Palo Alto School District staff met the man who is temporarily taking over as the troubled district’s Title IX coordinator, in the midst of a campus sex assault scandal that rocked the community.
John DiPaolo’s hiring comes less than a month after 2 Investigates first uncovered a sex assault scandal at Palo Alto High School, in which a teen athlete accused in several incidents was still attending class and playing sports.
District officials admitted they did not launch a Title IX investigation, as required by law.
Wednesday DiPaolo arrived in the Bay Area not long after a late-night Palo Alto School Board meeting ended. By the next morning, he was inside district headquarters meeting with Superintendent Dr. Glenn “Max” McGee and district staff.
“He really just is taking time to get his arms around all the cases here and what his job will be, “ said McGee late Wednesday afternoon.
DiPaolo is an education attorney and Title IX expert who works for the law firm Cozen O'Connor, according to the firm’s website. The firm is on retainer with the district. He has previously worked for the U.S. Department of Education, as the deputy general counsel for post-secondary education, specializing in Title IX enforcement, according to his Linked In profile.
In 2015, DiPaolo was part of a task force that investigated how universities handled sex assault claims. That year he appeared in a Fox D.C. report about the investigation into a rape on University of Virginia’s campus.
"Ninety-five percent of violent crimes that occur on campuses involve alcohol abuse by one student or the other or both," said DiPaolo during a television interview about the case at the time. "So clearly alcohol is a problem on campus in general and it's a problem related to sexual assaults."
Based in Washington, D.C., DiPaolo is brought in to steady a district rocked by scandal. A 2 Investigates report last month uncovered an alleged sexual assault at Palo Alto High School. An unidentified 14-year-old girl said a male student-athlete forced her to perform oral sex in a school bathroom last October.
In juvenile court, the accused student-athlete was found guilty of having oral sex with a minor. After KTVU’s report, he decided not to finish the school year on campus.
The district’s Title IX coordinator at the time, Dr. Holly Wade, never launched a Title IX investigation as required by federal law. Her last day on the job will be Friday.
"It sounds to me like they're making up for lost time. This is something that should have been done a long time ago," said attorney Robert Allard, who specializes in representing sex abuse victims. "Sounds like what they're doing is revamping the entire philosophy that was previously in place at this school district. So his [DiPaolo’s] first job will be to educate, and then to look at everything that's happened in the past.”
Allard says he believes the district is making strides in the right direction to safeguard the well being of all its students, as demonstrated by hiring DiPaolo.
McGee agreed, adding the benefits of this working relationship could extend beyond the Palo Alto Unified School District.
"I'm hoping working with him is going to help our district first and foremost. But I think some of the lessons we learn here, frankly will help viewers in the bay area and beyond," said McGee.
DiPaolo will not relocate to the Bay Area from D.C. He will be here on weekdays through the summer as the district continues its search for a permanent Title IX coordinator. McGee hopes the complete that search and announce a hire before the next school year begins.