The Board of Education at its May 7 meeting is scheduled to authorize a $140,000 contract for legal services from the law firm of Fagen Friedman and Fulfrost (for details, see Web Link).
Fagen is the firm of Laurie Reynolds, the attorney who spoke at a January school board meeting on the federal civil rights investigation of PAUSD that resulted in a finding of noncompliance with federal civil rights law. Reynolds gave a presentation that was described by the Weekly as "incorrect, misled the board and the public and engaged in pure obfuscation." See Web Link.
The Weekly reported that Reynolds' statement contained several incorrect characterizations of the law and the facts. For example, "Reynolds also did the board and public a disservice by suggesting the district had no ability to settle the case with OCR prior to the issuance of findings because the family of the bullied student wouldn't agree to a process called Early Complaint Resolution, which is available when a complaint is first received. In fact, OCR rules clearly state that at any time during an investigation, the district can opt to enter into a resolution agreement and avoid formal and possible damaging legal findings."
Reynolds also falsely claimed to the school board that OCR wanted the district to provide staff training at only one middle school, but that the district wanted to provide training at all schools. In fact, the Weekly report that a public records request revealed that OCR wanted training at all middle and high schools, and that the district negotiated to reduce requirements for annual training.
Reynolds subsequently called public discussion of the district's failure to protect the civil rights of a disabled child "tiresome" and "distracting," advising PAUSD not to "rehash" the issue any further in public. See Web Link. School board president Dana Tom has followed Reynolds' advice, and the OCR investigation and compliance have not been discussed at any open sessions of the school board since January. Tom was, however, forced to cancel a closed session meeting, apparently on the topic of civil rights, because it would have violated the open meeting provisions of California's Brown Act.
According to the board agenda item, PAUSD has paid Fagen $115,000 so far this school year, including for Reynolds' work in negotiating with OCR and her appearance at the January school board meeting. Over the last four years, PAUSD has paid Reynolds' firm $420,000. Fagen leads in total billings for PAUSD this year and over the last four years.