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Harassed teen seeks court order to ban ex from robotics team

Original post made on Jan 30, 2019

A female Gunn High School junior who the district determined was sexually harassed by another Gunn student has turned to the courts to ban the male student from participating in the school robotics team, to which they both belong.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, January 30, 2019, 3:22 PM

Comments (48)

Posted by Get Your Facts Straight
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 30, 2019 at 3:57 pm

Get Your Facts Straight is a registered user.

Here we go again. PAUSD never learns. With administrators who hold the view that this is normal behavior for teens, we cannot expect anything different. Two weeks ago: $190K payout. A week ago: $200K payout. This is a rich district. Why should they care about taxpayer money if taxpayers don't seem to care and seem to want to stand by.

Posted by Barron Park
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 30, 2019 at 4:14 pm

"The girl filed a complaint with the district's Title IX office last June, according to the petition. Gunn launched an investigation three months later and retained an outside attorney, Megan Miller, to conduct it, according to the outcome letter."

WHY?!?! Why did it THREE MONTHS to launch an investigation. This is appalling!

Posted by Brought to you by Charlie Foxtrot
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 30, 2019 at 4:20 pm

Brought to you by Charlie Foxtrot is a registered user.

Don Austin states that the district has, "tried very hard to balance the rights and needs of both students". I'm sorry, but the boy gave up some of those rights when he forced the girl to perform oral sex on him. End of story. It doesn't matter if it's Robotics build season or the CCS football playoffs.

If Megan Farrell has anything to do with reinstating the boy into the Robotics program then how is she any better than Holly Wade?

Here's the message to the girls of PAUSD. If you get assaulted or harassed by a boy, just keep quiet. Nothing will happen to the boy and you will be forced to interact with him on campus, at least during the days you are able to get to school.

How much is this "escort" costing the district? Is this a good use of tax monies?

Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 30, 2019 at 4:21 pm

This is insane.

We're now getting the courts involved in teen relationship drama?!?

The nanny state mentality is out of control.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2019 at 4:46 pm

Thanks to PA Online/Weekly for publishing this information.

Posted by Don't do anything extra
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 30, 2019 at 5:00 pm

Guess what? The District has an obligation, under both state and federal law, to provide access to the girl's education free of discrimination on the basis of sex, meaning free of sexual harassment, free of an environment in which sexual harassment persists. Given that there were text messages, and witnesses, and PAUSD said he sexually harassed her and referred to the alleged incident in his messages to her, why is the District talking about balancing the needs of both students? Is the district confused about who harassed whom?

Those who sexually harass others in school can be suspended or expelled under the Ed Code.

Too bad a judge has to force PAUSD to do what it said it would do in the first place, and didn't.

Posted by Brought to you by Charlie Foxtrot
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 30, 2019 at 5:20 pm

Brought to you by Charlie Foxtrot is a registered user.

Forced Oral Copulation is not "teen relationship drama". It's a crime.

If you are a male, is that how you get your satisfaction from your partner?

If you are female, are you ok with your partner forcing that on you?

To be totally PC, I guess I can add: If you are male, are you ok with your partner forcing that on you?

Posted by Unacceptable Behavior
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 30, 2019 at 6:54 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Meanwhile
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 30, 2019 at 7:17 pm

"It is unclear what prompted the district to change its original directive."

...not so wild guess, the male student's parents lawyered up?

Posted by Downfall
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 30, 2019 at 8:20 pm

"The girl also alleged that the boy, whom she dated for about three months, forced her to perform oral sex on him off campus toward the end of January 2018, and she ended the relationship, according to the petition."

Forget sexual harassment, this is sexual assault. Why are criminal charges not being brought against this person?

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 30, 2019 at 8:54 pm

This is why we needed Kathy Jordan on the Board rather the [portion reomved] that were elected.

Posted by A parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 30, 2019 at 9:01 pm

Solution: de-sexualize current teen “lifestyles” and keep it zipped. School is for learning.

Posted by Gunn Alumni 2014
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2019 at 12:00 am

Forced oral sex is sexual assault. This is not only sexual harassment, but sexual assault. This is a crime, he is doing criminal activity, and yet they want to make sure he can still go to his robotics meetings? I'm extremely disappointed in Gunn High School, PAUSD, and Title IX. Great role model for those boys going into college too! Can't wait to see them once they're here with the message that PAUSD is sending them: you can sexually harass/assault girls and eat your cake too

Posted by he said she said....
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 31, 2019 at 11:08 am

sad state of affairs, I know this comment is SO non-PC and will get everyone here riled up, but in these cases how does anyone know what really transpired between them if no witnesses, or is this based on text messages, he said, she said etc?

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 31, 2019 at 11:09 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Oh brave new world.

Posted by @he said she said
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2019 at 11:36 am

@he said she said is a registered user.

Are you asking if anyone saw the boy force his penis in her mouth? I would say, no.

They interviewed 10 people, I believe, in addition to text messages. One of the text messages the boy sent to the girl read, "It's hard to respect someone you've shoved you d*** down their throat" So, I would say he's admitted to the act.

The issue is not whether the assault or harassment took place. The issue that the family wants fixed is that the school changed its initial safety directive and is now allowing the boy to attend Robotics events.

Why should the boy be able to torment the girl? She didn't do anything wrong. Why should her educational opportunities have to suffer due to his actions?

Posted by Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 31, 2019 at 1:49 pm

Alum is a registered user.

PAUSD seemed to be more or less following procedure until they decided to let the boy participate in robotics again. Really? What legitimate reason could there have been to go against the protective measures put in place?

Sure, the male student lost his opportunity to participate in robotics which is unfortunate for him. But frankly, he brought that upon himself, and there are plenty of other extracurricular options out there.

Posted by Make the Robot Do It
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 31, 2019 at 2:12 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Former Gunn Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 31, 2019 at 5:27 pm

Former Gunn Parent is a registered user.

My daughter was one the many involved in a Title IX case during the 2017-2018 school year. Her case file was opened in November 2017 and was not final until April 2018. At that time 2 Gunn employees were found to have violated her rights by not stopping the harassment they knew was going on (among other things). They are both still employees of Gunn. 2 students were also found to have violated her rights (as the harassers) and they received no punishment at all - not even the Sexual Harassment and/or Anger Management classes she asked that they be required to take. One boy is currently a senior at Gunn and the other graduated with her in May 2018. The boy who graduated was allowed to participate in all senior activities - including prom, senior picnic, Grad Night - with only the requirement that he not be on the same bus as her.

While my daughter did receive tremendous support from her counselor (who was not rehired for this school year) and 2 VPs (one of whom has left after the year last year - my daughter's case was just one of many), they were constantly stymied when trying to help my daughter with CA Ed Code that seems to protect the aggressor more than it protects the victims.

She is the youngest child in our family and all we say is that we are extremely glad to be done with PAUSD.

Posted by Kieran
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2019 at 6:19 pm

Ordinarily, headline writers try to use abbreviations and short words to fit into column inches in a print edition, and it is technically true he is her ex since they dated for 3 months before she sent him packing [portion removed.] More importantly, they could easily have *shortened* the headline by saying “Teen seeks court order to ban harasser from robotics team”. PAUSD admits he was a harasser, the witnesses and texts corroborate it, no reason to avoid that characterization or say “alleged”, let alone use a term that makes her seem more like an embittered former girlfriend than a victim of sexual assault and harassment. The comments demonstrate that some people interpreted it that way, complaining about “teen relationship drama” and political correctness.

PA Weekly, you can do better.

Posted by Bad people always win
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 31, 2019 at 9:29 pm

Seems it’s always the bad people’s “rights” that need to be protected. The state, the district, everywhere.

Posted by Maintaining Perspective
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 31, 2019 at 10:55 pm

It is good that our society is finally taking sexual harassment more seriously. But I am concerned at how many readers seem ready to convict a boy of sexual assault without seeing any evidence. We haven't been given his defense, or her statement, or any details from the school about their reasoning or process. Does the principle that the woman is always telling the truth apply universally? Even the little information this article does provide is misleading. It opens by stating that the female student was sexually harassed, but later explains that this was only concluded by "preponderance of the evidence", and not "beyond reasonable doubt," and that in fact one of her claims against the boy (violation of a no-contact order) was found to be false. The psychology and power dynamics of teen relationships are different from those of adult relationships, especially when you add on the layer of parental involvement. We hurt the fabric of our society when we rush to assign guilt without due process.

Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 1, 2019 at 1:41 am

@ Maintaining Perspective

You talk about assigning guilt without due process. Exactly where is undue process been carried out?

The article clearly states Miller was hired and upon investigation, "Miller concluded, using a preponderance of the evidence standard (that it was more likely than not that the allegations occurred), that the male student sent the female student text messages and made comments about her to other students that constituted sexual harassment."

What more do you want? Besides texts and witnesses from other students that this male student made sexually harassing comments? Do you not think words are a form of harassment?

You talk about psychology and power dynamics of teenage relationships. What about them? You paint broad strokes without backing up such suggestions with literature or research or evidence to suggest why teenage relationships qualify as a special exemption if a teen male makes sexually harassing comments about a teen female to their common peers.. why that should NOT be considered sexual harassment? How is that not a toxic environment for the female student? Why is she being punished and staying home?

You might as well say, "boys will be boys" after your "teenage power dynamics" comment.
"Men are men" followed by "girls dress provocatively and are purposefully seeking sexual attention" followed by... the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed in teens so he is exempt from any sexual assault.

Let's put women's rights back another 100 years.. shall we?

Posted by Anonymous6
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2019 at 7:42 am

Not a peep from the admin.HELLLOOOO?

Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 1, 2019 at 10:07 am

Where are the Police investigators in all this?

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2019 at 10:16 am

Posted by Anonymous6, a resident of Barron Park

>> Not a peep from the admin.HELLLOOOO?

Paradoxically, anything specific they might say would be a violation of the girl's rights. But, given what has been made public already, I find it nothing short of bizarre that the boy is still attending Gunn.

Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 1, 2019 at 10:27 am

And here is the thing. Even if, defenders of the teenage boy is given all benefits of doubt.. and we will assume the worst of the female teen... she dressed provocatively, they were dating, things got hot and heavy, she invited him to meet her and initiated the contact, and he was "only kind of pushing her" to do a specific sexual act on him. He was a boy after all, and hormones were raging... what can one expect from a teenage boy in throes of "passion" (ahem unbridled forcing of his desires on a girl).

Does it give STILL give him the right to force the teenage girl to do what he made her to do? Where are her rights? Does she not have the right to refuse the act, even if actions led him down the path of unbridled "passion" (aka hormones raging)? What about spreading the comments via texts to her and their peers?

What's next? What are we teaching young boys today? That it's okay to let your passions reign and force females to do your will? That what the male wants and desires is the utmost important and takes precedence over the female's desires and wants? Even if she says "no.. I don't want to" we just go ahead and force her to?

Lets remove women's rights.. and then closely follow that with removal of civil rights and democratic rights. Why stop with just women's rights?

Given the political climate... doesn't this all make sense? Let people's true colors reign.
What happened to civility? What happened to being a gentleman? What happened to being an up stander? What happened to being a good citizen? What makes man different from a raging beast?

Posted by EPAMom
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 1, 2019 at 1:58 pm

With all its wealth Palo Alto has pockets of moral bankruptcy. Why is the boy insisting on going to Robotics? To enhance his attractiveness to colleges? Eventually his identity will come out and that will be the least of his worries. What about the other people, especially girls, on the robotics team? They have to work closely for long hours and possibly travel together, sometimes for overnights. How is that going to work? Does the leader of the robotics team want that? Is the message here, if you are talented in one area, you can be criminal and brutal in another and we will overlook it? [Portion removed.]

Posted by Phone use
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2019 at 2:50 pm

I feel for the girl. I hope she and her parents will use the “block” feature on their phone. There is no reason they need to get texts from anyone they don’t want to.

Posted by Gunn Student
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 1, 2019 at 6:45 pm

Before this situation becomes a flashpoint for parents removed from the issue to discuss the faults of PAUSD admin like the issue at Paly last year, let's remember that these are real people involved in the situation and while you might not be emotional involved, there are real people who were hurt by this and that innane discussion of "bringing courts into relationship drama" is both inappropriate and misinformed. It's not that PAUSD doesn't care, it's that they do. They're in a catch 22 on these issues where the goal of a school is to facilitate learning but restricting access to these activities hurts that of another. I'm not saying that this was the right decision, only that to say that the boy should have been expelled for this shows a lack of understanding of the situation the administration is in. Despite this, the PAUSD admin had shown a nasty pattern of extreme nonconfrontational behavior, especially when it comes to Title IX violations. Maybe discuss that instead of what the people involved did wrong.

Posted by kids
a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2019 at 7:13 am

kids is a registered user.

Who is the principal at Gunn now? Is this resolved or will it drag out until the boy gets to put this on college resume.?

Posted by @kids
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2019 at 8:43 am

@kids is a registered user.

Gunn principal is Kathie Laurence who learned how to treat Title IX cases from Kim Diorio.

This deserves to be on this boy's college applications. If he's going to list his volunteer hours and extracurriculars, colleges should also know that he was told to stay away from a girl he assaulted and harassed.

If there are no consequences how will behavior change?

Posted by The Public Interest
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 5, 2019 at 7:37 pm

The boy sent text messages. There are also witnesses to what he did and said. He sexually harassed the girl. That's why PAUSD determined he had sexually harassed her in response to her complaint. He also referenced the sex act in one of his text messages.

Posted by Ugh!
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 5, 2019 at 10:22 pm

It is utterly outrageous that no one within the district or high school office was willing to take responsibility for the change in disciplinary action. The family of the girl asked for an explanation as to why PAUSD went back on its own plan after the sexual harassment investigation. They were met with a whole lot of "it's not my responsibility" and "because privacy" and no one would say the "changed decision was made by _____ because ______".

When will PAUSD learn?
Weren't they just required to put a new, effective process in place to handle these situations? If there is such a process, it should clearly state WHO is responsible for enforcing and/or altering disciplinary actions.

This should not come down to caving into each latest lawsuit. Did the boy's family protest behind closed doors and get the outcome changed? Isn't there a Title IX officer who should take responsibility? Or else it must finally land in the Principal's and Superintendent's laps!

PAUSD, stick with the expected process!!!!

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 6, 2019 at 4:50 am

Assuming all facts are as explained, there needs to be consequences to uncivilized or unacceptable behavior in public, especially in schools. [Portion removed.] So why is this kid still in school, and doesn't him still being in school kind of make a joke of the whole situation? When justice and protection from violence in school or a public institution has so much "friction" associated with it, that is not justice that is begrudgingly doing the right thing, which is not the right thing at all.

Posted by The Proper Protocols
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 6, 2019 at 8:53 am

What's required...

(1) A PAPD investigation initiated by the PAUSD to verify facts followed by
(2) A Restraining Order from the SCC Superior Criminal Court
(3) Suspension/Expulsion of the male student if reportage of event(s) are found to be true
(4) Juvenile Court proceedings against the male student & incarceration at the juvenile detention facility if found guilty + counseling & probation
(5) Parental lawsuit against the PAUSD for their lax follow-up

Posted by Law & Order
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 6, 2019 at 1:03 pm

^^^^Agreed. Complete a full investigation & if the youngster is found guilty, toss him into Juvenile Detention until he is 18.

There are options there for him to complete his HS credentials.

Or give him an opportunity (with parental consent) to join the armed forces at 17.

No reason for him to run free & potentially harass others.

Posted by Confused
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 6, 2019 at 2:14 pm

@Proper & @Law/Order - why do you assume the police were not called already? The victim's family has lawyers and is suing in court - they certainly know how to call the police. Based on the fact that the harasser is still walking around, it seems like there was a decision by the police / DA not to arrest or prosecute. In addition, even if they did, a student can't be expelled for off-campus behavior.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2019 at 5:18 pm

Posted by Confused, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> In addition, even if they did, a student can't be expelled for off-campus behavior.

I'm not a lawyer and don't pretend to be one, and, perhaps the law has changed sometime in the last 50+ years. But, I thought that students could be expelled for anything that happens on or off campus from the time they leave for school until they get home, including to/from school, off-campus lunch, or, at any school-sponsored activity no matter where it is. At least, that is what they told us back when they explained "in loco parentis" to us back in the day.

I also think that this has somehow been expanded to bullying or harassment via, e.g., texting or use of social media. By "somehow", I mean that I don't know how this might be applied, but, it clearly applies to this case.

Web Link

Perhaps a lawyer out there could comment on what the new law actually means in practice?

Posted by Meanwhile
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 6, 2019 at 6:44 pm

^^^schools are advised by the juvenile court whether they have the obligation to continue providing schooling for students being investigated or even found guilty of offenses. This also still means if ordered to continue providing schooling that the school/district must continually monitor the situation so victims are re-victimized or bullied.

Posted by Meanwhile
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 6, 2019 at 6:46 pm

Typo: should read: "so victims AREN'T.."

Posted by Member
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 7, 2019 at 12:11 am

Hoping there is an admin at every robotics practice and especially overnight ones. Is that the case?

Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 7, 2019 at 12:19 am

Even if this doesn't constitute sexual harassment (which it was found to be by an investigation)... how does this NOT constitute a form of bullying? When the boy spreads word about the girl such that she feels the need to avoid him and avoid coming to school.. how can that NOT be bullying?

At this point... PAUSD has no excuse not to deal with this bullying situation.

What is going on GUNN high school? What is going on PAUSD? Exactly what are the board members doing? I know we elected a 20 something year old to be on the school board. From the hirings and firings of teaching staff.... or even promotions of folks who may not have an education degree, all of this is quite puzzling that this is happening in affluent and educated PAUSD.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 7, 2019 at 6:24 am

Palo Alto Resident, some years back in 2011 there was an
interesting documentary called "Bully" that went into bullying
and its effects on children and society.

Like your reaction to this story I kept wondering why with these
outrageous stories of what had happened did the stories always,
or almost always end with no real action.

It is like our society implicitly encourages bullying and aggressive,
intimidative behavior. The movie did not really go into that, and I
am not sure how a movie could. It is buried pretty deep in our
psyches, and I think we have all experienced at some point in our
lives some kind of unfair treatment from a more powerful entity.

Look at the headlines and at our leaders, and even our movies
that are soaked with violence, selfishness, and self-righteousness
and it seems our society is built on it, and to try to take it on might
be viewed by many, especially those at the top as a destabilizing
effort. This is one of the things that is meant by "regulation" when
mentioned by the political right. The idea that might makes right
is part of deregulation and also seems built into the criticisms of
social society from the right when they complain men are being
"feminized" or are afraid to be men.

It is a staple of the idea of "the Patriarchy".

It cannot even seem to be looked at too closely as in my above
comment when I repeated what I read in the article and in
comments previous, PAO's censored removed part of my comment.

Posted by Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 7, 2019 at 10:18 am

Alum is a registered user.

>>>Hoping there is an admin at every robotics practice and especially overnight ones. Is that the case?

Probably not. But I don't think that solves the problem for the female student—sending an administrator to be there is like putting a cheap bandaid on the problem in my opinion. There's no reason the male student needs to be involved with the team any longer given his behavior.

Posted by Robotics is not a right
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 11, 2019 at 12:32 pm

Robotics is not a right is a registered user.

Since when does balancing the "right" to public education extend to a right to occupy a highly-coveted spot on an extra-curricular team?

The district found sufficient cause to limit the boy's interaction with the girl and his presence on the team. He should be off the optional team. End of story. It is not a requirement for his education.

There must be plenty of qualified - and presumably non-harassing - students who were not lucky enough to gain a spot on this limited-space team. Will they see they can sue for a spot now? What precedent is this setting for Gunn parents with deep pockets?

Posted by Concerned
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 22, 2019 at 12:22 am

Sounds like a parent desperately trying to protect her child. And it's not right as they can't protect him forever, won't work. It will happen again sometime. So let's focus on the survivor. How can she thrive now? Gunn can you help her?

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2019 at 1:24 am

>> And it's not right as they can't protect him forever, won't work. It will happen again sometime.

This argument is absurd, it is a baseless argument wrapped into a pointless attack. If you cannot protect someone forever it is pointless to try to protect them when they need protection.

What does it mean that someone would think this is a productive addition to the discussion. It is basically an off-base argument in favor of ignoring harassment. Maybe the maker of that argument wants no one to limit their ability to harass?

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