Palo Alto High School administrators said they were upholding the law that required them to continue educating a student who has been convicted for one count of sexual assault and one misdemeanor of consensual sex with a minor stemming from three separate incidents. Two of the incidents did not occur on school campus or to or from campus, according to police reports.
The incident that occurred on campus was not ruled a sexual assault, but a misdemeanor by the court. Neither expulsion nor suspension were considered because the offense that occurred on campus was ruled a misdemeanor, according to court documents.
“[What] is really important for people to understand is there was never a conviction or charge for sexual assault on this campus. There has not been a sexual assault on this campus this year that has been reported to us. The other incidences that we became aware of this spring happened to non-Paly students.
Paly Principal Kim Diorio
Facing criticism from the community for allowing the accused student to continue attending Paly, administrators emphasized that the suspect did not meet the criteria for suspension or expulsion detailed by the Education Code 48900: only if committed or attempted sexual assault or sexual battery occurred “at any time while on school grounds, going to or coming from school, during lunch, whether on or off campus and during or while going to or coming from a school-sponsored activity.”
The incidents — one at a house party, another in a church bathroom and the third, most recently, in a Paly bathroom — were publicized on KTVU Fox 2 News on May 10 in an investigative report.
Since then, the student has left the school and the baseball team and has chosen to pursue education outside of Paly campus.
Due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the rights and privacy of minors, the district is unable to release the name of the accused student.
The most recent incident occurred in October 2016 inside a boys bathroom on Paly campus.
In an interview with KTVU, a Paly freshman said she first met the suspect in her Spanish class. She said the two had become “friends” before the assault occurred.
According to her accusation, the nature of the friendship changed from platonic to sexual after the suspect started touching and stalking her without her consent.
The suspect also allegedly sent her nude photographs of himself via Snapchat.
Soon after, the two met up in a boys bathroom on campus, where the suspect allegedly forced her to perform oral sex.
“I was very shaken,” said the girl in an interview with KTVU. “I couldn’t speak. I was very confused as to what I just let happen.”
According to the suspect’s attorney, the student was convicted of a misdemeanor — having consensual underage sex — for the incident at Paly. KTVU had originally reported, erroneously, that the charge was a felony of sexual assault.
“Although the student in question has been in compliance with all court orders… and the district attorney’s office has declined to file anything against the student other than consensual underage sexual activity as a result of the conduct on campus, the student has elected not to complete the school year on campus.
Attorney Stephanie Rickard
One of the earlier incidents of sexual assault transpired in a church bathroom in October 2015 with a girl who was then 15 years old.
The suspect was convicted of the felony charge “oral copulation by force, violence, duress, menace or fear” in juvenile court.
Following the incident, the victim, who currently attends Menlo-Atherton High School, said she received a letter from the suspect apologizing for his actions, according to KTVU.
According to a written submission to KTVU from a third alleged victim, a separate alleged incident of sexual assault occurred at a house party in Redwood City in January 2016; a police report has been filed, although no charges have been brought, according to the mother of the girl, who was interviewed in the KTVU report.
The KTVU report had multiple inaccuracies, causing unnecessary community concern. One of the inaccuracies was that the incident on campus was an assault, but in fact it was deemed consensual by a judge.
Diorio appeared on InFocus, Paly’s live broadcast program, on May 15 to notify students of additional counseling and available staff able to provide support in both the Wellness Center and Guidance Office.
Additionally, the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education took action at the May 16 special meeting to hire a law firm to look into the way district administrators, including Diorio, Superintendent Max McGee and Chief Student Services Officer Holly Wade, handled the investigation.
This story will be continuously updated on www.thecampanile.org.