By the Daily Post staff
Court records indicate the Palo Alto Unified School District has tentatively reached a settlement with the family of a former middle school student, who alleged that a lack of supervision by district employees led to the boy being bullied and threatened with a knife by other students.
A notice filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court indicates a conditional settlement has been reached. The document doesn’t state what the conditions might be, but the school board is scheduled to discuss the case in a closed meeting tonight.
The lawsuit claims that starting in January 2016, the boy was harassed, bullied and physically assaulted by other kids at what was then known as Jordan Middle School, which has since been renamed Greene Middle School.
The alleged abuse included cyber-bullying, having his money stolen and having his pants pulled down in public, humiliating him.
The boy transferred to another middle school in the district.
When the suit was filed in 2017, the family’s attorney, Seth Rosenberg, did not specify the amount of money they are seeking.
“It’s about changing the culture, changing conduct,” Rosenberg told the Post in October 2017. “The money hopefully will persuade the school to take this stuff seriously.”
The suit follows a complaint that the boy’s parents filed with the district on May 20, 2016.
In that complaint, the boy’s parents allege that five other students had discriminated against, harassed, intimidated and bullied him based on his ethnicity, disability and age.
According to a letter from then-Associate Superintendent of Educational Services Markus Autrey, three other students who saw a boy brandish a knife at the plaintiff pulled him away to protect him. The plaintiff and the three witnesses reported the incident to then-Assistant Principal Jim Cox and then-Assistant Principal James Lubbe.
At one point, a student pulled the boy’s pants down in public, humiliating him. According to Autrey, the student responsible was disciplined and apologized to the boy.
Autrey’s position was eliminated at the end of December 2016.
In that letter from Autrey, he concluded that the district had found that the five named students had acted in a bullying and intimidating manner, but that they had not acted in a discriminatory manner based on ethnicity or disability.
In the course of the investigation, Autrey notes, “it was clear that certain processes and protocols regarding student discipline and investigations need to be reviewed and clarified.”
The boy’s parents also filed a complaint about Jane Miller, the boy’s student attendant, alleging that she had discriminated against the boy on the basis of race. The boy has a Hispanic last name.
“Although I did not find that Ms. Miller’s actions toward (the boy) rose to the level of racial discrimination, I did find that many of Ms. Miller’s interactions with students in general were unacceptable and unprofessional,” then-Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Scott Bowers wrote in a letter to the boy’s parents on Aug. 2, 2016. “I found that Ms. Miller’s approach in dealing with a variety of student situations were sometimes harsh and not supportive and understanding of the students. I also found that Ms. Miller would, at times, physically contact the students to redirect their efforts, which is unacceptable.”
Bowers wrote that he had met with Miller and told her to “deal with all students in a more respectful manner and to address those students who may be off-task or in need of redirecting in a more supportive and friendly manner and without any physical contact.”
Bowers wrote that he had also told administrators at Jordan Middle School, as well as the teachers in the classes where Miller supported students, to monitor her interactions with students to make sure that his directives to her were being followed.
The lawsuit alleges that Miller was not adequately trained, monitored or supervised prior to the bullying, leading to severe emotional distress for the boy.
Published at Tue, 22 Sep 2020 13:08:00 +0000