November 5, 2019
November 8, 2019

Dear PAUSD Community,

On November 4, we had police activity on the Palo Alto High School (Paly) campus resulting from a local bank robbery.  I wanted to take a minute to personally address the activity, our partnership with the Palo Alto Police Department (PAPD), and “real time” communication expectations.

The assailant was placed in custody roughly 15 minutes from the time of the robbery.  This is a testament to the good work of our PAPD.  He was found on the campus and students were scared when they saw the commotion.  Many reacted by running, which is a natural and appropriate response.  We have received questions about site communication and our protocols.  It is important to note that all of the activity occurred during the lunch period for Paly students.  Practically speaking, students are dispersed around campus, across the street at restaurants, and off-site in cars. 

Our principal, Mr. Paulson, made an announcement to the students that police activity had occurred and that they were safe to return to classes for the remainder of the day.  A message was sent in a timely manner to our parents.

On behalf of PAUSD, I would like to thank PAPD and the Paly staff for handling a challenging and fluid situation well.  Notifications immediately on the heels of an event will never contain complex details.  As of today, we are still learning specifics and conducting “after action” debriefings.  Our Deputy Superintendent, Karen Hendricks, joined me for a meeting with City Manager, Ed Shikada, and Police Chief, Robert Jonsen, today for a productive review of the event.  As always, all involved are looking for places to improve in aspects of our work. 

We would encourage all parents to ensure their contact information is up to date for unplanned communications from school sites.  Our commitment to improving school safety is a top priority for PAUSD.  While this incident was resolved quickly and effectively, it further highlights the importance of vigilance and emergency protocols.  You can read more about our Wellness & Safety goals on the PAUSD Promise page. See attached letter from Police Chief.


Dr. Donald B. Austin
Superintendent of Schools