PALO ALTO - Less than a month after 2 Investigates first uncovered a campus sex assault scandal within the Palo Alto Unified School District, the district now says more than a dozen alleged victims have since come forward with new reports of assaults at school.
We've also learned who will take over the job of reporting sexual misconduct claims to the federal government after the district admitted to dropping the ball.
District Title IX compliance officer Holly Wade walked out of a Palo Alto school board meeting so fast, a TV cameraman had to scramble to keep up. Despite repeated questioning, she kept her lips sealed, striding off without answering why, as compliance officer, she didn't launch a Title IX investigation last fall, after accusations of an attack on a 14-year-old girl inside a school bathroom.
Inside the meeting, her boss, Doctor Max McGee, pointed the finger at outside legal counsel.
"The attorney at the time advised that it wasn't a Title IX issue at the time. The attorney at the time advised that."
"And so that's why the decision was made not to go forward with a Title IX?" KTVU reporter Jesse Gary asked.
"Ah, I can't say because I wasn't involved in the decision, but I do know the attorney gave us that advice and we're not using that attorney anymore for investigations," said McGee.
This issue erupted following the 2 Investigates report where an unidentified 14-year-old girl says she was forced to perform oral sex in a bathroom at Palo Alto High School in October.
"[I'd] start crying when I heard his name or saw him," she told KTVU recently. "It really messed me up and it messed up my grades a lot."
The case was adjudicated in juvenile court, with a student athlete convicted of having oral sex with a minor.
After our report, he decided to not finish the school year on campus. But Holly Wade never launched a Title IX investigation into that attack, generating a firestorm of criticism from many parents.
"I think there are a number of people involved who didn't come forward to report properly and violated the law and didn't care for these victims and didn't protect our children," said parent Kathy Jordan.
District officials say over the past two months, the number of reported sexual misconduct cases has spiked to 15.
"These are investigations, interviews, information that's come forward that we have yet to determine," said Holly Wade, during the early morning special board meeting at district headquarters.
Some board members blame media coverage for the increase. Others say it's a sign students now feel safe coming forward. In an attempt to fast-track change, the district is trying to expedite the hiring of John DiPaolo, a Washington D.C. education attorney who would take over the Title IX compliance job when Wade leaves next week.
"This has been at the top of our priority list this year. In fact, we've put other important items on the back burner because this is really our top priority--the safety of our students," said Superintendent McGee.
Doctor McGee says going forward, anytime there's a report of sexual misconduct in the district, it will automatically initiate a Title IX investigation. As for Wade's replacement, officials hope Dipaolo will be on the job by June 12. If not, McGee will serve as superintendent and interim compliance officer until a permanent candidate is found.