As of Dec. 1, the Palo Alto school district has logged nearly 100 reports related to sexual and racial misconduct, harassment and discrimination.
Like a scientist adjusting the lens of a microscope to bring a network of cells into focus, the log reveals for the first time the frequency, location and severity of these incidents as the district works toward a higher, required level of legal and policy compliance.
The most recent log, which new Title IX coordinator Megan Farrell is now posting on the district's website on a weekly basis, has 96 reports from this school year. Most of them come from the elementary and high schools, but there is at least one incident from every single campus in the district.
At the elementary level, Ohlone Elementary School has the most reports — 10 out of 41 total at the elementary level. Incidents at the school range from unwanted sexual touching and bullying on the basis of disability to a student's pants allegedly being pulled down during a game.
The district's three middle schools have logged the fewest reports: 16 total. JLS Middle School has the most reports (seven), followed by six at Jordan and three at Terman. The incidents are almost evenly split between ones that are sexual and racial in nature. There are reports of both verbal and physical sexual harassment as well as racial harassment and discrimination, including an allegation at JLS of "physical harm on the basis of race" and different treatment by a teacher based on race, also at JLS.
At the high schools, the majority of the 38 total reports are sexual in nature. More incidents have originated at Palo Alto High School — 24 compared to 14 at Gunn High School.
The vast majority of incidents on the log took place on school campuses: 77 out of the total 96. Ten incidents also took place both on- and off-campus, according to the log.
The vast majority of the incidents are currently under investigation. Other cases are "under review," meaning the district has not yet determined that a formal investigation is merited.
In four cases, parents requested that the district not conduct an investigation.
The district has determined that the alleged conduct occurred in four incidences, according to the log.
In only one case this school year were the allegations not substantiated.
Most of the reports were alleged to have taken place this year, but some stretch back to 2016, 2015, 2013 and even 2011.
As the district works to address discrimination allegations of all kinds, the newly staffed Title IX office is in particular feeling pressure to keep up with the sheer number of reports.
At Tuesday's school board meeting, interim Superintendent Karen Hendricks said that she plans to hire a full-time investigator and a part-time clerical employee to support the office for the rest of the school year. Having an internal investigator would offset costs the district has incurred hiring outside legal firms to conduct Title IX investigations, Hendricks said. The investigator also would provide much-needed on-campus support for school administrators still adjusting to the new level of compliance expected in the district.
The district budget includes an additional $130,000 to fund these positions through the end of the school year in June. This is on top of more than $700,000 the district has spent since this spring to hire a law firm to investigate the district's handling of a sexual assault case at Paly and to fund a temporary Title IX coordinator for five months.
The district needs to "build out the infrastructure of that office while we're making sure we're meeting all compliance and accountability measures," Hendricks told the board.
The board discussed the funding as part of an interim budget update the district provides to the county. The board "gave guidance" to staff that supported including the additional $130,000 in the update but did not take a formal vote to approve it, DiBrienza said.
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.