News

Parent criticizes school efforts on emotional health

Policies ignore connection between academic stress and depression, father says

Palo Alto school programs aimed at bolstering student social and emotional health have ignored the connection between academic stress and student depression, a Gunn High School parent told the Board of Education this week.

Ken Dauber, father of five, said school district efforts to identify and assist students who suffer from depression and mental illness solve only half the problem. The other half would be to do something about academic factors -- such as testing and homework policies -- that cause stress, he said.

"The connection between stress and depression and other mental and emotional issues, and also to suicide, is well-established," Dauber said Tuesday night.

Dauber's comments followed a presentation by school officials on a long list of programs aimed at bolstering student "social, emotional and physical health."

Those include a survey to measure resilience among students, school "climate committees" on all secondary campuses, a later start time at Palo Alto High School and a new "small learning community" at Gunn.

At the urging of parents, administrators are making a greater effort to place "social and emotional health" on the school board agenda, Superintendent Kevin Skelly said.

School Board President Melissa Baten Caswell said "many schools are addressing activities around general student stress."

She cited the work of several Palo Alto schools with Stanford University's Challenge Success program and changes to the daily schedule at Paly.

Caswell also pressed school officials to clarify how interested parents can gain access and participate in the activities of Project Safety Net, a community-wide coalition aimed at bolstering teen well-being that was organized following a series of student suicides in 2009 and 2010.

Dauber said Project Safety Net's own recommendations made note of a "growing concern over the degree of stress and distress within Palo Alto's teen population."

A Project Safety Net report also said "all elements of the educational system, including core principles, curriculum, policies, training, strategic plans, hiring and other practices must align in the development of a supportive school environment," he noted.

Dauber said the district, which participates in Project Safety Net," "isn't following its own recommendations to itself."

Citing a Project Safety Net report issued last summer, Dauber said, the district should specifically address "finals prior to winter break, revised test and project calendars, revised homework policies addressing purpose and volume, tutorials and advisories, and so on."

Comments

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 10, 2011 at 10:10 am

My own Paly student told me that studying for recent finals wasn't very important because since the grades were already good and the finals are only worth a small fraction of the grade, that the grade of the final makes very little difference to the overall grade. In other words, unless a student performs really badly on the final it makes no difference to a good grade and can't really improve a good or even medium grade. It may however improve a poor grade if the grade in the final is excellent. This means that it only makes sense to study hard for students with poorer grades.

If this is true, then why all the fuss about moving finals?


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Posted by Quality not Quantity
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2011 at 10:12 am

I appreciate the effort by school district officials to be more transparent. But rambling through the same laundry list of programs, some old, some limited in scope, without distinction is still not helpful. And, to Ken Dauber's point, fundamental changes at the systemic level must be made at both high schools.

We have lost many children from Gunn, so pointing out bell schedule changes at Paly is irrelevant. My child is at Gunn - in these two years, essentially nothing has changed.

The biggest obstacles to change is fear and an attitude of arrogance that what is broken are certain kids and not the system. The system does not have to be broken to be improved!

We need both approaches - ensuring a tightly-knit safety net to catch kids before or as they fall, and to change the structures and environment to be better for their health and well-being.


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Posted by easier classes
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 10, 2011 at 10:14 am

Does the school offer easier classes for less talented students? The most rigorous classes aren't for everyone, but the school should offer them so that the kids that can handle them get the best education that they can.

Even Stanford has a list of jock-friendly classes, right?


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Posted by Paly grad of `09
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2011 at 10:20 am

If I may say this: Well it's about time someone spoke up about this.

As a Paly grad, I feel like I can attest to the fact that emotional health among students in Palo Alto is incredibly at risk. It's never really been something that's been addressed to an extent where I was ever satisfied - the closest thing that came to addressing the issue while I was still a student in the district was the SOS (Stressed Out Students) Committee, which seemed somewhat inefficient (with all do respect - I admire the goals, but don't agree with the approaches taken).

That said, it's obviously not an easy problem to conquer. I think the competitiveness of education in Palo Alto has grown exponentially over the past decade and I completely agree that there's a tight link between academic stress and student depression. While I can only speak for Paly, from talking to my friends who went to Gunn I feel as though there is a very similar phenomenon that happens at both high schools. Students are overworked academically and also pressured to take on a ton of extracurriculars. This makes for not a lot of sleep and a lot of miserable nights (those should be saved for college! not high school!).

There's no doubt that education in Palo Alto is far more competitive than many other places, but I also do believe that sometimes it's unnecessarily competitive. I believe there are a multitude of factors contributing this, including teachers who don't teach effectively (and a poor feedback system for students to deal with these instructors), teachers who assign busy work (that aren't sufficiently helpful to learning considering how much time they take to complete), and also just a shift in student culture. From the administrative side, really only the first two factors that I named are really within the span of some control or change if the district as a whole were to evaluate teachers better and engage in more feedback/discussion with students on a regular basis (key word: regular).

But as for the changes in student culture, I think the increase in pressure for students to start studying for SATs earlier or take as many AP courses as they can at an earlier age is also a national phenomenon. I think in Palo Alto this pressure is particularly heavy (more so than in most districts), but it's something that's somewhat unchangeable.

I don't know if this was at all insightful, but I think that the best way to go about this is to THOROUGHLY evaluate the teachers and their teaching methods. There's only so many ways you can tweak the bell schedule or change a test schedule in a class.


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Posted by local gurl
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 10, 2011 at 10:57 am

When my son was first diagnosed with a learning disability (not severe, thank goodness), I was crushed. As we went through the Palo Alto school system, I was GRATEFUL that he was on an IEP that allowed him to do less homework, get more sleep, and have the support he needed to be successful. He went to a four year college and graduated on time. I think the entire school system could benefit from the approach taken with my son.


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Posted by look in the mirror
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2011 at 11:07 am

It is laughable to see people employed by and who presumably fit into the cultures of Google and Stanford requesting that the emotional health of our students be regulated by the schools. These Google and Stanford are widely known for accepting only employees who work many hours of overtime and have gone to colleges and universities which accept only high school students who have multiple AP's under their belts. Our local parents are working overtime to stay employed and expecting the local schools to give kids a different value set.


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Posted by Where are the parents?
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2011 at 11:08 am

One of the aspects of academic stress that is hardly ever mentioned in these posts and in the school district discussions is the responsibility of parents to make sure that their students are not overloaded. Paly Grad '09 wrote:

"Students are overworked academically and also pressured to take on a ton of extracurriculars. This makes for not a lot of sleep and a lot of miserable nights (those should be saved for college! not high school!)."

Who is pressuring these students? Are they truly overworked in each of their classes, or is it because they're taking 5 AP classes? Certainly the pressure to overload may be coming from their parents, in which case the school district and teachers should not be blamed, but if instead it is peer pressure or general societal pressure, why don't parents step in and reign in some of the activities and classes? And why should being challenged academically have to be equated with being miserable? It disturbs me that students seem to have lost the love of learning in all of this. And, no, Paly grad, college shouldn't be miserable.

As for the quality of teaching in this district, there certainly may be some teachers who are less than outstanding, but I have been incredibly impressed with the vast majority of them. And what is meant by "effective" teaching? Does it mean making content entertaining? Unfortunately, that's just not always possible, when compared to YouTube and the other media that teachers are competing with (I've yet to see an entertaining YouTube video about calculus, but you sure can learn a lot from them!). It seems to me that a huge part of effective teaching includes students who are engaged and interested in learning, and it sounds like that's not the case for many of our students, for whatever reason.

Parents - instead of blaming the district and the teachers, why not call a family meeting, examine and discuss everyone's values when it comes to education, and come up with guidelines that can be followed throughout your children's schooling? Let your children know that you want them to enjoy their school years (including the academics!), and to make sure that school helps them prepare to become life-long learners out in the "real world."


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Posted by Noel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2011 at 11:13 am

I have talked to all three of my kids, two recent Paly grads and one Paly junior, and none of them felt that having exams before winter break would be an improvement as they had no trouble preparing for post-break exams. One of them also felt that having to deal with both exams and college apps in December would be very tough on seniors.

I think parents need to work with their kids to manage stress and workloads. We advised one of our kids to drop down a math lane and not to take an AP he wanted because he is a committed athlete and we did not want his junior year to be as insane as those of his elder siblings. As a result he is having a happier, less stressful junior year than he otherwise would have.

We, as parents, need to be preparing our children for life, not for getting into a particular college or even for getting into college. We need to help them with their expectations and options even while we encourage them to always do their best.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 10, 2011 at 11:16 am

Every child would benefit from a school program that evaluates each students individual education goals ... in IEG. Like the IEP for special needs kids. I think every child has special and unique needs, personally.
The counselor would speak to the student, not the parents, and find out during a beginning of the school year meeting what that student's goals are. If that student wants college, trade school, early exit with the Calif Equiv Exam, perform with local theatre, have a job/internship, and/or any number of other goals, then the student and counselor can make their schedule at the level that student needs to achieve his/her goals.
More alternative math, english and science classes need to be offered as well. In my high school we had a "daily math" option which may be great for the non-college tracked kids - in this class you learn how to manage money, balance check book, figure out best deal when shopping, reading fine print in buying a car, investing, reading stock reports, do your taxes, ... math used in every day life.
Setting goals directly with the student, offering a variety of classes on campus - not just UC approved (with current UC situation, many will not go there anyway), and communicating to each teacher what are the special needs of each students in their class. The parents and teachers are a big part of the students' stress. If we can empower the students to be in charge of their own high school plan with the guidance of their advisor, and offer a wide variety of classes, I feel that the road to recovery would be paved :)


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Posted by We're in this together
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2011 at 11:17 am

Dear "Where are the parents?"

I am sorry that you have taken an adversarial approach. The tone of your message threatens to take this thread into the parents versus school direction.

Can you agree that everyone who has the child/student's interests at heart has a role to play? Mr. Dauber seeks to engage the school district into doing what they can but I don't read into any of his comments any abdication of the important role parents play.


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Posted by Nancy
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2011 at 11:33 am

I'm a Paly grad from 1984 and a mother of 2 kids at El Carmelo. As they're getting older, now in 2nd grade and 4th grade, the homework load is getting heavier. Sometimes, the homework can be a real battle, which I think is really unfortunate that parents have to deal with this with such young children. They should be able to enjoy their childhood and not struggle with homework everyday. When I was in elementary school, we didn't have any homework. The homework situation now has put a damper on my kids' attitudes toward school in general. This is a real shame and I worry that it will only get worse when they're in high school. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Where are the parents?
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2011 at 11:59 am

Dear "We're in this together,"
I'm sorry if you interpreted my posting as adversarial, but after reading the sentiments that many people have expressed over the past two years, I think we are smack in the middle of a "parents versus school" mindset. It appears to me that Palo Alto parents are blaming the schools/teachers/superintendent for stressing out their children, when these folks are only trying to do what they need to do to meet, State standards, the increasing demands to improve test scores, etc.

I do agree that everyone has a role to play, but first and foremost it is a parent's role (and not anyone else's) to be responsible for the social and emotional health of their children. Is it really feasible for every teacher to take into account the "special needs" of each of the 150 students in each class, as suggested by "parent, a resident of Stanford"? I don't think that is humanly possible. Perhaps those needs would be best met by making sure that students are taking the appropriate course load, reducing extra-curriculars, etc., and that starts at home.

Overall, I'm not sure that Mr. Dauber is seeking to engage the school district into doing what they CAN, as much as doing what he thinks they SHOULD. And I'm not sure that our schools can or should do everything that Palo Alto parents think they should.


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Posted by Just saying too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Mr. Dauber is certainly getting lots of PA Weekly ink these days. Just last week, he wrote the PA Weekly Op-Ed piece calling for heads to roll because his approach, view and timeline is not shared by our school district leaders.

Web Link

There was only one person, Mr. Dauber, who spoke out at the school board meeting on this topic so why another full article in the Weekly this week which gives him star billing (“Parent criticizes school efforts on emotional health “)?

Many of his points were disproved in the Town Square posts that followed his piece last week, including the tie between stress and depression using the same website he referred to in support of his claim:

"ACS’ site links to the Mayo Clinic's overview of depression which flatly states that while there are many theories ‘it's not known exactly what causes depression.’"

And even Challenge Success doesn't agree with him on the academic-stress tie in he repeats:

"After students took Challenge Success’ survey at Mission San Jose in Fremont, they found no correlation between the “stress level and the difficulty of the academic courseload,” which Denise Clark Pope reported was no surprise and consistent with other schools Challenge Success has surveyed. In fact, Paly's Challenge Success Survey, where students reported that athletics and relationships were as or more stressful than school, IDed stress as coming from out of school (82% IDing themselves and their parents) with only about 4% IDing teachers."

Web Link

Also refuted was Mr. Dauber's repeated implication that Project Safety Net has marching orders. He says here that the district should specifically address "finals prior to winter break, revised test and project calendars, revised homework policies addressing purpose and volume, tutorials and advisories, and so on."

It is "addressing" it as PSN suggests, but nothing in PSN's report that I saw said that once these were studied that changes had to made, particularly if it turns out that it is not core to a problem or the change itself would add to instead of reduce stress, which may students told the school board would happen if finals were placed on top of everything else in December.

While Mr. Dauber may not agree with these and other expert findings, he should at least caveat his statements with a simple disclaimer "It is my humble opinion that . . ."

Everyone is entitled to share their opinions and fears, but no one should make intentional misrepresentations.

Just saying, too.


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Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 10, 2011 at 12:26 pm

As a parent of a recent grad, I've seen that a lot of it is peer pressure. The kids have all convinced themselves that if they don't take all those AP classes and don't make 2100 on the SATs they will be sunk. Then they expect all their friends to fit into this mind set. It might help to have some grads who are in college or working come in at an assembly and say, you know, once I got out into the wide world I found out that all this stuff you are so worried about now really doesn't matter in the long run.


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Posted by look in the mirror
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Of course stress is caused by high work loads and difficult material. Of course it is. We do not need a study to tell us this. Who are we kidding?


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Posted by HSS
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 10, 2011 at 1:12 pm

It's not about parents v. PAUSD.

It's really about them v. us. Us, talented, capable, smart and Ivy-League college bound and soon to be filthy rich and Them, incapable, dumb and flipping burgers for a living.

I see this played out all the time in our schools, on these forums and in our neighborhoods - just look at some of the comments above. That REALLY puts our kids in a pressure cooker. They get it from all sides, school, community and peers. It's a constant battle as parents to counter this and keep our kids emotionally healthy.



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Posted by good to have more parent voice
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2011 at 1:46 pm


Just saying too,

Saying that the ACS' link to the Mayo Clinic that states "‘it's not known exactly what causes depression.’" "disproves" Daubner's comments

is like saying nobody knows what causes addiction, but we should not worry about teen smoking

stress is a trigger for many psychiatric conditions, and academic stress is a stress, like it or not.


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Posted by Me
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 10, 2011 at 1:51 pm

@Easier classes: Stanford discontinued the "easy class list for athletes" list: Web Link
But I agree that our children are being pushed too hard - even the regular lanes are no cake-walk. In the 80s at Paly, we had much less homework, yet students still attended reputable colleges and were prepared for them.

I applaud Dauber for speaking up. I am so tired of hearing about the need for more time or research. Get going, BoE and Skelly! Maybe because Skelly (Harvard), and BoE graduated from Ivy Leagues - Caswell (Dartmouth), Tom (Stanford), Townsend (daughter at Princeton), Klausner (Yale, Cornell), they don't understand this issue. Wake up! Not everyone is Ivy League material! You are blessed with the higher intelligence, stamina, and disclipline (and so are your children). And you are old enough to know that in your day, it was A LOT easier in academics. You just cannot relate to what other children are living through. They are stressed out!

Regarding the tie between stress and depression? Those studies were based upon people being CLINICALLY depressed. There is a difference between being diagnosed as clinically depressed and being severely unhappy and overly stressed-out. Are most of our students actually clinically depressed so they need to see a psychiatrist? Probably not, but are they so stressed out that they generally do not feel happy for the majority of their day? That they feel they need a break? That they have no time to just hang out and relax? That they are just hoping for better days? That they just want to get throught the days and are not enjoying them? Create that anonymous survey, BoE, and find out for yourselves. Listen to the students. Do you really care about them? Then why are you taking so long to help them?


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Where are the parents? -

You ask what effective teaching" is, no it is not entertaining the students, it is actually instructing them. It is not:
Teachers who take 4-6 weeks to turn back a single essay (without many comments)
Teachers who are mean, petty or call students names
Teachers who assign busy work (coloring, posters, etc.) that have no academic value but look nice on the walls
Teachers who teach what they want, whether or not it has anything to do with what is on the test

It is:
Instructing your students in the assigned subject
Turning back assigned work in a timely manner with the appropriate feedback.
Assigning homework which reinforces what is learned in the classroom or provides related information
Being as polite to the students as you expect them to be to you

My kids have many friends who are Freshman and Sophomores in college, every single one, including those at the Ivy League and other top schools, finds college MUCH less stressful than Paly.

Paly grad of `09 - Evaluating teachers more thoroughly would be nice, unfortunately, even with an evaluation, we are stuck with them do to tenure.

look in the mirror - comparing our students with Google or Stanford employees (even their parents) it not far. The employees are adults, are getting paid and guess what - they can quit or get a new job. They can be sick for a day and not have to make up all their work on the day they get back. The can to some extant (more than a HS student) choose what they want to work on. If you have a nasty boss, hate your job or are bored, most people can quit. If you have a nasty teacher, hate your class, you are stuck. Kids have very little control over their lives, a cause of stress by itself...


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm

We have one in college (Paly '10) and a junior at Paly. When the '10 grad had issues with some Paly classes, we changed the course load and dropped a lane in math. Result: fantastic grades and a happier student.

Paly didn't have to change it's culture, the teachers didn't have to become mental health experts, etc. We (parents) talked with our child, consulted with a Paly academic advisor, then made the changes. It really isn't that difficult folks.

As for the Paly/Gunn culture of hyper-accomplishment - that comes from the general reality of living where we do. We live in one of the top centers for the highest levels of achievement both professionally and academically. The school district cannot change that. Wherever you go in town - it is an obvious aura that you cannot help but notice and feel. Again, PAUSD cannot change that.

Further, the reality is that beyond the Ivies/Stanford, the top level public schools (e.g., UC System) are becoming more & more selective every year. Despite the state mandate for the "10%" of all CA students --- kids want to go to the top UC's...UCB, UCLA, UCD, UCSB and UCSD. UC Merced or Riverside just aren't on the radar for obvious reasons. UCLA has had over 50,000 applicants for about 4,000 spots for almost 10 years running! Unfortunately that means you have to do what you can to get in.

Can the schools do better? Of course! But that can be said for all facets and influencers in children's lives. No matter how you look at it, the bottom line is that parents must be engaged with their kids, they must be their advocates and counselors.

I do not find fault with those who are trying to get PAUSD to improve their approach to identifying mental health issues and some of their causes. But I do find fault with those who lay all of these problems at the feet of PAUSD.


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Posted by Don't do away with academic excellence
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I am worried that if we listen to all the grumbling about too much homework, etc. the schools will become just baby-sitting operations and will lose their academic excellence.

The homework pressure HAS decreased at Paly between the time my oldest child was there a few years ago and now, with my youngest child there. How much more should we do away with? Academic excellence requires effort, pure and simple.

Many children, if not a wide majority of them, are just fine in our high schools. . IIt is tragic we have lost several to suicide [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] So, it seems the schools are just a part of the explanation for this, if anything. I am sure there are depressed kids also, but there again, the causes must be complex and can't be reduced to the schools.

I, for one, am against watering down the academics at high school level. At least, let's preserve a competitive high lane for motivated students. Let's not take this away from the students who are able to do well and, yes, thrive, in the high lane.

And by the way, there are high lane kids who do not brag about their grades and who do not look down on the other kids. Generalizations are not helpful here.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 10, 2011 at 3:14 pm

The best results of education are shown in the countries, where children are learning, which means has good textbooks, everyday homework and educated teachers from the first grade to the last. In the US children just have fun during 9 years and have to learn everything at high school. Until this situation wouldn't changed, it doesn't make sense to talk about emotional issue, for nothing but a huge BS can be produced.


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Posted by Way to go!
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Way to go Mr. and Mrs. Dauber. Finally there is someone who have the guts to bring out the social emotional issue out from the darkness, where Skelly would like it to stay (hiding). He often tries to distract parents with his speeches about how proud they are of the high achievers, but they never said we have failed the ones who died. I still think that Skelly and part of the board need to leave their seats to some one who wants to take the mental health of our kids seriously. It is time to stop this nightmare in Palo Alto. How can a district like ours that claim to be the excellence in education be loosing their students to suicide? No more student deaths!


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Posted by You have no decency
a resident of Ohlone School
on Mar 10, 2011 at 7:13 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

For children who do not have pre-existing problems, academic stress is linked to a host of disorders, including depression, anxiety, social anxiety, learning difficulties, substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm of various sorts and others. All of these problems are legion in Palo Alto.

To deny that academic stress is a threat to the mental health of Palo Alto teens is like being one who denies climate change or evolution.

Yes the schools are "part of the problem." There are other facets of life in this town that are also "part of the problem" [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

There is no necessary connection between high stress and high achievement. If anything, the correlation is inverse.

These are the attitudes this community must come together to reject. I say recall the School Board.


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Posted by Wow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 10, 2011 at 7:26 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Don't do away with academic excellence
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2011 at 7:49 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Model Kindness
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Yes, let's not make judgments about the lost children, or their parents. That is not going to help anybody, but for sure it will hurt someones. Also we are being models for our children, who at this time could be reading these postings. What are we really teaching them by showing no kindness to others, especially to the parents of the children who die? If you have lost your child to suicide, how would you feel that a careless person comes and without knowing the facts comes and post assumptions about your child? Also, even though many of us are lucky to still have our kids, things could turn around any second. We could be next.


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Posted by Wow
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 10, 2011 at 8:11 pm

I assume the editors removed my comment because it quoted the parts they removed from "you have no decency." But let me make the point without the quote - stridency and hyperbole are divisive and unhelpful. If you want to have others respect your views, please respect theirs. Almost everyone here is a parent, trying to achieve the same goals and dealing with the same issuees.


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Posted by EcoMama
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 10, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Editors, please let us know why the Daubers are getting yet more airtime on this issue. What's their ax to grind? They're not telling us (beyond generalist statements about their kids' stress and misintrpreted data on that stress), and neither are you. One would think that after the OpEd received a host of feedback in opposition to them (perhaps even more than notes of support), they wouldn't qualify for yet another top-billed story, especially when, as another commenter pointed out, Mr. Dauber was the ONLY parent to address this issue at a school board meeting. Your publications barely scratched the surface of the last Advocates for Youth public meeting, not even bothering to follow up with many of the public officials who attended to garner feedback. That was a missed opportunity to hear from a VARIETY of perspectives.

We get it. The Daubers don't like the way the schools are handling social-emotional health. So... are they showing up to Project Safety Net meetings? Advocates for Youth? Or are they just rogue on a soapbox?

The thing is, they have some great points, but it's lost in their vitriol and calls for resignation. Flies are caught with honey. And this publication giving negativity more airtime without balance (e.g. feedback from public officials on public meetings, easy interviews to get) makes me question the journalistic integrity here.


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Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Crescent Park Dad: 2x!! :-)

What we're running into is simply too many kids chasing too few slots. Even as the population has grown, the number of "prestigious" colleges and universities has not. That's why kids these days have to find ways to distinguish themselves above the sea of applications that places like Stanford and Harvard receive.

To a certain extent, the overflow of good students has lifted the quality of Tier-2 schools. Perhaps it's time to expand the definition of a "prestigious" school - or at least not place such a high premium on a small number of elite schools.

As we know, having a Columbia undergrad and Harvard Law degree doesn't guarantee being a good President, after all....


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Posted by Dianne, a parent
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 10, 2011 at 9:59 pm

I am so tired of reading vitriolic rants from parents who blame who- schools? teachers? for the "pressure" on kids to pile on the extracurricular activities & try to be among the 7% of applicants who get accepted at Stanford. Newsflash! Teachers don't push kids toward extracurricular activities which do, afterall, detract from time to study &n do homework. Admit it. That comes from the parents.

Teachers do their best, for the most part. Most kids have heard (or overheard) their parents discuss or refer to the various symbols of success which are recognized and coveted in Palo Alto. They've been weaned on this. Stop blaming the schools & the teachers. Look to your values, your idle chatter, and your incredibly immature wish to delegate blame for your kids emotional problems on teachers & schools. Step up. Be responsible. Talk with your kids regularly, and don't press them to take every AP or advanced class you can b.s. their way into.

I read lazy & irresponsible parents laying off blame on schools for their own communication shortcomings.


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Posted by Ken Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2011 at 11:08 pm

The district has already acknowledged the importance of reducing academic stress in addressing the mental and emotional health of our students. The district is a member of and helps to lead Project Safety Net, which was formed in response to the suicides of Palo Alto students. Project Safety Net identifies reducing academic stress as one of the recommended measures under "Prevention", specifically in section P8 (see Web Link). My point to the Board on Tuesday night was that the district isn't following its own recommendation to itself, and that it should. (For my comment, see Web Link -- click on the link under "Project Cornerstone Ð Social, Emotional, Physical Health", at around 57 minutes).

I don't really think this is a controversial position. The district has launched a number of initiatives to deal with the consequences of stress, which Amy Drolette reported on to the Board, so it clearly sees the mental and emotional health of students as part of its concern. What it hasn't launched is any kind of systematic effort to address and redress the schools' role in producing stress among students, and it hasn't claimed to. Superintendent Skelly told me in an email that P8 isn't a priority for the district. Melissa Baten Caswell, the Board President, confirmed that after I spoke. But why not?

It's not because the district lacks the resources. At Tuesday's meeting the Board, after extensive preparatory work by district staff, enthusiastically approved a parent/staff committee to advise the Superintendent about gifted math. Gifted math education, unlike student emotional and mental health, hasn't been recognized as a serious public health crisis, yet the district has found the time and resources to deal with that but not with Project Safety Net's recommendation that it reform curriculum, homework, test scheduling, and so on. Gifted math may be important, but is it more important than reducing endemic stress, given the district's own recommendations in the Project Safety Net report?

I spoke to the Board to point out this contradiction between word and deed and urge that they implement the recommendations in P8. I was disappointed that the Board was silent in response, except that Caswell agreed that P8 is not a priority but pointed to a few initiatives at various schools, Gunn not among them. P8 specifically calls for "apply[ing] positive strategies across all schools in the district." I was particularly disappointed that Superintendent Skelly had no response, despite an invitation from Caswell. I frankly don't understand their resistance to working on this issue, and I don't think they are serving our kids very well by failing to do so.

Finally, I agree with the commenters who don't want to pit parents against the schools. Parents are supposed to be running the schools through our representatives on the School Board. We have the right to hold the Board and the district accountable, and we also have the right to expect that the Board will hold the Superintendent and the district staff accountable for following their own recommendations and policies, particularly in an area as critical as this.


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Posted by Icantspellanonomoyous
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 10, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Blame kids.

Any other logic is meaningless. It seems like everyone wants to blame an institution: let it be the college board, PAUSD, or everyone that has gone to a better college than your son/daughter. This just doesnt make sense. The suicides, unlike every other aspect of PA schools, were wonderfully diverse. Therefore, no one group is suffering disproportionately. Although it might be fun to imagine that changing ONE policy would save that "group of suicide kids", there isn't one, so such intellectual masturbation is pointless. Since no one group of kid commits suicide (besides the mentally ill, and we dont have the budget for mind readers), you simply cant construct policies to help kids because policies necessarily help one group at the expense of another (taxpayers). We've done what we can-- we've told kids that they can get help. They don't. We cant make in more accessible/used unless we want to become subversive (dont). All we can do is take personal responsibility for helping as many kids make the right decisions as possible. Even that has its limits. At the end of the day, suicidal thoughts are a frequently fatal disease. It sucks to think that we are powerless, but we really are. All you can really do is be there and help, and to rant endlessly about things that really can't do anything is at best useless, at worst an affront to the departed.


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Posted by P8 should be a priority
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 10, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Thank you Ken and Michelle Dauber for speaking up so clearly and asking questions to which we need answers from our school board and administration leaders.

Why aren't the recommendations in P8 a priority? The PAUSD co-chairs PSN and co-authored the July 2010 report. The report is actually a fine piece of work, reflecting much research, thought, and good intentions. The problem is the failure to implement any of the recommendations in a meaningful way.

If the issue is timing and competing priorities, how can one not respond to the loss of so many children with anything other than urgency? God forbid, but does it take sorrow to strike close to them before they finally wake up and react? How is it acceptable to lose any student each year, let alone 2 or 3 each year? If someone was going around killing our children, would we sit idle or fuss around? We would demand action!


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Posted by P8 should be a priority
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 10, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Please, let us not blame the poor children who were suffering so badly that they took their own lives. They are victims, not to be condemned! Please show some compassion for those who were hurting and their loved ones now in grief.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2011 at 2:06 am



Ken Dauber,

What I like about what you say is that it's very specific and open.

Skelly's communication style seems very sketchy and protective.

I hope you keep it up, and if nothing else, this is now on the record. I applaud you for laying this out very clearly.





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Posted by Act Now
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2011 at 7:51 am


We are finally getting it. You can see very clearly at the board meeting that all Skelly cares is about high achieving kids, who make the district famous and who make our homes prices go higher, and who do not break apart from so much stress. He cares only about the academics, math,etch. But watch his body language at the board meetings when someone is addressing the social emotional issues, he is not as perky as before, he even turns his face away, shows boredom. This needs to change otherwise things are not going to change. Right now at this time, there might be another student thinking to end his life, and meanwhile we are wasting our time trying to make Skelly realize that this is the most important issue in our schools, not just high schools, but all. If bullying, mean teachers, too much homework, bad leaderships like principals, board and superintendent are not address now, we might loose another one to suicide. Guess whose fault? All of us, not just Skelly because some of us are making excuses for the board and Skelly and do not join forces to make them act on it now. So sad that another one has to die in order for us to wake up. We need to stop using our kids to make the district famous and our home prices go up. It is not worth it to loose more kids just for that. Act Now


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 11, 2011 at 8:58 am

Skelly's hands are tied to a great extent. As far as "bullying, mean teachers, too much homework", teachers have tenure and contracts. Skelly can not mandate anything that is not in the teachers contract. If you want to really tackle social emotional issues, get rid of tenure, institute merit pay and set up a real evaluation system for teachers, including assigning only thoughtful (aka not busy work) homework that is returned in a timely manner, require them to use Inclass and/or Infinite Campus to communicate with students and parents, etc.

I think the expression you see on Kevin Skelly's face is not boredom when social emotional issues are mentioned, it a sadness at not being able to really do anything about many of the issues the parents are concerned about. I think he has done a great job at bringing in some new leadership in terms of principals.



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Posted by What Project Safety Net Says
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2011 at 9:29 am

Project Safety Net says to "study, discuss and implement additional environmental strategies that create a more supportive school and learning environment . . ." The operative word is "study" which acknowledges that pros and cons need to be identified and decisions made AFTER those factors are weighed.

PSN also speaks to suicide risk factors. Its list of factors is long, but nowhere on it is stress mentioned. A history of depression and mental illness are listed, but as mentioned above there is no known straight line between stress and depression/mental illness. Lots of things must intervene per PSN: "The path that leads to suicidal behavior is long and complex and there is no 'profile' that predicts suicidal behavior with certainty."
Web Link


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 11, 2011 at 9:37 am

Too much homework equals not enough sleep. Lack of sleep leads to depression and suicidal thoughts in teenagers:

Web Link


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Posted by Me
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 11, 2011 at 10:47 am

The guarding at the railroad tracks is a joke. If a person really wants to stand in front of the train, there are many open areas. It's just lip service. There needs to be a way to stop the stress before the students get to the point of suicide.

As "palo alto mom" states, a big problem is sleep deprivation. Moving the starting time later for teenagers would be helpful.

To those who haven't seen it, Race to Nowhere Web Link the movie which highlights the rigorous academic environment, is showing for free in San Carlos this Monday, 3/14 at 7:00 Web Link

or for $10/ticket (advance) or $15/ticket at the door at the International School off 101, across from the Main Post Office on Wednesday, March 16 @ 6:30 Web Link


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Posted by A Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 11, 2011 at 11:00 am

@What Project Safety Net Says
It's great to see this discussion of what Project Safety Net actually says, but P8 does talk directly about stress -- here's an excerpt from that link:
"In recent years, there has been growing concern over the degree of stress and distress within Palo Alto’s teen population. In 2001, PAUSD created a community-based committee, SHARE (Student Health Awareness through Resources and Education), to investigate and respond to ever-increasing numbers of students with diagnoses of depression and anxiety. At around the same time, Stanford’s Vaden Health Center and experts within Stanford’s School of Education were investigating this same phenomenon. In 2004, a program was created to provide educational science and professional support to local high schools seeking to reduce stress and academic pressure and improve learning among their students. It was first called “SOS” for Stressed Out Students and is now known as Challenge Success. Palo Alto and Gunn High Schools have had some participation with this program over the last few years.

These efforts support the belief that all elements of the educational system, including core principles, curriculum, policies, training, strategic plans, hiring and other practices must align in the development of a supportive school environment. At the core of this strategy is an expanded definition of success within the schools and community that embodies an appreciation of a variety of aptitudes and avenues that define “success” for youth and a structure that supports this message."

Saying that there's "no known straight line" or profile that predicts "with certainty" doesn't mean that nothing is known, or that we have to wait do something until we can predict with 100% accuracy. PSN certainly doesn't say that. The part that you quoted from PSN says "study, discuss, and implement" -- all 3 are actually the operative words, but it doesn't seem like the district is even doing the "study" part yet, much less the 2nd two.


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Posted by Don't do away with academic excellence
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2011 at 11:05 am

They have moved the start time later at Paly this year. The kids used to start before 8 AM, sometimes at 7:50 PM, now they start at 8:15 AM, almost a half hour later!

Bed time is not decided by teachers but by parents... Why do parents let their kids go to bed so late? There is a mandated bed time at my house for my teenagers and they get enough sleep.

Furthermore, I remember very well the back to school night in September. I attended it and ALL the teachers made a point of stressing that if the kids were overwhelmed with homework, cannot go to bed at a reasonable time, parents should come and talk to the teacher and the teacher would make accommodations! Have the parents who complain here done that? If enough parents went and talked to the teacher about this, I am sure the teacher would address the issue.

I think the real issue in many cases is that children have too many extra curricular activities after school, or plain just hang out in some cases, and end up doing their homework late at night. Again, not the school's fault. The parents are supposed to be in charge.

Finally, I am astounded at the level of meanness in many of the comments here. People who complain about teachers and school administrators being mean might want to take a look in the mirror before writing their comments.

Almost all of the teachers I know here are very dedicated people, who care deeply about the students and try very hard to educated them while respecting them as people. A little respect back towards the teachers and admins would be refreshing. As to the rare bad teachers, someone above got it right. The school district can't get rid of them, with tenure and the unions running the show. Again, the overwhelming majority of Palo Alto teachers are just wonderful.

(My only connection to schools is as a parent. I don't work for PAUSD in any capacity nor for the City of Palo Alto. Just in case).


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Posted by good to have more parent voice
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2011 at 11:52 am


Don't do away with academic excellence,

you bring up PAUSD's #1 mission statement line "Strive for academic excellence"

why do you worry so much about losing academic excellence in a district overflowing with families that must be among the country's highest population in levels of education, achievement, and participation in schools. This district has more than enough ingredients to keep the bar set high, very high. Academic excellence is here to stay, and it can get even better if stress is dealt with.

I read once Skelly characterize this district as not being the "real world" to supposedly make kids feel better about competing in this pool, but you know what?

this is the ONLY world our kids know. this is THEIR real world.

Dauber's Op-Ed pointed to Skelly's focus to let people know how great our schools are.

"In early 2008, Kevin Skelly, then the new superintendent of PAUSD, reversed an earlier decision by the district and entered our high schools in the Newsweek "Challenge Index." The index is simple: It's the number of AP tests divided by the number of graduating seniors. Palo Alto had opted out of participating in the 2007 ranking.

According to Scott Laurence, a former principal at both Paly and Gunn, the contest would yield only "increased pressure on already stressed out students." Skelly did not share the concern about stress, deciding instead to advertise how our kids "stack up" against others. He wanted to "let folks know how good the Palo Alto schools are."


It does appear that when Skelly made the choice to make us famous, maybe to get more kids into colleges, people came pouring in for the schools, but everything has a price.

good to see Dauber, an independent parent voice, keeping the focus on the real world we have in our schools.

If you're concerned about academic excellence, overcrowding, and academic stress should be in everyone's interest to keep as a priority.





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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 11, 2011 at 11:56 am

Don't do away with academic excellence - I'm glad to hear that your child's teachers are concerned about homework, my son is a senior and I have been to every back to school night since he kindergarten. After 6th grade, I have never had a teacher suggest we talk to them about too much homework.

I don't want to get rid of our academic excellence, but with just a little thought, teachers could easily have kids spend less time on homework. For example, does baking a French dish and photographing it (a several hour project) teach you that much about French? How about coloring posters, making movies, etc. In high school, lets leave art to the art classes, film to the film classes, or at least give the kids some options on projects. Making a movie for a class may be fun, but it can take 25 hours of time, maybe 1 or 2 of that related to the academic subject.

I agree that most PAUSD teachers are wonderful, caring, hardworking people. That makes the terrible teachers stand out even more!


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Posted by Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 11, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I want to comment in support of Ken Dauber and thank him publicly for his efforts on behalf of all students in the PAUSD district. I encourage the community to watch this part of the school board meeting (item B under the March 8 meeting video at Web Link), it's a lot less painful than sitting through the entire school board meeting and allows one to skip through the laundry list of stuff presented by the district and get to the comments made by the board and Mr Dauber. Mr Dauber was well prepared and articulate. I found it most unfortunate that Dr. Skelly chose not to respond to Mr Dauber in the meeting. It seemed disrespectful.

Above, EcoMama seems to suggest that because Mr Dauber was the only parent to comment at the meeting that his concerns are not reflective of others in the community. First of all, this agenda item when posted looked like an update on Project Cornerstone, not an update on the entire strategic goal and the presentation to be given wasn't posted until the day before...so it was difficult to find out what was actually on the agenda. Second, there was a very large group of parents, kids and concerned community members for the community meeting on Youth Advocacy held at St Marks on Feb 13 on behalf of Peninsula Interfaith Action.

It seems to me that the district doesn't need further encouragement to stay focused on the academic excellence goal. However, I believe the district does need vocal parents and community members to keep the pressure on to focus on the strategic goal to "Improve student connectedness and strengthen support systems for student social, emotional, physical health.” The items often highlighted by the district are activities that students must sign up for or decide to get involved in. It's important to shift the mindset to systemic, pervasive change to support our kids.


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Posted by Gunn Mom
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 11, 2011 at 1:49 pm

@What Project Safety Net Says:

The PSN report states on page 1 that its "Mission" "defines our community’s teen suicide prevention efforts." In other words, everything in that plan, including P-8 "Supportive School Environment" is in there because it "defines" "suicide prevention efforts." There would be no section on academic stress if it was unrelated to suicide. The fact that it is in there with a set of concrete recommendations such as moving finals before winter break, reducing homework, and re-examining curriculum is because the PSN team believed that it was related to teen suicide prevention.

The report is about teen suicide prevention and everything in it, all of the goals articulated, point to reducing teen suicide.

I agree completely with "parent".

I can tell you that the experience of our daughter at Gunn was one of stress, test anxiety, and constant fear of falling. Her best friend developed an ulcer. Another friend had a drug problem that required hospitalization and she was a high achiever and athlete. One of her friends was among the suicide victims. Some of her teachers were fine but others were remote and slow in responding to emails, grading homework in a timely manner, meeting for extra help, taking questions (no time for that, have to move on to the next thing on the AP curriculum) and it was almost impossible to keep up with the homework. She rarely got more than 5 hours of sleep a night. When we intervened to move her down a level she was very upset with us because it impacted her social status negatively because she felt she was perceived as a "loser" for moving down a lane. Once you move down, you can't move back up, so she felt socially stigmatized even though the lane she was in was probably the upper lane at most schools.

A lot of my friends' children have had these same problems so I don't appreciate the idea by some posters that there is something wrong with the parents or the kids who struggle at Gunn. With all due respect, Gunn is not like other high achieving schools. It is a lot more stressful than other comparable schools. There are some basic changes that can and should be made. There should be block scheduling like at Paly. There should be some rational basis for the amount of homework assigned. There should be overall policies that the district requires at all schools to ensure that the Race to Nowhere does not get out of hand.

Mr. Dauber is calling attention to a problem that is not only one of stress in the schools but of lack of leadership on the part of the BoE and the administration. They aren't doing their jobs because this job is going to be hard. They will have to have hard conversations with the community, the teachers, the parents, and the students. They will have to lead and make hard choices. If they can't do it, let's get a Board that can. Kudos to Mr. Dauber for taking this important first step in starting a conversation that is long overdue.


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Posted by Don't do away with academic excellence
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Someone asked why I am worried about excellence.

I have seen, on threads related to this topic, a number of posts requesting an end to AP classes or severely curtailing them, and possibly also curtailing laning. AP and high lane classes work very well for a number of students who get bored in regular classes, and not for others who struggle. I don't understand why we should take away these classes and thus reduce their options for students who can handle them and like them, in order to reduce the stress on other students who maybe should not be in those classes in the first place. To me it's a bit like punishing the top students for not having a problem that others have.

What should be done instead is cultivate a school atmosphere where it is fine to be in whatever lane that fits the student's needs, tastes or abilities, rather than reduce options. I agree that school size can be an issue. I suggest once more extending the "Team" concept to all high school students to mitigate the size problem.

I agree some homework is busy work that is not very useful (although language classes are about culture too, not just language). I guess my family has been fortunate so far this year at Paly. There has been very little useless homework in my child's classes. However, there is a type of homework that is useful, including in math and language classes, since practice is really a help in mastering the subject, just as it is when playing a music instrument.

I personally wish everybody well, high performing students AND students who are struggling, and all students in between, parents AND teachers and administrators.


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Posted by Read the List Again Maybe You Need Glasses
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 11, 2011 at 8:43 pm

@What Project Safety Net Says:

The link you put up lists some of the risk factors. You say the list is "long," but it has 8 items on it. Of these, half are related to the academic stress issue in PAUSD. Three are directly related, and one is indirectly related. The three that are directly related are:

Isolation or lack of social support
Situational crises
Hopelessness

All of these are problems for students at Gunn that are a direct result of severe academic stress.

First, pressure to perform, to do large quantities of difficult or stressful homework, to meet high expectations of parents and peers, to do well on all assignments and the resulting sleeplessness and anxiety can produce both "situational crises" in which a failed test or missed deadline creates an immediate crisis, or in which the extreme homework load causes stress which causes problems with romantic relationships, friends, or parents.

Second, many many children feel isolated and feel that they lack social support at Gunn because of the extremely competitive cutthroat atmosphere in many classes and the pressure to do well and get into the highest lane of everything. The entire point of PSN could probably be summed up in that one factor alone.

Third, hopelessness. Gunn High School is like a pie eating contest in which the prize is more pie. All that stress with no break (even over break!) makes people feel that no matter what they do it will never get easier and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. If they find academics hard but college is where they are expected by the system to go, then it could feel like an endless trudge through a pretty bleak landscape.

Fourth, substance abuse and depression. Gunn has a very large substance abuse problem. Many of these kids, like other teens, a big binge drinkers. Weed is also a big problem. And ecstasy and meth are present as well as other drugs such as adderol and ritalin to help with studying. Kids use drugs and alcohol like adults do -- to relieve stress, but they aren't as mature in handling their effects.

Finally depression. The links between academic stress and depression are well-documented. The precise mechanism probably is related to sleep deprivation and also to anxiety. But there is an abundant literature on this point. Academic stress causes depression, which in turn, is the number one risk factor for suicide. Depression is also caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, by related mood disorders such as bi-polar disorder, and by other kinds of environmental stressors (divorce, moving, breakups, etc.). In those cases, academic stress acts like an accelerant, fueling the flames of an extant problem. I must say that the idea that environmental stressors play no role in causing or exacerbating mental disorders is like the idea that climate change or evolution is a fraud. Unlike those cases, however, this false belief system has real victims right here and right now.

Another factor on the list is "history of suicide in the community." Thanks to academic stress, and the other factors to which it is related, we have that one too. We also have access to well-known means of self-harm. Pretty much the only thing on the list that Gunn students don't have is "incarceration."

So, to sum up, the list is not long it's short. Half of the factors on that short list are causally related to the academic stress at Gunn.

if you want to have a reasoned discussion about how to respond to the suicide crisis, I am for it. If you want to spread misinformation or make me prove that the earth is round then you are on your own.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2011 at 10:21 am

The District does not want to admit that academic stress and the accompanying lack of sleep can cause/exacerbate depression. They want to say that suicidal thoughts are based only on a pre-existing mental illness, with school having no impact. That's like saying that people who commit suicide after loosing their jobs did it just because they were depressed. Of course, their life circumstances contributed.

Not to say that too much homework and stress causes suicide - but lack of sleep, a lack of control over your life and feelings of failure certainly contribute to depression and can be the final "straw" in making a drastic decision. It is time that the District admits to being part of the puzzle.


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Posted by Bruce Li
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2011 at 3:05 pm

I totally agree with "Where are the parents?" It is my responsibility as a parent to ensure the health and welfare of my child. It is my responsibility to make sure she isn't feeling too much stress with school and to not cause additional stress because I know she is trying her hardest but can only manage a C+ average. It is my responsibility to still love her with a C+ average and to provide the guidance and emotional support to help her succeed. It is the responsibility of the PAUSD to provide our children with an education. PAUSD is doing an great job fulfilling their responsibility as educators, let's all work on fulfilling our responsibility of being a caring, loving, nurturing and engaged parent and stop blaming the schools or anything/anybody else!


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Posted by Parental Responsibilty
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Dear Bruce Li,

I could not agree with you more that parents play a primary role in the life of their child.

When you take your child for medical care, do you make sure the doctor provides care in a way that best meets the needs of your child? That the facilities and structure of the medical facility are designed with your child's interests in mind?

Expecting the doctor to best treat your child is an exercise of parental responsibility.

The parents who are looking to the schools to critically evaluate the facilities, structure,
and staff are also exercising their parental responsibilities.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Parental Responsibility - well said. If I don't like my child's doctor, I can choose another one. Not so with teachers or public schools.

Bruce Li - you are correct that parents are responsible for the health and well being of their children. That includes making sure the adults who interact with my child on a daily basis are at the very least polite and responsible adults. It is also true that what PAUSD owes our children is an education, it is our responsibility to ensure they accomplish that. It is our responsibility to hold PAUSD accountable for actually instructing our children (see the ongoing Math thread) and for making sure the classroom teachers are engaging, polite, kind, and competent. The VAST majority of PAUSD teachers are wonderful. The bottom 5% have no business in this District or probably any other.


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Posted by I Agree too
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 13, 2011 at 8:50 pm

Parents have to demand changes to the district when needed. Parents are as responsible as the district. If parents see that things could be improved and we do nothing, because it might be working for some students, and a child dies to suicide because the school was to stressful or was being bullied by other students and nothing was done, then this parent is also responsible because he noticed that things were not working for everyone. We cannot close our eyes and say things are ok when we know they are not, otherwise we are all responsible for that death. Do the right thing, demand the district to open another high school, give parents more choices for those students who do not like the regular school program, demand them to address bullying very seriously, and fire mean teachers, (the district knows who they are, but they are afraid to fire them). Our students social and emotional health should be number one priority not just academics.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2011 at 9:26 am

I agree too - the District is not afraid to fire mean teachers, they can't fire them. Tenure. No one should be guaranteed a job if they are incompentent.


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Posted by step up
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2011 at 3:58 pm

"good to see Dauber, an independent parent voice, keeping the focus on the real world we have in our schools"

For all of you who really believe this then please encourage Dauber to run for school board so that he can work toward a solution that he believes is good for PAUSD.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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