May 18, 2017

A Message from Superintendent Dr. Glenn "Max" McGee

“Given all that we have read how can we assure our students are safe from sexual harassment and assault?”  A reader of last Friday’s Superintendent’s Weekly Message asked this, as have several others this week. It is a good question and one that needs answering now. I don’t want to wait until Friday to answer it (though I will repeat it in tomorrow’s message). The first section of this message describes what we do. The second section includes improvements we are making, as well as changes in Compliance Officers beginning June 1.

  • We have specific language in Board policies and administrative regulations that all staff are required to follow. Currently we are updating these policies to align with the most recent Office for Civil Rights (OCR) requirements. (BP 1312.3, BP 5131.2, BP 5145.3, and BP 5145.7)
  • We have a network of caring, trained counselors, wellness workers, and administrators who are required to respond immediately to any reports.
  • On our website, you will find a long list of resources related to sexual harassment and assault. These include how to talk with your children about the challenging topics.
  • Our Wellness Centers have run numerous workshops for students and staff this year with both our team and external partners. Here are examples:
    • Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention workshop for students & staff. The workshop was led by a state-certified sexual assault counselor, and topics covered included definitions of consent, changing the victim-blaming culture, and seeking support for survivors. 
    • The Wellness Center staff visited all Living Skills classes to deliver a presentation on healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships. Emphasis was placed on the importance of communication, respect, and trust between partners. In addition, resources were provided for students to learn more about the topic and receive support.
    • YWCA-Silicon Valley hosted a workshop on healthy relationships and teen dating violence.
    • Wellness Centers hosted two workshops related to communication and on boundaries. Also, specifically at Gunn, three videos produced by Santa Clara County Public Health on this topic were broadcasted through the Titan Broadcast Network, once a week for three weeks in February.
    • The Wellness Centers stock informational resources on sexual harassment and violence.
    • Schools hosted parent workshops.
    • We have created a website for resources related to preventing and handling incidents of sexual harassment and violence.
  • Our School Resource Officers and other support from the Palo Alto Police Department are readily available to investigate and address any complaints.
  • Any incidents of bullying, intimidation, harassment, etc., can be reported anonymously at: https://www.pausd.org/student-services/bullying-prevention
  • Our Health Connected and Living Skills programs that all students are required to take have lessons about what constitutes consent, how to say “no,” how to respond to “no” and what to do when one feels threatened or uncomfortable by sexual innuendos, advances, remarks, and the like.
  • All Title IX Investigations are conducted by an attorney. We began contracting out this work earlier this school year. Also, we are using an outside attorney to investigate some Uniform Complaint Procedures (UCP) filings.

In addition to current programs and services, we are also making some necessary system improvements.

  • We have employed a new Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and have created a new position of Assistant Superintendent for Strategic Initiatives and Operations. The latter combines two current district office positions, thus saving funds and allowing for focus on the operations of the organization. Individuals who will be assuming these positions will work together to manage all compliance matters. These two begin their work on July 1, and until then our Chief Academic Officers, Ms. Sharon Ofek (secondary), Ms. Barbara Harris (elementary), and I will serve as Title IX and UCP compliance officers, as soon as we complete the required Compliance Officer training. We expect to complete the training next week. 
  • We intend to revamp both the content and delivery of our high school Living Skills classes. This is a required class and we need to examine how we teach important issues noted above, as well as when we teach them. I believe ninth grade is the best time but currently students can wait until senior year.
  • We will be incorporating how to handle situations of harassment and discrimination into our high school advisory lessons.
  • We have scheduled a required full day of training for every PAUSD administrator on August 1. Teachers will also be receiving required training.
  • Prior to the beginning of the next school year, we will have webpages for anonymous reporting of any sexual harassment or discrimination complaint.

We care deeply about the wellness and safety of our students. We strive to assure that each and every child can learn and grow in our schools without fear of bullying, harassment, or discrimination. Should something bad happen – which I am so sad to say sometimes does – we  provide an array of supports for any student who is victimized. Moreover, we will immediately investigate the complaint and take the appropriate action. Our focus is on our students, so if you have additional resources or ideas you think we need, please let me know through our feedback link. 

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