Wendi Wan, a senior associate producer for the television psychologist, has contacted school officials and the parents of at least two Palo Alto teens who have died by suicide in connection with the planned program. A round-table discussion was being arranged for Saturday in Palo Alto and a taping of the show is scheduled for Tuesday in Los Angeles — to which Palo Alto participants would be invited.
Many interpreted the bid from Dr. Phil as a veiled request to talk about the recent "cluster" of teen suicides and said they did not want to cooperate. The underlying concern is that such a prominent program could contribute to other deaths.
"It hasn't been our practice to allow media groups to report on the situation, or to make a comment on the suicides or have a story about them, and we don't see a reason to change it," school Superintendent Kevin Skelly told the Weekly Thursday.
Wan's e-mail does not specifically mention the suicides. It asks for "local Palo Alto-area teens and their parents" to participate in a discussion about pressures "from high school AP classes to college entrance exams, extracurricular activities, community work and more.
"We'll talk about how teens cope with stress and the toll that this pressure is taking on them," the e-mail said.
Wan's e-mail request has circulated among local parents, as well as medical and community members working to create a "safety net" for local teens following a spate of suicides at the Caltrain tracks over the past 10 months.
No one has directly asked the Dr. Phil producers not to do the show, but one person came close.
Rob deGeus, a city recreation manager who is coordinating a multi-agency response to the suicides called "Project Safety Net," circulated media guidelines from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
"Attached are the key messages Project Safety Net has developed," de Geus said in an e-mail.
The guidelines are "the primary message that I use when asking a reporter to not pursue a story."
Her e-mail seeks students and parents for a discussion in Palo Alto Saturday (March 6) to be followed by a taping with Dr. Phil "on this topic" Tuesday, March 9, in Los Angeles.
"We plan to invite some of the students and parents who participate in the round table discussion to appear on the show in L.A. too!" Wan's e-mail said.
Louis DiCenzo, spokesman for Dr. Phil Show producer and syndicator CBS Paramount, said the show is scheduled to be aired on Friday, March 12.
"We have reached out to parents in the area and the response has been very positive," he said.