Bay Area/ San Jose/ Family & Kids
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Published on May 26, 2023
Disabled Student & 2 School Employees Injured in Violent Incident at Palo Alto Middle School, Investigation LaunchedSource: Screenshot Palo Alto Unified School District / YouTube

In the wake of a shocking episode at Jane Lathrop Stanford (JLS) Middle School on May 5, 2023, where two school employees were violently attacked by a student, educators within the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) are demanding a review of existing policies and better support in managing student behavior. These calls for action came to a head during a PAUSD board meeting on May 23, as teachers implored the district to have a zero-tolerance policy for violence against staff and students.

The seriousness of the May 5 incident, where a female staff member was struck in the head with a folding chair and kicked by a student, while another staff member was punched in the face multiple times and bitten, has ignited pressing concerns over staff and student safety in the district, as reported by Palo Alto Daily Post.

Addressing the board, Palo Alto High School teacher Daniel Nguyen urged the district to take immediate and decisive action. "Now that we have your attention, the district must unequivocally declare it has zero tolerance for violence by committing to pass policies that remove anyone who attacks a staff member or student. That is a promise worth making. The community is watching. So are we," said Nguyen during the meeting.

PAUSD Superintendent Don Austin stated that although sharing any specific details regarding the May 5 incident would violate the privacy of the parties involved, a third-party investigation into the district's response to such incidents would commence around June 9, 2023, according to the Paly Voice. Austin explained that the purpose of the investigation is not to find fault or assign blame but to improve the existing system.

Beyond the investigation, the district is expected to adopt a series of actions as soon as this Friday (May 26), including the introduction of a consistent elementary social-emotional learning program and an investment in behavioral support positions, professional development for staff, additional on-site programs, a parent-education program and calendar, and work around digital citizenship, per Superintendent Austin's statement in the board meeting.

In addition, the Elementary Behavior Supports Ad Hoc Committee presented recommendations on reducing problematic classroom behavior during the May 23 board meeting, as reported by Palo Alto Online. These recommendations include assigning a behavioral intervention coach to each elementary school site, implementing consistent social-emotional learning programs and behavioral strategies, providing access and support from the behavioral team to all students, tracking student behavior, and offering ongoing staff training and parent education.

Public awareness of the May 5 incident comes amid a string of troubling incidents in Palo Alto schools, including a teacher being hospitalized by a student, a classroom fire, and a shooting threat, as detailed by the PA Daily Post. It remains to be seen how the district will respond to growing concerns for staff and student safety amidst these alarming events.