New Palo Alto Title IX coordinator talks about campus assault scandal: 2 Investigates

PALO ALTO (KTVU) -- The Palo Alto Unified School District continues making changes in the wake of a campus sexual assault scandal first reported by 2 Investigates.

The district has hired John DiPaolo, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney to oversee the district's Title IX compliance. DiPaolo spoke recently to KTVU, his first public interview about the troubled school district.

2 Investigates revealed in May that a Palo Alto High School student-athlete had been convicted in juvenile court of a sex crime against a fellow student. But after it was reported, the district did not initiate a Title IX investigation as required by federal law.

It wasn’t the first case of alleged sexual assault uncovered by 2 Investigates that was not reported to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

District officials have now hired a new Title IX coordinator to oversee such cases and ensure administrators are complying with federal law. DiPaolo arrived at district headquarters after stepping off a red-eye flight from the East Coast earlier this month.

He's entering a district ripe for reform and will serve as the interim Title IX coordinator until a permanent replacement can be hired.

"Everyone I’ve met with has been fully cooperative. And everyone is fully committed to both doing this right, and meeting what I think are higher standards now being demanded in efforts in this area," said DiPaolo, sitting inside a small conference room inside district headquarters in Palo Alto.

The person who used to hold the Title IX coordinator position in the district was Dr. Holly Wade. She left the position on June 9 after 2 Investigates revealed that she failed to file investigations with the federal government after at least two alleged sexual assaults.

KTVU’s series of reports detailed how a Palo Alto High School student-athlete was convicted in juvenile court of having oral sex with a minor in a school bathroom last October. Since that initial report, more than a dozen additional allegations have been brought to light.

In 2015 another incident involved a female junior student who says she was sexually assaulted on the campus quad by a senior. Wade did not launch a Title IX investigation into that alleged campus attack either.

"We received verbal confirmation from the school, mea culpa, our fault kind of thing," said the girl's father, who spoke with 2 Investigates on the condition his identity would not be revealed. He has not previousl publicly discussed the attack on his daughter.

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The father says the accused student was allowed to continue on campus until he graduated in 2016, despite the district being under scrutiny by the federal Office of Civil Rights for the last four years for failure to report sexual assaults in a timely manner.

"They know what should and should not be reported,” he said. “There's a culture of let's see if we can keep it within the school. Maybe not even report it to the board."

DiPaolo would not discuss specifics about the cases, but said he's focused on investigating current cases and changing the reporting culture within the district.

"The degree of understanding and sophistication of responses in the K-12 level is not where it needs to be," DiPaolo said. "Sometimes there's a problem, speaking generally, of an issue coming in and school staff not recognizing that this is one where there needs to be a fairly intensive investigation."

DiPaolo says he's waiting until an internal review is complete before commenting on the district’s possible failures. In addition to reforming the culture within the district, he's also laying the ground work for the hiring of a permanent Title IX coordinator. That person is expected to be in place and on the job before the next school year begins.

By KTVU reporter Jesse Gary.

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