OCR Letter Details Title IX Violations at Calif. School District

The district inadequately responded to allegations of teacher abuse and other sexual violence.

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights detailed the Palo Alto School District’s failure to respond to reports of sexual assaults and sexual harassment March 9.

The announcement follows a resolution agreement that was reached between the school district and the OCR earlier this month, reports Palo Alto Online.

That agreement stipulates that the school will update its policies regarding sexual assault and sex discrimination in addition to launching new investigations into previous cases the school mishandled. An independent law firm will handle those investigations.

Additional training on sexual violence response will also be provided for staff members.

Superintendent Max McGee said he was not surprised by the OCR’s findings and eager to create a safer environment for students in the district’s schools.

RELATED: Discipline of UC System Faculty Revealed in Hundreds of Sexual Misconduct Cases

The OCR’s letter of findings highlights a series of shortcomings in the district’s response to eight Title IX complaints.

Following several of those complaints, which included allegations of sexual violence, the district failed to promptly investigate or provide information to the students and teachers involved in the cases.

The district failed to conduct a Title IX investigation into allegations that former Palo Alto Senior High School Principal Phil Winston had sexually harassed students and staff members. An alleged teacher student relationship and another alleged teacher abuse case were also not investigated.

Charles Young, the district’s former associate superintendent and Title IX coordinator, also never reviewed Title IX complaints nor did he “discharge his responsibilities” to another employee.

In addition, OCR investigators found the district’s Title IX policies to be inconsistent and often not understood by staff members.

All of these problems were found to create a hostile environment for students in the district.

Read the full resolution agreement here.

Read Next: How Title IX Complaints are Handled by the OCR: A Step-by-Step Guide for Schools

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