Saying that the decision would protect both students’ rights, Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) has asked a judge to uphold the District’s decision to allow a male student to continue participating on the Gunn robotics team after a female member accused him of sexually harassing her.
According to an article on Palo Alto Online, the District made this request in response to a legal motion from the female student, who requested that the boy, her former boyfriend, be banned from the robotics team.
According to a timeline of the case on Palo Alto Online, in late spring of 2018, the female student went to Palo Alto police, alleging that the male student had sexually assaulted her twice in January 2018 when they were in a relationship. The boy denied the allegations to police.
Later on in the timeline, the female student filed a complaint with the school district in June, saying she was being sexually harassed by the male student.
PAUSD then launched a Title IX investigation and put in place no-contact order between the two students in place for the duration of the investigation. According to Palo Alto Online, Megan Miller, an attorney the District hired to investigate the case, concluded that the boy had sexually harassed the girl through verbal comments and text messages. Miller also investigated the girl’s claims that the boy had violated the no-contact order and later concluded that that had not happened.
According to Palo Alto Online, the results of the investigation led PAUSD to issue a directive that prevented the boy from participating in robotics for the remainder of the school year.
After the District’s decision, the boy’s mother filed for a hearing before a judge, seeking to overturn the District’s initial directive. According to Palo Alto Online, the boy’s mother attempted to block the District’s directive by filing a complaint with the California Office of Administrative Hearings, which focuses on solving special education disputes between families and school districts are resolved.
According to a timeline of the case on Palo Alto Online, on Jan. 22, PAUSD issued a new directive that would allow the boy to attend robotics with the accompaniment of a PAUSD staff member.
In response to the District’s change, the girl’s legal team wrote: “The District is essentially asking (the girl) to make an impossible choice — to choose either her safety or her access to education.”
The girl’s legal team has responded to the change in the boy’s punishment by asking the courts to reinstate the boy’s original ban from robotics.
The District now has the challenge of dealing with two laws put in place to protect the rights of both students involved — the gender-equity law Title IX and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that deals with special education students.
On Feb. 25, the District filed its response to the girl’s legal motion, requesting that the boy be allowed to participate in the robotics program.
Citing laws protecting the privacy of both students, district officials and school administrators declined to offer comments on the pending case.
The girl’s attorney’s are set to file a response this Friday.
Check thecampanile.org for further updates on the case.