Feds: School district repeatedly failed to investigate claims | March 17, 2017 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 17, 2017

Feds: School district repeatedly failed to investigate claims

Civil-rights agency details district's improper handling of sexual-harassment complaints, incident

by Elena Kadvany

A formal letter of findings from the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights released on March 9 details how the Palo Alto school district repeatedly failed to "promptly and equitably" respond to and investigate reports of sexual harassment and assault on and off its campuses — and thus violated federal anti-discrimination law Title IX.

This story contains 946 words.

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Staff Writer Elena Kadvany can be emailed at ekadvany@paweekly.com.

Comments

9 people like this
Posted by EMPOWERU
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2017 at 5:33 pm

As a teen sexual assault activist, I know firsthand that it is so important for schools, families, survivors, and other organizations that serve K-12 students to work together. Until now there was no comprehensive resource to educate them on sexual harassment and assault facts and Title IX rights. The FREE SSAIS video "Sexual Harassment: Not In Our School!" features expert instruction and real-life scenarios that are very helpful. That's why I'm bringing the video to all of the schools in my county. I encourage everyone to watch the video at www.ssais.org/video and share it with everyone you know.


14 people like this
Posted by Do the Right Thing, Max, by everyone
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2017 at 6:34 pm

"...the Palo Alto school district repeatedly failed to "promptly and equitably" respond to and investigate reports of ..." [fill in the blank]. It's not just sexual harrassment. And it's not just Charles Young.

I'm glad for this, but I hope McGee realizes the systemic problem, and that some of us, per their wishes have held off on making formal complaints hoping that when McGee settled in, he would stop it with the ignoring people hoping they would just go away if the threat of retaliation were just held out enough.

I complained directly to McGee that a certain employee had violated my child's rights in a serious way, had retaliated against our family for complaining in the past and I could provide solid evidence if he wanted, and created a hostile environment among teachers and staff that poisoned the waters for our child in school. I said it was bad enough, I wished I could get a restraining order to keep that person more than a thousand feet away from our child and never have anything to do with that person ever again (this us not a sexual harrassment issue, it's a health and safety one), Yet McGee's response was only that if we complained, the district would respond and did we really want that, then to put that same person in charge of important educational decisions and 504 for that child.

The same employee was part of flaunting records laws so that we were never able to get records the law requires the district to provide. Clearly, McGee and company still believe they only have to do what they are forced to do, and I cannot believe, based on my ongoing experience, that they are truly interested in changing for the benefit of our students.

Will the independent monitor be interested in 504 cases that fit the pettern to a tee, demonstrating a complete flaunting of the intent if this outside of these cases, or just will they be monitoring Title ID only? (I am still more interested in working things out personally and not through OCR, but despite all claims to the contrary, people in this district office push the misbehavior and flaunting if the rules as far and hard as they can until someone forces them to stop it, so I'm not holding my breath for a new paradigm of behavior.)


6 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 14, 2017 at 12:04 am

the_punnisher is a registered user.

This was expected. Why did I know this? BECAUSE MY PARENT WAS AN ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR THAT DEALT WITH THE SAME ISSUES IN THE SJUSD!!! I warned you and told you to WORK WITH THE COUNTY OMBUDSMAN THAT HANDLES THESE ISSUES!!!! Now we will see a bunch of finger pointing because you didn't deal with the Ombudsman who deals with both the school district AND other FEDERAL Agencies. Instead, PAUSD buried their collective heads in the sand, not knowing someone was getting ready to kick their collective butts!
I've asked this person multiple times to take over and clear up this mess; HELL NO was the response. Instead, I have informed the PAO in comment on what was done for the SJUSD....like how to use the County Ombudsman to keep in touch to make sure all Federal Guidelines ( including the requirements for " Special Ed " students { My parent came up through the ranks, starting with " Special Ed " teaching AND PROPER TRAINING!!!} ) I tried to offer the way out of this OCR mess and was ignored, although I collected many " thumbs up " for my postings.
I suggest PAUSD make tracks to the Santa Clara County Ombudsman's Office; On the way there, it would be advised to drop the usual PAUSD arrogance and ASK how should the District be able to maintain compliance and what should be done bring the District back to compliance? I know that Special Ed teachers themselves are untrained and may not be suitable for the job ( by observing what has been done as I watch this fiasco unfold ).
Some VERY HARD decisions and changes are in order to keep " Special Ed " maintaining Federal Compliance. These other problems have to be dealt with. Skelly just made them worse. This toxic environment continues to be bad for the administration, the teachers and the students do NOT get the education they are entitled to.
If I were made Administrator I would " fire " everyone and have all subordinates hand me their resumes AND get a personal interview. People not trained in their specialties might not make the cut. Hey, that is working for OUR President....


11 people like this
Posted by Do the Right Thing, Max, by everyone
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2017 at 8:43 am

@the_punisher,
Have you ever been in an organization where there was an employee who created drama and chaos but themselves always looked cool as a cucumber and came out smelling like a rose, were favored by high ups, all while the organization itself imploded and floundered unnecessarily and leadership and others took blame over and over and no one could figure out what was going on? This is what I have suspected here for many years.

Whether anyone thinks that or not, the only way for leaders to protect themselves and the organization from such pernicious behavior is to ensure really high standards ethics, honesty, and accountability. Make no place for backbiting. Remember that old wounds can fester if not addressed. Listen to all sides carefully, care about truth and trustworthiness. Otherwise, history will repeat itself.


6 people like this
Posted by retired guy who follows the schools
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2017 at 9:26 pm

Okay:

"Superintendent Max McGee told the Weekly on Sunday that the district 'want(s) to ensure that every student is safe and feels safe.'"

I'm told a knife was recently found in a student locker at one of our city's middle schools.

I'm told that the student with the knife had posed with it for photos on the Internet--images that included other weapons--and that the student had verbally threatened at least one other student on campus.

I'm told that the student is attending school now, wearing an ankle tracking device and shadowed by an observing adult. I'm told that, because these things are visible, the identity of the student is known to a great number of the students (who have perhaps passed the information on to their parents; I don't know).

I'm told that administrators have not officially informed the school's parents about these events.

I'm worried both for the privacy and the psychological safety of the student who brought the knife to school, posted the photos, and did the bullying[ and I'm also worried for the psychological and physical safety of all students at the school.

I'm particularly low in confidence about this situation because, only a few years ago at Gunn, when a student had threatened to bring a firearm to school, security guards were posted on campus but the teachers were lied to--told that the guards were there to protect against out-of-control senior pranks. I wrote to Mr. Skelly for clarification but he refused to give me any.

Perhaps our school community is overdue for a frank discussion about balancing the privacy needs of individual (though perhaps dangerous) students with the safety needs of other students. How do we want our administrators to handle such situations?

Again: "Superintendent Max McGee told the Weekly on Sunday that the district 'want(s) to ensure that every student is safe and feels safe.'"


14 people like this
Posted by Bystanders,All
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 15, 2017 at 8:08 am

The school has a long track record of bystanders and bullies. That is staff.

Staff bully kids on homework, performance, disabilities, sexual harassment; and staff are bystanders letting it happen.

This system is designed to encourage bullies and bystanders. I brought this up after our own kids were bullied and mistreated by staff. And the surest indicator of systemic problems: retaliation.

You can talk to principals, board members, Skelly, Max. None of them did a damn thing. They have full awareness, and are responsibility for creating this prison yard environment. And have failed to fix it.

It is repulsive how are children are treated; and doubly so the fact that we pay taxes to people who built this system that mistreats our children.

How did it get to this state? Full and complete abdication of oversight by the board. The site-based model is an unwritten policy to abdicate responsibility and oversight. It encourages bad actors, and encourages coverups and bystanders to do nothing. It encourages the district to push problems (hide) back to the sites where retaliation is used on anyone who raises the issue.

PAUSD is a high performing prison yard with no moral compass.

And it was designed that way.


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 15, 2017 at 3:34 pm

If you don't want the answers, don't ask the questions.


2 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 15, 2017 at 6:05 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

@"Do the Right Thing, Max, by everyone?"
I'm trying to underscore that the ultimate losers are the parents and children are the ones who suffer when their is such a toxic BUSINESS environment.
NOBODY AT THE HIGHEST LEVELS HAS TAKEN THIS PROBLEM SERIOUSLY.THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DID!
I stand by my statement if I were made boss.
To answer the question: Several bosses I've had were drama queens that got in the way of creative problem solving. After I left, each company filed CTR 7 Bankruptcy in 6 months.

Unfortunately, the PAUSD can only file CIVIL Actions because CRIMINAL CASES HAVE not been filed. They SHOULD BE FILED but the PAUSD BOARD CHOSE NOT TO ACT! I think some changes are needed at the board level on down to the Special Ed teachers


6 people like this
Posted by So sickened
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 15, 2017 at 6:28 pm

It's too late for my daughter, who we had to remove from Jordan last year and place in a private school elsewhere.

She has lost trust in school staff who ignored her when she complained of sexual harassment by two bullies from another country.

She no longer trusts teachers, who had let this happen right under their noses-- then overloaded her with extra homework "to keep her busy and keep her quiet"!

She is, unfortunately suspicious of certain other groups of kids, who whisper to each other and point at her, in her presence.

I know kidsare resilient, and she is finally getting help-- almost no psychiatrists or psychologist take insurance--but she finds she can't bare to be in the presence of other kids from a certain country, because the girls held her down for the boys.

She may not have been raped, but she was harassed for weeks and then assaulted, the administrators turning a deaf ear, or saying they could not offend the parents, who would turn and sue them!

What about the offense done to my daughter? She will probably be suspicious of people from the "" offending nation" the rest of her life!

I wish we had listened to other more experienced parents and taken our blossoming daughter out of PAUSD in 5th grade, because it seems that's when the funny business begins with certain uncontrolled boys!


Like this comment
Posted by stanhutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2017 at 9:07 pm

stanhutchings is a registered user.

One of the recommendations I made to Max McGee was that instead of spending money to rename schools, the funds should be used to teach staff sensitivity and how to proactively nip bullying, discrimination and harassment in the bud. My company has numerous MANDATORY training programs for employees and management, to educate everyone in order to prevent future violations of numerous Federal and State laws. Why don't our teachers have a similar requirement? And students should not be ignored until they cause problems! Mandatory classes should teach proper behavior toward other students and respect for teachers.


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