Palo Alto school officials have confirmed that a male Gunn High School senior died by suicide near his residence early Saturday morning.
The school's crisis response team met over the weekend and is working with district and site staff, school board members and the district's community partners to coordinate support services for students and families at Gunn and throughout the district, Superintendent Max McGee wrote in a message sent to parents Saturday afternoon. Local mental-health organizations -- Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS), grief nonprofit Kara, Acknowledge Alliance, Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI), Family & Children Services and Counseling Support Services for Youth (CASSY) -- will provide extra support and assistance.
"I know that we are all deeply saddened by this tragedy in our community and it weighs heavily on all of us," McGee wrote to parents. "Coming so closely to the deaths of other community youth in 2014, this event may make vulnerable youth especially at risk, so we want to remind you of the many resources in our community and share our plan to support our students as they return to school on Monday."
McGee urged parents to reach out to school principals, psychologists, counselors or district staff if they believe their child might be at risk.
"As we have mentioned before, please encourage your children to express their feelings to you and/or other trusted adults as well as give them space to reflect as needed," he wrote. "As a father, I know how terribly complicated it is to work through tragic life events, and your unconditional love, non-judgmental listening and supportive presence go a long way in helping children heal in the wake of such trauma. Although difficult, these conversations and time together more often than not will provide some comfort, even if it is not immediately apparent. Again, our counselors and community supports are available for you and your family as well as your sons and daughters."
In a second message McGee sent to parents on Sunday, Jan. 25, he laid out specific district plans to boost student health and well-being.
"While we already have considerable prevention efforts in place including active monitoring of at-risk students, extensive counseling, our student Reach Out, Care, and Know organization, homework monitoring, and professional development efforts with teachers, we have plans to do more in the areas that directly link to student social emotional health," McGee wrote. "These areas include sleep deprivation education and management, a more formal approval process for students who want to take exceptionally challenging classes or heavy workloads, an independent research study of consistency in curriculum, instruction, assessment, grading and homework practices, tight monitoring to eliminate project and test 'stacking,' additional professional development, and continuing our frequent and consistent messaging regarding the importance of students becoming thoughtful learners for a lifetime, instead of chasing A's and APs."
The district is also planning a February information night for "for all PAUSD parents to come together and receive information, discuss concerns, share ideas, and provide support to one another," McGee wrote. Mental health experts as well as students will participate in the event, McGee told the Weekly.
Update: Family: Student had suffered from depression (Jan. 27)
Help is available
Any person who is feeling depressed, troubled or suicidal is urged to call 1-800-784-2433 to speak with a crisis counselor. People in Santa Clara County can also call 1-855-278-4204.
A list of local mental health resources is also available here.
Read more: How to help those in crisis