The Governing Board of the Palo Alto Unified School District (District) is committed to creating a safe learning and educational environment for all students. The Governing Board recognizes the harmful effects of discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, (such as sexual harassment, sexual violence or harassment based on a protected characteristic), intimidation, bullying and retaliation against students when committed by other students, employees and/or third parties1. Such misconduct negatively effects student learning and school attendance, and the Governing Board desires to provide safe educational setting2 that protect students from physical and emotional harm. The Governing Board also prohibits retaliatory behavior or action against any person who reports, testifies about, files a complaint, or otherwise participates in a District complaint, investigation or grievance process relating to an incident of discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, intimidation, or bullying.
This Guidance Memorandum for all District staff is designed to summarize information relevant to understanding and accessing the District’s discrimination policies and complaint procedures.
The District’s policies prohibit unlawful discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, intimidation and bullying of any student, based on actual or perceived characteristics of race or ethnicity, color, nationality, national origin, ethnic group identification, age, religion, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or any other characteristic identified in Education Code 200 or 220, Penal Code 422.55, or Government Code 11135, or based on association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics. (BP 5145.3 – Nondiscrimination/Harassment and BP 5145.7 – Sexual Harassment.)
1 A “third party” is defined in BP 1312.3 and BP 5145.7.
2 “Educational setting” is defined in BP 1312.3 and BP 5145.7, and it includes any District program or activity.
The following individual is designated to handle complaints under the Uniform Complaint Procedures regarding unlawful discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, intimidation, or bullying, based on the protected categories identified above, and to answer inquiries regarding the district's nondiscrimination policies:
District Compliance Officer
25 Churchill Avenue,
Palo Alto, CA 94306 firstname.lastname@example.org (650) 833-4262
The District and school sites are responsible for responding promptly and effectively to address discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, intimidation and bullying in the educational setting which they know or should have known has occurred. The District and school sites also must respond to off campus incidents or incidents unrelated to school activity if the effects of the incident result in harassment, intimidation, or bullying at school or at a school activity, which is sufficiently serious to interfere with or limit the targeted student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the education program. These duties are the District and school’s responsibility regardless of whether a student has filed a complaint, asked the school to take action, or identified the harassment as a form of discrimination.
All reports or complaints3 alleging unlawful discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, intimidation, or bullying shall be addressed in accordance with the Uniform Complaint Procedures and shall be investigated and resolved within 60 calendar days of the district's receipt of the complaint.4 Reports and complaints alleging retaliation should also be investigated under the Uniform Complaint Procedures.
Within one school day of receiving a report or complaint from a student, parent/guardian or other person, the school employee shall report it to the site Principal/designee. If the complaint involves the Principal/designee, the employee shall report the matter to the District Compliance Officer.5 Any school employee who observes an incident of discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, intimidation, or bullying shall immediately intervene when safe to do so and shall, within one school day, report the conduct to the Principal/designee, whether or not the target of the harassment makes a report of files a complaint. (Education Code 234.1)
The Principal/designee shall, within one school day of receiving the report or complaint from a student, an employee or other person, forward the complaint itself or a transcription of the oral report to the District Compliance Officer.
3 A “report or complaint is defined in AR 1312.3, p. 4.
4 NOTE: Reports or complaints of sexual harassment or sexual violence involving students shall be addressed under BP 5145.7 and BP/AR 1312.3. These reports or complaints shall NOT be addressed pursuant to BP/AR 1312.1, AR 4031, or BP/AR 4119.11, 4219.11 and 4319.11.
5 All employees have a duty to report under the Uniform Complaint Procedures, except for school psychologists, health professionals, licensed therapeutic providers, and school counselors, who have received personal information in the process of providing counseling. These employees must maintain the confidentiality of the student unless there are specific legal considerations which require a report to be made. However, they should also inform the student of their rights and options and the contact information for the District Compliance officer as set forth in this guidance memorandum.
As set forth in detail within AR 1312.3, either the District Compliance Officer or the Principal/designee shall, within one school day of receiving a report or complaint, inform the impacted or targeted individual of the three options or “paths” for addressing the allegations under the Uniform Complaint Procedures and the differences among those options.6 The options include:
(1) the right to proceed under the Uniform Complaint procedures; (2) the option to use an informal resolution process within the guidelines of the Uniform Complaint Procedure; and (3) a request that the District should not investigate or pursue the complaint, if the circumstances allow the District to do so. In some instances, depending on the seriousness of the allegations and the risk of future harm to students or others, the District may still have a duty to address the matter under the guidance of the Uniform Complaint Procedures.
This discussion with the impacted individual and any decisions about which option the impacted individual has chosen to pursue shall be reduced to writing and a copy delivered to the impacted individual and the District Compliance Officer.
Regardless of which option or path is used, as further specified in AR 1312.3 and in the sections below, (1) all reports or complaints require some level of investigation, (2) the investigation shall result in a written notice of outcome, and (3) if any discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, intimidation or bullying is found to have occurred, it will be addressed in order to eliminate, prevent and correct the effects. Each process used to address a report or complaint shall be completed within 60 calendar days, and the process shall be documented and retained in a confidential manner at the school site and the District.
After a report or complaint is received, the Principal/designee shall determine whether interim measures are necessary to stop or prevent further discrimination or address the effects of discrimination during and pending any informal resolution and/or investigation. The interim measures may require assistance from school site staff to implement because the interim measures may include no-contact directives, increased supervision, placing students in separate classes or transferring a student to a class taught by a different teacher. To the extent possible, interim measures will be implemented in a manner that minimizes the burden on the parties of the pending investigation or informal resolution process.
Except in complaints alleging sexual violence, when a complaint alleging unlawful discrimination against an individual is submitted under these procedures, the site Principal/designee may, after gathering evidence related to the complaint, engage in informal efforts to resolve the complaint after obtaining the signed, written consent of the complainant, the complainant’s parent/guardian, the respondent, and the respondent’s parent/guardian. Before the parties consent to engage in an informal resolution process, the Principal/designee shall inform the parties that (1) the complainant and complainant’s parent/guardian will not be asked or required to meet directly with the respondent, (2) the timeline for the informal resolution process, and (3) the differences between the informal process and the other two paths available under the UCP. The Principal/designee shall submit a copy of the signed consent documents to the District Compliance Officer.
6 When the reporting individual is a student, the Principal/designee should notify a parent/guardian about any report involving their student, but the District must consider any student request not to notify a parent/guardian based on the law.
The informal resolution process, including documentation of any resolution, must be completed within 10 calendar days of the District’s receipt of the complaint. If the parties cannot resolve the matter or they cannot do so within the 10 calendar days, the District Compliance Officer shall immediately proceed with the investigation under AR 1312.3.
At the beginning of an investigation under the UCP, the District Compliance Officer shall describe the District's complaint procedure to the complainant and/or the complainant’s parent or guardian, and discuss what actions and remedies are being sought in response to the complaint. The complainant shall have an opportunity to describe the incident, identify witnesses who may have relevant information and provide other evidence or information leading to evidence of the alleged conduct. The District Compliance Officer shall interview individuals who have information relevant to the investigation, including, but not limited to, the complainant and the complainant’s parents/guardians (where appropriate), the person accused of unlawful discrimination (respondent), anyone who witnessed the reported conduct, and anyone mentioned as having relevant information.
When interviewing the respondent, the District Compliance Officer shall describe the UCP to the respondent and the respondent’s parent/guardian, if applicable. The respondent shall have the opportunity to respond to all the allegations, identify witnesses who may have relevant information, and provide other evidence or information leading to evidence of the allegations. For complaints involving sexual harassment or sexual violence, information about a complainant’s past or current sexual relationship with individuals other than respondent shall be excluded from the investigation process.
The Compliance Officer will also locate and review any available records, notes, documents, electronic information or statements related to the complaint and may take other steps such as visiting the location where the conduct is alleged to have taken place.
The District’s response to any report or complaint of discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, intimidation or bullying, must be documented in writing to ensure that the matter was appropriately addressed in a timely manner. The District Compliance Officer shall maintain a log of complaints received, providing each with a code number and a date stamp. The District Compliance Officer shall also maintain a record of actions taken by the District in response to each report or complaint. The record shall include documentation of the steps taken during the investigation, including interview summaries and all information required for compliance with state and federal regulations.
Within 60 calendar days of receiving the complaint, the District Compliance Officer or designated investigator will conclude the investigation and prepare a written a report of the findings and outcome. As set forth in AR 1312.3, subsection G, the decision shall include a statement of the issues raised, the findings of fact based on the evidence gathered for each issue, the District’s conclusions of law on each issue and rationale for such conclusions, the corrective actions, individual remedies, and/or systemic measures taken, if any, notice to the parties to immediately report any reoccurrence of the conduct or retaliation, and notice of the right to appeal.
Remedial action will be designed to end the discriminatory conduct, to prevent its recurrence, and to address its effects on the subject of the complaint. Examples of remedial actions, as appropriate, may include such things as interventions or discipline for the respondent, separating the respondent and the subject of the complaint while minimizing any disruption to the educational services of the individuals, and interventions for the subject of the complaint such as counseling, academic support, and information on how to report further incidents of discrimination. Remedial action also includes follow-up inquiries with the subject of the complaint and witnesses to ensure that the discriminatory conduct has stopped and that they have not experienced any retaliation, as well as follow-up inquiries with the respondent to ensure that the respondent understands what behavior is expected and appropriate. Remedial action may also include training or other interventions for the larger school community to ensure that students, staff, and parents understand the types of behavior that constitute discrimination, that the District does not tolerate such behavior, and how to report it.
Students who are found to have engaged in discriminatory conduct may be subject to discipline up to and including expulsion. Disciplinary action of students may include oral warnings, written warnings, mandatory training, counseling, suspension, transfer, or expulsion. Such disciplinary action shall be in accordance with Board Policy, Administrative Regulation and state law. Suspension and recommendations for expulsion shall follow applicable law.
Staff members who are found to have engaged in discriminatory conduct toward students shall be subject to discipline up to and including dismissal. Disciplinary action of employees may include oral warnings, written warnings, mandatory training, counseling, suspension, transfer, demotion, or termination. Such disciplinary action shall be determined by site and District Administration in accordance with applicable policies, laws, and/or collective bargaining agreements. (cf. AR 4218 – Dismissal/Suspension/Disciplinary Action; Education Code 44932 et seq.)
Some student misconduct that has been regarded generally as bullying may also trigger the District’s responsibilities under one or more of the federal and state antidiscrimination laws covered in BP 5145.3. It is imperative that the school community understands the relationship between bullying and unlawful discrimination and how schools should respond. See, the October 2010 “Dear Colleague” Letter issued by the Office for Civil Rights, https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201010.html that provides a discussion of this relationship and how schools should respond to bullying and the August 2013 “Dear Colleague” Letter issued by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Service, https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/bullyingdcl-8-20-13.pdf that provides a discussion of school district responsibilities under IDEA with respect to bullying of children with disabilities.
Students who are in the protected classes identified in section 1 are particularly vulnerable to bullying and harassment and may be targeted based on their protected status, for example on the basis of their disability. Below are some examples of conduct that could constitute unlawful discrimination:
- Verbal: Hurtful or unwelcome name-calling, teasing, gossiping, making threats, making slurs or epithets, making rude noises, or spreading rumors.
- Nonverbal: Posturing, making gang signs, leering, staring, stalking, destroying property, insulting or threatening notes, using graffiti or graphic images, or exhibiting inappropriate and/or threatening gestures or actions.
- Physical: Hitting, punching, pushing, shoving, poking, kicking, tripping, unwanted sexual touching or touching of intimate body parts, sexual violence,7 blocking egress, strangling, hair pulling, fighting, beating, pinching, slapping, "pantsing," biting, spitting, or destroying property.
- Emotional (Psychological): Rejecting, terrorizing, extorting, defaming, intimidating, humiliating, blackmailing, manipulating friendships, isolating, shunning, ostracizing, using peer pressure, or rating or ranking personal characteristics.
- Cyber-bullying: Sending insulting or threatening messages by phone, e-mail, Web sites, or any other electronic or written communication. This policy pertains to cyber-bullying that is related to school activity or attendance and is directed toward a pupil or school personnel.
Students with Special Education or 504 services are also protected and governed by anti- discrimination laws, and the same Board Policies and Administrative Regulations apply to their reports or complaints. If an investigation determines that a student receiving special education or 504 services was the target of discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, intimidation or bullying, any actions to address the conduct should be tailored to the special needs of the targeted student. To the extent an IEP or 504 Plan needs reconsideration as a result, a meeting should be convened. Similarly, if the investigation determines that a student receiving special education or 504 services engaged in discriminatory harassment, intimidation or bullying, any related corrective action which may result in a change of placement requires a manifestation determination before any change of placement. If the student’s confirmed behavior was a manifestation of the disability, the District may still have a duty to implement an appropriate corrective plan short of a change in placement.
7 Unwanted touching of intimate body parts or other acts of sexual violence are considered sexual harassment. Examples of sexual harassment and prohibited conduct of a sexual nature are contained in BP 5145.7, p.3.
Occasionally, staff members become aware of a restraining order or a protective order involving students or employees. In such a case, staff members must immediately report their knowledge to the Principal/designee or the Superintendent so the District can determine how to address the content of the order. If the restraining or protective order is related to a report or complaint of discrimination, the Principal/designee shall immediately inform the District Compliance Officer. These reports should be made regardless if the order is meant to restrain or protect a member of the school community. After the staff member reports the matter to the Principal/designee or the Superintendent, the staff member must maintain the confidentiality of any student or personnel information related to the order. The District will notify the staff members who have a legitimate need to know about the order. If a staff member observes a violation of the order which involves a significant safety risk, is a crime or violates probation terms, the staff member should immediately notify law enforcement. For other observed violations, the staff member should report to the Principal/designee or Superintendent for handling.
The District has a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with the PAPD. The purpose of the MOU, among other things, is to describe the scope of services between the two entities. The MOU covers sexual misconduct matters which may also be criminal matters. The District and the PAPD have agreed to work together collaboratively and effectively when sexual misconduct is reported, and they recognize and respect that each party has different obligations under state and federal law. The point of contact between the District and the PAPD for sexual misconduct matters will be the District Compliance Officer.
Even if a report of sexual misconduct has been made to the PAPD or other law enforcement agency, employees still have a duty notify the Principal/designee within one school day regarding reports or complaints involving discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, intimidation or bullying.
It is our responsibility to follow state and federal law to protect our students from discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, intimidation and bullying so they can access our educational program. If any administrator or school site staff member has any questions regarding the applicability of this Guidance Memorandum to a particular situation or scenario, or if there are other questions about the District’s nondiscrimination policies and procedures, please contact the District Compliance Officer listed above.