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Board to discuss Paly sex-assault investigation

Report to be presented publicly next week

UPDATE: The public meeting for this report has been rescheduled for Thursday, Sept. 21, 4-6 p.m. at the district office.

The Palo Alto school board will meet in closed session on Wednesday afternoon to review a much-anticipated investigation into how district leadership handled allegations of sexual assault at Palo Alto High School last year.

The board contracted a national law firm known for its work on Title IX issues, Cozen O'Connor, to conduct the investigation after the allegations were publicized in media reports this spring. In 2016, administrators became aware of an incident of oral sex in a campus bathroom between a female Paly freshman and male junior, which the freshman's mother told the Weekly was not consensual but school leaders said was not initially reported to them as a sexual assault.

The same male student was convicted in juvenile court several months later for an off-campus sexual assault involving a female Menlo-Atherton High School student. 

School board members have described the Cozen O'Connor review as the "investigation of the investigation" and initially said it would be used to inform an annual evaluation of Superintendent Max McGee that took place earlier this summer.

Trustees will discuss "confidential student and personnel matters" related to the case this week in closed session, Superintendent Max McGee wrote in a weekly update on Friday.

The district has also asked Cozen O'Connor to investigate administrators' handling of a separate student sexual assault allegation from November 2015, but this week's report will not cover that incident, according to board President Terry Godfrey

The district had not yet received the law firm's report as of Monday afternoon, Godfrey said.

The report will be presented publicly next week, on Thursday, Sept. 21, from 4-6 p.m. The Cozen O'Connor lawyers who conducted the investigation will attend the meeting, Godfrey said, and the final report will be made available in advance of the meeting.

Anyone who wishes to address the trustees this Wednesday, Sept. 13, can do so at 4 p.m. before they go into closed session. The meeting will be held in the Aspen Room at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave.

The Palo Alto Weekly has created a Storify page to capture ongoing coverage of sexual misconduct in the Palo Alto school district. To view it, go to storify.com/paloaltoweekly.

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