School district to implement new sexual misconduct education program

PALO ALTO — The Palo Alto Unified School District is devising an education program to confront sexual misconduct in its schools.

The Palo Alto Unified School District is finalizing plans for a new program to educate students about sexual harassment and sexual assault.

At an Oct. 10 meeting of the school district board, Interim Superintendent Karen Hendricks announced the education program alongside a plan to improve the school district’s response protocol to instances of sexual misconduct. The meeting was the first presided over by Hendricks, who was appointed to manage the school district following former superintendent Max McGee’s resignation on Sept. 29.

“We see this as a multi-pronged approach including education, awareness and engagement—the creation and sustainment of a caring community in our schools,” Hendricks said at the meeting.

The school district has been struggling to confront sexual misconduct since May, when news broke that a Palo Alto High School student had been accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student at school in October 2016. The same student had been previously found guilty of a felony charge of forced oral copulation, which occurred in October 2015 off school grounds. McGee’s handling of the on-campus incident drew criticism from parents, and a report by law firm Cozen O’Connor faulted McGee for failing to properly comply with Title IX requirements.

The plans for the education program will be given more definition by the newly-formed Superintendent’s Task Force, which is composed of representatives from student services and high school administrators. In the superintendent’s weekly message on Oct. 27, posted on the school district’s website, Hendricks wrote that the Task Force will also work to compile an inventory of the district’s efforts to fight sexual misconduct and provide a clear method for reporting incidents.

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