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on Aug 28, 2013
Thank you for this detailed report on the school board meeting.
I am pleased that this report appears to contain much of the discussion from the meeting and not just one or two topics that the reporter felt was worth reporting on and not mentioning the other topics. For those of us who often attend the meeting but can't always attend all of the them or for the full meeting, it is important that we can read a good summary in the local press.
Wow, i can't believe this School board would ask someone their legal status in this situation. This board is out of touch and incensitive. No wonder there are so many discrimination complaints for the district.
That's because they didn't.
I have to disagree with the first poster above. A news story should not be just a write up of everything that happened with no real organization and order of priority. That's typing not journalism. Journalists have the job of taking the many things that happen and deciding which of these has news value, not presenting the reader with a randomized or choronoligical report of every event, no matter how significant or unimportant.
It's news that special education parents are protesting racism and national origin discrimination at a board meeting. It's not news that Kim Diorio brought her young children to the board meeting.
It's news that a 2013 Gunn graduate made a very serious suicide attempt [portion removed.] To present that fact, of serious concern to the community with no reporting, no follow up, just a throw away line among a random collection of facts about construction, focused goals, streaking, etc. -- is disrespectful tot he family's pain, and disregards the community's fear and anguish over these events. It has the effect of normalizing suicide among Gunn students -- this summer we had some debate competitions, college app workshops, and a student tried to take his or her own life. We're working on that.
What does that mean and why is it coming from the student board representative rather than from Katya Villalobos or Kevin Skelly? Does this call into question the fact that the school board and district staff decided not to improve Gunn's counseling system? What is being offered to the students at Gunn in the way of support? It sounds based on the report of the student board rep, who gave an absolutely scathing report about Gunn counseling (interestingly, not reported here) like counseling is still in need of serious improvement at Gunn. [Portion removed.]
One more thing -- another thing that journalism is supposed to do is present context for the facts that are recounted in stories. So, in the case of the special education family's protest, here are the facts: the family stated that they are low-income and Latino. A district official commented on their socioeconomic background and asked them if they had papers.
This question violated federal law: Web Link
The family may choose to file a federal complaint. At the board meeting, a family member stated that the family understands that its civil rights have been violated by this question and by the lack of translation services and the lack of adequate opportunity to participate.
In a dispute of this sort, there is much context that is missing that would help the reader to understand this conflict. One piece of missing context is that it violates federal law for school officials to ask about immigration status. In 2011, DOJ and DOE together issued a joint advisory to schools informing them that it was unlawful to inquire about immigration status. Yet PAUSD inquired in this case, and also commented on the family's language and origins. This legal violation indicated possible bias and intentional discrimination.
What is some other missing context? PAUSD has a history of placing minority children into special education at a vastly disproportionate rate. See: Web Link
When students of color are placed into special education based on race or national origin rather than on need, they are labeled and stigmatized and they do not receive the education to which they are entitled. PAUSD is on a performance plan with the state because of its severe disproportionality in special education. The family of this student stated that they wanted to participate in the student's education but they cannot understand the documents. Who can blame such a family for feeling suspicious that perhaps their student does not need the services that the district is recommending, or that perhaps the student has been over or mis disagnosed, due to racism, when district officials ask them for their papers in violation of federal law?
This context is missing.
Another piece of context that is missing is that the district has absolutely fouled its own nest in its relations with special education families. There are now 3 pending OCR complaints from special education students, a finding against the district, a damages suit, and an unreported number of due process cases in which the district is suing familiies to force them to accept diagnoses and placements with which they disagree.
In the case of a Latino family, such a suit feels oppressive, and may well be the result of racism and disproportionality.
These facts deserve to be reported with the context of the federal and state law, the district's history of disproportionality, and the family's right to participate. The community should not have to wait for a multi-story cover package in order to be able to read a news story that includes context. This scattershot rendering of context-less facts is not news.
I respectfully disagree with the previous poster - That's the news.
I do think it is important to have an overview of the meeting. That is reporting.
I also think it is important to have in depth coverage of the topics.
Unfortunately, when we get to talk about in depth coverage, my idea of what is important may be different from yours. That is why it is important to cover both.
The streaking incident received a lot of coverage in the local news media, but as for a news item, it was never covered by PAW.
The attempted suicide was generally known about by the students through their social media, but parents have been left in the dark about such things and there is a valid discussion point as to whether rumors should be dispelled by school authorities when they are out there and misinformation is being touted as facts by our kids.
The protestors who are now publically protesting have made their case public and the anonymity factor has been changed as a result. They are choosing to speak which is their right and their protests should now be publicly reported.
The accountability of previous goals was mentioned by parents and that should also be mentioned plus the fact that the board wanted to hear about how these past issues are still being dealt with.
I agree, the fact that someone brought their toddlers along is not necessarily headline news.
For a reporter to have picked and chosen which is the most important topic for PAUSD parents is not part of the job. That can be done in an indepth report on the upcoming school year or an editorial. What should be reported on is the various topics covered. An unbiased report of events is what many of us expect from our local newspaper.
Your questions are valid and should be covered, but that does not take from the overview information provided above.
Dr. Skelly is right. What the Board will be focused on this year is the calendar, Cubberley, implementation of the new Graduation Requirements (and the impact on A-G attainment) and improvements to the high school guidance programs. Unfortunately the draft of the Board Focus Goals did not make mention of ANY of these important issues. Without Focus Goals, staff is left to set their own policy and agenda without strategic direction or oversight.
The draft set of Focus Goals presented last night did not contain any measurable outcomes so the community will not be able to know if a goal has been attained. Any "metrics" included in the deck were activities like - staff development or meeting minutes. Even Dr. Skelly noted that this is a step backward from the previous year where the focus goals included targets and measurements.
It is important not only to set targets and measurements but to track and report on progress against these targets. Melissa asked for a calendar of when staff would present a report to the Board on each goal area. Good. But how will we know if progress is being made without a benchmark?
Parents, teachers and community members participated in the homework committee, the Gunn Advisory Committee and in Tasting Day (School Lunch). Each of these committees agreed on specific recommendations. Where is the follow-up? The Board asked for community input, members of the community spent a lot of time coming back with thoughtful and consensus driven recommendations and now none of these topics are part of the Focus Goals.
In addition, the pain in the community from families with Special Education students and from the Gunn student body in the wake of another suicide attempt is not addressed.
I don't think this Board is responsive to the needs of their constituents.
> In addition, the pain in the community from families with
> Special Education students and from the Gunn student body
> in the wake of another suicide attempt is not addressed.
Pain in the community? [Portion removed.] And since when is an attempted suicide over the summer the community's fault, or concern? What about the family where this child lives? Why isn't this a family problem?
> I don't think this Board is responsive to the needs
> of their constituents.
Maybe, but when their constituents don't really know what they want--best not to respond to every demand, or shift of opinion.
I watched part of the meeting and I was very surprised that not a single board member even expressed condolences to the family of the child who attempted suicide or asked what measures were being taken at Gunn to provide support. They didn't ask how the child is doing and they didn't ask Dr. Skelly for any report on crisis counseling. They just said nothing. They also didn't express any interest in finding out why the protesting family was asked for papers by staff. The sister was crying and they didn't offer any words of concern or comfort. As human beings they get an F. As board members, F-.
My main takeaway from watching the meeting is that making counseling at Gunn as good as at Paly is not going to happen. There is no focused goal about counseling this year. As Ken Dauber said in his comments, last year the board set a goal of comparable services between the high schools at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year. In other words, today. Skelly and Gunn staff kept up their resistance to teacher advisory, and the board (Dana Tom in particular) folded up in the spring and gave in.
The sad part was watching the Gunn student rep on the board recount waiting in line for 6 hours on the first day of school to see a counselor, and then listening to the board members praise him for being "articulate".
That about sums it up.
They mentioned streakers but not the boys that were caught drinking alcohol and suspended at Paly? It's been a great start of the year over at Paly. Maybe the early start date is throwing kids off.
[Portion removed.] I know we live in a privileged town and these folks might feel entitled to their position, but to work against others as enemies never brings desired outcomes. Working alongside each other in a spirit of collaboration and mutual respect builds greater success. This is how we teach our kids to work together with others, why should should adults be any different? After all the work we have done in the district schools with playground bullying, I just don't know why we as a community should tolerate it among adults.
I do wonder why the news media--PA Weekly--or others are not reporting on the suicide attempt this summer. Every bit of information has come as hearsay or rumor through social media and I think it is not good for our students to hear silence from their community or from their school.
One of the protesters being a serial protester, I am quite suspicious of that person. What are the real motives of someone who is constantly protesting?
Love that point about serial protestors. Seems particularly appropriate on 50th anniversary of MLK speech. What a crank that guy was!
And also, how is the attempted suicide of someone after they graduated the responsibility of the schools? Parents need to look in the mirror here. Everything that happens to every young person in Palo Alto cannot always be the fault of the school district. How about parental responsibility?
That's the News from Lake Woebegone,
I don't see where the Dept of Education/Justice letter you mentioned says what you say it says (you: "it violates federal law for school officials to ask about immigration status"). It reads much narrower than that.
Could it be that the district asked to try to help the student? There are federally-funded programs and services, like Medicaid, which the family might have wanted to apply for that are not available to undocumented immigrants.
No one said it was the responsibility of the schools. No one said anything about causality in this case. What I and others questioned was the support being made available to students in the wake of this event. This student was a senior last year. Many students at the school know this student and know about what happened. What support is being given those students? Are you saying that you think that the school has no role to play in giving support and crisis intervention to students who are impacted by the suicide or attempted suicide of a classmate?
It is illegal for schools to ask about immigration status. Whether Dr. Milliken had good or bad motives for asking that question is irrelevant. It is unlawful to inquire about immigration status. There are good reasons for that, but the bottom line is the law applies here, even in Palo Alto.
The joint DCL on immigration bars "practices that may chill or discourage the participation, or lead to the exclusion, of students based on their or their parents' or guardians' actual or perceived citizenship or immigration status. These practices contravene Federal law." The letter goes on to state that "the undocumented or non-citizen status of a student (or his or her parent or guardian) is irrelevant to that student's entitlement to an elementary and secondary public education."
In the FAQs accompanying the letter, it specifically states that district staff should specifically not ask for immigration papers, which it identifies as a practice that has a "chilling effect" on enrollment.
It violates federal law and discriminates on the basis of race and national origin for schools to ask for immigration papers. Period. The. End. [Portion removed.] The district created this totally unnecessary mess, once again, by having a "very sophisticated staff" that failed to know and understand and follow the law.
You left a few key words at the beginning of the sentence: "We have become aware of student enrollment practices...".
While I agree that the question should not have been asked, I would also agree that it seems the question cannot be asked in terms of qualifying students for enrollment. The article doesn't imply that the question can never be asked.
It was a bad idea to ask. Only makes PAUSD look more inept at some basic commons sense judgments in communications and decisions. BTW - the article said "District official"...which implies it wasn't a BoE member?
Whatever the issues are for the student, I hope that both parties can reach a mutually beneficial agreement without much more delay.
As much as I haven't agreed with Mr. Dauber's behavior and antics in the past, I have to agree with him in that if the district does not offer metrics on last year's goals....then why bother? This is basic stuff.
"Whether Dr. Milliken had good or bad motives for asking that question is irrelevant."
You assume he asked it.
@CPD: I didn't leave that off. The point of the Justice Department memorandum is to inform districts that asking for papers or asking about immigration status has a chilling effect on the ability of children to receive an education (as the FAQ makes clear). Even if the district doesn't have the requirement of being a documented resident as part of its enrollment policy, asking for papers can have the effect of discouraging a family from enrolling children -- if they don't have papers they can be come very afraid at such a question.
Asking for papers of Latino families is also, in addition to being unlawful according to DOJ/DOE a form of racial profiling and is highly racist and insensitive. Do we ask the many Asian, South Asian, Israeli, and Russian families in PAUSDF if they have papers? I am guessing that this is treatment that is reserved for our Latino citizens. It is a form of national origin discrimination. Latino residents experience this as a form of racial targeting or discrimination. It is unwelcoming and suggests that the family is trying to obtain services to which they are not entitled.
I agree with you that "it was a bad idea to ask." It was Michael Milliken who asked not a board member. But no board member reacted at the meeting or even asked for any information about why that happened and whether staff needs more training to ensure it doesn't continue to happen.
I disagree that Dauber has made any "antics." He has always been highly respectful and calm. I think the fact that he holds views you don't agree with doesn't equal "antics." He was way more respectful of the staff and board than the calendar people, for example. I have no problem with criticism of candidates for office but I didn't see any "antics."
"discourage the participation, or lead to the exclusion" refers to ENROLLMENT and that is because all children in the US are entitled to a public education (must be allowed to enroll in school). The paper reports that the district is working hard to get the child to come back to school, so this is not a situation where a school wants to keep the child out.
As I mentioned before, many federal aid programs are only available to US citizens and so that status is relevant to groups, like schools, trying to help families ID which services can help their kids. I understand that certain federal programs actually require schools to collect and report that info before they can get funding too.
An "attempted suicide" or maybe a cry for help from a recent graduate is a sad event. We hope this young adult's parents have arranged therapy for their son or daughter from among the talented local professionals equipped to assist them and their young adult. I feel sorry for the pain this person and his/her family have & are experiencing.
The event occurred this summer, and off-campus apparently. Why should this family's pain & suffering be discussed with current students via "counseling"? It violates family & personal privacy. There's a pretty widely known tendency of many teens to over-dramatize events. Counseling offered now by PAUSD, well after the event, will draw unjustified attention & feed the melodrama. Friends of the would-be victim have already had time to talk about it with parents or other concerned adults. Those who weren't close enough to the would-be victim to do that don't need to be dragged into the other family's pain & suffering by proxy. [Portion removed.]
One would think that the talented local professionals you reference would be available to provide crisis, trauma and grief support to friends of the student without creating drama or violating privacy.
It is tremendously discouraging to see these kinds of uninformed comments. One of our students jumped from a 20 story building. That is not a cry for help. Students already know about it, and are probably confused and scared. The right solution is to offer counseling and intervene with education and more QPR and other training. Those students most likely to feel responsible and affected are those who already suffer from depression and anxiety, those in SOS and ROCK, those who saw the facebook and social media posts about this, and close friends. But something like this effects an entire community. Not offering support under the guise of "not dramatizing" is a cruel statement [portion removed] -- it's a private matter that has nothing to do with the community.
I'm not even sure how much the editor will decide to allow or why because the rules about what can be discussed by whom are totally unclear. I am sure our students are taking note of that fact too, and just not talking to adults but only among themselves. How does that help them? Parents, ask your Gunn students about this and see if they have been affected and if they want to talk to someone.
Did anyone from the non-English speaking family ask for a translator? That's easy enough to do, starting with "No comprende. En espanol, por favor." The daughter could have made that request. I know there are Spanish speakers among the faculty & staff on every campus in PAUSD. Were any of these people asked to read, summarize, or direct them to translation services?
Yes, PA mom.
Since the unpublicized event occurred during the summer, help for friends would have been appropriate during the summer, don't you think? How can professionals offer their assistance if they don't now about it? This incident was kept out of newspapers & public, not social, media, so someone, maybe the victim & family, hoped for privacy?
Never heard about the PA student jumping from a 20 story building. Clearly didn't happen locally since we don't have any buildings that high. Maybe that's why our local
paper didn't report it? That is tragic, for everyone who cared for this person. As a mom, did you discuss it with your student & his friends? Did you contact anyone to suggest counseling was needed? Did you contact the grieving family to offer them help? If so, you did the right thing. If not, blaming the schools for not offering counseling is a cheap shot.
I couldn't disagree more with all of your comments. Students know about this incident and deserve support. School-based mental health services should be offered. Students just returning from break may be just finding out. What students discuss with each other, the rumors, the gossip, the fears that they don't discuss -- all of that makes it imperative to get support to those students. Those most likely to be vulnerable are those least likely to talk to anyone. [Portion removed.] Family privacy is very important but it's not the only consideration in a public health situation.
Did a District official actually ask the family if they were in the country illegally or did they ask if the family were legal residents of Palo Alto? Parents are required to prove that they are legal residents of Palo Alto before their kids are enrolled. There are many families that try to send their kids to PAUSD using questionable addresses (for example, Buena Vista's head count of kids was about 75 while the District shows over 100 students using those addresses.
I believe the family that is protesting has kept their student out of school because they thought they student was being bullied by teachers and students. Sending a truancy officer to talk to the family could have also been misinterpreted.
Regarding the attempted suicide, it would be wonderful to provide support to the students BUT it is not news, it is not up to the Weekly or any other publication to inform us unless that family wishes to share the information.
No, it was not proof of residency. It was "you speak spanish with a rural accent. Do you have papers?" It was exactly and precisely what the Department of Justice says you should not do because it could (and in this case probably did) have a chilling effect on the child's ability to get an education. If someone asked me that in that way I would be afraid and worried that the district did not want my child or my family in the school. The district has much work to do to repair the broken trust with this family. Dr. Skelly should meet with them and apologize for this insensitive question and try to get to the bottom of what the student needs to get an education rather than sending police and lawyers. These are good people who love their child very much. They want what we all want. They are like everyone else. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and "show me your papers" is not dignity or respect.
AMEN to that. TURNING our faces from the homeless and the poor is NOT what our elected officials were elected FOR.
Doesn't anyone question Kevin Skelly's motives and peculiar priorities? He says and does strange things out of left field--what is wrong with his thinking? [Portion removed.]
Lake W, @pa mom and Gunn mom,
If what you report is true - that the teen already graduated - are you saying that our high schools need to provide information and counseling support to grads who are now at 100 + colleges across the US? Seems like that would be virtually impossible to do. Those colleges are set up to provide counseling to new students in need, not PAUSD.
For those upset that this "news" has not been reported, follow their lead. Project Safety Net - our towns' social service child experts which includes PAMF and Stanford's Packard - warns: "Media coverage . . . can be key contributors to contagion."
As for who to reach out to and help: "Immediate evaluation and counseling of close friends, siblings and important adults in the teen's life should be made available." It does not say schools need to provide this help and it does not say that the help must extend, as you say, to the "entire community."
As for the details which pa mom has posted, per Project Safety Net, sharing that information is ill-advised too.
"you speak spanish with a rural accent. Do you have papers?"
Again, where is your proof of this. Has Dr. Milliken confirmed the question was asked? Does Dr. Milliken actually know what a "rural Spanish accent" sounds like? Your "word for word" quote sounds less and less believable.
I feel very concerned about a private matter (suicide attempt of a recent Gunn grad) being disseminated in the online media in this fashion. Perhaps these posts should be deleted?
I don't think it's private if its announced at a school board meeting. There are public health concerns. What is being done for students? How can we know that students are being helped? Last spring there was an on campus suicide attempt. Nothing was said to parents. Now this and again nothing until a student board rep announced it [portion removed.] It was announced. But what is being done?
Skelly has got to go and we need a whole revamping of the school board. It is a disgrace that my taxes are going to pay for FF and F legal counsel and public relations people.
Barbara Klausner was the only school board member in recent memory to speak out for the things our kids need.
I agree that the people who should be picketed are the school board members. They are protecting Mr. Skelly for some unknown reason. Maybe it is just to save face and nothing more. [Portion removed.]
Where are those WCDBPA people when you need them. I wish I had paid more attention to what Ken Dauber was saying when he was calling for transparency from the district high mucka muckas. Enough is way too much. [Portion removed.] Our kids deserve better.
Not disseminating news of suicides or suicide attempts needs to be revised in the case of Palo Alto schools, otherwise what there is now an ongoing effort to hide or mask what could potentially be a serious health crisis in the community.
The police and the media need to balance the effort to not sensationalize, with the right for parents to know what is going on. We get robo-calls when a mountain lion is on the prowl, the mental and emotional health of the students is also important.
I have heard of the suicide attempt at the gym at Gunn this Spring, was anything printed about his? Now a Gunn graduate, an attempt? or a suicide?
The kids KNOW because they know someone who was a friend, or was in a sport with them, or a neighbor, and they talk. But they are not talking to the parents about it.
That's not healthy.
Consider at least an annual review of the suicides or attempts because it is extremely sick if this is all hidden. Two attempts in a few months from the same school, this is not important information?!?!?
Thank you concerned parent, for your true words.
I wish the Weekly would change the headline for this story and consider editing it. Saying that "toddlers and protesters" "added sound and color" to the board meeting trivializes and infantilizes the concerns about discrimination and equity that were being talked about. Frankly the Weekly should be embarrassed.
Like it or not, if a person who unsuccessfully attempted suicide does not want their story out in the open, that is their private business. It is not your business and it is certainly not the Weekly's business. That person has a right to privacy - especially when it involves that person's mental health. Unless there is something on the public record (i.e., a police report), you should all stay out their personal lives.
> unbelievable that someone asked if these people
> were in the country legally ..
Something has gone very wrong in the US (our country), when people can stroll across the border, and use the law to strong arm a school district to pay for special education needs for children that very well may not be US citizens.
This situation goes back to a case adjudicated by the Supreme Court, in the early 1980s--
Plyler vs Doe.
Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a state statute denying funding for education to illegal immigrant children and simultaneously struck down a municipal school district's attempt to charge illegal immigrants an annual $1,000 tuition fee for each illegal immigrant student to compensate for the lost state funding. The Court found that where states limit the rights afforded to people (specifically children) based on their status as immigrants, this limitation must be examined under an intermediate scrutiny standard to determine whether it furthers a substantial goal of the State.
This ruling, based on a very liberal interpretation of a Constitutional guarantee of "equality" has had very ruinous consequences in school districts in States that border Mexico. In some cases, school districts in Texas have had to admit children living in Mexico because their parents claim that they were born in the US.
It makes no sense that a school district must pay potentially tens of thousands of dollars for the "special needs" of people who sneak into the country, and then hide behind "Federal law" to extort vast sums of public funds for their particular needs.
Plyer vs Doe needs to be reconsidered by the Supreme Courtin light of its application over the past thirty years. The application of this decision, and other ill-considered, Federal law, we see that people not legally in this country can make demands that the District communicate with them any language, other than English!
We (as a Nation) need to stop pandering to people who come to this country, whether legally, or illegally, and expect that the government communicate with them in their native languages. We need to mandate that English is the language of the government. Refusing to speak English should not the problem of those who do.
With this morning's news of a suicide at Charleston Road, it seemed like a good time to review this article from Mindful Magazine about young people, stress, and suicide in Palo Alto:
"a good time to review this article from Mindful Magazine about young people, stress, and suicide in Palo Alto"
Perhaps, but present the whole picture:
"Every opportunity should be taken to remind the public of the crucial link to mental health conditions such as mood disorders and substance abuse... 60-90% of deaths by suicide occur in people who have had such disorders for at least 1 year."
Mental health is very important, including prevention. Preventing trauma and reducing stress may reduce suicide risk, For example, the US Government (Veteran's Administration) states that PTSD (such as may be experienced by victims of bullying) appears to increase suicide risk, particularly among individuals "who have certain styles of coping with stress, such as not expressing feelings."
See: Web Link
The Center for Disease Control notes that building connectedness is a critical suicide prevention method, in part because it counteracts stress and stressful events that can exacerbate suicide risk. "At the level of individual connectedness, a very clear pathway is that in times of stress, the number and quality of social ties people have can directly influence their access to social support." See: Web Link
Indeed, connectedness works as a suicide prevention mechanism in part because it enables individuals who are at risk to reduce stress or to cope with stress that increases their risk. www2.myacpa.org/images/stories/Stress_Connection__Suicide.ppt
According to the AFSP it is important not to send the message that suicide is a normal reaction to stress, because of concerns over contagion. That does not mean that stress and anxiety are irrelevant to suicidality, or that stress reduction is irrelevant to suicide prevention. Extreme stress, such as may be caused by severe bullying or job stress, can cause depression and anxiety. More problematically, there is a not-very-well understood relationship between organic mental illness, stress, and suicide. Putting a sick or vulnerable person under stress can increase their risk, particularly in an environment where connectedness is low. In children and adolescents who may not yet be diagnosed, it may be difficult to ascertain precisely who is at risk, however many studies show that those at greatest risk often exhibit poor help-seeking behavior. Only 50% of those who are suicidal tell anyone about their thoughts.
This makes reducing stress and fostering connectedness, for example by improving high school and college counseling to make it more proactive and less dependent on help-seeking of critical importance.
It is my observation that Palo Alto has treated the fact that people who die by suicide most often suffer from a "diagnosable mental illness" as a very comforting thought. Under that banner the schools have resisted needed counseling improvements that would have provided more touchpoints, and more outreach that is not dependent on student effort and help-seeking. After all, the faulty logic goes, if suicide is caused by mental illness, there's not much we can do. It emanates from within the person's brain, and there is no effort we can make, short of identifying those with mental illness, that will make a difference. Certainly we should not worry about stress.
Every single connection in this line of thinking is incorrect. First, it ignores the role of stressors such as bullying in causing the "diagnosable mental illness" in the first place. PTSD is a diagnosable mental illness but it is caused by stress due to trauma. Some illnesses have physical roots, some have stress-based roots, and some are exacerbated or caused by both factors or an interaction between them that is poorly understood at this time.
Second, even for those who have an illness with hereditary roots, stress and lack of connectedness exacerbates that illness and likely increases the vulnerability to suicide.
Third, reducing suicide risk is done most effectively by increasing connectedness which reduces stress and provides the ability to withstand stressors that might trigger feelings of worthlessness -- breakups, failing grades, bullying. Connectedness cannot depend on student help-seeking because those who are most vulnerable are typically very unlikely to seek help and have impaired social networks and connectedness and isolation.
I think that the reason that this view has gained so much traction in the community is that it does 2 things for people: it allows them to hold the idea of suicide at arm's length -- those who die by suicide are sick and my child is not sick, so my child is not at risk; and it allows those who want to maintain to status quo to argue that reducing stress or reforming counseling won't help anyway, a false and dangerous idea.
SOS is effective in part because it aims to increase connectedness by leveraging the networks that students already have (between peers). But connection to caring adults is also important. Don't kid yourself -- by allowing your school board to decide not to implement advisory at Gunn like at Paly, you deprived Gunn students of more opportunities for connectedness that would help to counteract the stressful and competitive nature of the school. It has been more than sad to watch the district justify this lack of action by saying that suicide is caused by mental illness and the schools are irrelevant.
The environment is relevant no matter what, but for those who may suffer from a developing or undiagnosed condition, building connections to concerned adults that do not depend on youth help-seeking behavior can be a lifesaver.
I don't remember if we need to show the birth certificate or residency proof when we register our kids in public schools in Palo Alto. I don't think it's offensive to ask for the legal residency proof in a polite way.
Proof of residency is perfectly legal. Proof of citizenship, even if asked for politely, is perfectly illegal. Any school official should know that. I suspect that they all do, and they differ in how much they care.
The level of ignorance and intolerance present at least among posters on this board is quite amazing.
Tom: first, there is no such things as an "illegal family" (unless you voted for Prop 8, I suppose). And you should read more carefully. It's not proof of residency that it is illegal to ask for, it's proof of citizenship.
Cynthia: It's exactly that kind of right-wing Tea Party inspired perspective that seems to have taken hold on the school board. The clearest evidence for that is Barb Mitchell's memo asking how to "defend" the district against the Office for Civil Rights attempts to protect Palo Alto children against discrimination -- rather than how to defend the rights of children.
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