 or IDEA - they do their utmost to bully parents of special needs kids. Whether this is because the like they way they are already doing things or because it might cost more, they delay, obfuscate and outright lie.

What happened to this child in Palo Alto is shameful, but far from uncommon. Not following the special ed law is the rule, not the exception. Enforcement of the law is left up to the parents of special needs kids. If you sue, at best you get the services they should have given your child all along.

Do I sound bitter? After 11 IEP meetings through kindergarten, we started home schooling. Our child is doing very well and is undamaged.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2013 at 12:12 pm

@weekly reader,
The failure isn't training and implementation. That completely misses the intent in the "See nothing, Say nothing" policies of PAUSD in regards to special ed and special needs protections since Skelly started. Training isn't going to end the corrupt motivations, it will only put a respectable sheen in them. Staff will continue to feel pressure to fall in step with dstrict biases. Skelly and comany should go. We pay lots of money, we should get people who want to serve our families, not themselves at our expense.


Posted by Big 5 , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2013 at 12:24 pm

The Board presentation on PAUSD's violation was indeed bizarre.

The worst was the lawyer misleading the public that OCR enforces five federal civil rights laws only since 2010. Saying the Dear Colleague letter of 2010 started this whole thing.

The Board joined in misleading the public, with shrill rants from Camille Townsend (after the public response), that these are all "new" laws, that we're just learning about them.

This is not pretty.


Posted by Get up stand up, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 1, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Why isn't the PTA and PSN talking about the district's irresponsibility and this dishonesty? They have a lot of bullying presentations but they are just silent now. Even this evidence now that the district is in a cover up is not prodding the PTA to advocate for honesty. You would think that our PTA would advocate for the victim in this case and for all victims but they are too close to the staff I guess. Sadly.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2013 at 12:53 pm

I'm trying to decide who is the worst of the lot:
- the bully
- Skelly
- the district lawyer
- the School Board

Tough decision. I think maybe Skelly.


Posted by Get up stand up , a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 1, 2013 at 12:59 pm

David the board is worse because they let him do it. They have the job of protecting and defending the liberty of the people.


Posted by Big 5 , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2013 at 1:01 pm

The other weird thing discussed at the recent board meeting was how to get around the OCR "low threshold" for bullying.

This is not tax planning. As the Weekly points out, it's about real kids and real families.

The BOE focused on protecting PAUSD from liability. Don't they know it's the same as protecting the bully?

OCR is smart - they say educate and train everyone you so that you eventually get it.

The BOE needs to be first in line for the training.







Posted by dawning on me, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 1, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Thank you so much CAC (Community Advisory Council on Special Education) for speaking out against the bullying. PTAC could take a page from their book.


Posted by JerryL, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 1, 2013 at 1:25 pm

I may have missed something but I would like to know what is
being done for the little girl NOW. Is she still in school?
Have counselors spoken with her classmates and appealed to their
sense of fairness and humanity? Has the class been addressed with the little girl not present and being shown that they have the opportunity
of reaching out the hand of friendship to someone less fortunate in some ways then themselves?

I would really like to know how this is turning out for the individual involved and what we are doing NOW to make up for all the nastiness earlier.


Posted by ..., a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2013 at 1:28 pm

She is in an IEP.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm

@parent of autistic child,
You have hit the nail on the head! Exactly!!!!!!

It isn't this way everywhere, and I'm hearing that it wasn't this bad pre-Skelly here. What you are describing, that we experienced too, is also against the law. The district has a duty under the law to identify children who would benefit from the legal protections these laws provide and extend protections proactively. They aren't supposed to treat everyone like criminals and only grudgingly serve only those who persist and have money for lawyers.

These training steps will not change the underlying reason we are in this mess, and other parents may well file other complaints to OCR now that they are aware of this recourse, that Palo Alto isn't following Chilld Find provisions, leading to more investigations or sanctions, and more liability.


Posted by Get up stand up, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 1, 2013 at 1:55 pm

If we don't do something soon PAUSD will be famous for violating civil rights like Alabama and Mississippi! Way to go school board you really put us on the map.


Posted by Orin, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 1, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Even seemingly nice kids can get in the bullying mood due to their own insecurities about themselves. When I was in high school I made fun of a guy who was perpetually quiet and non-talkative in class and elsewhere. Not proud of it. At the same time I thought I was socially unpopular and awkward -- so I made fun of this guy because he was even more so, if you can see where this is leading. Now I wish that someone had told me off and pointed out the cruelty of what I was doing. At the time, I assumed that everyone felt the same way about the quiet guy as I did.


Posted by Jackie, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2013 at 2:54 pm

When I was dealing with the aftermath of reporting a girl for bullying my daughter, the principal first refused to respond and then violated our confidenciality to the family of the bully, so that they showed up at our front door with threats of legal action, sent us nasty emails, spread horrible rumors, and more. I spoke with the, then, Director of Student Services, and she said that she was mostly just concerned with supporting that principal. During the entire conversation she did nothing else bur downplay my complaints. That attitude of refusing to take responsibility and then protecting their own seems all-pervasive at PAUSD, and it's called corruption. I have had some wonderful experiences with teachers at PAUSD, so having that happen felt surreal.

Fortunately, that principal resigned, probably as a result of continued transfers within the district and complaints. Those ill-responsible PAUSD staff all need to be held accountable, but how?


Posted by Eileen, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2013 at 2:59 pm

I wrote to the entire School Board this Tuesday expressing my concerns about how this whole situation was being handled and asking them to please respond to the community's concerns about Dr. Skelly's decisions. Not only did they not do this in their open session on Tuesday night, but not even one of them has responded to my email. I am very perplexed as to how a community member can advocate for change at this point. No one is up for re-election for a few years, you are only permitted to speak for 3 minutes at a public School Board meeting, and sending them mail doesn't elicit any response. Are we just trapped in this situation until the next election? As a local tax payer I am sick at heart to think of how much this is going to cost the citizens of Palo Alto. Money that would be much better spent providing services for the students in a collaborative manner rather than the adversarial style that seems to characterize some in the district offices.


Posted by Where's-The-Outrage?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2013 at 3:04 pm

For those of you who are dealing with the PAUSD, be certain you keep a log, and all of your official/unofficial communications with these folks. Your situation might not necessarily come to litigation, but being able to bolster your claims with a paper trial is exceedingly important.

No doubt you've heard that before, but please accept the advice if you haven't. The paper might not necessarily be admissible, should you actually get into litigation with the PAUSD, but it certainly will help to build your credibility along the way.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2013 at 3:14 pm

@parent of autistic child,
You have hit the nail on the head! Exactly!!!!!!

It isn't this way everywhere, and I'm hearing that it wasn't this bad pre-Skelly here. What you are describing, that we experience too, is slso against the law. The district has a duty under the law to identify children who would benefit from the legal protections these laws provide and extend protections proactively. They aren't supposed to treat everyone like criminals and only grudgingly serve only those who persist and have money for lawyers.

These training steps will not change the underlying reason we are in this mess, and other parents may well complain to OCR now that they are aware of this recourse, that Palo Alto isn't following Chilld Find provisions, leading to more investigations or sanctions, and more liability.


Posted by Big 5 , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Orin,

You may have been exercising your right of free speech according to one of the school board members.

Barbara Mitchell, asked what the legalities are about liability for a student if they are caught bullying since students could also be exercising their "right of free speech. " I was actually left "stone cold" by these type questions from the board.

I'm not a lawyer, but isn't free speech no longer free if it is causing purposeful harm or danger? Like you can't run into a movie theater and yell fire, and cause havoc and still be protected by free speech.

Bullying hurts, bullying is harmful. It's not free speech.


Posted by Citizen, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2013 at 3:38 pm

@Big 5
Barb Mitchell is a libertarian. That's why she went on about the unfairness of multiple laws and the big bad federal government on Tuesday. That's also why she and Mandy Lowell Munger have teamed up in the past but that is a different story.

@Eilleen
That's what the Weekly is calling "governance", which is a fancy word for a broken school board. We are learning that at some point the federal and state governments and the courts step in to clean things up when that happens.

@Get up stand up
Yup, they also learned the "governance" lesson.

@Jackie
Same answer as to Eileen


Posted by A funny thing happened..., a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 1, 2013 at 3:40 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Orin and Big 5

The First Amendment rights of students are limited in order to advance the educational purpose and maintain order inside the school. It has long been established that sexual, racial and other discriminatory harassment that creates a hostile educational environment is not protected speech. Schools have great, though not entirely unlimited, leeway in setting rules governing student expression. The Supreme Court recently reaffirmed this principle in Morse v. Frederick (2007) (the "bong hits for Jesus" case). In the case of discriminatory harassment, the Court held in 1999 in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education that schools have an obligation to respond in a way that is not objectively unreasonable to prevent known harassment that is "so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim's access to an educational opportunity or benefit." The Court so held in spite of a concern by Justice Kennedy expressed in his dissent that speech might be implicated at the University level. Hate speech policies could in theory go too far in restricting student speech, particularly political speech, however in the wake of Morse, it is hard to see how any reasonable policy restricting bullying in a public school setting could do so.

The district's paid lawyer should have responded to Mrs. Mitchell that it is well established that schools have a duty (and the ability) to prevent harassment and that there is no free speech issue raised by the facts in the PAUSD case. However, the district's paid lawyer appeared to have the goal of arguing that the rules were confusing and hard to follow and this additional confusion helped her out. It also helped to avoid discussing the actual facts of this case which do not favor PAUSD and which she was therefore no doubt eager to avoid.




Posted by Eileen, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2013 at 4:21 pm

@citizen

So, are you saying that all we can do at this point is sit back and let the courts handle deal with the district? Having just started to pay close attention to the board, I am astonished at how little knowledge they seem to have about how responsible school districts handle harassment between students. They say nothing, but use an awful lot of words to say it. Why isn't the Weekly interviewing the board? Perhaps now they can say nothing about any of this because the liability issues are so great?
This is no way to run a railroad, let alone a school district.


Posted by Paul, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 1, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Score 1 for the WCDB crowd. Wow.


Posted by Citizen, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2013 at 4:48 pm

@Eileen
Yup, that's what I'm saying. You could go down to the school board and yell at them, but they ignore the public and waste incredible amounts of time saying not much, so bring a good book. You could write them a letter. Oh, you tried that. Not the most responsive bunch.
That's it, I'm fresh out of ideas.
You will have to ask the Weekly about interviews. Or you can imagine some variant of "Everything's fine, staff is on it, nothing to see here, please move along."


Posted by Not With OUR Money, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 1, 2013 at 4:50 pm

@Orin:

I, too, am ashamed to say that I teased and/or taunted other children that were more vulnerable than I when I was growing up. I totally agree with you that kids pick victims that may suffer from the same perceived flaws that the bully has. There was not much awareness of how cruel bullying is or how the effects of it often last for a whole life time. I think the one of the ways I dealt with the bullying that was dished out to me was to strike out at someone who was more vulnerable than I. I am truly ashamed of this now.

We did not have upstanders that I was aware of in my childhood days nor did we have legal protections and recourses that are available to protect us from being bullied today (except, it has been revealed in PAUSD).

I remember a polio victim that was continuously taunted (don't think I engaged in that one but may have) as well as the "retarded" (that's what they were called in those days) group that had their own separate classroom at our school but had to walk the same halls with all the so called "normal" kids who often bullied them or made hideously insensitive remarks. They were the most vulnerable of any kids on our campus. Maybe by standing up for kids that are being bullied today we can somehow make amends for any bullying we may have been guilty of.

Agreed with Orin that even "seemingly nice kids can get in the bullying mood" sometimes for whatever reason, but in this day and age they need to be dealt with appropriately and our teachers and administrators (starting at the very top with the Superintendent) need to step up and be the ones to stop it. I think that very often a bully is given a "free pass", and often the behavior continues. This happened with one of my children who was bullied by the same child throughout his secondary school years even after a face to face meeting with the bully, both sets of parents and a counselor. This happened in middle school (the cruelest years of all). This same child was bullied in first grade by the son of a future president of a school board!! Go figure! I doubt very seriously if this would continue if the bully was told that this behavior unabated could affect their chances of getting into the college of their choice (God forbid!).



I never saw the bullying rise to the level of what has been revealed about the disabled girl whose case led to the OCR Letter of Finding against PAUSD. Remember that in the last four years only 14 school districts in the country have been cited by the Federal Government. Those revelations have sadly set off a chain of more unfortunate findings about our district administrators. We need an answer to why an Early Conflict Resolution was not asked for and why Skelly apparently hid the whole thing from our Board until it hit the press. Kind of reminds me of the Watergate Scandal. Perhaps we should refer to this as the “25 Churchillgate Scandal?" and the Board and two top administrators as the “25 Churchillgate 7". If it were not for the courage of the the Weekly to make these details known to Palo Altans we would have hurt many more children through our sheer ignorance of the facts that are coming out now. Did Skelly sincerely think that this was just going to “go away" with none of us knowing about it? Apparently so! What was he thinking?????????? Look at his Poway years and you will know that he cannot plead ignorance.

How can this type of behavior combined with the concealing behavior of Skelly be tolerated any more? We who pay his salary demand the truth!!! This will only come out in an independent investigation. Melissa said we don't need one because the OCR already did one!. Seriously, Melissa, are you kidding? Perhaps the facts will have to come out in court (which I hope will not be the case). I would hate to see any of the district's funds supplied by PiE donors and taxpayers go to support a trial! We need to know who knew what and when before we can even begin to unravel this whole mess. We want truthful answers!

The Board's attorney (remember she was paid for with OUR $$$$$$ for this PR SNOW JOB) has not presented any of the facts as I know them in a true light. She should work for FOX News. I am sure that she was coached by the Board and top Admins on how to spin this. The Weekly in their editorial headline got it right but was too kind calling it a “disappointing spin". Notice that the headline says “begins" after “spin"? We need to stop this tornado of deception in its tracks. I value our schools and children too much to let this continue I really don't want this to develop into a full-blown “25 Churchillgate Scandal" !!! Enough is enough. This is not going to go away no matter how much spinning and stonewalling the top dogs at 25 Churchill are planning on dishing out.

Who is going to step up with me and all the other parents who have had enough? We need to be the voice for our still suffering children. Nothing changes if nothing changes and I think there is much worthy of change in our district. Let's get to work!


Posted by Mom, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 1, 2013 at 4:59 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2013 at 5:16 pm

If the Board won't respond to the people who elected them, perhaps it is time to sue the School Board.


Posted by dave, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Shame on the School Board. Skelly must go.


Posted by Weekly Reader, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 1, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Citizen and all,

It is hard to think about what to do. I have been thinking about it this afternoon and here are my ideas.

1. Do not give up speaking before the Board on this in the allotted 3 minutes. Due to a recent challenge, the Board has to allow time for the community to speak in response to the Superintendent's report as well as in Open Forum and in response to any agendized item. Mr Dauber and other members of WCDBPA have done this, and while it is hard, I am hoping that they will continue and others will join them.

One idea would be to read the OCR report in 3 minute segments passing the report from one person to another. The report is powerful and deserves to be read aloud.

2. Do not allow the District to hire a Communications Officer. This idea was endorsed by Heidi and looks to be part of a budget proposal. Let the district know that we expect the Superintendent to speak to us. We don't need another spin doctor.

3. If you are knowledgeable about the family, please let us know how the child is faring. We are all concerned.

4. If your child has had a similar experience, please document. There are knowledgeable parties on this thread who may have additional resources to share.

5. It does not appear that the Board will respond to written communications and it sounds like even the Weekly is struggling to determine how to do fact finding. However, Board members are people. They shop, they attend religious services, they go to the bank and they go out to dinner. Please do let them know how you feel about their lack of oversight and, if you feel that Dr. Skelly is not the right person to run our district, please let them know that too.

I have to get back to work, but I did not want to end the week feeling powerless. If anyone has other ideas, or thinks these ideas are not viable, please post. I am new to all of this and welcome the thinking of those who are more knowledgeable.



Posted by Big 5 , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Weekly Reader,

"2. Do not allow the District to hire a Communications Officer. This idea was endorsed by Heidi and looks to be part of a budget proposal. Let the district know that we expect the Superintendent to speak to us. We don't need another spin doctor."

During the board meeting, Heidi said she was impressed that they just talked about hiring this person, and behold, it has already been done.

Eberling listed the public communication she hopes and expects to receive, and it all sounded like the normal things that should fall under the job descriptions of staff and the Superintendent.

I too agree that a communications director/spin doctor is a travesty.


Posted by Thanks for Bringing out the Truth, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Like the disabled kid would say when she went back home angry and sad: "They are all a bunch of layers" She would say that about the principals, special education teacher, and the children who abused her. Sometimes the kids would say "it was an accident", yeah right, a hard punch on the face that sent her to the doctor, an accident. Yes, they were lying, but at least they are kids, and are learning. The administrators,the lawyer, and board members are adults. They supposed to be models for our students. No wonder our kids lie instead of being responsible and accept that they made fun of the girl, hit her, punched her and threatened her. Shame on all of you who failed this girl, and who do not teach our kids to accept responsibility because you instead of being models to them, you choose to lie, and pretend that nothing happen. I hope you take responsibility, listen to your conscience (if you have one), and return the money you are getting paid all the past years. You did not earn it; you let the girl suffer on the hands of the bullies, and did not take the time to teach the bullies that what they were doing was wrong, and that there will be serious consequences if they did it again. Terman and Jordan school principals, and assistant principals and some teacher must leave along with the district administrators. Yes I am talking to you, who let this girl suffer because she had a disability, you thought that it was not your problem.


Posted by Teacher, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Mr. Skelly must resign in light of the fact that he did not inform the school board of this investigation by the OCR. It is unconscionable.


Posted by Rebecca, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Why are mentally disabled kids mainstreamed? They need a protective environment. It is called Special Education. To throw them into the mainstream is a cruel experiment. It should be ended, NOW!


Posted by Thanks for Bringing out the Truth, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Even if the disabled kids are put in special education classes, they will still be in contact with the "normal" kids, and they still get bullied by them when they go out to lunch recess, the bathroom, or whey they see each others in the hallways. Special education students move from one classroom to other, many of them go to P.E and electives, and eat lunch outside close to the "normal" kids. The school do not excuse them unless they have a letter from the doctor. One of my girls got bullied most of the times during P.E. because is not well coordinated, which is part of her disability. She was bullied by the teacher, and the students too. I tried to get her in adaptive P.E., but the school never wanted to listened, and always said no, she does not need it. They say, she needed to be in a wheel chair in order to be in Adaptive P.E. which, by the way is a lie. Many students go to P.E. and are not in wheel chairs.To answer your question, in order to not have them exposed to the bullies, we will need to send them to private school, which the school will refuse to pay, as they refused to provide Adaptive P.E. for my girl. They do send some students to private, only if their parents are lawyers o have a lot of money, and knowledge. I am almost sure that Palo Alto has never sent a Latino or low income African American to a private school. Is that true Dr. Wade?


Posted by Thanks for Bringing out the Truth, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2013 at 7:24 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Mom, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 1, 2013 at 7:42 pm

@Thanks for Bringing out the Truth,

I was doing the same thing, but I could not find it. Thanks for Bringing out the Truth!
My daughter was harrased by her science teacher at Terman after I pointed out her problem.
Now my daughter suffers depression.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Thanks for Bringing out the Truth, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2013 at 8:10 pm

I know one teacher there who bullies children, but I it might not be the one your child had. This one teaches Math and Science. She gave mi girl an ulcer from so much stress six months after school started. Luckily at time she worked at JLS, and there was an amazing principal Mr. Disalvo, he let me move my child next day after her diagnosis. This was the principal who was fired, and after that he said some thing like PAUSD is sick or something like that.


Posted by Kocher, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 1, 2013 at 8:54 pm

@Citizen,
You sound like a sore loser. We conservative libertarians have been able to achieve effective control of the PAUSD school board and you liberals have lost, despite your precious 80% support of Obama. Mandy Lowel-Munger and Barb Mitchell have been the most successful school board members in recent years. They led the board in the hiring of Dr Skelly and they championed conservative small governement strategies like "site based autonomy". We libertaians pursue an agenda of as little government as possible and we sure don't want interferance from county, state or federal so called education departments. Mandy has continued to be a powerful leader behind the scenes. I am only sorry that she and Charlie were not successful when they spent $29 million along with the Koch brothers' millions to try to pass Prop 32 which would have gone a long way toward breaking up the teachers unions that are the real threat to education. Until recently, Mandy has been very wise to keep her political values out of the public eye. It allowed her to work with Barb to mold the district according to our values without raising alarms.
Also, you can claim that Barb Mitchell is still a libertarian, but she took the wise advise of her team when she ran for school board and changed her voter registration from Liberatian Party to "Decline to state" which was a smart move given the liberal leanings in this town. Barb said it right at the last board meeting, we also need to be concerned about the first amendment rights of bullies. Bullying is also protected free speech. I don't see a right to not be bullied in the constitution.
You liberals are waking up too late. We got elected the board members that the rest of the board has since followed and we got our kind of superintendent who believes that government should butt out of the education of our kids. After all, we are a Basic Aid District. What good is having our own large revenue stream if we still have to answer to the same intrusive laws and regulations that everyone else must follow? I don't pay extra to live here and hire tutors for my kids so that I still have to answer to the same liberal touchy feely rules as non Basic Aid public schools. If you can't afford the soup, then get out of the kitchen.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 1, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The behavior of the School Board has been a standard part of local politics for a long, long time.* It will be interesting if, with the Weekly starting to point these instances out, whether there will be enough critical mass to effect any meaningful change in that culture. But people who are paying attention to this situation also need to make friends and neighbors aware of it, and potentially how it is part of a larger pattern. Until the local political establishment sees this sort of thing as something that doesn't just blow over, they are going to persist in their ways.

BTW: With former City Manager Frank Benest, he wasn't replaced until several years after a majority of the Council members were privately saying it needed to be done.

----
*My experience on the City's side of this issue led me to write in 2007 an essay "Civility run amok: Lies are bad ... so don't you dare point them out" (Web Link).


Posted by Ben, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 1, 2013 at 9:29 pm

WTF.. the sup now hiding behind lawyers? time to terminate his contract and let some sunshine in at PAUSD


Posted by Old timer, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2013 at 9:53 pm

Doug Moran: the comparison to Benest is apt. Skelly is a liability.


Posted by Citizen, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Kocher, you sound like a parody but I can never tell with you people. If your point is that Barb Mitchell and Mandy Munger steered the district away from liberal values to every kid for themselves -- yup. The rest sounds pretty overheated to me. I don't know about drawing a direct line from being a loony libertarian to violating civil rights laws. More likely it's straight up incompetence.


Posted by Jackie, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Kocher,

You sound totally lacking in compassion. People who have no compassion, no conscience, see love and "touchy feely" rules for protecting kids from bullying as weaknesses. My understanding of Libertarians is that they are fiscally conservative and socially compassionate. You, however, sound like a sociopath.


Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2013 at 10:57 pm

This has got to be one of the saddest chapters in the history of Palo Alto:
- School administration does squat to stop bullying of a special needs child
- District administration does squat
- OCR hands district their rear end
- Skelly hushes it up
- Victim's family shares report with Weekly, stuff thereby hitting the fan
- Weekly runs story resulting in public outrage
- Board is mad at Skelly but too scared to say anything
- District & lawyer meet in closed and lawyer probably tells them to not look completely stupid thereby increasing litigation damages
- Board tries to cover it up (with eloquent misrepresentation by lawyer) thereby looking stupid
- Skelly smiles -- he's played everyone like a used guitar


Posted by Big 5 , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2013 at 11:15 pm

Will the school board focus on picking at the definition of bullying to limit the RESPONSIBLITY the district has to secure a safe learning environment for disabled students?

OCR and state rules aside, stop the haggling over a basic expectation.

PLEASE hire new counsel PAUSD. Find a better way to deal with this, wthout making us sound arrogant, and misinformed.

Heidy Emberling, please stop repeating over and over again, "I am new....." we know. And don't listen to the other board members, all that lock jaw "policy" stuff - stay clean, you have potential.


Posted by So many errors, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 2, 2013 at 6:27 am

Just reading these comments and seeing the same ten posters from the other like topics repeat themselves over and over again is amusing.

It's an amazing fact that PAUSD can acquire a Supt. who is willing to work here by the way we PA parents act.

I'd say everyone's behaviors here rival the alleged actions of the middle school children at [name of school removed] - I wonder where our kids learn it from.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Work with the system to make it better.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2013 at 8:33 am

In this case, the bullying of the disabled child highlights the cruelty of which some children are capable when responsible adults do not intervene effectively to provide rules, structure, and discipline. As Philip Zimbardo's prison experiment showed at Stanford many years ago, it is not only children who are capable of cruelty when responsible authority fails.

Responsible authority failed at PAUSD. Despite the fact that a disable little girl was punched, pushed, kicked, and relentlessly mocked, responsible authority failed to intervene. The disabled girl complained in writing, by completing district-printed forms detailing this abuse. Rather than having her complaints treated seriously, the teachers, counselors, assistant principals, principal and other staff at the middle school asked her "what she could have done differently" and "how she could avoid this next time." They planned to put her in social skills classes so that she could learn to avoid the children who were punching, pushing, kicking, and taunting her.

The parents complained to the Superintendent repeatedly. In March 2011, months before they filed a complaint with OCR they wrote to Dr. Skelly and other district officials to inform them that their child had been punched in the face so hard that she had to be taken to the doctor and the police had been called. They and begged for help and informed him that if they did not receive help they would turn to the Office of Civil Rights for help.

That written complaint went unanswered.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

"So many errors" and the district's paid lawyer would like you to believe that allowing a little disabled girl to be punched in the face and ignoring her family's pleas for restoring discipline are the moral equivalents of asking for an investigation into what happened.

They think that by bandying about the term "bully" that they can equate asking for an investigation into the facts of this case how the adults responded to the situation, and punching, kicking, hitting, and mocking a little disabled girl who just wanted to go to school, make, friends, and learn like everyone else.

They would like to change the subject from the adults who failed to restore order and intervene, and answer their email. They want to focus not on the adults who failed the little girl but on the adults who now want to know what happened. It makes sense that they would like to change the subject. Wouldn't you like to change the subject if you were Dr. Skelly?

Wouldn't you like to change the subject if you were Charles Young who didn't implement the Uniform Complaint Procedure?

Wouldn't you like to change the subject if you were Dana Tom, who also received repeated pleas from the family to intervene but never told them about how to file a complaint with Dr. Young?

We can't change the subject though. Because there are probably other children in this situation whose parents have also sent messages and complaints that have gone unanswered. And we have to ensure that this doesn't happen again.

Palo Alto, what kind of community are you? Are you the kind fo community that can look honestly at the facts of a case wherever they lead, even if it leads to uncomfortable personnel corrections?


Posted by Peggy Duncan, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 2, 2013 at 8:44 am

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

Responding to "So many errors",
Palo Alto is a wonderful community that is rich in culture and cares about our children. We have some of the highest performing students in the country, which has been true for decades -- long before I moved here in retirement.
Just look at the $5 million gift that our parents gave to the district this week!
I read in the last few days that our Superintendent is paid over $300,000 per year, #10 or #11 in the whole state. Being Superintendent of PAUSD is a highly desirable job.
I feel sure that we can have a Superintendent who does a good job and makes sure that PAUSD follows the law so that our district lives up to our community and does the right thing for all of our children.
I don't like it when people equate voicing an opinion about adult political leaders and highly paid executives to "bullying". I always think it is a way of trying to silence people, and it's just silly. Getting punched in the face or verbally taunted as a middle school child is very different. I am sure that it feels bad as an adult to be held accountable, but feeling bad isn't the same as being bullied.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2013 at 9:03 am

Thank you, Peggy. Well said. Thank you for being an upstander not a bystander!


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2013 at 9:39 am

Edmund Burke,

You sure seem to have your finger on lots of facts that I have not read in the Weekly's links and posts. How do you know all of that? Are you part of the child's counseling or legal team?

Your posts, instead of alarming me, cause me concern for the poor child. How must she must feel about you divulging - on the internet - very private and painful information that was shared with you in confidence that even the OCR didn't make public.




Posted by Hays parent of 4th grader, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Mar 2, 2013 at 9:40 am

So according to Mr. Burke the family told Skelly before they went to OCR that they were going to file a complaint and he did nothing to address the problem. I am about as shocked and disappointed as I could be. I put in time volunteering at school and help to get the word out about Pie to our Hays parents. I feel like all that effort is wasted if this can go on under our own noses and I feel so sad for this child.


Posted by Burke admirer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2013 at 10:37 am

Everything Burke has posted about the child is in the OCR report or was said at school board meetings. His information about what district staff knew and when seems to be from inside the district. I think he's a whistleblower. The real Edmund Burke was a British MP who advocated from inside Parliament, for the British government to meet the demands of the American colonists. A telltale sign?


Posted by Where's-The-Outrage?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2013 at 10:51 am

> How must she must feel about you divulging - on the internet -
> very private and painful information that was shared with
> you in confidence that even the OCR didn't make public.

The family must be monitoring the postings on this topic, and most assuredly know who Edmund Burke is. It's difficult to believe that they don't want this information out in public. Their daughter has suffered a lot, in silence, at the hands of the PAUSD. The information provided to the public, by Mr. Burke (albeit repetively) was necessary to allow people to fully understand the problem.


Posted by Where's-The-Outrage?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2013 at 10:56 am

> Well at least now we know why Dana Tom has a hissy
> fit every time Ken Dauber gets near the microphone

Hopefully someone will make short videos of Dana Tom's behavior when Ken Dauber is speaking, and post those videos on Youtube.


Posted by ..., a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 2, 2013 at 11:02 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Mom, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 2, 2013 at 11:39 am

If I put a title for your comment, Peggy Duncan,
would it be "We Can Do Better in Palo Alto"?

or "Our Children Deserve a Better Superintendent"?

Your comment is well written.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2013 at 12:00 pm

In Burke's posts but not in the OCR report:

- the child's sex and "pretty brown curls"
- wheelchaired
- the police was called
- particular quotes of what students said

Web Link

I watched the board meetings and don't recall a child or his/her parent mentioning those things either.

Edmund Burke [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] can't resist spouting out on this forum the holdings of Supreme Court cases, his legal research and arguments ("the law considers that to be beyond ordinary negligence. The law considers it to be "deliberate indifference"), questions as if PA Online was a written deposition, and then offering nuanced critiques of the district's "paid" attorney's lawyering style.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]




Posted by CVC, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 2, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Lots of lawyers, lots of negotiations, lots of excuses, but the truth is that we need less time focusing on the training and admonishment of sophisticated adults and more time spent supervising middle school students at lunch. As a result of the extreme/necessary actions of one brave student, we are now going to have more training, more presentations on bullying, more T Shirts, but I am willing to bet that NOT ONE more adult will be out at lunch time tomorrow or the day after watching the kids.

Kids need supervision and daily planned lunch activities that are athletic, artistic and intellectual. Sixth graders, in particular, may not be up to the task of social self organization. They are organizing themselves along ethic lines and into groups that include: popular kids, kids from EPA, Mexicans, Blacks, Jews .... and those that do not have a group are really suffering. There are many good things happening at our schools, but adults need to step in before this relatively new trend takes hold and changes our school culture for the worse.

Kids who who are having trouble especially need a plan for lunch: who they are going to eat with, what they are going to do, and who is going to watch over them.

The collective inattentiveness of our lunch monitors is beyond legendary. Competent caring persons who aspire to be either teachers or paraprofessionals need to be hired to organize, monitor, and plan lunch activities. If we can't afford to hire, maybe we need to set up internships in partnership with colleges. Of course, parent volunteers should be welcome (and from what I understand they are not). We need good people who WANT to get to know the kids and who WANT to be a part of a successful lunch experience.

So, at the end of the day, when all is said and done ... I just want to know if even so much as ONE MORE useful, intelligent, kind, caring and committed adult will appear at ANY of the middle schools during lunch.


Posted by Burke admirer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Hi parent, I for one appreciate knowing the facts of this case without having to go back and watch several years of board videos. These facts are not damaging to the victim they are damaging to the district staff who did not help her. I don't know who Burke is (and I think he could do with less pathos per line) but at least he is telling us the facts.
As to who Burke is, I know a few former district employees who have some familiarity with this case and no love for Kevin Skelly. My bet is on one of them, but I actually don't really care who Edward Burke is. I care what the district did wrong in this case and probably others.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Where's-The-Outrage?

You said these public details are "to allow people to fully understand the problem."

As far as the child is concerned, the only people who need to understand - those who have the power and the pocketbook - have access to all the details they need and, if they don't, the family's attorney can get it to them in private, confidential ways.

All that Edmund Burke is doing here is playing to the hearts and minds of the public for what appears to be one reason - to turn them against Kevin Skelly and his team. That has nothing to do with this child's case - she doesn't even attend Palo Alto schools any longer -- and from reports in the paper the family's requests have been honored.


Posted by Peggy Duncan, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 2, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

To parent,
I am sorry but I have to disagree with you. The public has an interest in whether our schools are being well run and well governed. (That goes whether you have a child in the schools or not, we are all responsible as voters and as citizens).
When I was more involved in local politics in Michigan as part of the League of Women Voters, I was often surprised at how local elected officials and bureaucrats don't appreciate this once they are in office. They come to think that they are immune from scrutiny and accountability, and that any attention is unfair.
I hope that Dr. Skelly understands this, and can and will step forward to answer the public's legitimate questions. He more than anyone has to understand why the public cares about how this child was treated and what it says about our schools and district. I think we should let him speak for himself, and the school board members too.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2013 at 12:46 pm

This case is not about the identities of the many posters on PA online who are angry at the district.

This case is about the very severe abuse, including physical abuse, of a child who complained many many times of many incidents to many district officials, both publicly and privately. Many people, including top administration in the district and all the board members in 2011, and many community members who tried unsuccessfully to intercede with district staff on the family's behalf, were aware of these complaints.

That is what makes this case even more of a failure on the part of the district, the board, and the school. Despite all these complaints, Charles Young, the district's identified Compliance Officer under CDE nondiscrimination regulations, never implemented that policy. Nor did Kevin Skelly, nor did Holly Wade, nor did Dana Tom or any other board member.

"parent" believes that the public can be distracted from this serious misconduct by trying to claim that district staff is the real victim here. But the real victim is that child and that child's family.




Posted by Peggy Duncan, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 2, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

Sorry everyone, also thank you to Mom for your kind compliment.


Posted by Where's-The-Outrage?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2013 at 1:31 pm

> That has nothing to do with this child's case –
> she doesn't even attend Palo Alto schools any
> longer -- and from reports in the paper the
> family's requests have been honored.

The fact that she doesn't attend the PAUSD does not mean that she would have liked to have attended (presumably meaning that she and her parents would like for her to have attended). The PAUSD is still responsible for her education—meaning the property owners paying the taxes, and the Palo Alto Utility rate payers who are taxed to pay for the Cubberley Center lease are responsible for the cost of her residential care, still are funding her specialized care.

The paper does what it can do. The paper is not staffed with education professionals, or even people who are educated enough to know what questions to ask, much of the time. The paper does what it can do—the rest is left up to the public to fill in the details, or to show disinterest, and walk away from the situation.

It's not clear that this matter would ever have come to the public's attention if the parents had not approached the paper. Certainly Kevin Skelly didn't think it was every important.

> turning the public against Skelly.

That, by the way, is how democracy works—at least here in the US. Not Skelly, nor his team, nor the elected officials, are above the law. Nor are they above "public opinion". While Skelly is not subject to recall by the public, the Board is. And they, as a part of the recall consequences, have the power to terminate his contract. That's how the system works—here in the US.

Several posters have cautioned: "work within the system!". Well, that's how the "system" works. It's kind of a shame, since it would be a lot cleaner if we could schedule a retention vote for Skelly, and the Palo Alto City Manager, for that matter, every two years. We the people, should be able to "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" these two key public officials. But at the moment, we can't. So, we have to use the other approach. To examine closely how people, like Skelly, operates in their "wheelhouses", and when they manage to bring the boat too close to the shoals, or actually run it aground—then bring pressure on the Board to make changes.

Edmund Burke is operating completely "within the system".


Posted by Do your job, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2013 at 1:39 pm

I don't know Burke, and I'll give those of you with a sense of humor something to laugh at, I assumed this was a real person. Frankly, he takes too long to make his point, but I thank him or her for speaking out against very real issues that some want to bury. I don't think Skelly and Young can unbury themselves on this one.


Posted by parent of an autistic child, a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2013 at 1:52 pm

"Why are mentally disabled kids mainstreamed? They need a protective environment. It is called Special Education. To throw them into the mainstream is a cruel experiment. It should be ended, NOW!"

The IDEA (Individual with Disabilities Education Act) calls for kids with special needs to be educated in the "least restrictive environment" which means they should be in the classroom they would have been in without disabilities if at all possible. The law intends for kids to have the supports necessary to be in the least restrictive environment.

I have seen nothing that says the girl involved in the OCR case had any kind of "mental disability", just some speech difficulties.

Segregating kids with special needs stigmatizes them and does not give them typical social models. Special day classes frequently have kids with a wide range of disabilities and often grades spans as wide as K-3. After elementary grades, it is difficult for special day classes to offer the whole curriculum. Thus, the law and parents prefer their kids be educated in the regular classrooms to whatever degree possible.


Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 2, 2013 at 3:49 pm

And Skelly still has a job because?


Posted by Jackie, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 2, 2013 at 4:08 pm

So how do those of us who sent polite, valid complaints that never got responses from the district get our complaints addressed? Skelly has made it obvious that he isn't ever going to address them; neither is the Board of Education. The licensing board won't either (I tried that, and their response was that "this complaint can be handled at the district level". Hah!) Short of all of us hiring expensive lawyers ourselves, do we send our complaints to the Santa Clara Department of Education? Start a class action suit?

The BOE is the entity to hold Skelly responsible, right? But since they won't, then who holds them responsible? We, the public, starting a petition to recall the ones who failed to take responsibility?

Schools need to have zero-tolerance of bullying.


Posted by parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 2, 2013 at 4:22 pm

I have long advocated to any and all parents who are willing and able to volunteer... to volunteer for lunch time supervision. If you really want to know what is going on in students' lives at school, watch them when they think they aren't being watched and when they are not sitting in a classroom. The first day I volunteered at a middle school lunch hour was an eye-opening experience for me.

Middle school years are very challenging to navigate for any kid. But being a presence at lunchtime is also a great opportunity to be an example... to see a kid, smile at them and just say "hi" ... tells them that they are important. The Project Cornerstone parent training I did last year was great. And, believe it or not, I think it's the thousands of small gestures that add up and count in the long run.


Posted by Not With OUR Money, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 2, 2013 at 5:15 pm

@do your job: I was speculating on who Edmund is myself. He or she (?) frankly is too long winded for my tastes but he seems to know the facts better than most folks that post here. At least I think they are facts because they have been printed elsewhere. This would tend to indicate that the information Burke dispenses is not fictional. If anyone has documentation to show that Edmund is a liar, please post it here. I would hate to know that I have been taken in by Burke if that is the case! I prefer to believe that Edmund is just a Good Samaritan who just wants to see justice served. I hope that I have not been totally naive in believing him. We have enough liars out there as it stands. Please Edmund, don't let us down like the others.

I do not think wanting to get to the bottom of this scandal is bullying as others have stated. What we do know is who the real bullies are in this case because the OCR has pointed them out to us. We do not need Edmund for this. How are we going to fix this? Let's figure out what we can do to assure that this never happens again. If the only way that can happen is to replace Skelly and others, than so be it. We can speculate on these facts all that we want but I fear that the only real way we are going to learn the facts is through legal action or perhaps the independent investigation that I think WCDBPA was asking for. This is one time when I truly feel that what they are asking for is totally within reason. It sure beats the alternatives I would think. We do know that all the facts will come out sooner or later so why not sooner?


Posted by Why?, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 2, 2013 at 6:49 pm

And Skelly still has a job because? Why?

Chime in Skelly,any time. Or your district funded lawyer.


Posted by Thanks for Bringing out the Truth, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 2, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Please watch this short video about the damages of bullying.
Web Link


Posted by Big 5 , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2013 at 6:53 pm



so many errors,

If these posts are ten people, so be it. Ten people expressing shock and disappointment about what happened to a disabled student, bafflement at how it could not have been prevented, and frustration that leadership is focused on spin. No shame in that.

The only reason this community may not be able to do better than the current leadership we have is because our expectations have been set so low now, we really can't do better.





Posted by paly parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 2, 2013 at 7:12 pm

These issues are not limited to Palo Alto and the big reason is money. Safe inclusion of special needs kids requires additional staff and training i.e. $$. Diagnosing learning differences requires $$. Additional staff to supervise at lunch requires $$. I'm guessing that most administrators need to look at the bottom line of their District and do the best with what they have. This balancing act often falls on the least fortunate (like most of societies problems).

Underfunded education is really the problem. With enough money we would diagnosis issues, provide kids with real support and have enough adult supervision. There would still be bullying (and there probably always will) but a lot less.


Posted by Big 5 , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2013 at 7:34 pm



parent,

It appears the districts that we are in the same company with OCR violations in, are lower income districts.

Maybe PIE and PTSA could step up.


Posted by Not really , a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 2, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Not sure why it costs more money to use common sense to respond to a complaint. Or to answer an email. Handling something competently is usually cheaper than handling it incompetently and then you save all those fees for Laurie Reynolds plus the payouts for lawsuits claims and etc. plus who is going to want to donate to PIE if the money is going to pay Laurie Reynolds which it is at least some of it. Following the law is always cheaper than breaking it in the middle and longer term.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 2, 2013 at 9:33 pm

How are you figuring that PiE is paying for lawyers? I don't understand the hate for PiE. I hope all those who don't believe in or contribute to PiE, if they financially can, pull their children from Spectra Art, ask that teacher aids not work with their kids, don't let their kids in middle school take electives funded by PiE, and ask their children not to use counseling services in high school so they can demonstrate their outrage over PiE. If you are going to make a stand, go all the way.


Posted by Not really, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 2, 2013 at 9:40 pm

Nobody's saying anything against PIE just a fact that if the district pas Laurie Reynolds 600K to defend it and pays damages too that's not free money. It all comes from the same place. And who wants to keep donating to incompetent management that wastes resources on unnecessary crises. Now Skelly plans to hire a PR officer too! What'll that cost? The cost of incompetence is adding up and I don't know about you but I don't give to PIE to pay for Laurie Reynolds lifestyle. That's not Spectra art now is it.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2013 at 1:12 am

A PR officer? What?!!!!!! How about we fire Skelly, Young, and every other useless bureaucrat, and use the money to take care of our kids educations? I'm guessing no one will sue if we actually are paying for people who remember they work FOR the families of this district who PAY THEIR OVERBLOWN SALARIES. The secretaries at my kids' school could do a better job than those _____s, because bottom line is the secretaries are motivated to do a good job for the kids. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2013 at 1:24 am

Have you ever wondered why, in these situations, parents have so little power to effect change? School districts are autonomous to give local control, but that should mean parents have control, no? After all, it is their district.

Instead, the way the rules are set up, those running the district have virtually no one to answer to from above or below. This is wrong. At the state level, we have ballot propositions. At the local level, we can change the PTA rules every two years and the leadership every year.

It shouldn't be easy for parents to intervene, but if they feel very strongly about something, it should be possible short of a recall.

Please join me in asking our representatives, Jerry Hill and Rich Gordon, to give parents more say in their districts. We shouldn't be in this situation with such corrupt leadership and no legal recourse or process to straighten things out based on the will of the families in the district.

The rules governing the board can be changed, but only the board can change them.


Posted by if you have the numbers, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 3, 2013 at 9:04 am

Imagine the chaos if you only needed 5 people able to challenge the district at every turn....oh, wait....


Posted by Veritas, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2013 at 9:15 am

Spin in Palo Alto? By lawyers? Shocking!


Posted by Wow, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 3, 2013 at 9:40 am

I am offended that the Kevin Skelly wants to use public money to hire a PR officer to help him mislead the public at a lower hourly rate than Laurie Reynolds. Disgusting. Just as disgusting is that the board went along with the whole s&$tshow. They should have at least told the public that Skelly and Young weren't talking on advice of counsel. At least that much they could have done. They think that they are district staff. They are coopted. The Weekly is being too easy on the board. I don't think Melissa deserves "credit" for saying that next time please don't mislead the public AS she was presiding over a presentation that misled the public. Where does the buck stop?


Posted by Realist, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 3, 2013 at 10:28 am

We all seem to be surprised that we don't have a strong school board, but the fact is that a weak school board is what got us into this mess. Skelly didn't just wake up in December with the idea that he could sign a settlement agreement with the federal government without telling the board. He learned that from years of pushing the board into irrelevance and watching them not push back. Skelly has been setting district priorities for years, and special ed services and district procedures are not on his list.
Only Barbara Klausner tried to raise the alarm last summer, and her fellow board members left her hanging and she left the board. As far as I can see, we are stuck. If PAUSD is going to get change, it's going to come from OCR or the courts.


Posted by Optimist, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 3, 2013 at 10:43 am

Agree with realist. What about putting you Ken Dauber sign out as a sign of disappointment with this board? That would send a message?


Posted by Not With OUR Money!, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 3, 2013 at 11:58 am

I took a look at Dana Tom's campaign statement for his uncontested run for his second term in 2008 and I was astonished to see #7 and #8 of his previous term's accomplishments (or so he claimed) totally off the table now. He promised to serve ALL of the children in the district (towards the end of his statement). I had never looked at his website before but it is eyeopening. Don't children with disabilities fall into the category of "all"? I believe they do but apparently the person that Dana and the rest of the Board are supposed to give direction to (Skelly)but instead answer to in lock step do not believe that children with disabilities deserve the same services as the other students in the district.

For those that are not in the know, Dana is currently the Board president and sometimes looks as if he is in charge of silencing those that would speak out in the public speaking portion of the Board meetings. Take a look for yourself on the public TV station at the next Board meeting. It will probably be more of the same.

Here's a link Tom's statement: Web Link

I think I will review all the websites of the rest of the Board to see if they are fulfilling their promises to us, the people who voted them in.


Posted by Not With OUR Money!, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 3, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Oops! I meant #6 and #7 Notice the first half of #6 means that he helped hire Dr. Skelly (something that he may not be so proud of now)


Posted by daniel , a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 3, 2013 at 12:40 pm

The voters rejected reformist and independent thinkers like Claud Ezran and Ken Dauber over the years in favor of conformists, tiger parent appeasers and don't-rock-the boat candidates and that is why we now have the school board and Superintendent that we have.


Posted by Data please, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 3, 2013 at 1:36 pm

I would add Wynn Hausser. A reform slate for a recall election? Too bad the voters didn't find out about this during the election from Skelly, Townsend or Caswell. A cynic might wonder if that was deliberate.


Posted by the take away, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 3, 2013 at 2:46 pm

There have been disappointments in this entire situation.
I felt it was time for a makeover of the Board. They talk for too long a time. People give up paying attention, eventually. This is a really entrenched situation, unfortunately (though I was sorry to see Barbara Klausner go off the Board).
Instead, we need MORE people in the schools and the community to be included and to be knowledgeable. A heckuva lot of money is spent in this district and policies and the curriculum and everything else affect a heckuva lot of people.
These revelations about bullying and reprimands from the government are unsettling but not surprising, really.
It is also vital to remember that the Board is accountable to all the students, not just vocal or influential families. I oppose the superintendent hiring a communications officer, and I am familiar with the public relations world.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I wonder if Skelly knew how little he will be able to keep private in litigation, would he continue to try to cover up now instead of just resigning? Ditto on Charles Young. They don't seem to realize the importance of coming clean on everything.


Posted by Not With OUR Money, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 3, 2013 at 3:49 pm

@the take away: I too object to there being a communications officer to continue the stonewalling and spin that the Skelly and now the Board are putting on this. I doubt whether the real truths will ever come out as Skelly will probably never have to testify under oath. I suspect that the district will reach a settlement with this family out of court and that we the taxpayers will have to pay huge legal fees to the attorneys that will be needed to get to that point. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] I agree with take away that resigning (with your deputy) would be the most honorable thing to do. This is not going to go away no matter how much spin occurs.


Posted by Do your job, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Put yourself in Skelly's shoes: he comes to PAUSD after the principals's revolt in 2006-07. His job was to keep the peace, to make sure that the 75 parents who wrote a public letter to the board did not resurface, and look, they haven't. In fact, they have been strangely silent, with the exception of Wynn, who spoke at the board meeting weeks ago. Misstep after misstep, suicide after suicide, special ed issue after special issue, and he has simply banked on apology after apology.

As for Charles Young, he followed an assistant superintendent who was also unpopular with many teachers and principals, so he follows the same protocol. Unfortunately, his performance is even weaker, if only for his failure as the guy in charge of complaints, you know, the compliance officer. Make your judgment as a citizen and voter by calling up the archived footage of board meetings and watch him present. He does an adequate job (with the career-killing example as the compliance officer) presenting to the board, but I would not give him a C or a B. Maybe a C-. I worked incredibly hard to bring my kids to PAUSD but recent events only confirmed what many of us have seen over the past six years: this is a mediocre district run by an ineffective superintendent and assistant superintendent who both have turned into a financial liability.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2013 at 6:13 pm

@Not with our money
If HONOR were a part of those guys' makeup, we wouldn't be in this mess to begin with.


Posted by Teacher, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 3, 2013 at 10:01 pm

WHY are parents not demanding Skelley's resignation? If enough people made enough noise, the Board would listen.


Posted by Eileen, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2013 at 11:11 pm

@ Teacher

I agree that the community needs to keep "making noise," however I am not sure that the Board would listen. I wrote to the every member of the school board this week expressing my concerns. I think it would help if all concerned citizens wrote to them, and attended the March School Board meetings to express our desire for transparency and change. I do not think change will happen as a result of writing on these "Town Square" threads.

The Weekly is staying on the story which is wonderful. I would like to see a story that compares this situation with one of the other 15 school districts that was found against by the OCR. I would also be interested in the perspective of some former School Board members. I think that having the Weekly continue to write about the story will keep this issue before the community in a way that could help to bring about change.


Posted by Where's-The-Outrage?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 7:44 am

The School Board didn't listen to the community about Mandarin Immersion, nor did they listen about Everyday Math. Back in the '90s, they didn't listen about the math program's problems--leading to the "Math Wars" of the time.

How many people can remember any School Board candidate actually saying that they intended to listen to the community, and represent the community's thinking--when voting as an elected school board member?

Anyone ever remember any such promises?

Didn't Camille Townsend claim that she was the best qualified person in Palo Alto to be on the school board--as she stood for her 3rd term? Not likely anyone who makes such claims is likely to listen to the community.


Posted by old voices of students with learning differences, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 8:46 am

Where's the Outrage,

On Everyday Math, this forum's much-maligned board members Camille Townsend and Melissa Caswell listened to the community voted against Everyday Math.

WCDB's favorite board candidate - Barb Klausner - voted for it.

When parents of students with learning differences begged the board not to adopt Everyday Math, Klausner directed staff to prepare a report on how it would impact those students. Staff's report: Everyday Math will be a challenge for them.

Yet Klausner voted to bring Everyday Math to our district saying that there was "no guarantee that it's going to work for every single student" and she was "100% comfortable" with that.

Sad actually, because there was a middle ground. Parents asked Klausner to support piloting Everyday Math in a few classrooms for a year to see whether it worked before forcing it on every teacher and student. She refused fearing that if the district piloted it teachers might be less excited about bring it in their classrooms.



Posted by Accountability please, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 4, 2013 at 9:17 am

I don't celebrate Klausner either. She was no hero on board governance. She had one moment of courage in 5 years. But she was right on the broken board/Superintendent relationship then.
Fast forward to last week. The district's lawyer gave the school board and the public an actively misleading presentation, presumably on order of the Superintendent. The school board is supposed to be Reynold's client, by the way.
One example in the Weekly editorial is particularly troubling. Reynolds and Young both told the school board that the reason PAUSD is paying for its own trainer, rather than use OCR's offered free trainer, is that OCR only wanted to train in the middle school where the law violation happened. The first draft of OCR's settlement offer that the Weekly obtained directly contradicts that. OCR actually wanted training in all middle and high schools. Skelly sat silently while this falsehood was repeated to the board and the public.
It's not hard to come up with reasons why Skelly might not have wanted OCR trainers in the schools, if the OCR investigation and settlement agreement were supposed to be secret.
In most organizations, this alone would be grounds for firing. How will Townsend and Caswell and the other board members respond? If history is any guide, they will make general statements (like Caswell's quoted in this story) and hope it all blows over without requiring that they confront the Superintendent directly.


Posted by sound of silence, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 4, 2013 at 9:32 am

"The School Board didn't listen to the community about Mandarin Immersion, nor did they listen about Everyday Math. Back in the '90s, they didn't listen about the math program's problems--leading to the "Math Wars" of the time."

Nor did they listen about the Calendar nor did they listen about the a-g requirements. When will this board start listening.


Posted by Eileen, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2013 at 9:32 am

@ accountability

This is why it's important for people to write directly to the Board and attend the upcoming Board Meetings. One of the things any community member can do to prevent this from "blowing over" is to stay on this topic at the meetings and in writing to the Board. Dr. Skelly must continue to hear from the community if not the Board, that he cannot continue to obfuscate the truth. Go to the Board Meeting and use your 3 minutes to say that you have read the Weekly and you would like the contradiction between the Weekly's report and the district's lawyer explained. The public has the right to continue to question the decisions and assertions that both the Board and the Superintendent have made.


Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 4, 2013 at 10:47 am

Palo Alto deserves a paper interested in journalistic integrity and reporting the complete truth.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
In fact the school district went further than what was proposed by the OCR - the school district want to improve the training for all teachers, not just a select group. They actually seem to be interested in improving the environment as much as possible.
The OCR issues thousand of reports like this throughout the state and this is the first one PAUSD has received.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
I would prefer real information rather than distortions written to sell ads.


Posted by another old voice, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 4, 2013 at 11:13 am

@ old voices, thank you so much for posting that. BK was no friend of special ed, nor would wcdbpa be if they couldn't use it somehow to further their agenda. they are far into the camp of Everyday math and other programs which would hurt LD kids.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 11:20 am

@wow, Alphonso, that's about as much misinformation as you could pack into such a small space!

For anyone who is tempted to believe him, I invite you to reread the Weekly stories and comments and make up your own mind.


Posted by Up in smoke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 11:46 am

@Alphonso:

The Weekly found major factual contradictions between the lawyer's claims and the OCR documents. The people who spoke up about this at the last school board meeting had hard data -- numbers!

You offer neither factual data nor hard numbers, just characterizations and rhetoric. Your statements are completely lacking in substance.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 11:46 am

Alphonso and other district insiders (like the district's lawyer) want to engage in a campaign of misinformation and misstatement in order to deflect attention from the district's failure to carry out federal and state anti-discrimination law.

It won't work.

Only 14 school districts in the United States over the past 4 years have received a Letter of Finding concluding that the district committed disability harassment discrimination against a student. There were 1513 such complaints, but only 1% resulted in a finding such as was made against PAUSD. These are facts.

PAUSD did not want to do more than requested. PAUSD wanted to do less than OCR requested and negotiated an agreement to allow it to do less. Now it is doing even less than it agreed by failing to comply even with what it agreed to do. For example, PAUSD agreed to utilize the Uniform Complaint Procedure for complaints of disability harassment but it does not do so at all.

Charles Young misled the Board and the public when he stated that the district had hired at public expense a contractor to provide training because OCR would only do the first training and PAUSD needed someone who could be involved in training over a longer period of time. This was a blatant misstatement. In fact, OCR initially asked PAUSD to conduct annual training of all admins and teachers, but PAUSD's lawyer negotiated to have only a one-time training and only of principals (who will in turn train teachers).

Charles Young is the district's Compliance Officer but he has misled the Board about compliance with the full knowledge of Kevin Skelly. They should both be placed on administrative leave pending a full and impartial investigation.

That will not happen because the Board of Trustees also failed to follow the law by not preventing the harassment and not responding appropriately or lawfully to reports of harassment. The Board itself is implicated in this scandal. That is why they sat silently while their lawyer misled the public about it.

PAUSD is not fixable except by judicial intervention.


Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 4, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Edmund Burke

There are only three possibilities - either you are lying, they are lying or both of you are lying. I completely trust the people I have spoken with and I do not know you.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Since you are confident in "the people you have spoken with" then identify them. They have broken FERPA laws. According to you, school and district staff have given you confidential (albeit wrong) information about the child's IEP, which is protected by federal law, which you have helpfully posted to this forum.

Nothing you posted was accurate but if it came from people inside the district that is a separate and additional violation of federal law.

It is regrettable that the district has chosen the path of continued lawbreaking and misleading in order to try to get itself out of its original failures. Only a full, fair, impartial investigation can restore public confidence.


Posted by Big 5 , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 12:38 pm


The Post today has a front page story about the BOE struggling with the definition of bullying.

The story is confusing because it makes it sound like PAUSD needs to define bullying to write the district's own policy, and that they somehow get to choose between the state definition of bullying (which they consider more lax), and the federal definition (which they consider restrictive).

I see a basic problem with this exercise. Why would a PAUSD definition of bullying be useful if it the policy does not avert breaking either state or federal law. Wouldn't you have to use the most restrictive definition to avert breaking the law?

Weekly,

I'm sure you could write a better story than the Post did about this important topic.

The state definition of bullying actually looks tougher - bullying includes spreading rumors for example. And the federal definition of bullying is more specific about not discriminating on the basis of race, religion, disability .....

Is the BOE issue that it's not the definition of bullying, but what responsibility schools have to respond to bullying per state or federal standards?

This begs the question of what happens to someone who spreads a rumor - per state definition it is bullying - if the punishment is nothing happens, then of course the state "definition" is better for PAUSD.

I get that PAUSD wants to limit liability, but they are also making a case for limiting responsibility to educate people on what constitutes as discrimination.

I cannot wait to see what they come up with!!!


Posted by Big 5 , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm



As the BOE tries to define bullying, I also wonder what legal counsel they are using to deal with their concern for how freedom of speech can be respected when kids are bullying but really they are just exercising free speech?


Posted by What?, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 4, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Free speech right to bully another child? Are you serious?


Posted by Paly parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 4, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Web Link

Here is an NFL player who clearly understands bullying. Perhaps he can come "school" the Board.


Posted by Weekly Reader, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 4, 2013 at 1:46 pm

One of the key points made by the District's attorney is that the law is confusing. Clearly the Post is amplifying this message. The OCR report sheds some light on this topic. "The district is not responsible for the actions of a harassing student, but rather to it's own discrimination for failing to respond adequately. A District may violate Section 504, Section II if 1) the harassing conduct is significantly serious to deny or limit the student's ability to participate in or benefit from an educational program; 2) the district knew or should have known about the harassment; 3) the district failed to take appropriate responsive action. These steps are the district's responsibility whether or not the student who was harassed makes a complaint or otherwise asks the school to take action."

This report clearly states that the District is not liable for the actions of the harasser, but they do need to take action. That does NOT mean disciplinary action. There can a range of responses. I would imagine the age of the children involved, their history, the severity of the action all would play a role. What is important here is that the district take action and that there is a complaint process available if the activity continues.



Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Weekly Reader is correct. The Post is closely associated with Board member Barbara Mitchell who appears to take the position that the law is confusing and the federal government should not be involved in regulating local matters having to do with the schools.

Barbara Mitchell is not the first school board member to argue that the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights has no business interfering with states' rights and local school practices.

Just as they were wrong, she is wrong. Civil Rights are not a matter of local option.

Barbara Mitchell should make a motion at the next school board meeting that PAUSD refuse all federal funding and dollars so that PAUSD can be free of having to follow federal civil rights laws. Sic Semper Tyrannis?


Posted by Weekly Reader, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 4, 2013 at 3:02 pm

I had to walk down the block and pick up a copy of the Post for myself. This is why I read the Weekly.

The Post states:

"The district must adopt a new policy following the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) investigation that found the district did not adequately respond to a bullying incident involving a middle school girl with a disability."

No. It was multiple incidents over a long period of time with a lack of response on the part of the School Principal, the Assistant Superintendent, the Superintendent and members of the Board.


The confusion expressed in the post article by the Board members is part of the lawyer's script. The reality is that multiple adults could have done something over a long period of time in this case and did not.

I am not worried that I will be sued if my student stares or makes rude noises. I am worried that the Board will continue to waste money on lawyers and PR.


Posted by Don Draper, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 4, 2013 at 3:18 pm

This is a classic disinformation campaign. Everyone knows The Post loves Kevin Skelly. Just look at the hatchet job it did on Ken Dauber. They wrote that if Ken Dauber was elected Skelly would leave. Yes that would have been horrible. Thanks to the Post for making sure PAUSD got the mangers it deserved.


Posted by daniel , a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 4, 2013 at 3:26 pm

A couple of years ago Mr. Skelly was asked in a public forum by a Paly parent about his ideas on how to deal with excessive student stress in the wake of the tragic string of suicides in the district. His "response" was to pretend that the inquiring parent didn't exist and never asked a question. He wouldn't even acknowledge the question or the parent. My guess is that he used a similar methods in dealing with bullying.


Posted by Geoffrey of Monmouth, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 4, 2013 at 3:36 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Weekly Reader, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 4, 2013 at 4:08 pm

daniel -

Here were the "talking points" on student stress and the student suicides written in a Post article right before the School Board election. The article was a re-print of a letter widely distributed by Mandy Lowell Munger, wife of Charles T. Munger Jr., and sister-in-law of Molly Munger, author of Prop 38 (the anti-prop 30 bill). Together Molly and Charles Munger contributed over $70 million to defeat Prop 30 (Bloomberg)

"Dauber ....came to prominence locally two years ago when he argued that academic stress was a key factor in a number of student suicides. However, experts who spoke to the community at that time said that nearly all youth suicides are related to mental illness."

Munger and the Post supported Melissa and Camille as part of the Experience Matters campaign.

I see a pattern with these communications of placing blame on the victims, demonizing anyone who criticizes the district, allowing the District to continue it's actions unchanged because it is too confusing or too hard.

Another key talking point is that everything is fine since our API scores remain high.

I am a lifelong Democrat, as are most Palo Alto voters. The Post, the Mungers, and the members of the Board who are beholden to them do not express my beliefs.



Posted by Not With OUR Money, a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 4, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Follow the Munger Money! Only a matter of seconds before they pull parts of your posting. That money you mention leads to some pretty unsavory places. Weekly Reader, thanks for reminding me of that! Edmund, thank you for reemerging to set the record straight once again. If the PAUSD Board and higher ups think this is just going to go away, I am afraid that they are going to be very disappointed. I think that more and more people that I have talked to at school or in the supermarket checkout line are outraged at the goings on as well and sooner or later the citizens of PA will rise up and make their will known. I am really really disgusted the more I hear. It will be interesting to view the meeting next week although certain aspects of those meetings make me cringe or a feeling of nausea sets in. Sometimes I just scream at my TV. I wish they could see me at the board meetings reacting to their bull****!! PA Parents is this what you paid big money to live in PA only to receive this crap from the higher ups at the distict office? If we just sit by and let it continue we deserve what we get!


Posted by Don Draper, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 4, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Yes this was excellent disinformation by the Post. Dauber never said that stress was a factor in those specific suicides. He said that stress -- academic, bullying, any kind -- is a factor in depression and mental health problems that contribute to suicide. He said what I think most of us know to be true which is that our schools are too stressful. He mostly amplified what Project Safety Net said before it was coopted by the district. But the Post and Munger and Townsend subtly changed his statement, and then called him a liar and a fiend bent on destroying the schools. You see where this has brought is, which is to the sad situation where PAUSD is on a par with the Deep South as a civil rights outlaw. Thanks Mungers and Post.


Posted by curious, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 4, 2013 at 4:43 pm

"Dauber ....came to prominence locally two years ago when he argued that academic stress was a key factor in a number of student suicides. However, experts who spoke to the community at that time said that nearly all youth suicides are related to mental illness."
Which part of this isn't correct?


Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 4, 2013 at 4:48 pm

There has been a systematic demonetization by the school board conservatives and conformists and their supporters of any attempt to link excessive school stress and bullying with the exacerbation of existing mental health problems in students and their link to teen suicide.
Skelly himself wouldn't even acknowledge a question about it in a question and answer forum, as I mentioned in a previous post.
Ken dauber, and Claude Ezran before him, were subjected to a campaign of character assassination by the anti-reform, don't rock-the-boat crowd. It's just very depressing.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 5:15 pm

@parent of autistic child, you wrote,
"Welcome to the world of special ed parents! The school district views you as an enemy when you try to assert the legal rights your child has under 504 or IDEA - they do their utmost to bully parents of special needs kids. Whether this is because the like they way they are already doing things or because it might cost more, they delay, obfuscate and outright lie.

What happened to this child in Palo Alto is shameful, but far from uncommon. Not following the special ed law is the rule, not the exception. Enforcement of the law is left up to the parents of special needs kids. If you sue, at best you get the services they should have given your child all along."

You hit the nail on the head! But because they've treated us like the enemy for so long, they now have a lot of enemies. This is no way to run a district.

To quote the late Steve Jobs: "Motivations matter" -- This can't be fixed with this bunch, because it began from the wrong motivations, and continues to be handled by them with those same corrupt motivations. We need to remove them and insist on hiring people who are HONEST and work for school districts out of an intrinsic motivation to serve and work for families.


Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 4, 2013 at 5:21 pm

@curious

Dauber argued that reducing academic stress should be a part of the response to the student suicides. That position is the same one expressed by Project Safety Net. He didn't say that the students who died by suicide suffered from academic stress. Nobody can say that one or the other, without a lot of information about those children. He also said that youth suicides almost always have a mental illness component. The Post made it sound as though Dauber was saying that the suicides were caused by academic stress (he wasn't) and that there was no mental health factor (he wasn't saying that either).

That ship has sailed, though. Refighting the last election isn't the issue here. Everyone can agree that Dauber would have been a stronger voice for accountability on the school board, but so what?


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 5:22 pm

All of these things are true but we cannot be diverted from focusing on the current case in which the civil rights of a little disabled girl were violated when the school and district did not intervene to effectively stop extreme physical, verbal, and social bullying of her based on her disability. She was called "retarded" and "stupid" and treated as if she was a disease to be avoided in a cruel game. She was punched, kicked, and pushed down. The police were called. Still the school did not intervene to stop the harassment.

As a result the federal government investigated the district and found that it violated the law.

The superintendent told the board but no one told the public. Then the superintendent and the board hired a lawyer with public money. They held a closed session with the lawyer. After that session there was a public session in which the lawyer said many things were were demonstrably false and misled the public about what happened.

Despite the closed session that afternoon, the board and the superintendent were silent while the lawyer told the public things that were not true in order to make the district look good. The lawyer's bill to the public for that day of misleading the public was thousands.

This case reminds many taxpayers of other previous instances of misinformation and mismanagement. But let's not change the subject. The district would I am sure like to change the subject to Ken Dauber and the Paly Math Letter and Gunn Guidance and the Brown Act.

They would rather talk about anything other than this mess and coverup.

Let's not change the subject.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 5:23 pm

@ Weekly reader,
That's right, there is a process -- and it's wrong for district people to obfuscate say the law just isn't clear, because districts have already written the processes by which they are to follow those laws. If they weren't clear, they had lots of opportunities to work that out in writing their own processes to follow those laws. The OCR report said district people acted like they didn't even know there was a process and weren't familiar with it. This is the Skelly /Young way: systematically ignore (or lead on and then ignore) people and problems you don't want to deal with and maybe they'll go away.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Claude Ezran has offered nothing that demonstrated that he should have been elected to the School Board, or any other elected office, for that matter.


Posted by Paly Dad, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 4, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Board--just rip off the bandaid and get it over with. Can't you see the damage this is causing? You were elected now stop dragging it out and let Skelly and Young go for the good of everyone. PAUSD needs to move on.


Posted by Mary Maldanado, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 4, 2013 at 5:42 pm

I have seen a lot of bullying at Terman. I talk to teachers and they say they are just kids. Who do I tell to pay attention?


Posted by Weekly Reader, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 4, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Mary

Please put your concerns in writing and send your letter or email to the Terman principal and to Charles Young at the District Office who is the Compliance Officer for the District.

Please be as specific as you can in describing the events you have witnessed.

I am not an expert, if Edmund or others have suggestions for Mary, please jump in.


Posted by Big 5 , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Edmund Burke,

"Barbara Mitchell should make a motion at the next school board meeting that PAUSD refuse all federal funding and dollars so that PAUSD can be free of having to follow federal civil rights laws."

Best point made on this thread!


Weekly,

Some possible headlines for another story on this issue, and questions for the BOE. The Post headline is "What constitutes bullying?"

How about,

What constitutes discrimination?

or

What is an OCR violation?

or

What constitutes federal funding?


Posted by curious, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 4, 2013 at 6:20 pm

So, from your own words, Ken used the suicides to push an anti-stress agenda. That's seems to be what the Post is saying as well. What is actually incorrect with what the Post wrote?


Posted by Big 5 , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 6:23 pm

One would think the OCR gives jail time for a violation, they're just asking for the community to be educated on civil rights. Put up some posters to not discriminate and let students know about the laws. They even say the district is not liable for the actions of a harrasser - the responsibility is to educate.

I guess the district does not want a line of kids saying their civil rights have been violated, but isn't that the point to eventually have a system where kids know not to discriminate?

Most kids already know this, most kids do not bully disabled kids, why would the board want to protect the kids who are not aware?


Posted by Don Draper, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 4, 2013 at 6:36 pm

The Board doesn't want to protect bullies, it wants to protect itself. That's why it is hiring a PR person to spin this situation. That's 150K of your money up in smoke. That's a lot of chrome books we could have given to low income kids. Thanks Board. The PR profession needs the jobs.


Posted by Mom of 2, a resident of Southgate
on Mar 4, 2013 at 7:02 pm

When is the next school board meeting? Can anyone just come and talk? I'm so mad at this point I want to say what I thInk of all this.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 7:13 pm

"curious" would like to change the subject to something other than the cruel bullying of a little disabled girl and the failure of district officials to protect her. That broke federal anti-discrimination laws.

Curious would rather change the subject from why Charles Young, the district's compliance officer did not implement any of the district's many discrimination complaint policies but instead did nothing to protect this little disabled girl from being punched, kicked, hit, and cruelly taunted.

Curious would rather change the subject from why the district's lawyer, who is paid by public funds, was retained by the Board and Kevin Skelly to mislead the public about these events.

Curious is apparently not curious at all about why for over a year, district officials including Kevin Skelly, Holly Wade, Amy Drolette, and every member of the Board of Education failed to forward any of the many written complaints of harassment they received for a proper investigation and failed to inform the family of their rights under state and federal law.

Curious is apparently not curious at all about why Dana Tom told the family that it would "get better results" if they worked with the school instead of appealing to the school board for help when the principal failed to protect the little disabled girl.

The principal told the federal investigators that she didn't need any training on disability harassment because she and her staff were "very sophisticated."

Curious doesn't want to talk about that.

Curious also probably doesn't want to talk about the hundreds of thousands of dollars this will cost PAUSD taxpayers before this is over in legal fees and damages inflicted by the extreme negligence of our employees.

But that's what we are going to talk about.


Posted by sara, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Yes - I'm furious about them hiring a PR person. Meanwhile Escondido, Ohlone and Walter Hays all have OVER 500 kids and NO ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL. All other elementary schools are smaller and so their admin staff to kid ratio is about the same as the middle and high school kids. 300:1

Ohlone brought this up at the PTAC meeting, but of course it won't matter.

District says they don't have enough money for assistant principals....even part time.... but PLENTY OF CASH for a PR person. $150 spread across 3 schools = 3 half time assistant principals = more supervision = fewer bully situations....

SHAME on 25 Churchill....


Posted by Bob Fuscate, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 4, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I don't understand the confusion over the definition of bullying other than a ploy to deflect attention from the real issues at hand. The board members and district lawyer made it sound like the federal government was redefining bullying with a definition different from the state definition and that is why our policies need updating. However, according to stopbullying.gov the federal government does not define bullying:


"At present, no federal law directly addresses bullying. In some cases, bullying overlaps with discriminatory harassment which is covered under federal civil rights laws enforced by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). No matter what label is used (e.g., bullying, hazing, teasing), schools are obligated by these laws to address conduct that is:
Severe, pervasive or persistent
Creates a hostile environment at school. That is, it is sufficiently serious that it interferes with or limits a student's ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or opportunities offered by a school
Based on a student's race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion"

Web Link



My reading of the October 2012 OCR Dear Colleague letter is that the OCR is not redefining bullying but telling schools that some types of bullying may rise to the level of a civil rights violation, as it did in our district. The response from the National School Boards Association seems to be over the threshold of legal liability for schools, not what constitutes bullying as the district's lawyer and the Post would have you believe. Am I missing something here?


Posted by Do your job, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Board: look at the number of posts. Do your job now. Pay the man his 18 months but make sure Charles Young leaves as well. Barbara and Dana, do not run in 2014.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Bob - you are exactly right. The law of discriminatory harassment has been clear for over a decade. It has not changed. Assistant Secretary Ali made your precise point in her clear and firm response to the NSBA letter. The Department of Education's authority derives from the Spending Clause and it can impose rules on districts that it funds. Private rights of action on the other hand for money damages may have to meet a higher standard.

Laurie Reynolds absolutely knows that but she engaged in a misleading discussion on this point.

The state disciplinary standard for when a child can be suspended or expelled for bullying is not relevant in any way to the question of when bullying violates federal anti-discrimination law.

Laurie Reynolds knows that too.

The problem facing the district is how to explain that it did not protect this disabled girl's civil rights. The answer that the district and its paid lawyer seem to be trying out is that it's not our fault because the law changed, or the law is conflicting between the feds and the state. None of that is true. All of it is misdirection. But then why did they fail?

They failed because Charles Young did not carry out his duty as district compliance officer to implement the Uniform Complaint Policy.

They failed because of a blind commitment to site-control above all other values, including discrimination.

They failed because PAUSD has an ideology of greatness that is impervious to facts about places it falls short.

They failed because the school board has no ability to instill any accountability in the organization.










Posted by Thanks for Bringing out the Truth, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Sara, sorry that you are feeling like there is a need for assistant principals in some schools. Sorry to break your bubble, but they will not do it, because that means, the district officials will not have enough money left to get their raises, and to hire more lawyers to cover themselves.


Posted by Thanks for Bringing out the Truth, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Can someone post when is the next Board meeting. I think they happened every two weeks, am I right? Who wants to come, and demand accountability and transparency from our board and school officials?
Nothing is going to happened if we do not work for it. Perhaps another Candlelight Vigil, but hopefully more people will attend.


Posted by Weekly Reader, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 4, 2013 at 9:50 pm

The next regular board meeting is Tuesday, March 12th at 6:30 pm. To speak for 3 minutes you need to submit a card for any item on the agenda or for Open Forum which starts at 8:30 pm.

Note that there is some kind of special Board meeting tomorrow to discuss pending litigation.


Posted by Eileen, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Edmund Burke,

What do you recommend the interested Palo Alto citizen do to continue to push the District towards change? I agree with what you are saying about the Board and the Superintendent's actions, but what is the next step the community can take?


Posted by Big 5 , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Bob,

If you have not seen the replay of the school board meeting, it's worth a look to hear Camille Townsend say she is delighted to have counsel because "this is a new and expanding role of a definition of bullying"

Go to Item B time stamp 1:15:15
Web Link

As you point out, the "definition" conversation is possibly about legal liability, but I'm not sure OCR makes any judgments about liability, they seem to ask for training and education.
If the only "liability" OCR places on a school which violates discrimination laws is training and education, isn't that reasonable?

I found the comments from a parent public speaker (time stamp 1:11;46) who spoke right before Townsend to be spot on. He comments along the lines that the role of schools is education and the education of complex subjects such as bullying. To not get hung up on the definitions of bullying, or make it so you need a lawyer to understand. And to avoid language issues, to use videos. Lots of videos with examples of complaints, to make it easier to educate children.

That's generally what the OCR asked to do - to educate children about discrimination. They offered to train the entire school, teachers and students. PAUSD said no, counter offer - no education for children, no teachers, only to educate and train Principals but hey, principals from all schools. Yeah, what a deal we got.

BOE,

If everything we are discussing on these threads is all one big misunderstanding, please explain it more clearly at the next board meeting.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Tomorrow's board meeting in closed session at 1:10 pm is Kevin Skelly's performance evaluation. It was originally scheduled for last Tuesday but had to be rescheduled because it was co-scheduled with a discussion with the district's lawyer of the pending litigation against PAUSD as a result of Dr. Skelly's and Dr. Young's performance. That discussion of litigation took the entire 2 hours and Dr. Skelly's evaluation had to be rescheduled.

In this evaluation, the Board should find out why Dr. Skelly sat silently while the district's lawyer told things to the Board and the community that were demonstrated to be objectively false.

Dr. Skelly should be placed on administrative leave at this evaluation session pending a full impartial investigation into his performance, including his performance in supervising his direct reports:

Charles Young failed to perform adequately as the board's compliance officer in the case of disability harassment and as a result the district faces large liability. Charles Young also failed to perform adequately in the case of 504 procedures. He is currently failing to perform adequately in ensuring that the district uses the Uniform Complaint Procedure in responding to all complaints of discrimination including discriminatory harassment. He should be terminated or at least placed on a performance plan.

Holly Wade failed to refer complaints of disability harassment to Young or to inform the complainant of their rights. She also failed to ensure that the district's 504 procedures were legally sufficient. She should be terminated or placed on a performance plan.

Low expectations and no accountability from the board to Skelly have translated into low expectations and no accountability for his direct reports.

The Board should seek to bring back well-respected former district officials to act as caretakers while the investigation is carried out and personnel decisions are made.

This is the least that must be done to restore public confidence.

For those who have posted asking how they can comment on this matter, come to 25 Churchill Street tomorrow at 1:00 pm. Prior to every closed session there is an open meeting at which the public can comment and you can comment there directly on Dr. Skelly's performance in a small group session with the board.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 4, 2013 at 10:42 pm

"That's generally what the OCR asked to do - to educate children about discrimination. They offered to train the entire school, teachers and students. PAUSD said no, counter offer - no education for children, no teachers, only to educate and train Principals but hey, principals from all schools. Yeah, what a deal we got."

I thought parents were supposed to educate their children about discrimination. Oh wait, that's where they learn it from. Discrimination occurs every day in every school, every workplace. Just google "bullying in schools" and see how many results you get. Over 72 million. Wake up. Don't blame the schools, blame ourselves. Walk down any school hall, any school playground, and you will hear "that's so gay", "you're a retard", "nobody likes you" What happened to this child is not an isolated incident. Kids can be mean, for any number of reasons. They learn a lot of their behavior from adults. It will not get better by acting outraged over how school officials reacted. Only when parents wake up and teach their children empathy, respect and tolerance.


Posted by Big 5 , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 10:45 pm



I'm noticing silence from the Daubers and absence of usual posts from WCBPA.

Anyone know why?




Posted by Big 5 , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 10:54 pm


parent,

"I thought parents were supposed to educate their children about discrimination."

Most parents do teach their children about discrimination. Most children don't bully disabled kids.

Just in case, OCR makes sure schools teach about it too. You learn a lot of things in school that the government wants you to be aware of. Should parents also be in charge of teaching History at home too?


Posted by Big 5 , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 11:01 pm

Big 5,

Clarification, I refer to government in a broad sense which is in terms of the justice system, freedoms and rights - not as in indoctrination.

Sort of like health topics. Oops that gets hairy too.

There are some things where schools and home can share responsibility of at least disseminating information. The topic of civil rights is not exactly birth control.





Posted by WCDB member, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 4, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Ken Dauber and many other WCDB members have been very engaged in this issue. This is a matter of both social emotional health and of governance. Ken was at both the closed and open board meetings and has posted here and on our Facebook page. He was at the candlelight vigil. The Weekly reported his leadership on this issue including calling attention to many of Reynolds' misstatements. He is probably not posting here because he has made our position clear elsewhere: we should have a full impartial transparent investigation so that we can discover and fix what is broken.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 4, 2013 at 11:05 pm

"parent" wants you to think that the issue is mean children. But that is not what this case is about.

School districts like PAUSD are not found to be responsible for discrimination because of mean things that children say. School districts are found to be responsible for discrimination not for the conduct of peers but for their own conduct in failing to intervene effectively to stop the harassment.

PAUSD was not found to have created a hostile environment because some kids said "you're a retard." PAUSD was found to have created a hostile environment because a little disabled girl was punched, kicked, pushed down so hard she had to be wheeled to the office in a wheelchair, and taunted mercilessly about her disability for months. Many many complaints were made to responsible officials, including teachers, administrators, district officials, and school board members. Finally, the parents went to the federal government in desperation.

The failure of all those officials is the discrimination in this case.

Not the bullying.

That is the law. We should all follow the law.


Posted by They been there, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2013 at 7:25 am

To Big 5

Are you kidding me? Since the investigation came out to light, the Daubers, along with other WCDB members have been very helpful in this case since day one. WCDB members and the Daubers have been speaking at board meetings on behalf of the victim. The daubers have been there,but they do not make it public every time they do something on behalf of the child.Have you done anything to reduce bullying,to help this child, or to demand honesty from our school officials and board? It is going to take more than just WCDB,it will take all the people who fells that bullying any child and not doing anything about it, and then lie, is wrong. If you are for it post it here. So we can see if there are enough numbers. I know, I am for it.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2013 at 9:40 am

Wow, that's disappointing obfuscation from Townsend if she's trying to divert attention to parsing the definition of bullying!

The fact is that our district, under Skelly's leadership, has systematically disobeyed the laws in regards to special needs and disabled students, by deliberately avoiding extending those protections to students who need them. The district has its own processes for following those laws that they wrote themselves! The government said they basically acted like those processes didn't exist.

The problem isn't subtle, it isn't some unclear definition, the problem, as the government found, is that the district didn't use its own processes, seemed not to know the laws (which defies credibility, especially given Skelly's previous legal battles over special ed in Poway), and never used their own processes, and lied about it when OCR investigated. They treated the family of that little disabled girl abominably -- and I should add, many other families in the district with special needs kids -- and never had even a twinge of conscience throughout years of the family's appeals to do the right thing and start behaving honorably. Further, the law requires districts to apprise parents of their rights -- which the district did not do -- and to be PROACTIVE about identifying and extending the protections of the law to students who may benefit (not just begrudgingly provide to those who can fight hard enough).

Bottom line for me? Those people lie. Human beings can do things wrong, they can make mistakes, sometimes that's forgivable. These people were blatantly flaunting the law to the detriment of our students, including this disabled child who was bullied, they lied to parents who needed the laws to protect their kids, then they lied when they were caught.

Just as we should have no tolerance for bullying among students, we should have no tolerance for lying and deceit among adults serving a school district! They failed to do their jobs AND they lied. That's enough in my opinion to let them go and find people who, appropriately for a school district, can discharge their duties under the law HONESTLY and EARNESTLY. If the board isn't going to do THEIR job in this extreme situation, perhaps it's time to consider a recall.


Posted by Annet Dragavon, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 5, 2013 at 9:45 am

Thank you to the principals, teachers and staff at Briones, Terman and Gunn who have made anti-bullying a top priority. My 9th grader wore a Not in Our Schools tee shirt last week, as part of Gunn's "Not in Our Schools" week; kicked off with a school-wide rally led by the principal. Terman's Prinicpal and Vice Principal set the tone at Terman with anti-bullying programs, supported by a firm anti-bullying policy. At Briones, which shares its facility with a county program for special needs kids, my son earned a "wheel chair pushing" license that enabled him to push kids in wheel chairs between classes. I thank PAUSD staff at these school for working together to raise awareness about bullying and to actively promote anti-bullying school.


Posted by Accountability please, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 5, 2013 at 9:56 am

I have written to all of the school board members (like Eileen) but no response. However, if I could communicate with them before they do Skelly's performance review today, I would point out these facts. Any of them should result in firing:
1. Skelly signed a settlement agreement with the federal government without informing the board, and apparently intended never to tell the board.
2. Skelly is running an organization that seems to utterly disregard its own rules about responding to serious complaints.
3. PAUSD apparently denied this child what she needed for her education until the case became public. (How many other children are in a similar boat but don't have the "benefit" of a civil rights finding and publicity?).
4. Skelly arranged for the district's lawyer to mislead the board and the public, and then sat silently while the lawyer said things he knew were untrue.
Come on, school board. Enough with spin. My kids deserve better.


Posted by Not in our district , a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 5, 2013 at 10:07 am

The only thing wrong with Not in Our Schools is that the Feds found that it is in Our Schools. But except for that great work. Btw Annette I would look at that Terman principal again. The principal in the OCR case told the Feds that she and her staff were too "sophisticated" to need any training.


Posted by softball mom, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 5, 2013 at 10:18 am

Disabled kids are not pets. As the mother of a disabled child I don't like using disabled kids as props or tools to showcase tolerance. I find the sweetheart awards to be paternalistic and offensive and also the wheelchair pushing license. Children in chairs are not pets and other kids shouldn't get awards for treating my son decently. Would you have an award for treating Jewish children nicely and accepting them? Today Tommy got an award for accepting the black child? Why aren't the black parents supporting the civil rights of the disabled? They were very vocal about A-G and disproportionality and a lot of non-minority parents came out to support that but now silence from the PNSC about an actual civil rights violation. I guess it's just every kid for herself in good old PAUSD.


Posted by Right there with you!, a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 5, 2013 at 11:49 am

@accountability please: Email each of the board members your remarks above. Hopefully they will take a quick peek at their digital devices before the closed meeting begins. You need to be heard!


Posted by His pants are afire, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 5, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Why is Kevin Skelly still working here? He has been dishonest with the people he is supposed to be serving. He has been denying that there is a bullying problem. He cannot or will not answer questions directed to him. He acts inept and seems not to be very good with people, uncomfortable in public. He is not right for the job, regardless of his education. He is obviously not earning his keep, so dismiss him already and minimize the damage!


Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 5, 2013 at 3:53 pm

There are many school districts in which the public would have put such pressure on their school board in the aftermath of such a scandal that Skelly would have already been among the unemployed. I find it incomprehensible and offensive that Kevin Skelly still has a job here.


Posted by Eileen, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2013 at 4:04 pm

I went to the School Board meeting at 1 pm today and spoke during the public comment period. Only one other member of the public was there to speak, and she came with me.
This is essentially what I said:
"My family has been in Palo Alto since the 1920's. We have had a long history with the school district through four generations. I never ever imagined I would see a time when our school district was found out of compliance with the Federal Office of Civil Rights. This state affairs is both appalling and disappointing to me.
I would like to see, in the public record, a more cogent and thoughtful response from Dr. Skelly regarding his failure to inform the board of the OCR investigation, and his subsequent signing of the agreement, than "I blew it."
Regarding the Board's part in this situation, I would like to see an interview with one or all of you with the Palo Alto Weekly which addresses the issues brought up in last week's Editorial, "As district lawyers step in, disappointing spin begins," and the issues being discussed in the 180 comments that have been posted so far on the editorial's Palo Alto Online thread. I believe the community is owed a more direct response from our elected representatives than we have received so far. Having your lawyer speak at the last board meeting was not sufficiently informative, and I also have the impression it was not entirely accurate in its representation of the facts.
This entire situation has been a disaster - from the treatment of the student to the response of the superintendent and the board to the community. Please start communicating with the community in a way that addresses our concerns more directly than you have so far."

After I spoke I asked how my statement would be entered into the public record. None of them really seemed to know, but Dr. Skelly said he would look into it and that if I sent him a copy of my remarks he would have it done. I asked if my remarks and my previous letter to the board would then be available to the Weekly so that they could see what I and other community members had written to the board, no one had the answer to that question or seemed to know much about how that was handled. Dana Tom remarked that he had received my email, but that the volume of his correspondence was so great that he was unable to respond to people who wrote to him. No one asked me any questions. No one commented on anything I said.

One odd thing was that they asked me to fill out a card before I spoke, but they didn't have any cards there and they couldn't find any anywhere they looked. Then they asked me to sign a piece of paper with my name, when I asked if I should give my address and phone number they said yes, and then well, no they didn't really need it. Then Barb Mitchell commented that she believed that now the card asks for your email address, but that it probably wasn't necessary that I give them that either. I would have thought that something as basic as the proper procedure for receiving public comment on an issue would be something they would all know how to do.

For all of the outrage, disappointment, concern, etc... expressed on these pages in all of the comments above I was very surprised to be the only one there to address the board. I hope that at next week's board meeting more people are able to stand and express themselves. I plan to be there.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Eileen:
Thank you for going to address the board. Unfortunately I had to be at work today and was unable to do so myself. You did a valuable public service. I believe that it is sufficiently rare to have a member of the public come to speak at a closed session that it made a big impression, particularly if you are not a community activist who speaks frequently. Thank you for your service today.

We owe you a debt of gratitude for speaking for us, and for the child whose rights were violated.


Posted by Thanks for Bringing out the Truth, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Evem though I am glad to hear that finally [name of school removed], is doing something about disable kids and bullying, let's not forget that the reason they are doing it is because they were mandated to do it by by the Office of Civil Rights. This is the school involved in the OCR investigation. I do agree with softball mom when she says that disable kids are not pets. They do not need to give license to push the chair of the disable kids. They just need to respond to complains of bullying from any student, and take them seriously, and give consequences and emotional health to both parties. There is reason why the aggressor is bullying the victim. [Name of school] principal, stop trying to look nice, you already goof big times. It is time for you to leave, you were the first one, and then your assistant principal who failed the victim. Shame on you! Stop using our disable kids to make you look good. You do not deserve to be around them. We know already who you really are.


Posted by Student Advocate, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Eileen:

Thanks so much for going to make comments before the closed Board session today. I too went last week when the performance review was supposed to be happening. Instead, following the public's comments (there were 3 of us) they had to meet with their attorney to figure out how they were going to spin the OCR case to the public thus postponing Skelly's performance review. I gave the same comments at the evening meeting that I presented to them in closed session. You can come next week, fill out a card (at the evening board meeting) and make the same comments if you like which will be in the public record and viewable by all who come to the meetings and view them on public TV (26).

I gave solid facts that made the attorney's implications that this happens all the time look pretty pathetic. This is a very rare occurrence to go all the way to receiving a Letter of Finding by the Office For Civil Rights. See all the links in the Weekly article online.

One of the few facts Ms. Reynolds got right is that it is called the "Office For Civil Rights" She made a big deal of emphasizing the "FOR". If you notice yesterday's Daily Post article (with inaccuracies pointed out by Ken Dauber in today's Post Letters to the Editor) you would notice that even the Post's reporter didn't pay enough attention to Ms. Reynolds to even get the lesson the PAUSD's attorney was trying to give all of us. I found the way she presented this fact to the Boardroom mildly condescending but the PR session that followed was really something else.

Why would The district need a PR person? Isn't Laurie (the attorney) currently acting as the PR person? Pretty high priced PR eh?

Please Eileen, come to the meeting next week, put in your card and speak. Thank you so much for showing up today. The kids appreciate your standing up for them. Please tell all of your friends who feel similarly that we need them to come to the meetings too so they can bear witness to the goings on as well as speak their truths.

Eileen have you though of writing an In My Opinion piece for the Weekly or a Letter to the Editors of all the papers stating your experience? It would be good for others who don't usually speak out at board meetings to participate in the media as well.

Those of us who truly care are not going to back down or be intimidated by those who are currently holding the power. Don't forget, the administrators at PAUSD as well as the Board work for us the voters and the tax payers and all residents of PA. I, as well, have a long history with this district and Palo Alto and I don't recall feeling so ashamed as at what has happened to the disabled child. We are the voices for the students who still suffer.

Please thank your friend for speaking today as well.


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.

"Dear Colleague:

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.


Sincerely,

Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
Superintendent


March 6, 2013

Dear Parent/Guardian:

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 safety—broadly measured—are 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.


Sincerely,

Kevin Skelly, Ph.D.
Superintendent"


Posted by Day one PR officer , a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 5, 2013 at 7:35 pm

This guy is such a trainwreck. Only a PR officer would put in a line about our fantastic "lower rates of bullying" (not true but it hardly matters) into a letter about how OCR found that we broke the law! Gold star! we're the awesomest rights violator in the country! take that Opelika City Alabama! Kudos new PR guy it takes guts to write that kind of distortion!

Board you have no purpose.


Posted by reality check, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 5, 2013 at 7:43 pm

@Eilleen,
"For all of the outrage, disappointment, concern, etc... expressed on these pages in all of the comments above I was very surprised to be the only one there to address the board."
It's a combination of sock puppets and people not actually wanting to something real. (See Edmund's posts, wonder why he wasn't there?)
I admire you for at least getting involved and trying to do something but you can see from how unprepared they were that there is little actual outrage beyond random posts on this forum.
This is exactly the same as the library bond. If you read the forums at the time you'd think everyone was against it and the bond then passes by 70%!


Posted by Big 5 , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2013 at 8:03 pm



So, how did our "position of strength" turn into a federal violation?






Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 5, 2013 at 8:33 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Palo Verde parent of 3rd grader, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Mar 5, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Dr. Skelly's message to parents is carefully written to say as little as possible, which I suppose is because there is a lawsuit coming. Maybe that is why he doesn't apologize on behalf of the district for letting down this child and other families in the district?
The "position of strength" part seems a little silly, since actually the district was forced to do all of this by the federal government. I hope that he will be more forthcoming in the future.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Dr. Skelly said: "Over the coming weeks and months we will be updating the community in various ways about our pro-active efforts in this regard."

It is not "proactive" when the government makes you do it. It is reactive. That is the exact meaning of "reactive," when you do something in reaction to receiving the phone call from OCR telling you that you have been found to have discriminated.

There is no evidence that PAUSD has lower bullying rates than other comparable school districts. However, even if it did, that is not the point.

OCR did not find that PAUSD had more bullying than other places. It found that PAUSD handles the bullying it has exceptionally poorly -- worse than other places. Worse than all but 13 other school districts in the United States over the past 4 years.

The facts indicate that PAUSD was probably deliberately indifferent to discriminatory harassment against a disabled girl.

There is no way to make this seem like a job well done. It is not a job well done.


Posted by truth, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 5, 2013 at 10:50 pm

"For all of the outrage, disappointment, concern, etc... expressed on these pages in all of the comments above I was very surprised to be the only one there to address the board."

I'm not surprised at all. Tempest in a teapot. Just because a half dozen people post non-stop on an internet message board doesn't mean that the silent strong 99% majority agrees with their viewpoint.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2013 at 10:55 pm

"truth" believes that Palo Alto is comprised of a "silent strong 99% majority" that agrees it is OK to ignore the fact that a little disabled girl was punched in the face in school.

I doubt it very much. For everyone posting here, 100 are saying privately that they have lost confidence in Dr. Skelly. The newspaper is writing articles and editorials accusing him of dishonesty. I see no groundswell of support for passively looking on while bullies punch little disabled children in the face.

Do you?


Posted by Umm, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 5, 2013 at 11:05 pm

"For everyone posting here, 100 are saying privately that they have lost confidence in Dr. Skelly. "

Maybe, but I'm not hearing it out there. I don't know about the merits of the current issue, but there's no "groundswell" of either outrage or support. People convince themselves that these issues move large numbers; but my experience is they don't.


Posted by Wait and see, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 5, 2013 at 11:33 pm

I'm not a gambler, so I won't pretend to *know* either way. Most people don't post on Internet bulletin boards like this one, or even read them. They do have a sense though about whether the school district is basically well run, and this can shake their confidence. If this matters it won't be because of candlelight vigils and there won't be a mob at 25 Churchill. It will be because lots of people say 'hey there's something not right there'.
What I am hearing is that people are tired of a string of screwups and controversies that add up to the idea that the district is not well run. That's when politically connected people around town start buttonholing school board members to ask what's up and voters become willing to elect reform candidates. Not there yet, maybe, but closer than in a long while.


Posted by Eileen, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2013 at 11:34 pm

@ Truth

While I was surprised to be the only one addressing the board, I stated that here in order to encourage others, like myself, to come to the next board meeting and speak. I do not belong to any organized group, my last child graduated from Paly in the mid-2000's, and I have never before spoken in front of the school board. I am simply so amazed and appalled at the behavior of the superintendent and this school board that I have been compelled to become active since the story was first reported in the Weekly in February.

There are many more people posting here than "half a dozen." My assumption is that there are many parents in this district who agree with much, if not all, that is being written here, but they do not have the time to attend the meetings or even to write on this thread. After all they are raising their children and working. Other parents may not be fully informed about this situation (because of time constraints), but if they were informed they might be as appalled as I am. Now, every parent in the district is going to receive Dr. Skelly's letter explaining to them that "we enter this work from a position of strength." My wish is that the district was required to distribute a copy of the OCR report to each family in the district. Then parents could read the OCR's findings as easily as they will be able to read Dr. Skelly's statement.

Dr. Skelly is attempting to seize the narrative of this debacle. It is important that the Weekly and the community not let him do that. It is important that we keep talking about his leadership failure as it pertains to protecting the civil rights of a disabled child. He has also failed to keep the school board, our elected representatives, fully informed regarding his dealings with the OCR. Again, had the family not approached the Weekly it is unclear that any of us would know that our district was found to be out of compliance with federal civil rights law. How can this possibly be acceptable to anyone in this community?


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2013 at 8:25 am

Skelly's statement just makes my blood boil. If he wants to fix things, he and Young, and a few others who do his bidding without any sense of conscience would need such massive ETHICS reprogramming, it's probably not possible. Work with us parents? If they knew how to do that, honestly and earnestly, we wouldn't be in ths mess.

All they're doing is more of the same, just lying better about it. Fool me once.... Fool me a thousand times...

I don't understand the way the board works but heard it was closed door. I'm not getting the sense that anything I say will have an imact on them anyway. But if I could vote for a recall and to throw out these guys? Let me know what I need to do.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2013 at 8:38 am

@Wait,
In a situation like this, many law or PR firms hire bloggers to insert propaganda on internet discussions.

I'll let you infer what I think of your post. All I can say relative to what I hear is that it's a good thing for Skelly that the days of tar and feathers are long gone, and - this is a general statement now, not to your misinformation - his legal handlers (that we parents get to pay for no less!) are not fooling anyone. Skelly didn't learn anything if he thinks you solve dishonesty with even ranker dishonesty. I am so disappointed in this board.


Posted by Insiders's game, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2013 at 9:23 am

Eileen,

"My assumption is that there are many parents in this district who agree with much, if not all, that is being written here, but they do not have the time to attend the meetings or even to write on this thread. After all they are raising their children and working."

I agree with you, as I fall into one of those categories. There is also the issue of retaliation from the board of education, namely Caswell, Townsend, Mitchell, and Tom. People forget that they are insiders with PIE, PTA, and interact closely with Principals and leadership at every school site and the district, so they can be very influential. Look at what Townsend's parent allies did to the Ken Dauber candidate in the recent election. Like the Post, who wrote threateningly that Kelly would leave if Dauber was elected, community parents took it upon themselves to do the same with hate emails.

I'm actually shocked that we have enough dummies who paid attention to such hate emails about Dauber, and that he lost to somebody like Townsend. Like you, I do not belong to any group, or know the Daubers, it just all feels too slick for me.

There is a fear of issues, and instead the focus is on egos and politics. I think if governance is going to improve, it needs to start with breaking up the insider game. People in leadership positions in PIE and PTA should not be able to run for school board. Isn't the newly elected board member from PIE?

Notice that PTA has said nothing about this issue, nothing. I recall reading that the current PTA President was practically hand picked by Skelly.

Thank you Eileen for speaking up. Your position as a parent whose family has a history of four generations in the district provides real perspective. And when it's time to elect a reform board, you need to remind us about what happened on this issue.



Posted by Insiders's game, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2013 at 9:35 am

Eileen,

By the way, PIE says they only collect money, and they can't influence district governance or policy. That's incorrect. They influence district governance and policy with the clubby atmosphere between them and the Board. They run for BOE positions, and their clubby atmosphere perpetuates the politics instead of focus on the issues.


Posted by sheesh, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2013 at 12:26 pm

"There is no evidence that PAUSD has lower bullying rates than other comparable school districts."
There is definitely no evidence showing we have a higher bullying rate and, from the surveys, all the data points to PAUSD having a lower bullying rate.


Posted by sheesh, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2013 at 12:27 pm

" It found that PAUSD handles the bullying it has exceptionally poorly -- worse than other places."
No. It found that it handled this single case exceptionally poorly. That's what it did. Investigated the rights of this child.


Posted by sheesh, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2013 at 12:29 pm

"For everyone posting here, 100 are saying privately that they have lost confidence in Dr. Skelly."
For every 100 posting here, only one felt compelled to go to the board and speak at Skelly's review. Your assumption fails at the first hurdle.


Posted by sheesh, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm

"There are many more people posting here than "half a dozen."
You're believing in an army that you don't know exists. Have you really engaged with more than "half a dozen" people on this topic and have they all agreed with you? Why weren't they at the meeting with you?
Don't rely on support from anyone posting on these boards. You're only going to be disappointed.


Posted by Data please, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 6, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Sheesh is mostly incorrect.
The "surveys" don't point to PAUSD having a lower bullying rate than comparable districts (or higher, as sheesh rightly says).
OCR found that this child's civil rights were violated because district staff didn't have a clue about the right processes to follow. That's why OCR is insisting on systemic changes not just in the case of this child. Without more information we just don't know how many kids have been disadvantaged.
It's definitely true that hardly anyone goes to closed meetings of the school board. They are not held at a regular time, they are not publicized, they happen during working hours, and the closed part is closed. The regular school board meeting will offer more of a clue, although even those are hard to participate in. If the question is, should the board and Dr. Skelly draw comfort from the fact that one person came to their closed session? If it were me I wouldn't.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2013 at 12:49 pm

"sheesh" believes that this is only about one case. That is not true. OCR found systemic problems. That is why most of the Resolution Agreement is about systemic changes such as the adoption of the Uniform Complaint Procedure required by state law for discrimination complaints, and training of the staff, and Notice to parents of rules and procedures.

Had OCR found only problems with one child, it would not have included those requirements in the Resolution Agreement. You fail at the first hurdle, which is understanding what has happened.

That is not necessarily your fault, because the district has waged a disinformation campaign aimed at confusing the public. In the district's telling PAUSD has had a "collaborative" and "proactive" process that started from "a position of strength."

What we actually had was a drawn out federal investigation in which the district's law firm negotiated hard to reduce the requirements to redress wrongs, and never provided services to the victim who complained until the investigation became public, in which district officials misled and covered up, and in which PAUSD still is telling the public, against all the evidence, that it did a good job.

It did not do a good job.

There is no evidence that PAUSD has lower bullying rates than other similar comparable school districts. If PAUSD compares itself to all of SC County, which includes communities with gang problems, or to tribal schools in North Dakota and underserved rural areas of NY State (one of its recent slides) then it may show lower rates. But if it compares itself to its comparator schools it will find that it is like others.

The measure of how we are doing is not whether we have bullying or not. It is how we deal with it when it is reported. On that, we did not get a gold star. We got a black eye.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 6, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Having volunteered as a parent in the schools for years, I know that bullying happened frequently in elementary and middle schools in PAUSD. Sad to know that it is still going on. I hope that the principals and teachers of each school take to heart the need to monitor more closely what is happening.


Posted by Focus on the child, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 6, 2013 at 5:27 pm

To Edmund Burke and others who know more about this than do I: Why on Earth weren't the police called in to protect a little girl who was "punched in the face"? If the bullying was so prolonged, persistant and cruel, how is it possible that NO ONE stepped in to help the child?
A cover up is one thing, and a serious problem, but what is worse is a teacher or principal, or any observer for that matter, knowing that a child is being physically and otherwise bullied, yet doing nothing. If that is found to be the case, the people - principal, teachers or staff - who looked the other way should be fired immediately. Not to diminish the seriousness of a cover up and lack of trust in Skelly, but the safety of a child must be of primary concern.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2013 at 8:47 pm

The police were called in response to that incident. The school knew that the police were called but still no one appropriately implemented the district's Uniform Complaint Policy or treated this as a complaint of disability harassment.

Other facts will come out eventually that will be very discrediting of a number of officials at both the school and district level. It would be better for the school board to hold these officials accountable through a transparent investigation.

I think that everyone following this story understands that the right action for the board to take would be to apologize to the family and the community, place Dr. Skelly and Dr. Young and the Principal on leave or dismiss them, reassert community values, and move on using a damage control strategy aimed at stopping the bleeding.

This board has decided to go all in with the offenders instead. There are still ways to address that but they will be costly and will inflict a lot of damage over time to the PAUSD brand. No one wants that, but the board has chosen this path by bringing Laurie Reynolds in to mislead the public, forcing citizens, lawyers, and journalists to on a hunt for the truth.

Media will cover any eventual litigation. It will be a highly covered topic both statewide and nationally because bullying is an explosive topic and because it involves a rich, self-satisfied community that prides itself on its wonderful schools. How did it happen that one of the highest performing districts in the wealthiest communities, where Stanford and facebook and other silicon valley giants live and send their kids -- where Steve Jobs lived and where his children attend school -- how did it happen that there was a bullying scandal in Palo Alto that rivals those portrayed in the Lee Hirsch film?

Is Palo Alto like South Hadley? What else has happened in Palo Alto recently that raises these questions? Will all the media coverage be nuanced and fair like the Weekly's? No. There is a lot of smoke. There is some fire. Property values may even be affected by the damage to the PAUSD brand.

But that is what happens when the administration and board refuse to tell the truth and restore public trust and make whatever personnel adjustments might be necessary to give closure and move on.


That is what the future of this looks like. The theory under which the board is operating appears to be that they can wait this out. They can't. The longer they wait the worse it will ultimately be.


Posted by poof went the momentum is gone, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2013 at 9:36 pm

...it feels like Skelly going to manage to beat this thing. While everyone I know is thoroughly disgusted - (the exception being PTA president who said, "Poor Kevin, he's so misunderstood"), it seems the Board is just pretending it will all go away and poof - it is.

Edmund Burke - The Daubers - what can we do? I've written to the Board. I can't attend the meetings as I am a single parent and I'm either at work or up to my eyeballs with kid stuff - is there a petition to sign? Is there some way to make the board do the job is was hired to do? Can't the City Council help? Where is our mayor? Where are our LEADERS?

I'm so frustrated I could cry - and I feel very small - like there's nothing I can do. My kids education is being held hostage by a bunch incompetent nuts.


Posted by Thanks for Bringing out the Truth, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Now that this article uncover things that the district were hiding, I feel like we should demand our district to provide the bullying training every year and not only one time. This is what OCR wanted PAUSD to do in the first draft. Principals and teachers, and students come and go. Bullying should be taken as serious as fire, earthquake, or shooting in the school. The insults, and taunting damage is bad as shootings, except that the victim does not die right away, instead they start dying inside till they no longer want to leave,and some do manage to died by suicide.
By the way did anybody hear what happened at Gunn, my child told me that there a student tried to commit suicide? Ask your children, I am wodereing what push this child to do that.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 6, 2013 at 10:43 pm

@Thanks for bringing out the truth
Bullying is learned at home. Why are you asking for the schools to provide education on this? Why aren't you asking parents to teach their children about empathy and respect? Principals and teachers do come an go, but parents stay the same. Parents need to be educated as to what bullying, or social cruelty is, and to check in with their kids. You can not lay the full blame on this on the schools even though it is convenient to do so. Every child is capable of bullying. How many parents believe that their child could be a bully? How many parents, when a principal or a teacher tells them their child is being mean, deny it? It is a complex problem for which schools across the country are being held accountable. Bullying can now occur 24 hours a day. Where are the parents?


Posted by Insiders's game, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2013 at 11:56 pm

Edmund Burke,

"....one of the highest performing districts in the wealthiest communities, where Stanford and facebook and other silicon valley giants live and send their kids -- where Steve Jobs lived and where his children attend school -- how did it happen that there was a bullying scandal in Palo Alto that rivals those portrayed in the Lee Hirsch film?"

You're sensationalizing this now. Jobs' kids do not attend school here, and we do not have silicon valley giants everywhere since many of those giants are too young to even have school aged children.

Let's stick to the fact that the people who were supposed to prevent and stop what happened to this young student failed. And this failure has gone all the way to the top, including the board of education.

Painting all of PAUSD as self-satisfied bullies would not be truthful. Although we are idiotic for electing the board we have elected instead of taking up a Google engineer on his offer to serve. That made no sense to me. I say this with no ties to Dauber or his group.



Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2013 at 12:14 am

Insider, I agree with you. Please do not misunderstand me. I am trying to give the community a sense of how it will be portrayed in the national media when this case becomes news. That is why I say that the coverage will not be as balanced and nuanced as the coverage in the Weekly has been. A national media will necessarily paint the matter in broader strokes. From that perspective the story will be as I have suggested. The details you mention will be in the weeds.

The big story will be "rich silicon valley school district has bullying scandal, disabled student mistreated, ignored." That is a sexy story and the rest won't matter.

And in the outline it is correct.


Posted by Insiders's game, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2013 at 1:18 am

Edmund Burke,

A media story as you describe sounds like a threat, and I don't see the purpose of a sensationalized flawed story. And you overestimate how much people care about what happens in wealthy Palo Alto, or for how long - media stories blow over. Do you really care anymore about the Duke or Penn state scandals? The young student won't be helped by that, and it will be a sad situation if this is all politics, and power plays, using media and so forth.


Posted by Edmund Burke, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2013 at 6:57 am

This is merely my observation of how future events are likely to play out given board intransigence. Other communities have experienced similar problems. It is realistic given the confluence of factors in this case.

I am not advocating those events. think it will be tremendously sad if such things come to pass due to the incompetence of the school board.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2013 at 8:39 am

@Insider,
I think you are right from the standpoint that most media outlets aren't going to handle a local story like this as well as the Weekly has. But do you realize you've used an example, Penn State, where horrendous things happened for years until media spotlights ended it? If the media coverage hadn't resulted in everyone responsible being removed (in one way or another) from that environment, do you think Penn State itself would have had any hope of recovering and preventing other kids from being harmed?

The analog you made is apt from that standpoint -- I don't think we have any hope of fixing things for the benefit of our students with that crew allowed to stay, and to stay by doing more of what got us here in the first place (lying to us, basically, while still having no intent to do right by the families involved). The media coverage locally has been very important if we want to have any hope of making this better.


Posted by Insiders's game, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2013 at 9:36 am

parent,

Yes, media is important but when it's used in a sensational way, it would be no less disappointing than the spin from the board.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 7, 2013 at 9:52 am

@insider don't shoot the messenger. There wouldn't be media if the board handled this appropriately. Criticizing the press for covering the bullying story is pretty ridiculous. Out board shouldn't have created the story in the first place. Put the blame where it belongs, blaming the media is too easy! Blame Skelly and the board for screwing up, covering up, and circling up.


Posted by Eileen, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 7, 2013 at 10:34 am

To "sheesh" and others who believe that only a few interested people are writing here over and over again:

According to the terms of use by Palo Alto Online, "You agree not to post comments under multiple names. Postings within a single topic from the same IP address made under different names will be deleted."

I have counted all of the comments here and matched them with the name and neighborhood/community they are using. In the case of names that could belong to several people (for example: "parent") I have used the neighborhood/community to decide if the post is from one person or several people using the same name. This means that "parent, from Another Palo Alto Neighborhood" has been counted as one person, even though it is very possible that more than one person has posted using this same name and neighborhood albeit from a different IP address.

As of this morning at 10 am:
87 people have posted in this thread and they have created a total of 217 comments as of this morning.
6 of the 216 comments have been deleted by "Palo Alto Online Staff."
The 87 commenters on this thread have represented 32 communities and/or neighborhoods in Palo Alto.

The next most commented on article in the Town Square section "Schools and Kids" is "School district critics, lawyer clash on federal probe," published on February 27, 2013 had 110 comments. This article also discussed the Office for Civil Rights report and the district/board response to the public.

I also took the time to do a rough break down of the nature of the comments by PERSON making them. I used 4 broad categories; supportive of the school board/superintendent, critical of the school board/superintendent, general comments about bullying, and miscellaneous.

This is the result:

Critical of the School Board/Superintendent: 66
Supportive of the School Board/Superintendent: 5
General Comments about Bullying: 6
Miscellaneous: 10

Clearly, many many more than "a half dozen" people are interested in this issue.
If half of the people who have written critical comments on this thread attended next Tuesday's Board Meeting, March 12 at 6:30 pm, it would make a very strong statement of the community's disappointment in the district's handling of this situation.

If half of the people who have written comments on this thread used their 3 minutes allotted time to speak in front of the board and request that Dr. Skelly and Charles Young are placed on administrative leave pending an impartial investigation into this situation it would make a strong statement.

The School Board does not appear to respond to mail. It is very likely that they will not be responsive to people appearing before them. But, the Weekly's reporter will be there and she will report that people cared enough to come and express their opinions directly to our elected School Board. The Board will be confronted with the fact that there are people in Palo Alto who are paying attention to their failure to lead. We can at least attempt to pierce the district's misinformation campaign and tell them that we do not believe that the district is "entering this work from a position of strength."

Stand up on behalf of not just the children in this district who are not being protected by the district's procedures and employees. Stand up for Palo Alto School District being a place that treats our children ethically and provides an excellent education to all children. Stand up at the next public school board meeting and say some of the things that 66 people have taken the time to write on these pages.


Next Public School Board Meeting:
25 Churchill Avenue
Tuesday, March 12th, 2013
6:30 pm


Posted by Insiders's game, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2013 at 11:03 am

Mom,

I'm not "shooting the messenger." I'm saying that if a media story chooses to turn up sensational stuff, its dishonest.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 7, 2013 at 12:45 pm

I'm not sure what your point is? The media shouldn't do it's job? The 24 hour news cycle is bad? What's sensational and what's news is not a issue that the public gets a voice in. Once the screw up is made and the story is out there Palo Alto looks bad. IMHO that's the fault of the board not Anderson Cooper. Who made the screw up in the first place? Who failed to fix it? Who misled about it? I agree with Eileen and also if the PAUSD gets famous for bullying you can post here about the media being unfair. That and 100k will put your home price where it was before all this.


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 7, 2013 at 1:05 pm

If this comes out in national media, I personally think it will reflect poorly on the parents of Palo Alto. Most people who are knowledgable about bullying, understand that it happens in every school, it is very difficult to detect and intervene, and horrible things can happen. The most important thing is that every adult in this community starts being accountable for the behavior of all our children.
I think we all know of parents who will protect their children at every cost. For example, if a kid is benched at lunchtime for misbehavior, mom comes and takes him out to lunch. I had a kindergartner tell me when I intervened in a situation of name calling that I couldn't tell him what to do. Only his parents could. Where did he learn that?


Posted by Sheesh, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 7, 2013 at 1:55 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 7, 2013 at 9:48 pm

I think there are over 12,000 kids in the district. Do the math. That means there are a possible 24,000 parents. How many have commented?


If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

To post your comment, please click here to Log in

Remember me?
Forgot Password?
or register. This topic is only for those who have signed up to participate by providing their email address and establishing a screen name.

Palo Alto quietly gets new evening food truck market
By Elena Kadvany | 4 comments | 3,599 views

See Me. Hear Me. Dont Fix Me.
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,794 views

Foothills Park: a world away
By Sally Torbey | 11 comments | 1,602 views

Universal Language
By Cheryl Bac | 2 comments | 1,382 views

Two Days to Save This Dog?
By Cathy Kirkman | 10 comments | 642 views