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Responding to sexual harassment: What the law says

Original post made on Oct 9, 2015

Federal, state and school district guidelines offer a framework for the investigation into sexual harassment. The Weekly has prepared this summary.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, October 9, 2015, 12:00 AM

Comments (14)

Posted by "Title IX Requirements"?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2015 at 9:08 am

"Title IX Requirements"?

OCR's "guidance" are suggestions, not requirements. Web Link (US Department of Education Assistant Secretary Amy McIntosh: "guidance that my department issues does not have the force of law [and] is not binding")

So when the OCR says in a Dear Colleague letter that it is "imperative" that schools develop policies on grooming which OCR defines as "a desensitization strategy" to form the basis for a subsequent sexual or romantic relationship with a student, it means that it is something the OCR would like to see.

Unless the requirement is stated in a federal statute or regulation, that was open to public input and debate, it is not required.

Ditto on the other things reported above as "required" like investigations when the student prefers that there not be one, the "preponderance of the evidence" standard, deadlines, notices, etc.

The Weekly reports that Ken Dauber is proposing that PAUSD adopt a new policy, beyond the sexual harassment policy he supported that the board recently put on the books, that also prohibits "grooming" using OCR's definition "regardless of the student's age." "Regardless of age" appears to mean that it would apply to 18 year olds who are old enough to consent under the law.

Last spring a board member proposed a PAUSD policy that would ban "all romantic and sexual relationships with any individual, regardless of whether the individual consents, while the individual is a student of the district and for a period of four years after graduation from high school." Web Link

Who will police this for four years?

What does "grooming" include and exclude?




Posted by Report and Letter
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Oct 9, 2015 at 11:33 am

What is disturbing about the Graff Report and letter in the Palo Alto Weekly story: Web Link
Web Link
is the District's use of the law firm to conduct the investigation. This District uses this law firm to file legal actions against the District's parents and student. The law firm is paid by the District and has a pre-existing interest to protect the District management. It is disturbing the attorney was allowed to conduct interviews, especially of young people. The attorneys are savy litigators. Any responses families and students give to the law firm's questions will be used against students and families in legal papers and in court.

It would be very frightening to be questioned by District paid litigators skilled at framing questions and turning responses into legal attacks and statements that can be used against victims, their families, the accused, and other youths in court.

The tone of the Graff Report is disturbing with such an intense focus on statements about what a great District this is and that the District already does so much. These are compliments to a client, who is paying a lot for this report. The implication blaming students for rumors switches the focus to blaming youth, the District's students. Any time a teacher is on leave or reduced hours questions of "why" naturally come up, even among adult teachers and families. The District holding back information leads to a rumor mill.

The report is not credible. It was written by a hired gun and carries the pervasive tone of complimenting the client who is paying for it.


Posted by Nauseated
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2015 at 12:51 pm

When I was in high school, a close friend admitted, the day after grad nite, that she'd been having an affair with one of the younger English teachers ( he was 28 ) dice sophomore year! It continued into she left the state for college, but resumed for another year during holidays and summer, when he finally grew bored with her. She was crushed and felt "used".

When I was a freshman in college, a friend in one oft classes told me she had been having an affair with her high school English teacher since senior year there. That affair took exactly the same turn as the one above. Pattern?

My sophomore year in college, another friend told me that she had been having an affair with her high school English teacher since senior year there, and not only was it still going on, the guy had JUST gotten married! She also had a serious boyfriend who was very devoted to her and was very popular with classmates. I broke off this friendship in disgust.

I know of a couple of other cases with college professor, usually in the English, Art, philosophy or Humanities departments.

What is it about English teachers, pray tell? A way with words? If so, I wonder what goes on in law schools!


Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 9, 2015 at 1:00 pm

This all reminds me of the 60s movie, To Sir with Love. That had the added dimension of race, but the principles of student/teacher attraction are valid.Web Link

As for why English teachers, well it seems to me that English literature choices for high school students involve lots of sexual situations and they have to be discussed as part of the exploration of the material. Emotions of a young woman and a particularly engaging English teacher could explode from these dialogs.


Posted by ConcernedParent
a resident of Palo Alto High School

on Oct 9, 2015 at 2:05 pm

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Posted by Bill
a resident of another community
on Oct 9, 2015 at 3:22 pm

So the first law firm and a police investigation exonerated the teacher. But because the District didn't like that response they had another law firm go after him. Why would any teacher want to work in such a toxic community?


Posted by Ladies please
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 9, 2015 at 4:02 pm

@bill it seems like the perks are good and the restriction on their usage is minimal.


Posted by Unsafe and unwelcome
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2015 at 7:19 pm

On the issue of this case: No one said it was illegal or a crime had been committed. The police saying that no crime had been committed was not the same thing as saying it was all hunky dory. Even if this was a 20-year-old intern and a boss....

On the issue of discrimination in general from above, does this apply in other instances of discrimination?

if we told the Superintendent in a discrimination matter that we experienced retaliation and correspondences from an employee that were so relentlessly untruthful and harmful that we wished we could take a restraining order out on said employee, and the Superintendent responded by implying the district will put the full force of district legal behind denying anything and being confrontational, and will NOT do an investigation or consider our concerns impartially -- and continued to give said employee power and control over all interactions with the district,

and,

if our student and our family experienced relentless retaliatory behavior that interfered with our student's education and wellbeing and caused our family enormous stress, an unhealthy, unsafe, and hostile environment from staff as a result of interference by the above employee,

given that the district seems to think it's owed a chance to fix things before people complain to the OCR, or pursue other action,

Exactly when are they going to create a framework in the system for students and families to get help before things get bad, and for the district to impartially, honestly and earnestly look at what's wrong, even if it's own employees misbehave? When will the SCHOOL DISTRICT put as much care and advocacy behind its students as even the most misbehaving of employees?

McGee seems to think he will get a fresh start if he just ignores the skeletons in the closet. They will come back to haunt you, Max, and it won't be just a few of them. And each of them represents a child's life and education harmed or interrupted. What you do about this now will have repercussions in many children's lives for years to come. Get out of the echo chamber and do the right thing.


Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2015 at 8:06 pm

Hmm .. a few bits of information worth knowing, but not yet revealed …

There have been other teachers involved with students in the past—was an outside investigation conducted in the past?
Why was a parallel investigation of this matter conducted?
Who initiated each of these investigations?
Will all future situations like this one also involve parallel investigations?
Was the school board updated on each of the investigations in a timely fashion?
Why doesn’t the PAUSD have a checklist for handling these matters.
Why did the law firms prepare statements involving Sharp’s status, rather than the PAUSD?
Did the PAUSD approve each of these statements before they were provided to Sharp?
What was the total cost of each of these outside investigations by the PAUSD’s law firms?
How can all UCP investigations be completed in 60 days if those involved are no longer enrolled at the PAUSD, or living nearby?
How is it that any complaint against a teacher does not become a personnel matter?
What exactly is “grooming”? Is there a clearly defined legal definition?
Why is the OCR involved in this matter? Has someone filed a complaint with them?
Why does the PAUSD believe it has a right to investigate the personal lives of former students?


Posted by Unsafe and unwelcome
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2015 at 8:13 pm

@Report and letter,

"The law firm is paid by the District and has a pre-existing interest to protect the District management."

Why is that actually? District legal isn't supposed to serve the professional interests of the management usually, in fact, many educational institutions spell out when management has to incur expenses for their own legal. Why aren't there protections so that district legal first and foremost serves the interests of STUDENTS and families?

"It would be very frightening to be questioned by District paid litigators skilled at framing questions and turning responses into legal attacks and statements that can be used against victims, their families, the accused, and other youths in court. "

The culture of district legal directly influences the approach of staff. I have witnessed students and families afraid to express emotional strain, depression, and difficulties in the school setting (including bullying) because of fear that any vulnerability or need for help or services will only make life harder.


Posted by Ed B.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2015 at 9:07 am

This is an excellent explanation of the legal framework around Title IX and also the Uniform Complaint Procedures that are required to be utilized by all school districts in California in cases of discrimination.

It is upsetting but not surprising that the district failed to implement the UCP or to enforce TItle IX properly. The district never really accepted responsibility for the problems that OCR uncovered in its 2012 Terman investigation. Therefore it only grudgingly adopted those reforms after years of resisting OCR's efforts to get it to make policy reforms. The district finally adopted new policies at the gunpoint and then promptly threw them in the trash and never enforced them.

The result is a teacher who [portion removed] received a slap on the wrist. Indeed, characterizing a 45 day notice as a slap on the wrist is an overstatement since it is essentially nothing. Urging a teacher not to groom a student for sex a second time is hardly appropriate. [Portion removed.] It makes it all the more mysterious why Lozano did not issue a 30-day notice to terminate rather than a 45-day notice to correct.

There should be accountability for the employees who failed to implement the new policies, chiefly Brenda Carillo, Charles Young, and Max McGee. Young has evidently been selected as the fall-guy for this failure, and he certainly deserves that designation. But McGee is the CEO of the district and it was his responsibility alone to ensure proper legal compliance. Carrillo as the line-employee charged with this implementation totally failed and should also have accountability.

Recently, board member Ken Dauber was publicly castigated by the Campanile and by the Daily Post for having stated to OCR in 2013 that the district could benefit from Title IX technical assistance. The sad facts of this sordid matter show that he was exactly right, and that he is still exactly right because this district has learned little to nothing since 2013.

The only thing that changed is that the Weekly obtained information about this case and published them. Were it not for the light of day here, there would be business as usual which involves non-compliance and disinterest with respect to all of the laws described in the story above.

Until there is accountability for those in the chain of command at the district, including McGee, who brought this debacle about, and until the district replaces Lou Lozano and FFF, these kinds of problems will continue to occur and occasionally will burst into public view.




Posted by Humble observer
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2015 at 10:30 am

"Report and Letter" wrote: ' It would be very frightening to be questioned by District paid litigators skilled at framing questions and turning responses into legal attacks and statements that can be used against victims, their families, the accused, and other youths in court. '

Which "victims" did you mean?

The former student and the teacher at the core of the case were evidently both content, neither interested in making any issue. The whole investigation arose from allegations by the discontented parents of this now-adult student, by her ex-boyfriend [portion removed], and assorted adolescent students with "rumors." Hardly objective or disinterested sources. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Ed B.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2015 at 10:54 am

[Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

I must adhere to the belief that the majority of Palo Alto citizens [portion removed] are outraged, disgusted, and offended at this sad sordid debacle. Hopefully that majority will not be silent but will organize, stand up, and insist on right action.


Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 10, 2015 at 12:03 pm

[Post removed.]


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