Putting Students First
Ken is a member of the Palo Alto Unified School District board, elected in 2014.
Coffee with Ken: Announcing My Weekly Office Hours
Beginning this Monday, September 28 I will be holding weekly “office hours” most Mondays from 6pm to 7pm at Palo Alto Cafe, 2675 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Come join me for a cup of coffee and conversation about whatever is on your mind about our schools! If you want to make sure that I will be there, send me an email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can check the Where’s Ken page for updates
A New Policy for LGBTQQ Students
This coming Monday, September 28, the Board Policy Review Committee (BPRC), on which I sit, will consider a proposed policy to protect and support LGBTQQ students in PAUSD. The meeting starts at 8:30am at the district headquarters at 25 Churchill Street. A committee of parents, teachers, and staff members has worked hard to produce a policy that will give all our students with safe and welcoming school environment regardless of gender identity, as required by law. In addition to moving the policy forward (the next step after committee approval will be the full school board), I am committed to providing for full implementation of the policy including education for students, training for staff, and ensuring that appropriate physical renovations are made. These include, for example, gender-neutral restrooms, showers, and locker rooms.
It's On Us
A year ago, the White House launched the “It’s On Us” campaign, which “recognizes that the solution to sexual assault begins with all of us. It seeks to reframe the conversation surrounding sexual assault in a way that inspires everyone to see it as his or her responsibility to do something, big or small, to prevent it.” The President has made the elimination of sexual harassment in our nation’s schools and colleges one of his highest priorities.
With this in mind, we can turn our attention to the situation here in PAUSD, where both of our high schools -- along with 40 other school districts and 124 colleges -- are currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for possible violations of Title IX, a federal law that protects students against sexual harassment, including sexual assault and dating violence.
The Paly Campanile published an editorial last Friday criticizing my request in May 2013 that OCR consider offering advice (called "technical assistance") to PAUSD on Title IX compliance. My request was prompted by serious allegations involving sexual assault and harassment at Paly. The allegations were first reported in a story in the Verde, a student magazine, in April 2013. The Campanile editorial was reprinted in the Daily Post on Monday.
The student editors particularly criticize the fact that I reached out to OCR for technical assistance rather than limiting my inquiries about the matter to PAUSD officials. They write:
“If a parent catches his or her child performing illicit acts, the typical reaction would never be to dial 911. Instead, the issue would be resolved within the family. The same can be said for concerns expressed by those affiliated with Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) regarding PAUSD’s improper handling of Title IX . . . The Campanile believes that Dauber acted inappropriately by contacting a federal office rather than pushing to first resolve the conflict within the district.”
This argument is troubling because it is inconsistent with the ethos of “It’s On Us.” It is also factually inaccurate. I discuss these issues below.
I’m happy to share that the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has determined that I have no conflict of interest under the Political Reform Act with respect to matters concerning the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR). This means that I may deliberate and vote on matters involving OCR that come before the school board. I expect that the board will soon discuss the two outstanding PAUSD cases: the OCR-initiated compliance review of handling of sexual harassment at Paly, and the complaint of stalking and dating violence at Gunn. I will continue to press for working with OCR to ensure that our students receive an education free of discrimination.
The FPPC regulates a range of issues related to elections and governing in California, from campaign finance to lobbyists to economic conflicts of interest. It is the governmental agency with authority to determine whether a local elected official has a prohibited conflict of interest. In August I asked the FPPC to review whether I have a conflict with OCR, after this issue had been repeatedly raised by other members of the board. I informed the FPPC about my previous consulting with OCR on educational data, and my advocacy in the community and on the school board for cooperating with OCR to protect the civil rights of our students. I released my letter to the FPPC and all of my correspondence with OCR staff on any matters involving Palo Alto on my website and provided them to the press.
Correcting the Daily Post
Over the last several days the Daily Post has devoted several articles and an editorial to arguing that I am responsible for the OCR complaints and investigations in Palo Alto over the past few years. The Post focuses on an email that I sent on May 29, 2013, to OCR asking that the agency consider offering PAUSD advice (called "technical assistance") about Title IX. I was concerned that the district did not understand its obligations under Title IX to investigate and respond to sexual assault and harassment at Paly, following the publication of the “rape culture” stories in the Paly Verde student magazine.
The Post Says: The Post says that I asked OCR to open an investigation into sexual harassment at Paly. The Post's headline reads "Dauber's email suggesting the Paly probe." The Post editorial cites my statement that "I think these facts should have triggered a Title IX investigation," and concludes "that statement doesn't line up with Dauber's claim that he wasn't behind these investigations."
The Truth: I did not ask OCR to open an investigation at Paly.
Save the 2,008, a campaign to improve the lives of Palo Alto high school students led by former Gunn teacher Marc Vincenti, is on the school board agenda for our upcoming meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Also on the agenda are the district's annual goals and an interim report on the budget that shows a sharp increase in anticipated property tax revenue for the district.
I'm also very happy that the Board adopted at our last meeting a change to the district homework policy that limits total homework for high school students to 15 hours per week, including advanced, AP, and honors classes. That gives teachers, students, and parents a clear expectation and sets a sensible balance. One of my top priorities will be ensuring that our homework policy is implemented with fidelity.
Save the 2,008
Save the 2,008 consists of a 6-point plan for changes in school practices around homework, communication about grades, class size, cell phone use, AP classes, and academic honesty. One of its virtues, from my perspective, is its focus on changes calculated make a meaningful positive difference in the experience of students in school. I have long been a strong supporter of looking for ways -- such as setting reasonable time guidelines for homework -- to reduce student stress and promote stronger learning and engagement in our high schools. I see "Save the 2,008" in that light, along with other plans, like the "Supportive School Environments" component of the original Project Safety Net Plan, that also stress concrete changes to improve the everyday lives of our students. I'm looking forward to a robust discussion at the board meeting, and I appreciate the commitment, sense of urgency, and civic engagement that Mr. Vincenti and hundreds of Palo Alto community members are bringing to this issue. I hope you will be there.
||Supporting each student's intellectual, social and emotional development. Read more...
||Reducing school overcrowding and creating positive learning environments by reopening closed schools. Read more...
||Preparing students with 21st century skills including foreign language instruction for all elementary school students. Read more...
||Making decisions based on data and best practices, in an inclusive, collaborative and responsive process. Read more...
Ken would love to hear from you! You can email him at email@example.com or give him a call at 650-906-4340.