DA dropping charges, but district plans to investigate Colombo


Greene Middle School is the site where Peter Colombo taught physical education as recently as January 2022. (Photo: Shreyas Shashi)

According to PAUSD Superintendent Don Austin, longtime middle school teacher Peter Colombo will be investigated by the Palo Alto Unified School District, despite the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office announcing plans to drop felony sexual assault charges against him.

In a Paly Voice sponsored press conference on April 28, Austin said the district attorney’s office has signaled its interest in dropping charges against Colombo but cannot officially do so until June 20 when Colombo will attend his next court hearing.

“The allegations are no joking matter,” Austin said. “The allegations are the most serious allegations you can have.”

Austin later said, “The day the allegations came forward, Mr. Colombo was removed from his teaching position on paid administrative leave, for the protection of students and for the protection of the individual with the allegations against them.”

The husband of former Greene Middle School student Jane Doe accused Colombo of sexually assaulting his wife during the 2001-2002 school year while Colombo was a physical education teacher and Doe was a student.

Colombo was arrested in June 2022, at which time the district placed him on unpaid leave. In April 2023, Colombo pleaded not guilty to the crime.

Before he was placed on administrative leave, Colombo served as the head coach for the Palo Alto High School boys’ junior varsity basketball team and an assistant coach for the Paly varsity baseball team, in addition to teaching physical education at Greene Middle School.

According to Palo Alto Online, the district attorney’s office stated it would be dismissing all charges against Colombo as a result of insufficient evidence. 

In addition to the allegation of sexual assault, a Palo Alto Online article mentions Colombo drew complaints in 2021 from parents who were concerned about inappropriate comments he allegedly made toward students.

Austin said the scope of the district investigation has not been determined yet. He also declined to speculate on scenarios in which the district might bring Colombo back to work.

“We have different standards than the legal system when it comes to what we need to look at,” Austin said.

Austin said he did not know if Colombo would be on paid or unpaid leave while the district completes its investigation.

“Our attorneys are going to guide us,” Austin said.