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Harassment of students -- Feds Slam PAUSD for Bullying/Hostile Environment/Retaliation

Original post made by Interesting on Jun 14, 2013

Web Link was published in the Palo Alto Weekly today. It indicates that the Federal government has stepped in and determined that Palo Alto Unified staff failed to do their jobs to prevent bullying of special education students with disabilities in their district.

Not only that, once the parents got the Federal government involved, in retaliation, the PAUSD district staff started bullying the students and the parents.

Also, apparently, the superintendent never informed the school board that the Federal government was involved in this issue and attempted to hide it from the school board. The superintendent also failed to disclose to the school board that they were sanctioned for Civil Rights violations and had to sign a binding settlement agreement.

I wonder if similar situations have happened in PUSD? Have their been any Office of Civil Rights investigations involving PUSD?

Comments (11)

Posted by A Neighbor, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 15, 2013 at 10:53 pm

"I wonder if similar situations have happened in PUSD? Have their been any Office of Civil Rights investigations involving PUSD?"

Why are you asking these questions? Is there any basis for concern over such issues at PUSD? I suspect not, and you are just interested in stirring up nonsense. If you have a specific point to make, then make it. Otherwise, this post is nothing short of inciting speculation about something that never happened. Shame on you.


Posted by Thanks PUSD, a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2013 at 7:16 am

You guys sent us Charles Young. He's our Compliance Officer and our Associate Superintendent and never has there been such an underperformer in Palo Alto Unified School Disrict. He is in charge of dealing with complaints and the OCR mess. Please take him back. He might have done some good things for PUSD, but he has been a disaster for PAUSD. Kathleen Ruegsegger, can you make this happen?


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jun 18, 2013 at 9:04 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

I never worked with Dr. Young. For that reason, I don't have reason to know parent opinion, but I am aware of his good reputation among those he has worked with on both sides of the Bay. I also know the story of the OCR "mess" has more depth to it than the perceived actions, or lack their of, of one person.


Posted by Thanks, PUSD, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2013 at 7:42 am

But did Kathleen Ruegsegger work with Kevin Skelly, who hired Charles Young? There may be a good reputation among those who he works with on both sides of the bay, but now he also has a terrible reputwtion with a growing number of those who he worked with in Palo Alto. The honesty of Skelly and Young are in question and many are trying to figure out how Young was hired. The OCR mess dominates the headlines in Palo Alto and it has been an unmitigated failure for Young. We can only assume that he had less responsibility in PUSD, thus less of an impact. The lessons here for PUSD are to ensure that your most basic complaint and other procedures are in order, and that your hiring procedures are rigorous.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jun 19, 2013 at 8:05 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

@Thanks, Do you mind explaining how you have access to PAUSD coworkers' opinions of Dr. Young's reputation? Please define "unmitigated failure for Young." From what I see, a few are after Dr. Skelly, and apparently now Dr. Young, with an ax and a noose and a gun and maybe some dynamite (all metaphorical, of course), just in case. And, in the case of Dr. Skelly, for quite some time. It's the famous "Palo Alto way." Perhaps you will consider using your real name so the accused can know their accuser.


Posted by Me too!, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2013 at 4:15 pm

I'm also in Palo Alto and have been for some time. I dont want to bore those in the East Bay with our problems, but many of us parents not only want Skelly out of PAUSD, but we especially want Charles Young out. Young is the compliance officer who is in charge of handiling issues in a prompt, professional manner so that these issues are solved at the lowest level. If I remember, you worked for the last two superintendents but I am not sure. You can follow the issues at palotoonline.com, and if you do, know that I am a private parent, not affiliated with any group, but I am friends of current and former teachers and principals. Palo Alto has always had that small town communication network, for better or worse. I only wish things in Palo Alto were as trivial as you described in your post.


Posted by Tom Wiser, a resident of Charter Oaks
on Jun 19, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Too much smoke for there not to be a fire. Probably has been going on for years, and the institutional culture that permitted/encouraged it no doubt affected all the institutional players. Very sad. Now let's all hear the denials.


Posted by Thanks, PUSD, a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Tom, your comments sum up the Palo Alto situation pretty well. I wish that we in Palo Alto had the ability to be brief, myself included.

Kathleen, you don't. I'll do my best to answer your questions because I respect your participation in these forums. I wish you'd participate in the Palo Alto ones. I do indeed get my money from PAUSD. Many of us figure Young is on the hot seat, surmising that Skelly would engineer his departure to divert pressure off himself. Young hasn't brought anything to PAUSD. He's just doesn't have the skillset to handle the parents or teachers, and innovative solutions has not been his strength.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jun 19, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Thanks, I doubt my participation would be accepted in Palo Alto. I've been gone two years, and I couldn't have commented when I worked there.

If true, and again I really haven't heard anything negative until now, I'm sorry to hear Dr. Young is a disappointment (to some or many). I do know the OCR situation is complicated (OCR has noted one claim had insufficient evidence to continue), some of it is just because of the number of people involved, from the student(s), parents, teachers, administration, lawyers, and the unbelievable volume of documentation being requested by several organizations including OCR. This is unfortunate on many levels, most importantly for the students.


Posted by Interesting, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2013 at 10:33 pm

The bullied student was a special education student with a speech and language impairment that affected the student's social skills and ability to interpret social cues.

I have read the full set of articles in the Palo Alto Weekly and I must say it is an impressive set of articles. Thanks to the press for requesting the volume of documentation from PAUSD because otherwise this would have never come to light.

PAUSD attempted to retaliate against the student from being absent from school because the student was bullied so much. Rather than attempt to stop the bullying, the PAUSD, similar to victims of rape being blamed because they 'brought it on themselves,' attempted to place the root cause of the harassment on the student's speech and language impairment.

The Palo Alto Weekly states:
Despite repeated, detailed and persistent appeals by the student and the family, the school district "did not conduct any organized inquiry into the reports of harassment."

The district "did not conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of the incidents. It did not take any disciplinary action towards students who engaged in the harassment."

"None of the teaching staff at the school could definitively recall having been asked by the district or school administrators if they knew anything about the student being bullied or told about the bullying reports they had received from the family or from the Superintendent's Office."

The district "failed to respond promptly and effectively to notice that the student was being subjected to peer harassment based on disability. The response was not reasonably calculated to end the harassment, prevent it from recurring or eliminate the effects of the hostile environment on the student."

The district's special-education office told the school principal that it would not furnish an aide for the student during lunch (when bullying occurred), stating that this was the school's responsibility and outside the scope of the student's individual-education plan.

School officials showed "a lack of understanding that harassment of a student based on behaviors that are the product of a disability is a matter of discrimination, and a lack of understanding of what constitutes a hostile environment."




Posted by Thanks, PUSD, a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Kathleen, the city could use your commentary. It's only some parents and staff that are complaining about superintendent Kevin Skelly, Charles Young, the board, and a few other administrators, but the case or cases they make against them are compelling. Just make sure PUSD does not get infected by what Palo Alto is suffering from, though I doubt it ever could.


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