Former robotics teacher sues school district alleging harassment, homophobia and bullying by parents

Palo Alto High School
Palo Alto High School

This story was originally printed Oct. 21 in the Daily Post. If you don’t want to miss out on important local stories, pick up the Post in the morning at 1,000 mid-Peninsula locations.

By the Daily Post staff

Former Palo Alto High School robotics teacher Kathleen Krier is suing the school district, alleging she faced homophobia and other bullying behavior from parents while the district did nothing to help.

Superintendent Don Austin declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Krier resigned in 2018 after being placed on paid leave during an investigation into student complaints against her. Three robotics captains, two team parents and a boosters volunteer said at an October 2018 school board meeting that she harassed and bullied students.

Former team build captain Lawrence Chang said Krier made “a lot of direct insults toward me and the team in general about how we’re giving her such a hard time.”

Former robotics co-captain Bryan Yang said Krier had made the team feel “intimidated, scared and bullied,” leaving them with a sense of anxiety when going to the robotics lab. Krier threatened to call security on Yang, and threatened to kick him off the team three times, said former co-captain Jennifer Xu.

Harassed over diversity push

Krier tells a different story in a lawsuit filed in August in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

The suit says when Krier was hired to work at Paly in August 2018, she was told by administrators that the lack of diversity on the robotics team was a problem that she needed to help fix.

The suit says the robotics team boosters helped fuel this lack of diversity by charging high club fees, requiring that meetings be held in the evenings making them inaccessible to kids relying on the bus and by exerting influence over who got to be a captain. Krier claims the boosters harassed her because she was trying to make the team more diverse.

Krier claims that during a meeting to introduce her to students, one of the booster officers referred to her as “him” and “he,” which was offensive to Krier as a woman and a lesbian.

Krier said that on Aug. 15, 2018, she went to her office and found that her gay pride rainbow flag had been broken and put in the trash. She alleges that the boosters encouraged student complaints against her. The school district should have known that the boosters’ conduct placed employees at risk of harassment, according to the complaint.

Krier wants at least $450,000 as well as attorney’s fees. Besides resigning from her job, she said she incurred substantial expenses leaving her rent-controlled apartment in Berkeley and leasing an apartment in Palo Alto. The lawsuit says she suffered mentally because of her experience at the district.


  1. She isn’t the first coach or teacher to be hounded out of the district because of pushy parents and wimpy administrators. This is a real problem for PAUSD.

    • From what I remember in 2018, the administrators kept pushing off student concerns. Students and parents said that’s why they took it public after several weeks.

      I’m sure the robotics kids weren’t always the nicest to the coach. Definitely reads like she felt that way. But her approach to coaching also seemed problematic. Everything handed down from administration and no opportunity for anyone else to provide input. And policies constantly changing. Pretty sure both her and the administrators were new at the time so it’s not like they were really familiar with the program either.

      Also the diversity push, while I think well-meaning, does appear wrong. Limited number of spots but accepting students on the basis of race/gender effectively creates a race/gender-based requirement for those spots. Given the current state of affirmative action laws in CA, I don’t think this is legal. Maybe that’ll start to change in a few weeks. Wonder who was pressuring her to do this though.

  2. why is it ok to have a rainbow flag but not a religious flag.
    school should be free of political flags except the american flag.

    from BBC:
    ” the rainbow flag is among the best-known political symbols in the world. The six-bar rainbow flag is regularly flown and held aloft in demonstrations in cities …”
    from instyle:
    ” Today, the rainbow flag is also used to express political solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community. For example, after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, the White House lit up with the rainbow hues in celebration. During Pride month, many organizations also deck their halls with rainbows.

    • the pride flag is a symbol of basic civil rights. it 100% has a place in our community. basic civil rights aren’t political.

      the fact that someone accessed her office and broke her flag is awful. i don’t understand how they got in though. teacher offices at Paly have locked doors.

      still, totally uncalled for. if the person really had a problem with it, they should have used their words instead of destroying her property.

  3. I recall that Pausd hired the teacher to teach the computer science classes w o the proper and required certification. And that she made racist, discriminatory remarks to the students in the robotics team. That prompted them to complain and their parents to complain as well. Too bad it happened, but racist remarks by an educator denigrating students is not ok.

  4. the teacher’s flag shouldn’t have been broken, period. but i don’t understand a lot of things stated here and it doesn’t align with the stories i’ve heard. other team members have said she just wouldn’t listen to them and kept saying that admin said they had to do this and that even though they didn’t really know how the team worked.

    the pronouns thing makes me angry, but like also how does this happen at a team meeting and not get called out. i think many of us would have said something. maybe the parent was a non-native speaker because then we might not have said something since they weren’t trying to be rude.

    also how would robotics boosters get away with charging fees to be on the team? last year the boosters asked for a donation. i feel bad for this teacher but also like some of the stuff seems questionable.

  5. From what I understand, the teacher didn’t have the required certification to teach computer science, but PAUSD hired her anyway, and uncovering that is what led to her resignation.

    Also, I understood that the teacher made racist, discriminatory comments to student team members, who then submitted complaints. Their parents simply supported them in the face of a hostile, discriminatory environment, is what I understood to have happened.

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