The Palo Alto Board of Education unanimously approved the hiring of Jason Krolikowski as director of student services on Tuesday evening, stating that they were confident district staff had properly vetted allegations made against him in a 2017 student free-speech lawsuit.
Nathaniel Yu, who was a 17-year-old San Ramon Valley High School junior at the time, alleged the school district violated his constitutional rights under the First Amendment when it disciplined him for his role in creating what his lawyers called "a James Bond-style parody video" in February 2017 during his campaign for student body president -- a video some criticized as Islamophobic.
Krolikowski was not principal of the school at that time and was not named as a defendant in the original lawsuit filed in 2017, but was added in an amended complaint filed in February 2018, according to court records.
The lawsuit alleged that Krolikowski, who became principal of San Ramon Valley High School in the fall of 2017, "failed to investigate, document, or to prepare an investigation report" when Yu reported incidents of vandalism and hate speech at the start of the 2017-18 school year. It also alleges Krolikowski and other administrators did not address Yu's reports of "threats of violence and death" made against his family on social media sites.
The San Ramon Valley Unified School District settled the lawsuit in April, awarding Yu $665,000 and later issuing a public apology.
Palo Alto Superintendent Don Austin, who requested that the item be pulled off the school board's consent calendar so it could be discussed, said during the virtual meeting that the incidents of vandalism and hate speech were in fact investigated, according to Krolikowski and confirmed by other district staff.
"Mr. Krolikowski's involvement in this case was a tiny sliver of an amended claim and by all accounts for everyone that we spoke to in positions to know, (he) acted the way they would have hoped and expected," Austin said.
Board members said they talked at length with Austin about Krolikowski's background and agreed to support the superintendent's recommendation to hire him. Board President Todd Collins said he reached out to people in the San Ramon Valley district who "knew about the investigation and all its details and independently was able to verify the facts that Dr. Austin presented."
"I'm confident these issues are not material and shouldn't concern us about Mr. Krolikowski," said board member Ken Dauber.
"Our job is to let staff do their jobs and staff is recommending to us that this is the person," echoed board member Jennifer DiBrienza. "The explanations we've been given satisfy me. I'm ready to see this person come and do a good job in this district."
Krolikowski's appointment in Palo Alto is effective Sept. 21. He will replace current director of student services Miriam Stevenson, who is "going into the private sector," Austin said.