District to seek mediation in student sexual-harassment case

Board approves filing documents outlining process of district's steps by Friday

The Palo Alto school board has directed staff to pursue mediation in a student sexual-harassment case that has put the district in the "untenable position of weighing conflicting and complex points of law," according to a statement released Wednesday.

The board met in closed session Wednesday morning to discuss how to respond to a petition filed in January by a female Gunn High School student who the district found was sexually harassed by a male Gunn student. The 16-year-old girl and her family are asking the court to reinstate a district decision to ban the male student from participating in robotics activities. Both students belong to the robotics team.

After determining in October that text messages the male student sent to the girl and comments he made to other students constituted sexual harassment, the district initially banned him from participating in robotics activities starting in January, but later decided to allow him to attend on an alternating schedule with an "escort," according to the petition. This prompted the girl's family to seek a court order.

The petition calls the revised directive a "prejudicial abuse of discretion" unsupported by the district's own sexual-harassment finding.

The board voted 4-1 Wednesday, with board member Ken Dauber dissenting, to file a response to the petition by this Friday, Feb. 8, including a request for mediation between the district and the girl's family. The court documents will also outline the process the district followed in this case, from when the female student filed a Title IX complaint last June through now, the district said in a statement Wednesday.

"The Palo Alto Unified School District has an obligation, both legally and ethically, to protect and advance the rights of every student. We take that responsibility seriously," the district said. "In this case, new information led to the amendment of an initial directive that banned all contact between the two students involved in this case."

Superintendent Don Austin did not elaborate further on what "new information" prompted the district's reversal in this case. The district is determining what it can say publicly under student privacy laws, he said.

"In this case, the district is welcoming the assistance of the court to navigate available options," the district statement reads.

A judge reinstated the district's robotics team ban on the male student temporarily until a hearing scheduled for Feb. 22.


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38 people like this
Posted by Cover up culture
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 6, 2019 at 2:10 pm

New information? Like that the girl's family was willing to file a law suit?

What rights is PAUSD referring to? PAUSD determined that the boy committed sexual harassment. He could have been expelled under Ed Code law and PAUSD policies for sexual harassment. Why would his rights be weighed equally to those of the victim?

38 people like this
Posted by Get Your Facts Straight
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2019 at 2:26 pm

Get Your Facts Straight is a registered user.

A general counsel, and a lawyer on board, and still the district is in the untenable position of having to weigh conflicting points of law? Funny that.

27 people like this
Posted by The Public Interest
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 6, 2019 at 3:17 pm

Apparently this means that the District is fighting the victim's petition. Great example you're setting PAUSD and School Board, giving equal weight to a sexual harasser, and someone who is alleged to have committed sexual assault.

42 people like this
Posted by Where's Title IX Coordinator?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2019 at 9:02 pm

Where's Title IX Coordinator? is a registered user.

Isn't this why PAUSD hired Megan Farrell? Doesn't she have extensive background in Title IX issues? So, this is a situation that has never happened before? A boy assaults and harasses a girl that he has a class with and they ban the male student. Boy's parents probably get upset and appeal, district caves in and allows boy to be in the same class as the girl. Girl's family objects, district says they can't do anything about it and the girl's family seeks legal help.

Again, PAUSD is hiding behind the law knowing they can then hide behind student privacy if ever asked to clarify. We get vague meaningless quotes that they are "weighing conflicting and complex points of law", and "welcoming the assistance of the court to navigate available options."

Why can't Megan Farrell tell them what their options are? Isn't that why they hired her?

Why didn't Dauber support filing a response to the petition that included mediation? Does he believe that it's acceptable to have the boy in class with the girl? Is this how he plans to "do better"?

30 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2019 at 11:50 pm

this is why I voted for Kathy Jordan.

And the principal at Gunn, who was one the assistant principal at PALY when the sexual assaults occurred, has shown again she doesn't have what it takes to deal with these issues.

25 people like this
Posted by The Public Interest
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 7, 2019 at 10:54 am

PAUSD investigated this incident from June through October, issuing a decision in November 2018. New information? Is this the PAUSD playbook, claiming confidential information exists that they can't disclose, which they can then claim exonerates their actions? They used this play previously in the Paly sexual assault incidents.

20 people like this
Posted by Me Too Gal
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 7, 2019 at 1:41 pm

Why is the PAUSD seemingly defending the boy?

Are they condoning such action or overly concerned about dealing with the lawsuit?

The Me Too movement should plan a protest in front of Gunn HS.

Palo Alto/Stanford has now become the national hub for newsworthy sexual harassment and abuse.

28 people like this
Posted by PA mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 7, 2019 at 3:24 pm

Arranging mediation between two students to resolve a dispute only helps if there is a balance of power between them. In the case of sexual assault and harassment, there isn't, and so mediation would only cause more harm to the victim. If you were raped by a stranger, or your house was robbed, would you think it fair to have to do mediation with the perpetrator to "try to work things out"? Of course not, that would be ludicrous. It is just as ludicrous in this situation. This sounds like another incidence of PAUSD of supporting perpetrators and bullies over victims.

19 people like this
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2019 at 4:46 pm

How's that go, zebra can't change its stripes, a leopard doesn't change its spots? Of course the district is going to fight it, they have tactics that include creating evidence where there was none, inventing a story and have dozens of administrators, teachers, consultants, part-timers tell the story and gang up against the child and parents. Their ONLY goal is to not be held accountable legally - with no regard to their primary purpose and ethical regard for the intent of the law, even if they can use bully techniques to evade being held accountable.

7 people like this
Posted by Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 7, 2019 at 9:31 pm

Alum is a registered user.

This just keeps getting weirder and weirder. Why are they continuing to backpedal on the original resolution? Clearly we are not getting the whole story (not to say it justifies any of this, impossible to know as of now).

>Superintendent Don Austin did not elaborate further on what "new information" prompted the district's reversal in this case. The district is determining what it can say publicly under student privacy laws, he said.

I eagerly await an update that helps explain what's going on to the concerned community.

6 people like this
Posted by The Public Interest
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 8, 2019 at 9:13 pm

@Alum --- saying there is "new information" seems to be just a bait and switch. Rather than listening to what PAUSD has to say, let's see what the Court says --- it's already put a stay in place. A response was due from PAUSD on Friday, Feb. 8th --- hope there will be reporting on their submission.

5 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 8, 2019 at 11:10 pm

Mediation between the sexual harasser and the sexually harassed victim? LOL. Oh that is priceless.

How many women out there, who have been sexually harassed by a male... so much so she doesn't want to go to school or the activities she once enjoyed would actually enjoy going to mediation, where she is forced to sit across the table from the sexually harassing teen (AKA BULLY) and his parents and perhaps his legal council? Where she is forced to face the boy who made her (against her will) perform a sex act upon him. And then he gleefully sent texts out to their peers to brag about it?

Mediation? I bet this boy will certainly have a gleeful time, seeing the face of the girl whom he made bow to his wishes.

How many women would feel the organization they work for (their company, or academic institution) is protecting them as the sexually harassed victim if they were forced to go to MEDIATION and sit across from their harasser and supposedly come to a middle ground.

So.. PAUSD has under protocols "sexual harassment"... MEDIATION?

Thanks for protecting our girls PAUSD. No better signal to send to the boys that it's okay to sexually harass a female student... and the worst consequence you get is MEDIATION.. where you get to see the girl's face again.. and see her squirm in her seat.

Talk about giving the boy another opportunity to relish in this power play. Where he has the power to veto more requests she makes. Where he gets to impose his will upon her again.. in more areas beyond just sex.

Because he apparently didn't have enough power when he bullied her and sexually harassed her... now PAUSD is forcing her to go into MEDIATION with him?

There is a word for this solution. Bull dung. And it's reeking to high heaven PAUSD.. and it's starting at your council chambers.

8 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 8, 2019 at 11:21 pm

It's outrageous PAUSD has decided the best course of action is forcing the female victim into mediation with her male harasser.

In VERY PLAIN terms this can be regarded as an extended form of date rape or an extended form of PAUSD condoned sexual harassment being extended.

Where the female victim must face her sexual harasser (BULLY) in "mediation" where he again holds a level of POWER and CONTROL and can INTIMIDATE her.

PAUSD has just taken away the FREEDOM of the sexually harassed teen female, and honored the wishes and desires of the male teen harasser (BULLY) and his family and his legal council.

Furthermore PAUSD and GUNN have completely disregarded the wishes or worries or discomfort of the female victim. There are other students who can witness the texts he sent and it has been ruled he sexually harassed her. YET.. she is being sent to MEDIATION?

what a load of crock.

Seems PAUSD only takes action when they are about to be legally sued. I really hope the girl's family take PAUSD to court such that the board members come to their senses and enact a logical and sensible protocol for bullying and sexual harassment. This is outrageous.

7 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 8, 2019 at 11:38 pm

PAUSD might as well teach ongoing classes titled the following ... because that is exactly what they are teaching our children (boys and girls alike).

1. Boys will be boys
2. Boys: You're entitled to everything you want, including sex
3. Girls: How to let boys down easy
4. Girls: You don't really know what is best for you.
5. Boys .. if you can't get what you want by asking, just GRAB it
6. Boys: if girl cries wolf, just lawyer up
7. go back to point 1 and rinse and repeat

4 people like this
Posted by Read the article, not just the comments
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 9, 2019 at 11:51 pm

Several commenters state that the district is requesting mediation in which the girl must face the boy, which I agree could be very problematic. I just want to point out that this is not what the article above says. It says the requested mediation is between the girl's family and the district: "The board voted ... to file a response to the petition by this Friday, Feb. 8, including a request for mediation between the district and the girl's family."

Like this comment
Posted by Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 10, 2019 at 9:29 am

Alum is a registered user.

I’m almost certain that was edited, because I was confused as well and re-read the article when it came out. Maybe PAO can clarify?

5 people like this
Posted by kids
a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2019 at 12:44 pm

kids is a registered user.

The happened in June and still is unresolved in Feb.? There is no excuse for leaving children and families in conflict for so long. Is it done this way hoping families will give up and graduate or to add months of gossip and supporsitions that cloud the original problem. One eighth of their high school has unresolved conflict. There needs to be some person or ombudsman that can put time limits and another county or state official to look at adherence , documentation and ed code for everyone's privacy and safety. Just my opinion. Things get worse the longer everyone waits

7 people like this
Posted by Elena Kadvany
a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2019 at 5:48 pm

Alum: Thank you for your comment. I did update the story to clarify that the district is seeking mediation between itself and the female student/her family, rather than between her and the male student.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of College Terrace

on Feb 10, 2019 at 6:40 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

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