Krolik's email was sent evening of Nov. 5 to an email list for parents of Gunn juniors
Hope you all are doing as well as possible and holding your children close; I can't imagine how horrifying and stressful this must feel as a parent. My mom was showing me all the emails, and I completely understand where you're coming from. However, I'd like to offer some words of comfort and redirect some of the frustration going around.
You have no idea how supportive the faculty was yesterday. I guess I can only speak for myself, but as the Lees were neighbors and close friends of my family, I was affected by Cameron's death, and I know that there were counselors around every corner to help me. Kids were allowed to go home and skip class and really do whatever they needed.
Most teachers did not teach class, and in my English class (Cameron's class as well), we did an amazing and beautiful activity of writing positive notes to each other that my teacher planned. Everyone was affected by this tragedy, and everyone was as supportive of each other as possible.
I told you all of this to remind you that it is understandable, in grief, to find an external scapegoat for the problem. However, I think it is not fair to blame the school and principal, etc., for what has happened. Gunn is stressful, yes. But people like Dr. Hermann, who has been such a kind and promising change agent at our school, are not to blame.
No one is to blame, and there are so many factors, but I encourage you all to take this opportunity for self-reflection. It is not the school, but the atmosphere our community has created that makes the stress at Gunn so prevalent. Kids are taking so many advanced classes while trying to balance extracurriculars and even sleep. Everyone across the country has many tests, but our community still seems to struggle from an overwhelming amount of pressure that is different than most others: the pressure to achieve perfection.
In a conversation I had yesterday, we tried to decipher this stigma. My thoughts come down to this: Parents want their kids to succeed more than they did themselves as a child, because of course, you love your children. Unfortunately, in a community like ours that is filled with such successful and talented people, this is asking too much.
This impossible standard causes a ripple effect, making kids feel as if they cannot talk about the problems that exist behind the closed doors of a home or even their minds because weakness does not fit into perfection.
Perfect people are not depressed, we think. Even though we are blessed to be a part of a privileged community, the twisted blessing of a less-fortunate community is that carrying baggage is seen as normal. A sad but true theme in society.
Maybe this is a sign that we need to start creating a more positive culture where failure is celebrated. We've said this a million times, but it still doesn't seem to work not only for the parents but between the kids as well. We must all watch ourselves and ensure that we are embodying what really matters and actually implementing the structures that promote failure as acceptable and reward effort over accuracy.
At school, we cannot view Bs as the end of the world, and we must create an environment where all kids feel supported by teachers to grow. At home, you must check in with your kids, and role model for them that it is okay to feel and to fail. We all have to work together to eliminate the largely contributing factors to depression in this area. Everyone has to be involved or the effect of our work will only scratch the surface.
I know it's much harder to change a culture than blame something, but sometimes what's right isn't easy. Good luck to you all with your task force! I hope that we can together, as a community, make change.