A 15-year-old Palo Alto student was killed by a train on the railroad tracks south of Churchill Avenue in Palo Alto on Monday, school officials have confirmed. He was identified by the Santa Clara County Coroner's Office as Qingyao Zhu of Palo Alto.
Zhu died at about 6:25 a.m. on Monday, March 9, Caltrain officials confirmed. He was a Palo Alto High School sophomore, Superintendent Max McGee said. Principal Kim Diorio sent an email message to parents Monday morning to let them know of the incident. McGee also sent a message to all parents Monday afternoon, encouraging them to "be willing to have hard conversations with our children about their feelings even though they may not want to talk.
"Those most at risk are students who 'suffer in silence' and fear disappointing parents, friends, or others by expressing their needs, sadness, or fears."
"Many of our students feel pressure to be successful and may even think that mental illness is a sign of weakness," McGee continued. "It is not, and it is a sign of strength to seek help for oneself or others. Please talk to your students and their friends and encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings when experiencing difficult times."
The school's crisis-response team was immediately activated Monday morning, with support services to be provided by the district's mental-health partners: Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS), grief nonprofit Kara, Acknowledge Alliance (formerly Cleo Eulau Center), Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI), Family & Children Services and Counseling Support Services for Youth (CASSY).
Paly also introduced this week Monday night an email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) for students to refer friends that they think might need professional support or write out their own thoughts, student news website the Paly Voice reported.
The preliminary investigation indicates that the death was an intentional act, Caltrain officials said.
The city's Teen Programs department announced Monday that the Mitchell Park Community Center's Teen Center will be open for special evening drop-in hours this week (Monday through Friday, 4-8 p.m.) for any students who "want a place outside of the school setting to decompress, be together, talk through recent tragedies, or just be." The center is located at 3700 Middlefield Road.
The city is also hosting a teen forum on Friday, March 27, at the community center at 6 p.m.
In addition, the sanctuary at Grace Lutheran Church, 3149 Waverley St., Palo Alto, will be open throughout the week for anyone wanting a quiet place to reflect or pray, Pastor Matthew Smuts said. The sanctuary, at the corner of Waverley and Loma Verde Avenue, will be open until 8 p.m. Monday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the rest of the week.
The fatality initially shut down Caltrain service in both directions with delays of up to an hour and a half, Caltrain officials said.
All the passengers onboard the train got off at the Stanford station. The northbound train, #309, was an express baby bullet train that left the San Jose Diridon station at 6:09 a.m.
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.