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Parent sues Palo Alto Unified for barring student from attending class without a mask

Original post made on Jul 14, 2021

The father of a rising senior at Palo Alto High School is suing the Palo Alto Unified School District after his son was prohibited from attending an in-person summer class without a mask.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 14, 2021, 9:53 AM

Comments (47)

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2021 at 11:31 am

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Have the plaintiff and PAUSD considered compromise to include the student in school before resorting to law suit? There are plastic face shield masks that don't cover the mouth but protect from the virus. What if the young man wore a shield with a regular face mask and removed the mouth cover when he needs to speak. (This will only work if he is vaccinated.) Could this solve his communications problem and address the concerns of teachers and students he is sharing classroom space with in a moment when variants are taking hold? If it's really not about the money, perhaps lawyer dad might consider the needs of others and offer a compromise to get his son back in the classroom before he "lawyers up" against our public school district.

Also, is this student vaccinated? That is a very important data point. If not, then he absolutely should not be in school without a mask. Period.

Dad and PAUSD, what have you both done to work together to solve this student's problem without putting other students and staff in harm's way? It's not at all clear in this story.

For example: Web Link


Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 14, 2021 at 11:36 am

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CDC guidance no longer requires masks for people who are fully vaccinated, so California's blanket mask mandate seems like overkill and likely will impede kids' learning. It's time to include COVID vaccination among the requirements for school attendance for those age-eligible. The CDC also states that "Schools that continue to require people older than 2 years of age to wear a mask should make exceptions for ... A person who cannot wear a mask, or cannot safely wear a mask, because of a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.)." Web Link


Posted by cmarg
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 14, 2021 at 11:42 am

cmarg is a registered user.

Health and safety are very important for all those attending school - the teachers and other students. I just learned of someone who had received his both shots of the vaccine and still got covid; he is quarantining now.

Hurting people hurt others. I feel sad for the father and I hope he can find some peace.


Posted by Samuel L
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 14, 2021 at 12:01 pm

Samuel L is a registered user.

Is this the same Don Austin that claims that PAUSD cares about educating ALL students? PAUSD seriously couldn't come up with a way for this student to take a summer school class?
The student had a previously documented speech issue. I'm sure the speech issue is definitely affected by wearing a mask. That doesn't seem like a stretch.
Once again, PAUSD forces a family to get a lawyer and sue in order to get an education for their child. It's one of PAUSD's core values.


Posted by Old PA Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 14, 2021 at 12:10 pm

Old PA Resident is a registered user.

Sounds like the dad put his desire to fight above his son's desire to take the class. I agree, we need to advocate for people who can't self advocate (I have been doing it for 16 years for my "IEP" child), but we also need to stop making a mountain out of a molehill and suing the school district. Surely there was a compromise that would have been acceptable. Sounds like dad is a bit trigger happy. Must be nice to not have to pay a lawyer for filing such a frivolous lawsuit. Now we taxpayers get to pay to resolve it. Just wear the mask, it's a pain for everyone, not just your son.


Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2021 at 12:14 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

Cut the kid some slack. He has a speech impediment.


Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 14, 2021 at 12:18 pm

Green Gables is a registered user.

Cannot kick anyone out of school because of no mask so says the State of California


Posted by Tecsi
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 14, 2021 at 12:29 pm

Tecsi is a registered user.

Really, is wearing a mask that hard?

This is such a waste of time, money and energy. I am fully vaccinated and wear a mask indoors, just so express by support for health safety.


Posted by Aletheia
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 14, 2021 at 12:41 pm

Aletheia is a registered user.

Go get 'em dad!


Posted by TTrayu
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 14, 2021 at 12:42 pm

TTrayu is a registered user.

Sounds like the father didn’t want to provide proof. The June 4 CDPH Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework for schools states that “persons exempted from wearing a face covering due to a medical condition, as confirmed by school district health team and therapists, must wear a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with drape on the bottom edge, as long as their condition permits it.” How would the district’s health team and therapists confirm a mask exemption if the father refused to provide proof? This seems like another ridiculous and frivolous law suite that is wasting tax dollars.

Web Link


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2021 at 1:04 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Obviously the only information any of us have is what is written in the article. There are indeed problems with masks, deaf people are unable to read lips for example.

I am not surprised at this law suit. I expect there will be many more due to the pandemic and the school district's slow response/county response, etc.

CDC and WHO have both hummed and haahed on this and confusion reigns.

When schools required forms for various accommodations, face masks was not an issue so of course documents from several years ago would not be relevant. What has been happening over the past 16 months has been rewriting all sorts of policies.

It is a shame that the school/teacher could not be more accommodating and it is a shame that the need for this class is so crucial not just to this child but to so many. I think any sympathetic teacher should have been doing almost anything to ensure that a child's ability to complete graduation requirements would have been paramount.

So yes, I imagine we will see many more lawsuits along similar lines over the next year or so. This will not be the first, or the last.


Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 14, 2021 at 1:38 pm

Hulkamania is a registered user.

Whenever someone says, "This is not about money.", it's always about money.


Posted by Forever Name
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2021 at 1:43 pm

Forever Name is a registered user.

Dad you are a rock star! I fully support you.


Posted by Another Bystander
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 14, 2021 at 2:10 pm

Another Bystander is a registered user.

I'm not taking sides here, but the CA Public Health guidance looks pretty clear. The reason(s) for a mask exemption had to be confirmed by school district health team members and therapists. Not sure where that guidance stands now though. Thanks for the link @TTrayu.


Posted by Tj
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 14, 2021 at 2:36 pm

Tj is a registered user.

Only is SHALLOW ALTO!!!!!


Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 14, 2021 at 2:58 pm

commonsense is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by side splitting
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 14, 2021 at 3:13 pm

side splitting is a registered user.

There is an option for non in person summer school class - UC Scout.
[Portion removed.]


Posted by Matriarch
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 14, 2021 at 3:36 pm

Matriarch is a registered user.

Looks like Dad doesn't want to cooperate, but enjoys arguing, since "the parent was told on multiple occasions that the student would not be able to participate in summer school without a mask and that he would be compliant if he wore a "face shield with a drape combined with social distancing" instead.

"He was offered meetings and asked to share his new concerns with either documentation or an evaluation by our district nurse," so there were options beyond the standard face mask, just not the ones that the family wants. Looks like the entire family is "special" because they requested no-mask status at another school event - not just one, but all of them. Much ado about nothing.


Posted by side splitting
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 14, 2021 at 3:39 pm

side splitting is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Jimmy
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 14, 2021 at 5:04 pm

Jimmy is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by swuzy
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 15, 2021 at 10:20 am

swuzy is a registered user.

Many people use a mini portable speaker / microphone set up while wearing face masks. Teachers, guides, etc do that. Some user commentators say it works great; others say beware of excessive feedback (volume control, etc).

ZOWEETEK Portable Rechargeable Mini Voice Amplifier with Wired Microphone Headset and Waistband, Supports MP3 Format Audio for Teachers, Singing, Coaches, Training, Presentation, Tour Guide. About $36 on Amazon.

Web Link


Posted by Old Person
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 15, 2021 at 2:21 pm

Old Person is a registered user.

I'm so tired of people not considering the health of school staff and fellow students. Everyone is struggling in some way, this family is not the only one. It sounds like the district gave this parent opportunities to come up with a solution but he refused to cooperate. Making his child show up on the first day of school without a mask knowing he would be turned away is a cruel thing to do to his child.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 15, 2021 at 2:47 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Suing is the California way, sadly.


Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 15, 2021 at 7:10 pm

Neighbor is a registered user.

I understand a parent's concern when a child has difficulty with speech volume and enunciation. What I'm confused about here is why the face shield option was rejected by this dad. Unless I'm missing something, this seems like a good option -- the shield allows people to see his face, which can improve understanding when he speaks, and, unlike a mask, there is space between his mouth and the plastic, which should help with enunciation.


Posted by PA Community Advocate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2021 at 10:01 pm

PA Community Advocate is a registered user.

In a decade we will look back at masking kids as what it really is - child abuse.

The benefits are overstated at best and in all likelihood nonexistent in real world conditions. [Portion removed.]


Posted by John B. Sails
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2021 at 6:06 am

John B. Sails is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by PA Community Advocate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2021 at 6:45 am

PA Community Advocate is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by John B. Sails
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2021 at 7:09 am

John B. Sails is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Old Person
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2021 at 10:22 am

Old Person is a registered user.

Do you wear a seat belt in the car? Do you drive a car that was manufactured to government safety standards? Do you put your small children in car seats? Fences around swimming pools have greatly reduced accidental drownings. If your pool has a diving board, the pool must have sufficient depth to prevent broken necks. Do you make sure your children know how to swim before letting them go to a pool? What's so hard about wearing a mask?


Posted by John B. Sails
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2021 at 10:51 am

John B. Sails is a registered user.


To the point of this topic, what PA Advocate says is still correct. Young people have only minimal risk from Covid.

Different subject: Old (and obese) people much higher risk.

So, 'what is so hard' about you choosing for yourself: YOU wear a mask but that is the end of your decision-making on the subject?. Why should you be permitted to tell ME to wear one, when I am fully vaxxed, a non-smoker, non-drinker, and thin?


Posted by Old Person
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2021 at 1:03 pm

Old Person is a registered user.

Good point about being vaccinated. Is that student vaccinated? If that student was fully vaccinated, that would make a big difference. Keep in mind that the school is responsible for the health of all the students entrusted to them during school hours. It's nothing to take lightly, so I understand their caution. I would not say that it's alright for your kids to get Covid because chances are that they will be just fine afterwards.


Posted by John B. Sails
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2021 at 4:28 pm

John B. Sails is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by PA Community Advocate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2021 at 4:54 pm

PA Community Advocate is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 16, 2021 at 8:30 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

First off, my condolences for anybody that is working in this district and has to put up with this type of nonsense from these type of people on a daily basis. I would snap. This is an interesting case here. Who do we believe? The “honest”lawyer (oxymoron) who swears it’s not about the money and he is only advocating for his child and isn’t even fighting the mask mandate. Or do we believe the ever “honest” Don Austin who states he has emails that say: In emails shared with this news organization, the father had previously reached out to the district to see if his family could be exempt from wearing masks during his daughter's eighth grade promotion ceremony last month. Austin also states he offered them accommodations and that this father has been confrontational with staff over the mask mandate. Based on the fact Austin was able to provide the emails to the news organization, it suggests this father/lawyer has a pattern of being anti-mask. We are in a dangerous global pandemic. Not everything is about you. The health and safety of the staff matter and take precedence over your pathetic mask grievances. If you don’t want to mask up please move to Missouri.
To the sad parents of this district please stop suing over every little thing. It’s so embarrassing.
Agree with The Bystander that this will be the tip of the iceberg.

“In a decade we will look back at masking kids as what it really is - child abuse”
No we won’t. Masking children is not child abuse. We need to move beyond the whole “kids are so special” mindset. We also must move on from the nonsense of last year that the kids don’t get Covid or spread it. Pandemic, from Greek pandemos: "pertaining to all people; public, common.” ALL people and this includes children. There is no vaccine currently approved under 12. The masks may not work perfectly but that is all unvaccinated children have as a line of defense at this point. [Portion removed.]


Posted by PA Community Advocate
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2021 at 9:34 pm

PA Community Advocate is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 16, 2021 at 10:58 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2021 at 9:22 am

Citizen is a registered user.

[Portion removed.]

Go Dad. Fight for your kid, though please don't do it at other kids expense. With that caveat, fight, fight, fight.

As for the teachers, they're paid to be there, and can take precautions. If they don't like it, there are other jobs they can find.


Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 18, 2021 at 12:12 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

“As for the teachers, they're paid to be there, and can take precautions. If they don't like it, there are other jobs they can find”

Typically abusive attitude toward faculty and staff as if their lives don’t matter. But yet you entrust them with your children and expect them to care take for them. The teachers don’t have to find another job because you don’t like masks and it’s not “all about the kids.” [Portion removed.] The children need to mask up and take the SAME precautions. If the children are unmasked the precautions do not work. Just like with distance learning, teachers will continue to be unionized and paid. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2021 at 1:37 pm

Citizen is a registered user.

Teachers aren't more important than grocery store workers or medical personnel or others who actually did continue to do their jobs, in person, during the pandemic. They should also do their job and take precautions. Let the kid attend school, and get an education, while the teacher takes precautions.


Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 18, 2021 at 2:17 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

“Teachers aren't more important than grocery store workers or medical personnel or others who actually did continue to do their jobs, in person, during the pandemic.”

Teachers continued teaching online during the pandemic and did their jobs. [Portion removed.] The schools were closed due to the greatest disease outbreak in a century. People only think the schools shouldn’t have closed because they think either “kids don’t get COVID” or that “COVID doesn’t effect the kids as badly as adults.” Again that is the “not caring about the health and safety of the staff.” Now over a year later, schools are set to reopen with a more transmissible variant circulating and with the United Stated on a trajectory of a high National increase in cases due to the delta variant right when schools are set to reopen, But now the shoe is on the other foot. Teachers are vaccinated and have a layer of protection, and most children are not vaccinated. There is also no vaccine currently available for children under 12. This seems like a very dangerous school reopening. I don’t wish it in on anybody, but unfortunately, people who have the same opinion as yourself may end up with a very sick child. Finally, the same old comparing “teachers to grocery store workers” nonsense is a false comparison. Grocery store workers are essential during a disease outbreak as people need to eat to live. That is essential. Comparing teachers to medical workers is also another false comparison. Since when ever else were teachers compared to medical staff. Those doctors work in controlled Covid environment. Give me a break. The students can be educated online. This kid can go to a school in a mask. Supporting this frivolous law suit is an embarrassment and “typical.” I’m tired of your ilk. Support health and safety. The concept of masking shouldn’t be this hard. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 18, 2021 at 4:19 pm

Citizen is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by peppered
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 20, 2021 at 11:18 pm

peppered is a registered user.

This parent seems supremely self-absorbed.
Sounds like a real whiner.
It's not only about his son. It's about everyone else's kids and school staff too.
If his son cannot wear a mask, he needs to stay home and get his instruction online.
If he won't wear a mask, he doesn't get to put others at risk just because he wants a social experience.
The man needs to be taught a lesson.
The lawsuit should be dismissed -- with prejudice.


Posted by Be realistic
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 21, 2021 at 11:53 am

Be realistic is a registered user.

In two short weeks, the number of cases soared from about 3 per 100k to 24.7 today - more than eight times. Web Link
All thanks to selfish and ignorant conspiracy theory followers and those who hoped to free-load on the rest of us who followed the guidelines. We are quickly taken back down after all human life and economy sacrifices.

There. Sue the delta variant now and all future variants that you antivaxxers/antimaskers are helping to breed.


Posted by PA Streets
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 21, 2021 at 12:18 pm

PA Streets is a registered user.

Yes, I think this parent has gone overboard. He could have worked with the district to gain an exemption for his son if it was truly needed.

[Portion removed.]


Posted by Howmanybikesdoesittake?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 16, 2021 at 11:26 pm

Howmanybikesdoesittake? is a registered user.

Anyone who has dealt with the District regarding special needs knows its a waste of time to negotiate with the school. For one,the administration stretches it out to avoid activity. When you finally get them over a barrel, they will agree, promise to do it right with a fully traine staff member but they won't deliver. Its just to get you to back off, while they come back at you more hostile, stalling, then more excuses, bait & switch or nothing. In the words of my child, " What is wrong with you people that you won't do your jobs? Why do ask me what I need evey year when you haven't provided anything that is already documented.That is why I am failing every class.You don't listen to me and you don't keep your commitments, even when they are scheduled. I have to miss classes to show up for your schedule and you don't show up. Something always comes up. You are destroying my future, no wonder kids from this school walk into a train. You tell me the same lies every year and expect me to trust you and not be angry?

So congratulating yourselves because the bounty of your cumulative efforts is you is that you wrote down 1 thing down? Absolutely nothing will change because you wrote 1 thing down in my IEP. Lots of people write lots of things all the time and make many committments,and nothing ever changes. You actually have to implement them." And with that he put his head down to try to blink back the tears. I had pleaded with my son,to suspend his disbelief that the same thing would happen again, and to discuss with hope that something positive could be achieved,that this would not be a WOT and another humiliation. He did have genuine hope that something might change but with his case manager's statement,that she wrote it down as the validating statement,the bubble burst, he knew there was no hope of any change of getting the support he needed. And less than 1 year later he dropped out of Paly (IQ154). Paly needs a "stick" to do the right thing. ps they lie in court


Posted by Meadow
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Sep 2, 2021 at 12:54 am

Meadow is a registered user.

Didn't the parent provide emails to the press, and not the Superintendent? It appears:
-The parent did not insist the child attend school without a mask. He asked if there was a safe alternative, such as independent study or online.
- The parent was given false information. There were online independent study programs the student could have enrolled in through PAUSD, then and now.
- The parent attempted to obtain a written policy or guideline, which was not provided. Since the district gave staff instructions, there had to be something in writing the District was using.
- The districted offered an evaluations of a speech deficit by a school nurse. A nurse is not qualified to evaluate speech deficits.
- The district's risk manager decided the child’s file showed no medical need. A risk manager is not a medical or disability expert. He is a liability prevention specialist to save money. He should NOT have access to a child’s educational or special education file.
-The Superintendent issued a press statement with a blanket medical determination he lacks training to make.
The Superintendent's actions were horrible because they:
- Criticized a child’s parent, called him names, and portraying him as unreasonable
- Disclosed private student course information
- Retaliated against a parent for seeking help for a disabled child via critical public statements and refusal to grade a child’s work
- Made broad statements without full facts. He could not have attended every meeting or conversation or known what a parent was told "at every step."
- Commented on a continuing legal action
- Implies his district “won” an entire legal matter instead of small portion based on timing
-Discriminated saying a disabled student in AP and Honors courses should not have full access to credit recovery as non-disabled
- Incited hatred toward a child and family by framing an issue as a bad parent not caring for other student's safety, encouraging posters in this forum to attack the parent


Posted by Howmanybikesdoesittake?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2021 at 3:23 am

Howmanybikesdoesittake? is a registered user.

Meadow thank you for pointing out the bad faith tactics of PAUSD school district against the kids that need the help the most. We have experienced group dishonesty to CYA after they realized we knew the law and tried to hold them accountable, unfortunately there was no morale behavior within the entire PAUSD because they spent many many $$ to legally attack and discredit us. Shameful behavior that noone seems to object to all the way up to the school board. Very smug special ed folks know they won't be held accountable for reprehensible behavior and harming children. We also had all our very private information spilled to the point that random people were bullying and shaming my child and adults walking up to me and telling us "We should leave, that everyone at Churchill and the school hate us. That didn't we know, we are supposed to leave and pay for our own kids education, that it takes too much $ out the system from the regular kids. Don't we get it? They aren't going to provide anyhthing, it doesn't matter that its the law, don't we see we aren't getting anywhere with our complaints?"


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