PALO ALTO, Calif. (KTVU) - Class is back in session for students, teachers and staff in the Palo Alto Unified School District for the 125th year. Following a spring of controversy, district officials pressed ahead with efforts to implement revised policies and procedures for reporting sexual assaults.
According to some students we spoke with, those efforts are already producing a different atmosphere. They say more teachers, counselors and visible security are on hand.
"I think this year they have it a lot better. they're on top of their stuff. so hopefully stuff will change," said Corey O'Farrell, a Palo Alto High School senior.
District officials spent the Summer revising, strengthening, and clarifying existing policies and procedures for reporting sexual assaults.
The move is part of its resolution agreement with the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. That office found dating back to 20-3, the PAUSD failed to take appropriate steps in a prompt manner in cases of alleged sexual assault.
In a series of 2-Investigates reports that began in May, we detailed how a Paly high school student-athlete was convicted in juvenile court of having oral sex with a minor in a school bathroom. But the district did not initiate a Title-9 investigation as required by federal law.
KTVU has learned mediation between lawyers representing that victim and the school district are scheduled for the first week in October. Fallout from that incident and other crimes has produced a palpable change on early on this school year...
"...there's just an air of caution with everybody this year that there didn't seem to be last year. I know a lot of the kids coming into the school this year heard about the stuff that happened last year and that made it a lot different for people coming in," said Palo Alto High School junior Anna Hetterley.
"the Palo Alto school board is set to vote to adopt revised policies and procedures at its next meeting, but some students we spoke to say even with that, it may not be enough the effects of a problem some say has become ingrained in the culture."
"I think it's always gonna happen we just gotta be careful...gotta be careful what you put out there, what you do, who you hang out with," said O'Farrell..
The district has a new online form for reporting all types of bad behavior including sexual assaults.
Officials start the first day of the new year dealing with the painstaking task of investigating 29 new sex assault allegations made just within the last two months of the last school year..