A law firm the school district asked to investigate a student sexual-assault case at Palo Alto High School has issued its final report, with some additions but without names identifying the administrators involved.
The school district posted the report on its website on Oct. 19, but did not announce its release. Board President Terry Godfrey said interim Superintendent Karen Hendricks plans to include it in a weekly message posted Friday afternoons.
The report from Cozen O'Connor, which is known nationally for its work on sexual violence on school campuses, illustrates how Paly and district administrators failed to comply with board policy, state law and federal anti-discrimination law Title IX in this particular case. A former male student who was found in juvenile court to have committed an off-campus sexual assault (not involving another Paly student) was reported for an on-campus incident last November.
Godfrey said that Cozen O'Connor lawyers recommended against adding administrators' names to the final report, though they used them in a public board meeting on the draft report in September. Godfrey said she and board Vice President Ken Dauber agreed with the attorneys' recommendation.
"This report outlines systemic failures that we are addressing," she said. "Adding the names of individual staff members doesn't advance the effort of solving the system issues."
In September, the Cozen O'Connor attorneys identified the unnamed administrators and staff in the report as follows: superintendent (Max McGee, who has since resigned), chief student services officer and Title IX coordinator (Holly Wade, who has since resigned), principal (Kim Diorio), assistant principal 1 (Vicki Kim), assistant principal 2 (Jerry Berkson), assistant principal 3 (Kathie Laurence, now principal of Gunn High School) and mental health and wellness coordinator (Jonathan Frecceri, who no longer works at Paly).
Additions to the final report largely clarify the roles and responsibilities of these main actors.
New language emphasizes that there was "immediate responsiveness" to a female freshman's initial report of sexual assault at Paly. A new section also defends Assistant Principal Vicki Kim's response. She "repeatedly took the initiative to inquire whether she should offer" the female student and her parent information about the district's Uniform Complaint Procedure (UCP), which is used to investigate allegations of discrimination and harassment.
Kim's efforts were met with resistance at the district level several times, the final report states. Wade told Kim within days of the report that an outside attorney had advised that no UCP or "Title IX launch" was necessary. At a legal training in early December, Kim again asked outside counsel about the case, who told her that it was unnecessary to pursue a UCP. Wade told her the same again in December when Kim learned the female student was considering withdrawing from Paly because of the impact of the incident.
A new footnote further underscores Wade's failure to fulfill her obligations as Title IX coordinator: "While it is appropriate to delegate aspects of the institutional response to the site level, particularly as it relates to the immediate response ... these efforts must be overseen, coordinated, guided and documented by the Title IX coordinator."
Unless designated by Wade, it would not have been Kim's responsibility to conduct a formal investigation, the report states.
New information in the final report also states that information the district received from "external authorities" about the male student in February — notification of his juvenile court conviction — was provided to both Diorio and Kim. Diorio also forwarded the information to a teacher and administrators directly connected to the male student.
The final report states that the male student was disciplined for "related conduct" with the same female student that "pre-dated" the fall 2016 incident.
As part of its broader work helping the district comply with a federal resolution agreement reached on past sexual misconduct cases, the Cozen O'Connor lawyers are set to make recommendations to the district at a later date.
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.