News


Caltrain fatality identified as Palo Alto teen

School district superintendent encourages parents to talk with their children about how they're feeling

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 (palysupport@pausd.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 school and community resources are also available on the school district's Health Services page and the Counseling Services page.

A list of local mental health resources is also available here.

Read more:

How to help those in crisis

Q&A about mental health: Local experts offer their advice

Editor's note: The name of the teenager is being withheld from publication while the family notifies kin.

Comments

65 people like this
Posted by michie
a resident of University South
on Mar 9, 2015 at 7:21 am

[Post removed.]


31 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2015 at 7:40 am

Regardless who this was, it is a life lost.

It is a hard commute for Paly students who have to cross the tracks at Churchill to get to school.


42 people like this
Posted by JQPublic
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 7:46 am

[Post removed.]


27 people like this
Posted by Jaya Pandey
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 8:26 am

[Post removed.]


50 people like this
Posted by CommutingDad
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 9, 2015 at 8:30 am

My thoughts and prayers for the family and friends of the person killed this morning.

The solution is, at least in part, grade separation and fenced tracks. Be it overpass or underpass.
This is the Nth fatality this year, and almost a weekly incident. We can do better than just talk about it (again), and place yet another guard somewhere to appease our conscience that we've done enough to make this problem go away.


35 people like this
Posted by Bike commuter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 9, 2015 at 8:42 am

[Post removed.]


29 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2015 at 8:43 am

The train is stopped right behind the language building and academic support. The Paly students and staff have to go on with their daily life with all this going on right beside school. This is not an easy day for Paly. Even the tv cameras are showing school buildings in the background as they report.


272 people like this
Posted by Paly student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:18 am

I understand why people are suggesting barriers, however someone who is suicidal will find a way around the barriers. We should be talking about why our community continues to have students (and adults) who feel the need to end their lives. It's really upsetting to constantly hear about a fellow peer ending their life and I personally would rather work on the issues that cause these feelings whether it's depression or pressure from school and family life rather than debating barriers.


62 people like this
Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:21 am

A voice from Death, solemn and strange, in all his sweep and power,
With sudden, indescribable blow--towns drown'd--humanity by
thousands slain,
The vaunted work of thrift, goods, dwellings, forge, street, iron bridge,
Dash'd pell-mell by the blow--yet usher'd life continuing on,
(Amid the rest, amid the rushing, whirling, wild debris,
A suffering woman saved--a baby safely born!)
Although I come and unannounc'd, in horror and in pang,
In pouring flood and fire, and wholesale elemental crash, (this
voice so solemn, strange,)
I too a minister of Deity.
Yea, Death, we bow our faces, veil our eyes to thee,
We mourn the old, the young untimely drawn to thee,
The fair, the strong, the good, the capable,
The household wreck'd, the husband and the wife, the engulfed forger
in his forge,
The corpses in the whelming waters and the mud,
The gather'd thousands to their funeral mounds, and thousands never
found or gather'd.
Then after burying, mourning the dead,
(Faithful to them found or unfound, forgetting not, bearing the
past, here new musing,)
A day--a passing moment or an hour--America itself bends low,
Silent, resign'd, submissive.
War, death, cataclysm like this, America,
Take deep to thy proud prosperous heart.
E'en as I chant, lo! out of death, and out of ooze and slime,
The blossoms rapidly blooming, sympathy, help, love,
From West and East, from South and North and over sea,
Its hot-spurr'd hearts and hands humanity to human aid moves on;
And from within a thought and lesson yet.
Thou ever-darting Globe! through Space and Air!
Thou waters that encompass us!
Thou that in all the life and death of us, in action or in sleep!
Thou laws invisible that permeate them and all,
Thou that in all, and over all, and through and under all, incessant!
Thou! thou! the vital, universal, giant force resistless, sleepless, calm,
Holding Humanity as in thy open hand, as some ephemeral toy,
How ill to e'er forget thee!
For I too have forgotten,
(Wrapt in these little potencies of progress, politics, culture,
wealth, inventions, civilization,)
Have lost my recognition of your silent ever-swaying power, ye
mighty, elemental throes,
In which and upon which we float, and every one of us is buoy'd.

- Walt Whitman, 1889


7 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:24 am

[Post removed.]


39 people like this
Posted by Access Matters
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:28 am

[Post removed.]


30 people like this
Posted by Paly friend
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:29 am

Sam, it sounds like this happened in a location (by Town and Country) that is in between guard stations and easy to access by jumping about 18 inches. So thge guards would have been helpless in this situation. As "Paly Student" suggested... a determined person is always going to find a way around safeguards.


Like this comment
Posted by Amanda
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:29 am

[Post removed due to inaccurate information; track guards are at Churchill.)


85 people like this
Posted by student paly
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:29 am

[Portion removed.] the guards are doing the best they can and spend long hours throughout the day and cold nights. please be more respectful. everyone is doing the best they can.


122 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:36 am

Thank you to the guards. I see you almost every day. It has to be a tough job, boring and tense at the same time. [Portion removed.] Thank you for your efforts. Thank you for being there.


2 people like this
Posted by CRW
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:46 am

CRW is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


74 people like this
Posted by PAHS Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:46 am

Weeping openly for the entire community.... These suicides are tragedies for everyone.


53 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Zilliac
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:54 am

I'm so sorry. I know the pain that leads to these tragedies. And I know the pain of the aftermath. My hope is for healing for the family, friends, and community.


54 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:58 am

saying it is the fault of bridges or guards is like saying the guard rails were to blame for the titanic. this is a crisis and this community should be organizing support for the victims family rather than thinking of themselves or grasping at straws at all at this time. read the poem. It could have been your child or mine. The only concern should be for the family and their extreme grief and suffering.


28 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:59 am

[Post removed; please be mindful there is a grieving family and friends and be careful to make comments respectfully and with restraint.]


6 people like this
Posted by Michie
a resident of University South
on Mar 9, 2015 at 10:00 am

[Post removed.]


29 people like this
Posted by Phyllis Kayten
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 9, 2015 at 10:34 am

Phyllis Kayten is a registered user.

The guards are at Churchill 24-7. I live on the corner and they sit right behind my house. The victim was in between California Ave station and Churchill.. Wish there was a sensor that detected movement along the tracks that would trigger a voice message


9 people like this
Posted by Phyllis Kayten
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 9, 2015 at 10:44 am

Phyllis Kayten is a registered user.

Sorry, error in my report the accident happened north of churchill as previous neighbor reported. But same issue, being in between crossings


4 people like this
Posted by CRW
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 9, 2015 at 11:10 am

CRW is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


104 people like this
Posted by muttiallen
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 9, 2015 at 11:12 am

muttiallen is a registered user.

I am so sorry for this family and the Paly community. My children graduated from PAUSD 10-15 years ago. Both Paly and Gunn were high-stress then, and it has gotten worse. Guards are a 'feel-good' visible way to show community concern, but the real solution lies in changing a culture of needing to be perfect and the best at everything. Only in fictional Lake Wobegon are all the children are above average. Parents, please let your kids know it's OK to be a middle-of-the-pack kid.


6 people like this
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2015 at 11:13 am

KP is a registered user.

[Post removed; please be mindful there is a grieving family and friends and be careful to make comments respectfully and with restraint.]


28 people like this
Posted by PA CA Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 11:23 am

PA CA Mom is a registered user.

We can never know to what extent the guards have helped to prevent additional suicides but surely they have helped, either by direct intervention or just by being present. It's sad that they have been needed but they are valued.


14 people like this
Posted by Gunn Class of '67
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 11:34 am

Gunn Class of '67 is a registered user.

Heartbreaking. Impossible to understand why the real problem is overlooked; the obvious underlying problem and simple, proactive action, if taken would minimize if not eliminate these tragedies.


68 people like this
Posted by Neil Shea
a resident of University South
on Mar 9, 2015 at 11:34 am

Neil Shea is a registered user.

'Paly Student' and others -- no it is empirically not correct that suicidal folks will always find another way. Much research demonstrates that suicide is often an impulsive act, and people feel differently minutes or one day later.

[Portion removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by Neil Shea
a resident of University South
on Mar 9, 2015 at 11:39 am

Neil Shea is a registered user.

No doubt our guards are heroes in many cases, but we cannot expect them to be effective outside of stations -- until we separate and fence off the tracks unfortunately we will need to steel ourselves to the likelihood of this regretable pattern continuing here in Palo Alto.


46 people like this
Posted by wise
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 9, 2015 at 11:39 am

wise is a registered user.

If someone wants to commit suicide they will find a way. The key is to help them beforehand so they don't have a desire to commit suicide.


36 people like this
Posted by Elaine
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 9, 2015 at 11:53 am

Elaine is a registered user.

This is another tragic event for the community and I hope students will reach out to those around them for help and support.

Many comments seem to suggest that decreasing the accessibility of the train tracks, either through a grade separation or more impenetrable barriers, would not solve this problem and further suggest that someone intent on committing suicide will do so regardless. While there is no magic solution, there is an element of impulsiveness in taking one's life by jumping in front of a train. [Portion removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Maryanne
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 9, 2015 at 11:55 am

Maryanne is a registered user.

At Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley, we are heartbroken by this news and send our sympathies to the family members, friends, and classmates who are coping with this tragic loss.

Our Palo Alto Counseling Program is available with confidential support: 650-326-6576, www.fcservices.org. We also suggest the excellent resources available from American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, including the guidance on coping with suicide loss:
Web Link

Our community did not need more proof of the urgency of moving forward with increased suicide prevention efforts.


3 people like this
Posted by pacsailor
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 9, 2015 at 11:58 am

pacsailor is a registered user.

This is a horrible tragedy for the family of this child and for the community. Adding a guard at every crossing or trenching the rails will not solve this problem of teen suicide. [Portion removed.]


30 people like this
Posted by PaulPC
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 9, 2015 at 12:03 pm

PaulPC is a registered user.

My own wife, many years ago, almost died at that same spot on her way to high school. She was not despondent, just oblivious. Another student pulled her back at the last moment. [Portion removed.] My heart cries out for the family stricken by this terrible event.


34 people like this
Posted by home.melissa
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 9, 2015 at 12:06 pm

home.melissa is a registered user.

This is a terrible tragedy and my heart goes out to the family of the child. And his classmates. And our community. This latest suicide needs to be seen as the last and final piece of evidence that something is going very wrong in our town for teenagers. The series of suicides need to be examined in minute detail. That means 'everything'. Race, gender, religion, school, education system - the Caltrain itself. Absolutely anything that could possibly be relevant. My son is a sophomore at Palo Alto High School. I and other parents are aware that these suicides happen in clusters. And that an idea that may have never crossed my sons mind may have just come into his world. This makes me 'very' concerned. [Portion removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by PaulPC
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Mar 9, 2015 at 12:09 pm

PaulPC is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


30 people like this
Posted by Rachel E
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 9, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Rachel E is a registered user.

My heart breaks for the family of this teen. While families may be able to reduce this risk, we shouldn't ignore the role of the accessibility of the tracks. I disagree with many on this string that putting the train underground wouldn’t help (thank you Neil and Elaine for the GG Bridge and Cornell comments). [Portion removed.]


23 people like this
Posted by Rose A
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 9, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Rose A is a registered user.

My condolences to the family and friends of the deceased. I am sincerely sorry for your loss.


18 people like this
Posted by Neil Shea
a resident of University South
on Mar 9, 2015 at 12:41 pm

Neil Shea is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Ado
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Ado is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


26 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2015 at 1:04 pm

relentlesscactus is a registered user.

"Adding a guard at every crossing or trenching the rails will not solve this problem of teen suicide."

True. Those committing suicide are despondent, not stupid. They can figure out how to get around the guards. My problem with the guards is not the guards as people, it is the idea that guards can help. A false, feel-good, solution is more of a detriment than no solution.

"This is something that needs to be addressed mostly by the family, and friends,"

True.

"who should pay attention to the behavior of children and should notice any change of behavior or attitude."

A friend of mines' son was one of those who commited suicide. They did everything they could to help him; the doctors told them suicide for his condition was more likely than not. He was in a facility the night of his suicide. He escaped and went to a spot with no guard.

This is important, because spending billions to solve this problem will not solve it. Money should be expended in the most effective way possible, not the most money spent.

As well, it is important, because making comments that the family and friends "should have done more" does not help and may lay a needless guilt trip on them. Often, you can do your best and there is no solution; this is something many people cannot accept.


80 people like this
Posted by Barron
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 1:07 pm

Barron is a registered user.

We moved to Palo Alto last summer and here are my observations as an outsider.
1> The first time I came across Alma and East meadow intersection, it took me a couple of minutes to figure out crossing. It is very easy to decide to cross across the rail tracks without knowing there isn't enough room for 2 cars there. I resisted the urge to move forward and I am thankful. The lights started blinking and the rail guards started moving down and the signal turned green. I decided to stay put and let the train pass. Since then, I know how the crossing works and I am careful. However, there are quite a few people who might be crossing that signal for the first time and believe me it is very tempting to accelerate and move forward ( have seen quite a few cars do that). And thats when those cars get stuck on tracks. Who in the right frame of mind plans such tracks in middle of highly populated cities. I get the point that this was done way before Palo Alto was this populated. But it time to change this.
2> Can we not afford to have some more lag between the lights flashing and the train crossing. Add another 20-30 seconds and this might save a life.
3> This is the most painful one. My condolences to the family who lost their loved one today. This is what I have noticed here. People are way too caught up in their professional lives. Most of them justify by saying that after all it is for the family. People, when you are driving your kids to/back from school, talk to them. Do not be on your phone. Those calls can wait. I see quite a few kids taking selfies or texting when they are sitting beside an adult ( presumably a parent). You put that phone down and your children will do so. Get a little more involved in your kid's life which does not involve checking their homework, assignments, dropping them off to some music lesson, soccer lessons etc. It is in those moments when you truly listen, you can catch a glimpse of your child which you did not know existed. Stanford can wait. That is not the be-all , end-all !


219 people like this
Posted by Paly Sophmore
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 9, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Paly Sophmore is a registered user.

I knew the student who committed suicide this morning as I have had classes with him in middle school and even this year. He is the last person that I would have thought to do something like this [portion removed.] The district has tried to provide stress relievers like no homework nights, but the following week everything is just how it was before. I am not saying that countless hours of schoolwork every night was the sole reason, because I am aware that it was not, but I will tell you one thing through the eyes of a current PAUSD student: copious amounts of homework, and pressure from our parents, peers, school, and community most certainly contribute to these gruesome events. Something needs to change.


59 people like this
Posted by hcc2009
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 1:14 pm

hcc2009 is a registered user.

So sad. Here's an insight. Recently a neighbor of mine posted to the Neighborhood forum that he had a new wonderful program to reduce stress in high school students. It was all about how to become an entrepreneur! Talk about someone who "doesn't get it". Palo Alto & Los Altos are over the top when it comes to achievement stress. It's coming from parents and parent cullture. Perhaps not the exact parents of any given child, but the overall parental culture that brags constantly about the achievements of their children but perhaps not so much the sweetness of their children.


21 people like this
Posted by PA mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 1:18 pm

PA mom is a registered user.

I'm so sorry. My condolences to the family and friends of the deceased, and may he RIP. My daughter goes to Paly, and I'm concerned for the safety of other Paly students. If any upset students are reading this, please remember:

It gets better.


The Santa Clara County Suicide and Crisis Services line: 1-855-278-4204 available 24/7 to provide support for suicidal persons and those around them.

2. California Youth Crisis Line: 1-800-843-5200; youthcrisisline.org<Web Link>

3. Trevor Project Lifeline, specializing in crisis help for GLBTQ youth: 1-866-488-7386


174 people like this
Posted by hcc2009
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 1:24 pm

hcc2009 is a registered user.

Dear "Paly Sophomore" - [Portion removed.] You WILL love the college you go to, whatever and whereever it is. Harvard and Stanford are overhyped. People LOVE Davis, they LOVE Oregon State, they LOVE Arizona, they love tiny little liberal arts colleges in Ohio. Who cares if you parents approve or not? Follow your own heart, your own head! As a sophomore you are on the cusp of adulthood and you might as well know now, if you didn't already, that parents can be very messed up and misguided. My daughter made mostly B's and a few A's at Gunn, but did get into a college which she loved, got a strong degree and now has a job she loves. My step-daughter dropped out of high school, ultimately got her GED and now has a job that she loves and a wonderful happy life. Trust me, when you are 24 years old whether you made A's or B's in high school will mean nothing at all.


5 people like this
Posted by Thoughtful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2015 at 1:26 pm

Thoughtful is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North

on Mar 9, 2015 at 1:27 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.


Remember me?
Forgot Password?
Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North

on Mar 9, 2015 at 1:37 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.


Remember me?
Forgot Password?
Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


4 people like this
Posted by VS
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 9, 2015 at 1:37 pm

VS is a registered user.

What does the city plan to do about this? Enough! Doing nothing is not an option. Come on PA Weekly! Push this onto the powers that be. report what they are or are not doing about this. Their voice is missing from this conversation.


Like this comment
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2015 at 2:00 pm

KP is a registered user.

[Post removed; please be mindful there is a grieving family and be careful to make comments respectfully and with restraint.]


30 people like this
Posted by Ado
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Ado is a registered user.

Can there be a link to all the removed posts? Some of the more novel observations and proposals are probably among these.


84 people like this
Posted by Be Kind PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 9, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Be Kind PA is a registered user.

Folks,

Don't underestimate the peer pressure in PAUSD, and the *inadvertent* pressure high-achieving parents can put on their kids without even realizing it . There is very real peer pressure to do as well as your friends, and to not be seen as "dumber" than others. This pressure alone can be very hard on kids, irrespective of their parents. Another issue is high-achieving parents who don't think they pressure their kids, and yet their kids see them as high achieving and assume/understand their parents expect the same from them.

We do not pressure our kids at all, and yet they still sometimes freak out over a late homework assignment. We can tell them over and over that it's fine, every thing will be fine, and still have a nearly inconsolable child. We don't care where they go to college (as long as they don't go too far away!) and yet they still feel a lot of pressure.

It's not as easy as just blaming the parents or the school district, the life we live here is very complex. Think about some or our kids' public role models - a lot of twenty-something billionaires. You don't think that doesn't add pressure too?


68 people like this
Posted by Bill Johnson
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Mar 9, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

@Ado and others: Palo Alto Online moderators are removing or editing posts that focus on blame or responsibility, as well as those that are making overly detailed descriptions of this incident or other incidents. While wanting to provide a safe and healthy place for members of the community to express their opinions, we are mindful that those who knew this child and others in the community are in shock and grieving. This tragedy happened just eight hours ago, and we implore readers to show their respect for the family, their close friends and the school staff that is trying to support our kids today by not speculating, placing blame or advocating specific "solutions." There will be time for that, but it is too soon for the focus to be on anything but the immediate care and support of those directly impacted, and especially the Palo Alto High School community of students, teachers and parents.


28 people like this
Posted by X.Y
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 9, 2015 at 2:23 pm

X.Y is a registered user.

I have not read this mentioned, what about require the train to reduce speed to 25mph transiting Palo Alto?

How many minutes will that slow the train down? This can be a short term solution until long term solutions are found.

Doing nothing is not an alternative in my opinion.


12 people like this
Posted by _Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 9, 2015 at 2:31 pm

_Parent is a registered user.

Thank you, Bill. Please just be sure that we do make time for honest dialog, before people are pulled away by the inevitable distractions of life. A well-known phenomenon after disasters is the grassroots that come from the grieving, but if they are not allowed to grow, the grief process and the good that could come from them - that honors those who suffer the tragedy - can be lost.

Thank you for the admonishment and for allowing discussion to continue. My heart goes out to the family. We can't allow this to happen to anyone else, we just can't.


31 people like this
Posted by bornnraiseinpa
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 9, 2015 at 2:41 pm

bornnraiseinpa is a registered user.

So sorry and such a shame, it sickens me to see this. Grew up in PA, and left a few years ago, because of how it has changed so much. Never were these issues growing up. It was a fun place where all the kids from Gunn, Paly & Cubberley knew each from elementary days. Sad to see how this is seems to be a path now for kids. Why can't they just back off on these kids and let them grow up normally.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 9, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


28 people like this
Posted by Michie
a resident of University South
on Mar 9, 2015 at 2:58 pm

Michie is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] The loss of life is horrific. But often times we forget the Caltrain engineers and the impact they are left with. They are the witnesses of these tragedies. I cannot imagine the stress of everyday worry that this could happen.

[Portion removed.]


30 people like this
Posted by Gunn Father
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 9, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Gunn Father is a registered user.

The "train" is not the issue. How many more ... this tragedy is snowballing and as previously stated: this is a complex problem. That Paly Soph seemed to be onto how something, ' things just go back to "normal" the next week '. And therein lies the problem . Normal for Gunn, and now seemingly Paly, is too much of everything ... Google "the Darkside of Getting Into College" . Well worth reading for any, like me, a parent of 3 in the PAUSD. Many will flee Gunn high school for next yr but many cannot afford private schools so they will be stuck in an unsafe environment. There are ways to make it safer, not perfect, but better, and other communities, like Needham MA, have succeeded in doing just that... Our 'leaders' have the challenge of their lives : namely saving PA students lives. Are they up to it? We shall see ...


18 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 9, 2015 at 3:45 pm

Jonathan Brown is a registered user.

Bill, you say you "are removing or editing posts that focus on blame or responsibility" or are "overly detailed." My post did neither. Your removal now suggests that my post was somehow improper or disrespectful to family and loved ones, and that implication is hurtful for family and loved ones (and me). Your removal of my comment--to make our community safer--has instead caused the type of harm you say you're trying to avoid. Better to allow no comments at all if you're taking down ones like mine.


64 people like this
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Paly Alum is a registered user.

I have no idea of the reason this child took his life but would like to comment on the atmosphere.

I graduated in the early 80s from Paly and have 3 children, and experience with Paly. There is definitely more academic stress now. In addition, AP classes were easier back then - not easy, but easier. When a student can get a 5 (top score) on the AP exam, yet the students are struggling in class and even the good students get a C grade, something is wrong. I have open lines of communication with my children and they respect me and come to me with issues. I resent seeing that people blame all the stress on the parents. Yes, some is parenting, but there is academic stress in the high schools beyond what students at other schools have.

Part of the stress is college admission requirements have increased. We didn't need such high stats in the past, plus, there was less rigor.

PAUSD should restrict the amount of APs the students can take to 2 per year. The colleges will see the restriction when evaluating. These kids are loading up on APs not due to interest, but due to college admissions. Castilleja eliminated all APs. Those who want more APs can move to another school district and lessen their mortgage.


14 people like this
Posted by JSnoo
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 9, 2015 at 3:49 pm

JSnoo is a registered user.

This is so sad. Another teen death is really a tragedy. It really concerns me what academic pressure kids are under these days. Obviously the cause has not yet been determined, but my friend who is a Stanford educated psychologist wrote a piece on this and how the push for high achievement in this community can be quite toxic to the mental health of teens. You can read it here if you are interest: Web Link . If this really is at play I hope the schools and other parents in the community start taking it to heart and lay off their kids a little. It's so sad to see this.


46 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 9, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Don't forget the silent victims of these tragic deaths:

The train engineer and the responding firefighters.


24 people like this
Posted by EmmaB
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 9, 2015 at 4:17 pm

EmmaB is a registered user.

hcc2009 - I don't want to be all confrontational and stuff in the comments on a news story about teen suicide. But regarding your comment about the guy in your neighborhood who "doesn't get it"... Honestly, I think you might be the one who doesn't get it.

Entrepreneurship is all about taking chances -- AND accepting failure. It's about getting it wrong the first time, and doing better next time. It's about thinking outside the box. It's about developing your own interests and expertise -- which, according to "Good Schools Don't Turn Kids Into Zombies - Bad Parents Do" (Web Link) could be anything from flying remote control airplanes (which turned into AirSwimmers, which won the 2012 Gift of the Year Award) to taking photos of stars (which turned into a very successful Kickstarter campaign for Radian, an affordable motion time-lapse device for phones and cameras) to a fascination with literature (which turned into an early role at Quora, a hot Silicon Valley question-and-answer startup).

Meanwhile, school -- at least in high-achieving districts like PAUSD -- is about perfection. Competition. Getting it right the first time. Never messing up OR ELSE. Pulling all-nighters. Taking classes not because you want to, but because you "should."

If you don't see how an entrepreneurship class that focuses on stress reduction and passion development would be very healthy for gifted, high achieving students... maybe you're the one who doesn't get it.

But you wouldn't be the only one. LOTS of parents and students don't realize that there are many, many paths to success and hapiness. And they're not all paved with 4.0s.


4 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 9, 2015 at 4:26 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Suicidal people will find a way to commit suicide, so no clever technical solution vis-a-vis access to the train track is a solution. Parents need to stop putting so much pressure on their kids, then kids will stop putting so much pressure on themselves. Our schools need to stop being so obsessively competitive. [Portion removed.] It is likely that if the pressure is reduced or even eliminated, kids with depression and other mental health difficulties will be less inclined to attempt suicide.


15 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 4:48 pm

Marc Vincenti is a registered user.

Dear Palo Alto Onliners,

I'm grateful to Michele Dauber for her post, and to Bill Johnson for his guidance.

To everyone—family, friends, classmates, schoolmates, teachers, counselors, parents, staff, administrators, the police and other first-responders, therapists, those who've suffered previous losses, younger or older siblings and their friends and their teachers, athletic coaches, school-bus drivers, train engineers, journalists, and anyone feeling the pain of today's blow—I would like to offer condolences.

I believe we can change the life we're offering our teens.

I believe we can change their lives (and in particular their schooling) not in such a way as to cure adolescent despair, but to make it more bearable and more survivable.

We can offer our students the hope they may need in order to persevere.

We've all been hit so terribly hard by these deaths. But we needn't feel helpless; we can act.

Sincerely,
Marc Vincenti
www.savethe2008.com


5 people like this
Posted by _Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 9, 2015 at 4:57 pm

_Parent is a registered user.

maruicio,
With all due respect, it actually does make a difference if you can make it more difficult for people when they hit that low point.

If you are trying to lose some weight by stopping the donuts, but not replacing them with healthy habits, you aren't likely to be successful. Simply saying we need to stop an unhealthy culture or habit is not enough, we need to create a healthy one. I think we could do that if we lived by our own vision, our own mandates, our own promises. I do think some of our district leaders who have been around for the first round of this but who thwarted efforts of parents to try to address some of the issues should consider whether it might be time to move on and let fresh eyes and people with a greater sense of urgency for the health and wellbeing of our children, and a better attitude toward and relationship with parents, work for that healthier climate. Anyone who has ever made an educational or health decision for our kids for the sake of their own convenience/embarrassment/book/performance review/not having to make an apology out of ego should consider that this shouldn't be about them, but about our kids.

For what it's worth, I think a lot of the parent bashing is misplaced. I see a lot of parents trying to create a better environment who get stopped cold at the district office.

Also for what it's worth, the things that cause the most stress in our own family from school remain unaddressed and in some ways worst than ever despite everything that has happened. Some people in previous discussions have suggested we take on a more comprehensive approach, like the Challenger commission, and I agree. When you get in an airplane, the safety comes from very carefully developed, methodical actions on checklists, not because in every instance the worst would happen if we didn't do every single measure, but because the consequences if one went wrong are unthinkable and so easy to prevent.

So it should be with our efforts. And not just to avoid tragedy, but to create an environment that is far healthier and supports the gifts and dreams and education of every child. And makes those who are suffering feel safe to seek help.


26 people like this
Posted by Barron Park Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 4:57 pm

Barron Park Mom is a registered user.

Here is a New York Times article published today that addresses the difficulties of predicting who will commit suicide and the efficacy of making the means (such as guns and trains) harder to come by.

Web Link


25 people like this
Posted by mommie dear
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 9, 2015 at 5:15 pm

mommie dear is a registered user.

Yes, my heart too goes out to the family and my entire Palo Alto community. Culture change takes a LOOONG time. My daughter will be a freshman at Paly (or Gunn) next year. Why should we wait for something that may not even happen, People? We have a Suicide Trend in Palo Alto and a Bullet running straight thru our high schools back yards! We need to STOP THAT BULLET. #slowthetraininPAnow! I agree with everyone who wants to get to the bottom of WHATS ailing our youth, but I already see its gonna cost MORE TEEN LIVES before change happens. Why wouldn't we SLOW THE TRAIN now? In any crisis situation, you prioritize and stop the bleeding 1st. Then, figure out the cause. We have combined issues--yes, there's pressure but there's also a trend or precedent which makes it a little easier for these kids to take the bullet. LETS END THIS. WE KNOW HOW.


78 people like this
Posted by Experienced Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2015 at 5:15 pm

Experienced Parent is a registered user.

I love Palo Alto. I grew up here and graduated from Paly. There is nowhere as wonderful as here: the current diversity, pleasant weather, nearness to S.F., intellectuals, Stanford University, downtown, Stanford Shopping Center. I wish it could be wonderful for our students. It's not. It's GPAs and resume-building with no free time to relax. Even students aiming for mid-tier colleges have to engage in this. Palo Alto has always been a place of intellectual residents. People always moved here for the good schools but now, people are moving here solely for the schools, not because they appreciate Palo Alto in itself. Do they actually enjoy everything I mentioned above? Or is it a badge of honor that they can afford to live here and the education is free?

I agree with Paly Alum. Limit to 4 AP classes, total. This will rid us of the parents who push their children to strive for elite universities.

And rid us of of the published school newspaper list of colleges where our seniors will attend. This list is VERY stressful for our students. No one needs to know where the students are going to college and it's purely for judgmental purposes. It may be a tradition, but streaking was a tradition that became extreme too. Most high schools do not have this list.


10 people like this
Posted by mommie dear
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 9, 2015 at 5:19 pm

mommie dear is a registered user.

From afore mentioned 3/9/15 NY Times article re: Blocking the Paths to Suicide: In fact, suicide is often a convergence of factors leading to a sudden, tragic event. In one study of people who survived a suicide attempt, almost half reported that the whole process, from the first suicidal thought to the final act, took 10 minutes or less.

Among those who thought about it a little longer (say, for about an hour), more than three-quarters acted within 10 minutes once the decision was made.

“We’re very bad at predicting who from a group of at-risk people will go on to complete suicide,” Dr Miller said. “We can say it will be about 10 out of the 100 who are at risk. But which 10, we don’t know.”


56 people like this
Posted by PA CA Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 5:32 pm

PA CA Mom is a registered user.

Emma B:

Your post exemplifies everything that is skewed and distorted about Silicon Valley culture and perspective. It takes on a tone of "let them eat cake" when there are kids who just need the bread of feeling valued and okay in the world.

There is value in entrepreneurship, yes. Some are destined for such a form of success. But is there room in your thinking to allow that just plain holding down a job is another form of success? You write about the 2012 Gift of the Year Award, a successful Kickstarter campaign, a hot Silicon Valley startup. These examples of alternative success are not relevant in this context. And, in fact, demonstrate the distortion.


12 people like this
Posted by AnotherConcernedParent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 5:40 pm

AnotherConcernedParent is a registered user.

Horrible. Such a tragedy. My heart goes out to the poor boy and his family and friends. My heart also aches for all of us and,, as a parent, I worry . What a scary time to be in high school when suicide seems to be an acceptable option. While I know every person who chooses suicide has their own story and reasons, the trend is alarming and distressing. It seems the pressures that kids today face are too much. I wonder if the race to obtain an ivy league education, and a winning at all costs mentality, puts impossible pressures on kids that apparently some feel they can never live up to it.


8 people like this
Posted by mommie dear
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 9, 2015 at 5:41 pm

mommie dear is a registered user.

I hope you l read the afore mentioned (thank you Barron Park resident) NY Times article from TODAY entitled: Blocking The Paths To Suicide. It lends credence to the suggestion that we should 1st stop the bleed in PA by SLOWING THE TRAIN. READ IT.


13 people like this
Posted by EmmaB
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 9, 2015 at 6:14 pm

EmmaB is a registered user.

Paly Alum - I don't know if capping the number of APs is the answer... But I CAN say that it's very sad to me how "gifted" kids are treated in most public school systems. Education should be engaging! Enriching! Especially for kids with the sharpest minds. Instead, we dump then into "accelerated" classes and encourage them to take as many APs as possible. so basically all they're doing is more work, faster. It makes them feel empty and passionless. And they deserve better.

[Portion removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by EmmaB
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 9, 2015 at 6:18 pm

EmmaB is a registered user.

PA CA Mom --

But maybe the same things that make a successful entrepreneur -- risk-taking, passion-finding, resilience and confidence, to name a few -- are the same things that make successful employees. Successful 1099 contractors. Successful college applicants.

Or. Maybe they're just the things that help make healthier, happier children.

I use extreme examples in my comment because... kids dream. No kid says, "I want a 9-to-5." They say, "I want to be the President!" "I want to build something bigger than the Internet!" "I want to be a full-scholarship athlete." Is there something wrong with goals and dreams?


6 people like this
Posted by iSez
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2015 at 6:19 pm

iSez is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


23 people like this
Posted by PA CA Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 6:21 pm

PA CA Mom is a registered user.

No kid says, "I want a 9-to-5." They say, "I want to be the President!" "I want to build something bigger than the Internet!" "I want to be a full-scholarship athlete." Is there something wrong with goals and dreams?

Really?

Thank you for this. Very telling. To me, this is where the real conversation needs to happen.


6 people like this
Posted by EmmaB
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 9, 2015 at 6:30 pm

EmmaB is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by EmmaB
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 9, 2015 at 6:33 pm

EmmaB is a registered user.

PA CA Mom

Were you any different? Did you never have dreams when you were a kid? The older we get, the more we learn about what we want out of life, and our dreams change. I wanted to be president... but then I learned that you have to be kind and good all the time, and you don't get to take long vacations and spend time with your friends. Who wants to network all the time? Some people. But not me. So I, informed, found a dream that fit better with the person I had become.

But can you honestly say you never had a dream?


7 people like this
Posted by kturkowski
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 6:49 pm

kturkowski is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


33 people like this
Posted by PA CA Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 6:54 pm

PA CA Mom is a registered user.

Emma B:

You started this thread by saying that you don't want to be confrontational, so I trust that we are approaching this from a perspective of trying to understand and maybe even enlighten. Yes, I've had dreams and I've achieved them. I also have a child with special needs. Let me tell you: it is enlightening and humbling. You really have no idea. And I didn't either at one point. I hope that you, and others, will hear this. Listen. Learn. Under no circumstance will I respond again to this thread. Thank you and peace out.


13 people like this
Posted by _Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 9, 2015 at 7:11 pm

_Parent is a registered user.

Today, the district sent out an email with the following advice:

"Please talk to your students and their friends and encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings when experiencing difficult times. "

I am sharing the above because people experiencing chronic hopelessness and depression too often stop saying anything because if they share anything negative, the sufferers are criticized for being negative. This is a perpetual problem in this town, if anyone complains, they are lambasted for complaining. If you want people who are under stress to feel safe, one thing we have to stop doing in this town is holding up the score card for how WE feel about how they communicate.

I am also discouraged to see such advice coming out of a district office that couldn't make real communication harder, especially communication under stress, if they tried. I wish they would read every email they send out for the hypocrisy factor, and then acknowledge where they, too, can and will improve.


6 people like this
Posted by Roland Luo
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 9, 2015 at 7:25 pm

Roland Luo is a registered user.

1. Block off Churchill/Alma and E. Meadow/Alma crossings with fences or walls. Build bike bridges.
2. No cell phone use by students during school time.
3. Student only dismissed after school day ends.
4. Build an overpass over Charleston/Alma.
5. Require student to join at least 1 student club.


15 people like this
Posted by Organiclaws
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 8:09 pm

Organiclaws is a registered user.

Unfortunately there is NO data in that NY Times article to support the idea the focus should shift to blocking paths. It is really a weak article about an unsubstantiated hypothesis. There are much deeper issues here in Palo Alto than the train passing through. Focusing on the trains is an expensive distraction. And note that there are countries that have much much higher suicide rates where the paths are much more difficult than here.


15 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 9, 2015 at 8:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Posted elsewhere:

Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
2 hours ago
My heart breaks for that poor dear boy's family and friends and for the Caltrain engineer and crew and all the first responders.

Peter Carpenter ----
I thank you for pointing out how horrible it is to be a locomotive engineer when they hit people. The train crew are hurting a lot, too, but few people ever realize that. Thank you again for reminding us of their pain.


Like this comment
Posted by Plinyman
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 8:38 pm

Plinyman is a registered user.

As a parent of a Gunn HS student, friend of Gunn teacher and native Palo Alto resident. I am effected in many way's by the suicides in our community. From what I understand the guards placed at the tracks are instructed by there employers not to talk to or touch anybody approaching the tracks. I feel they would all instinctively react to a situation
no matter what they are instructed to do. I just wish the community was made more aware of this fact, if it is indeed true!


24 people like this
Posted by kturkowski
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 8:48 pm

kturkowski is a registered user.

Research shows that people who have tried to commit suicide but failed had second thoughts shortly thereafter. In other words, if there was a barrier that prevented them from performing the suicidal act for 5-10 minutes, then they would not do it. I doubt whether we are talking about chronic depression here. We are talking about normal teenagers, with raging hormone fluctuations, and moments of desperation, depression and hopelessness, If they walk by a suicide machine every day, they may succumb if the moments coincide between presence of the suicide machine and the thoughts of desperation. [Portion removed.] Caltrain is a dangerous threat to our community at street level. The problem is really not much deeper than that.


17 people like this
Posted by aa1234
a resident of Triple El
on Mar 9, 2015 at 8:58 pm

aa1234 is a registered user.

To everyone who believes making the tracks less accessible will not help prevent suicides, if a landmark or a location is a frequent enough scene of suicide attempts, it does warrant attention for deterrents such as:

Web Link

Article also mentions:
"A similar net was placed more than a decade ago on the Munster Terrace cathedral in Bern, Switzerland, and since then no suicide attempts have been reported."

Places where there have been prior "sensational" (for lack of a better term) suicide attempts are like magnets for those with suicidal thoughts.

We need to do whatever we can, as parents, school district, neighbors, citizens to prevent teen suicides.


12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 9, 2015 at 8:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Caltrain is a dangerous threat to our community at street level."

One thought is the put the trains underground, use the surface rights above it for housing in the stretches between stations and use the surface above the stations for transit connections and parking. The surface area of the current right of way is very valuable land - particularly in Atherton - and could generate a lot of the needed capital.

Why not take this as an opportunity to design a multi-dimensional, multi-purpose system that uses the existing right-of-way that includes CalTrain, HSR, utility conduits for telephone and internet cables, surface housing with high density housing around each station. And add a pedestrian path and a separate bicycle path on the surface along the entire right of way. And include 3 or 4 12" conduits for the technology of the future.

We should think of this right of way as an integrated multi-modal communications spine for the peninsula.


4 people like this
Posted by kturkowski
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:25 pm

kturkowski is a registered user.

This is a wonderful idea, Peter! Put Caltrain below ground and have a bicycle commuting path above. Bicycles have been marginalized in transportation planning and funding for ever! The Peninsula really needs a good path for long distance commuting, and the Caltrain tracks would be perfect, especially if it could connect in with Old County Road and Evelyn. The Skyline through route is no longer viable, since the bridge at Crystal Springs was ripped out several years ago and not replaced; Alameda is OK but stops in San Mateo; and El Camino has way too much diesel exhaust. The Bayshore route is really the only decent through route. A through bike route over the Caltrain tracks from Whipple to Castro would be great for commuting.

However, buildings above the track are not going to happen, due to the need for maintenance. Refer to the "strip parks" in Berkeley above BART at Hearst and the weed lots above BART in Millbrae.

I liked it when San Carlos and Belmont raised the tracks -- but it does make a big barrier dividing the towns. It is also much easier to transgress the barriers within 10 minutes to access the tracks with an above-ground grade separation, and impossible from a suicidal point of view to access the tracks when below ground.


36 people like this
Posted by high school mom
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:38 pm

high school mom is a registered user.

Emma B,

I am sorry that I do not agree with you either just like that PA CA mom. If you say our kids don't have enough inspiration by entrepreneurship here in silicon valley, I am not sure how skewed view you are having. I actually would say this is the thing maybe our kids hear too much. So to them, if one day they just take a "9-5" job means they "failed" scares them. They always have to do something bigger and better. What is wrong just want to have a regular life, hold a "9-5" job and raise regular family one day for our kids? People like you probably should try have less impact on our kids so they do not need to feel stressed and feel less if they are not one of those "dream big" and want to do big things kids.


9 people like this
Posted by aa1234
a resident of Triple El
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:50 pm

aa1234 is a registered user.

to Emma B,
It is probable you did not get the irony in hcc2009's comment.
"...a new wonderful program to reduce stress in high school students"...."all about how to become an entrepreneur"
- So, you learn how to become an entrepreneur
- Being an entrepreneur or leaning to become one reduces or eliminates stress.
- As a student, your parents will pay for this wonderful program, and will want their investment's return, that you indeed become an entrepreneur. I cannot imagine the additional stress this would bring on a teenager.

Is it just I who sees the irony here and agrees with hcc009?


65 people like this
Posted by PAUSD mother
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:51 pm

PAUSD mother is a registered user.

"Community" --- many people keep on using this word... for Palo Alto ---- aka "shallow Alto"
I have lived here for 11 years. There is no community here. This is a place without a soul --
I have never encountered another parent in a store who had time to talk--- always... their response is "sorry, I'm in a rush.' Well... I think Palo Alto needs to slow down and smell the roses... and teach their children to do so as well.
When I was in high school... I don't remember any homework; I worked part-time after school and on the weekends. I don't remember any pressure about getting into a "good college" or pressure about what my future career was going to be. I have a senior at Paly. That senior has told me that "the light has gone out" that he is "anxious about everything and excited about nothing." That: he has not enjoyed school since middle school. As a parent, I have experienced extrene pressure from Paly's College and Career Office since the first day of my child's junior year. A monthly calendar of "To Do" items... to get ready for applying to college. My student has had to endure... hours of homework 7 days a week. All work and no fun... makes Jack/Jill a very depressed human being. What is the point anyway of living with nothing but pressure about your future... instead of enjoying the present?


3 people like this
Posted by mommie dear
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 9, 2015 at 10:14 pm

mommie dear is a registered user.

Organiclaws, the article is definitely not weak not is its research and hypothesis. And "too expensive" is no longer a valid excuse. We know what our kids method of choice is, we know teens are impulsive and often can't see past this moment. If we don't stop the train, WE ARE THE PROBLEM. I sent the link to the superintendent as did others. He read and shared it and believes it is helpful in the conversation. THERE IS FINALLY HOPE.


6 people like this
Posted by RV a PA resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 9, 2015 at 10:25 pm

RV a PA resident is a registered user.

My heart goes out to the family, school teachers and the communities as we all feel the pain. I have volunteered at the schools and I find the students, teachers and parents as very supportive and friendly. I find PA to be a wonderful, caring and giving community so it is even more difficult to fathom this happening here.

In my opionion posting guards is a very primitive solution. PA being the center of technological innovation I am sure a better solution should be found! Until then, perhaps just install flash lights with sensors and have the tracks viewed from a control room 24/7. I know there may be false alerts but perhaps flash lights may deter someone and monitoring the entire track and not just portions of it may catch someone! However, until a long term solution is found, just slow the trains to no more than 5mph as they pass through PA.

In addition, I think today’s students are isolated and many complex things are happening as life has changed since we were kids. Perhaps, just as the schools ask for a vaccination history prior to starting school or a physical prior to starting sports; the schools should also have each student evaluated for emotional wellbeing. Perhaps, this could be done by the student’s own doctor as part of their physical checkup. This will enable the family and schools to know about any issues and provide adequate support to these students. It should not be in any form of a label but just to help the students get support. I am not an expert on this but it seems like we should be able to do more to help these students and that can only be done if the problem is known.

I hope something better can be found so that another precious life is not lost!


10 people like this
Posted by _Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 9, 2015 at 11:22 pm

_Parent is a registered user.

PAUSD mother,
It can be difficult to put down roots in this entire greater Bay Area, because there is that element of rushed life. But it is possible. I'm with RV, at least at Juana Briones, where I'm assuming she's from if from Greenacres. I have found the parents mostly to be very caring and giving. I am not disputing your experience, only encouraging you that there are other kinds of people here, and they can be found.

I am completely with you about your experience, and want kids to have options by next year. Please join us in asking PAUSD for more project-based learning options that are high-quality but don't involve mandatory homework.

More than that - what can the rest of us do so you feel you can be a part of a low-key parent community, because we are out there and would love for you to join us. It sounds like there are many experiences in common.


11 people like this
Posted by PA6
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 9, 2015 at 11:24 pm

PA6 is a registered user.

My condolences go out to all the families that have been affected from suicide. As a mom of future Gunn students, I am curious why Gunn and Paly have so many suicides compared to other equally stressful and competitive schools in the Bay Area, such as Monta Vista or Lynbrooke?


5 people like this
Posted by _Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 9, 2015 at 11:42 pm

_Parent is a registered user.

School indoor environmental health factors like indoor air quality can tangibly impact depression rates. Our bond measure promised they would be improving indoor air quality anyway, but it didn't happen. This just needs to be done. No ineffectual lip service, no piecemeal steps that are undone in a year or two. Just do it, there are so many resources to help school districts do this in particular.

Such a factor overlays others - so, if stress from homework is an issue, this would amplify it. Kids for whom it just doesn't make any sense that they would be depressed - some might not otherwise be depressed at all.

From everything I have seen in this district, this is low-hanging fruit that could have a big impact, and the voters were already promised these improvements in the bond work. There are ways to assess whether we are improving IAQ using other health measures like asthma, and it would be possible to track whether mental health rates improve with improving asthma rates. (Somehow, despite the mandate to improve indoor air quality, our district fails to track asthma data in the California Health Kids' Survey.)

Rather than speculating about things, we could be sitting down and going over each possible contributor, and figuring out how to eliminate each one in a reasonable way, within available resources, in dialog, as a community, with the district.

We can't let this happen again. We just can't.


7 people like this
Posted by H
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 9, 2015 at 11:50 pm

H is a registered user.

Dear PA CA Mom,
You're beautiful. Thank you.

My heart goes out to the boy and his family.


2 people like this
Posted by EmmaB
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 10, 2015 at 12:20 am

EmmaB is a registered user.

aa1234

I'm confused by your interpretation. If a child is intrinsically interested in entrepreneurship, to the point that they want to take time out of their day to learn more about it... that's not stressful. That's exciting! I mean, it's not like kids lack curiosity and interests, and they hate doing everything so their parents always have to force them, when really, all they want to be left alone to... de-stress? Ruminate? The problem with gifted kids is that they do things they're NOT interested in because they think it will help them get into college. Getting involved with an entrepreneurship program (especially one designed to help them learn to cope with stress -- I wasn't sure if that was supposed to be sarcastic or real), where they can get hands-on learning experience, meet with other kids like them, share ideas... that's awesome!


Moreover, like I already said, there are a LOT of skills that kids lack that they can learn by "practicing" entrepreneurship. Like taking chances. Like trying, failing, and trying again. A big problem with kids with helicopter parents [portion removed] is that they have no resilience. They have no coping skills. Because all they've ever done is succeed. But the harsh reality of real life is that you're going to fail. You're going to have your heart broken. Things won't always go your way -- and your helicopter parents won't always be able to fix it. There is a lot kids, especially hurried, stressed, over-scheduled-yet-under-passionate ones, can learn from entrepreneurs.

Like you, I cannot see the additional stress this brings for a teenager.


1 person likes this
Posted by Organiclaws
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2015 at 12:28 am

Organiclaws is a registered user.

@mommie dear - the article had a hypothesis only, no data to support it. Not enough to make billion dollar decisions on. Would you rather spend a billion on restricting train access, or a billion on mental health, counseling, better schools, etc... Even if grade separation is the answer, we'd be lucky to get it done in 10 years. We need to focus on fixes for tomorrow.

@aa1234 - the suicide rate from the single location in Bern that got a fence went down, but the overall suicide rate did not.

"In this study by Thomas Reisch and Konrad Michel, which was published in Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior in 2005, showed no significant reduction in jumping suicides in Bern, Switzerland after a barrier went up on the city's iconic suicide bridge. There were 45 jumping suicides per year in Bern in the 4 years before a barrier went up and 44 jumping suicides in Bern in the 4 years after the barrier went up."

Web Link

Another example is the Bloor Street Viaduct in Toronto, which had the second highest incidence of suicide after the Golden Gate. After barriers went up, the rate went down at the bridge, but increased elsewhere.

"Although the barrier prevented suicides at Bloor Street Viaduct, the rate of suicide by jumping in Toronto remained unchanged."

Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by EmmaB
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 10, 2015 at 12:32 am

EmmaB is a registered user.

PA CA Mom

Not sure what I said that you took such issue with -- that kids have hopes and dreams? And that those hopes and dreams change over time? I didn't confront anyone about anything. I simply stated that entrepreneurship classes are great for people with dreams, because they teach you how to take chances. They teach you to expect failure -- and that, when you fail, you can learn from it and do better next time. These are amazing lessons for kids in toxic, hyper-achieving areas like Palo Alto.

I don't expect you to respond, because there's really nothing left to say.

Best of luck.


4 people like this
Posted by EmmaB
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 10, 2015 at 12:41 am

EmmaB is a registered user.

high school mom,

Kids EVERYWHERE have plenty of examples of amazingly successful entrepreneurs -- it's a pretty hot topic right now. But knowing about the Snapchat guys or Mark Zuckerberg isn't really the same as taking a class where you practice developing skills like risk-taking, coping, and resilience. In an entrepreneurship class, you don't just learn about the few guys who succeeded. You learn about the other 99%. The ones who failed. And failed. And failed. And finally, eventually, built something people liked. That's SUCH an important message for kids who have always gotten straight As and never failed at anything. Because, eventually, they will fail. And they won't know how to handle it. And in the heat of the moment -- in the emotion of that setback... who knows what they will do.

I'm sure there are plenty of people who would be happy with a 9-to-5. But I spent years studying child psychology. And I know that kids dream. Before the Internet, they wanted to be astronauts and presidents. Now, they want to be entrepreneurs, engineers... or something completely different.

And the best thing we can do as parents is give them space and encouragement to develop their interests and support their dreams -- even if their dream is to go to Oberlin but we want them to go to Harvard. Even if their dream is to make youtube videos, and we want them to take on another AP class.

The best thing we can do is trust that they can make their own path to happiness and their own definition of success.

Does that make sense?


46 people like this
Posted by H
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2015 at 2:38 am

H is a registered user.

Dear Emma B,
No kid says, "I want a 9-to-5." They say, "I want to be the President!" "I want to build something bigger than the Internet!" "I want to be a full-scholarship athlete."
No kid says? Because you've talked to every child in the world, I'm assuming? Kids dream these dreams because that's what they've been fed. I'd rather a kid dream about being a pickled radish at that age.
And why so hung up on entrepreneurs? You really think these classes are the only way to raise strong and resilient children? Try parents that are always there for them and tell them, "I love you and am proud of you no matter what!" and mean it 100% instead of secretly wishing for something else.

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
― John Lennon


13 people like this
Posted by Thoughtful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2015 at 7:35 am

Thoughtful is a registered user.

I believe we need to consider the impacts of the larger systems in which we live that impact stress and depression levels.

For examples, research by Dr. A Bronzaft has shown that noise levels impact stress levels greatly. We live under major flight paths. Add disrupted sleep and other noise and pollution impacts to the forementioned other stresses and this might add to the tipping point.


28 people like this
Posted by hcc2009
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2015 at 7:54 am

hcc2009 is a registered user.

EmmaB, you reveal your true colors when you speak only to the "gifted high-achieving" kids, or the kids who dream of being presidents and astronauts. Really? Let's see, 300 million U.S. citizens, 25 presidents and 53 astronauts in anyone's average lifetime. What about the other 299,999,900 of us? By your logic, the rest of us fall short of the goal you set us. What about the child who dreams of taking care of animals, or gardening, becoming a priest or minister or nail salon proprietor? How about the kid who wants to do any job at all so s/he can save up for a motorboat? [Portion removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by hcc2009
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2015 at 8:01 am

hcc2009 is a registered user.

Dear H - Thanks for that beautiful John Lennon quote.


9 people like this
Posted by Left of Boom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2015 at 9:44 am

Left of Boom is a registered user.

The more I've learned about this sophomore, the sadder his suicide has become. Rest in Peace Young Man.

And to his family, friends and teachers, you have my deepest sympathies.


10 people like this
Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Michele Dauber is a registered user.

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

- Emily Dickinson, 1862


38 people like this
Posted by MP Mom
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 10, 2015 at 12:47 pm

MP Mom is a registered user.

EmmaB, I have three kids, and they dream of being a construction worker, a police officer, a firefighter. People who build things and take care of others. If they have those jobs when they grow up, I will be extremely proud of them.

Resilience, confidence, etc. really are just basic life skills. Respect, compassion, self discipline, friendship, responsibility, determination. I feel lucky that my kids have this reinforced in school starting in kindergarten.

My deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the young man who died. And good luck to those in Palo Alto struggling to address these issues in the schools.


26 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 10, 2015 at 2:22 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Palo Alto kids get depressed and panicked when told that not all of them will become billionaires, multi millioners and captains of industry. This is the kind of pressure parents and or school peer pressure is causing. Palo Alto used to be the nicest imaginable place to live in. Friendly people who greeted strangers on the street with a smile and a good morning. Friendly neighbors, the most polite drivers I had ever seen. Now, people are uptight, tense, angry and judgmental. Neighbors ignore and don't know each other. Kids are put into such a competitive school environment, that even those without emotional problems are stressed out to the max, and those with metal issues sometimes crack under the pressure and expectations.


5 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2015 at 3:05 pm

relentlesscactus is a registered user.

You are all wrong about academic stress leading to suicide. The cause is mental illness. Misdiagnosing the problem will lead to more deaths. Case in point: everyone cited this in 2009. Suicides still happening. Stress can factor contribute when there is another cause. A healthy person will not kill themselves over academic stress.

You are all wrong that the tracks can be under-grounded. There is not enough money to do it. Divide the amount of money for a plan that will be accepted by all (several billion) and divide by the number of households in Palo Alto. The feds will not pay, because they would have to pay every city to be under-grounded (Palo Alto isn't special). Similar to further north on Peninsula, berms can solve the problem in an affordable method. Arguing against them delays the grade separations, more auto deaths and more suicides.

Not good.


Like this comment
Posted by Just Mike
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 10, 2015 at 3:44 pm

Just Mike is a registered user.

To Moderator/Publisher Bill -

Has anybody uploaded the Paly student who did a You Tube on the stressors. The you tube where she said "Mom and Dad, relax".... or words to that effect?


Like this comment
Posted by Town Square Moderator
online staff of Palo Alto Online
on Mar 10, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.

The You Tube video you are referring to was done by Martha Cabot, a Gunn student, after a suicide last November.

Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 10, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

A critically important perspective:

Web Link


"Now many experts are calling for a reconsideration of suicide-prevention strategies. While mental health and substance abuse treatment must always be important components in treating suicidality, researchers like Ms. Barber are stressing another avenue: “means restriction.”

Instead of treating individual risk, means restriction entails modifying the environment by removing the means by which people usually die by suicide. The world cannot be made suicide-proof, of course. But, these researchers argue, if the walkway over a bridge is fenced off, a struggling college freshman cannot throw herself over the side. If parents leave guns in a locked safe, a teenage son cannot shoot himself if he suddenly decides life is hopeless.

With the focus on who dies by suicide, these experts say, not enough attention has been paid to restricting the means to do it — particularly access to guns."


6 people like this
Posted by Noel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2015 at 6:33 pm

Noel is a registered user.

These tragedies do not need to continue. Caltrain can install "people catchers" on the front of their trains. Even if people think there is only a 10% chance the people catcher will actually prevent them from dying, they won't take the risk of major pain and probably crippling injury. As many (most?) student suicides are somewhat impulsive, this should not only all but eliminate train suicides but greatly reduce student suicides. I proposed this to Caltrain some years ago but was completely ignored.


13 people like this
Posted by H
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 10, 2015 at 7:34 pm

H is a registered user.

Dear relentlesscactus,
True, most people do not end their lives over stress. There's more going on here than academic stress. But way to start—"You are all wrong." Next time you could try—"You all make a good point, but academic stress is only part of the root problem." No need to stomp on everyone who's taken the time to write something here because they care about what's happening in their community, which in itself is pretty amazing.


4 people like this
Posted by GraceBrown
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2015 at 7:40 pm

GraceBrown is a registered user.

Quick question to PaloAltoOnliners:

How would you respond if your place of employment were rocked by six of your colleagues (five current, one former) in the past seven months? Or if six of your clients / patients / customers took their own lives....

With all goodwill and genuine intention, how would you, your colleagues, your employer address this?

Grace


3 people like this
Posted by Thoughtful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2015 at 8:27 pm

Thoughtful is a registered user.

To Grace-Each one would likely be in a state of rage, depression, sadness, self blaming or any other state a human is capable of feeling. Hopefully each would be responded to with compassion.

It would be special to have a forum where our human responses are empathized with and accepted.

BILL: With admiration for the respectful space you are trying to create to consider the needs of family and friends, it concerns me that by doing so that this space serves as methaphor for the concerns we share. That is, that only "perfect" and "above the grade" is accpetable in Palo Alto and that the messier sides of ourselves must be kept under wraps or else be quickly deleted.Unfortunately, creative thought goes out with trash. We are, after all, connected to each other in a complex web by tending to the needs of each others lives by the services we provide, or work we do. The grief is contagious. It is also difficult to think of this tragic event in isolation from the place which most of us call home.


8 people like this
Posted by Perspectives
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2015 at 8:30 pm

Perspectives is a registered user.

This is truly devastating and my heart goes out to his family. Something is amiss here in our town. These are not normal statistics. I hope and pray it will somehow be remedied for the future.

As for at least a stop-gap, I don't see what is more obvious and simple then a requirement for trains to slow down when approaching the Palo Alto crossings. If the speed is reduced enough so that a train could a chance of stopping, what is the downside? A slightly longer ride? Why that is even considered important given the trade-off is lost lives I can not comprehend.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 10, 2015 at 8:38 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"a requirement for trains to slow down when approaching the Palo Alto crossings."

At 40 mph the probability of death for a pedestrian hit by a car is 85%.

At 30 mph the probability of death drops to 45%.

At 20 mph the probability drops to 5%.

So how slow should the trains go?


Like this comment
Posted by Joe Kool
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2015 at 8:41 pm

Joe Kool is a registered user.

@ Peter

Underground...


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 10, 2015 at 8:45 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I agree that underground is the only way to proceed however it will take real political courage and leadership to make it happen. Underground is the only long term solution to a long term problem; every other alternative is a short term solution.


18 people like this
Posted by hcc2009
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 10, 2015 at 8:53 pm

hcc2009 is a registered user.

Mauricio - I agree about people in Palo Alto. Not being a native Californian but having heard that Californians are "mellow", I'm often taken aback by the lengths some Palo Altans will go to lecture me on a behavior they consider unacceptable. I parked in front of Goodwill for 5 minutes so I could drop off a heavy piece of furniture, not blocking the roadway or the driveway. But someone thought I'd parked facing the wrong way and just had to call me out and lecture me on it. I'd say this happens 2-3 times per year in Palo Alto. Back in the midwest where I used to live, never. I don't think it's me since I'm the same person now as then.


11 people like this
Posted by Joe Kool
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2015 at 9:13 pm

Joe Kool is a registered user.

I don't personally understand why there isn't absolute unfettered rage on behalf of the community, directed at the Palo Alto political leadership and Cal Trans leadership for allowing these grade level trains to continue operating despite the absolutely heinous number of suicides in Palo Alto alone.

I find it shameful, grotesque, and emblematic of the larger culture sickness infecting Silicon Valley that this would be allowed to continue.


7 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2015 at 9:38 pm

Crescent Park Dad is a registered user.

I would like to see either overhead, trenched or tunneled trains due to the obvious benefits of reduced access and solving issues for cross-traffic. However, as I posted in another thread, no matter which of the three you choose --- access to the tracks will still be available. All you have to do is look at the NYC subway system and you'll find the obvious access point for the suicides that take place there on the average of every other week.

I don't disagree that altering the tracks will help reduce the risk, but for anyone to believe that the change will bring us to zero --- that's just not realistic and people should not be predicting as such.

As for demanding Caltrain slow to 25mph...a diesel locomotive weighs at least 100 tons and that's before you add in the 4-8 cars in tow. That kind of weight, even at 25mph, would cause irreparable harm...and you cannot stop that kind of weight in a distance like how you can stop your car at that speed.


15 people like this
Posted by Elaine
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 10, 2015 at 10:08 pm

Elaine is a registered user.

In a post that was inexplicably partially deleted yesterday, I spoke of Cornell's attempts to deal with a suicide cluster in spring 2010 when I was a student there. After four students committed suicide, two on consecutive days, by jumping from bridges that span gorges bordering campus, the University not only looked at ways to address student mental health issues better, but also immediately barricaded the bridges throughout campus. After a year long study they installed nets under all of the bridges as a means of interrupting what many believe are impulsive actions. While this is not a magic solution, and not totally applicable to the situation here in Palo Alto (given that the tracks extend beyond the town's borders), not addressing safety issues with the at grade crossings is inexplicable to me. Perhaps it will be determined that nothing can be done, but the crossings are dangerous, not just for despondent students and others, but for drivers that can get caught as the recent accident at Ravenswood in Menlo Park, as well as previous incidents, have demonstrated. Research on suicide does suggest that means interruption can and does save lives.


10 people like this
Posted by iSez
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 10, 2015 at 10:34 pm

iSez is a registered user.

There were 251 fatalities from trains in 2013 (a high of 728 in 1981), yet 32,719 died from DUI drivers in 2013, and 3,000-49,000 die from the flu each year.


20 people like this
Posted by Organiclaws
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2015 at 11:22 pm

Organiclaws is a registered user.

The exact same train runs past M-A, Sequoia, San Mateo and Burlingame HS, with at grade crossing, without the suicide problem. So when people focus in the train instead of whatever problems afflict Palo Alto, it just distracts from the real issue and real solutions. Nothing would be worse would be to wait a decade, and spend a billion, then finally realize, oops, we never addressed the problem that is causing the suicides.

Note that in Japan it is nearly impossible to get access to a gun, and it is both difficult and socially looked down upon to kill yourself via train, yet they still have nearly double the suicide rate as the US.


4 people like this
Posted by Joe Kool
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2015 at 11:33 pm

Joe Kool is a registered user.

@iSez

I would be exactly as outraged at this neglect if Palo Alto had statistically out-of-order rates of DUI death or influenza. Perhaps you could keep it on topic?


64 people like this
Posted by PalyStudent16
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 10, 2015 at 11:53 pm

PalyStudent16 is a registered user.

I am a junior at Paly, and I just wanted to give a thank you to any Paly teachers that are reading this forum. These past two days you guys have provided more than I could ever imagine possible and proven how much you all care. Thank you for your lenience, understanding, and support. I dreaded having to walk into the class I had with the student who died, being forced to finally realize the extent of these past days upon seeing that empty seat, but my teacher's obvious love brought about such a relieving emotional release. I know that all of the beautiful words that have been said and written by my teachers are shared thoughts by all of the Paly faculty. Paly teachers care about us so much and I am so thankful for being a part of such a loving community.


58 people like this
Posted by Local longtime
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 11, 2015 at 12:22 am

Local longtime is a registered user.

We have a 15 year old (freshman) and are struggling to manage phases of suicidality. After years of seeking effective help, we found the adolescent mental health program at Mills Hospital in San Mateo. Their after-school intensive out-patient program has been hugely helpful. A number of families we met there said they had tried the program through El Camino Hospital and had more success at Mills.

We have also switched to talking about the merits of 2 years at a community college before transferring to a 4-year college. Our kid needs longer to become independent and if a high-level college is appropriate, there's plenty of time later to identify the best fit and apply. No need to spend high school on maximum stress and be burned out at the end: starting at an elite college right after high school is not the only route to a successful life. We can even take a break from our current life in this pressure cooker and go somewhere much more mellow during high school: it's that important to put our kid's life before everything else.

I hope we can all show our kids that there is more than one model of "success". Stanford educational research demonstrates that we learn more (and develop more brain power) when we fail. Getting everything right all the time doesn't help you learn; it keeps you in the same rut. Celebrate imperfection as a sign of learning. Try to look at "failure" as a more effective learning experience, rather than something inferior or unacceptable.

And hurrah to all of us working in so many ways all the time to give our kids the best life we can. It's hard work and, boy, are the teen years tough.


Like this comment
Posted by Be Kind PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 11, 2015 at 12:30 am

Be Kind PA is a registered user.

Peter Carpenter:

Would you please cite from where your "data" comes?

>> At 40 mph the probability of death for a pedestrian hit by a car is 85%.

>> At 30 mph the probability of death drops to 45%.

>> At 20 mph the probability drops to 5%.

Why do people not realize they need to cite their sources? If not for credibility, than to avoid plagiarism.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 11, 2015 at 7:50 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Source of above data:

Pedestrian Injuries at Impact Speeds
Data Source: U.K. Department of Transport Image: saferoutesinfo.org

San Mateo County Comprehensive
Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan
Adopted September 8, 2011
City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County


31 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 11, 2015 at 7:54 am

mauricio is a registered user.

-"I find it shameful, grotesque, and emblematic of the larger culture sickness infecting Silicon Valley that this would be allowed to continue."-

The insane pressure on our kids is perhaps the worse strain this Silicon Valley sickness that's infecting the local society has produced. I find it tragic that even on this forum, some posters continue to defend this culture.

To hcc2009-I have spent more than two thirds of my life in Palo Alto, and the difference between the place I knew only 30 years ago and current Palo Alto is immense. People (not all of course) are sanctimonious, unfriendly, judgmental, tense and angry. This used to be one of the most laid back, friendly and relaxed places one could imagine. It would be impossible to explain this dramatic change without being accused of being anti capitalist, anti growth and a xenophob, so I won't even try.


1 person likes this
Posted by Thoughtful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2015 at 8:55 am

Thoughtful is a registered user.

I want to send each of you flowers and the only way I have to do so is online. Not knowing your individual tastes, I am sending a selection. Hopefully you will pick one and enlarge it for yourself and feel my intention to send compassion and caring for each of you who might be having feelings over this event just like me. Web Link


13 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 11, 2015 at 9:07 am

Crescent Park Dad is a registered user.

Organiclaws has it right:

"The exact same train runs past M-A, Sequoia, San Mateo and Burlingame HS, with at grade crossing, without the suicide problem. So when people focus in the train instead of whatever problems afflict Palo Alto, it just distracts from the real issue and real solutions. Nothing would be worse would be to wait a decade, and spend a billion, then finally realize, oops, we never addressed the problem that is causing the suicides."

In fact the train runs near scores of high schools...but the problem is here and nowhere else on the Peninsula.


7 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2015 at 11:25 am

outsider is a registered user.

I hope the teachers at the high schools will take some extreme temporary measures to help get the kids through the year. This group of children has been through too much and deserve any breaks they can get. Study guides that match up with tests and a little time to socialize is great. an open book test would also calm some of these nervous kids down. ( they deserve to be nervous after this year) this costs nothing.

More importance should be placed on the present and their should less urgency to prepare for the future. If you are always focused on the future, you will not know where you are now and will always be in a mysterious, sometimes scary spot.

I think a very beautiful overhead bridge would be great if it gave kids any extra time to get away from their troubles. It is not the answer but may stall an impulsive thought even for a few minutes. Also, the spot at churchill is a dangerous spot because of just normal traffic, mixed with bikes, kids, new drivers, train and pedestrians.


7 people like this
Posted by hcc2009
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 11, 2015 at 11:37 am

hcc2009 is a registered user.

Mauricio - Well put, and thanks for that historical perspective on "shallow alto". One thing that has changed since we were kids is home prices. They're ridiculous! A lot of parents probably sacrifice significantly to afford a home here, and imagine the pressure on a child then.

Local longtime - While I cannot know what is troubling your child, if it has anything at all to do with achievement pressures, I strongly suggest you clear out of this area. Move to a small town with a quieter slower pace for you and your family, and give your son or daughter the luxury of a childhood.


Like this comment
Posted by Just Mike
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 11, 2015 at 11:42 am

Just Mike is a registered user.

Dear Crescent Park Dad and Organiclaws:

I am not sure that all four of those HS's are perfect examples (M-A, Sequoia, San Mateo and Burlingame HS)

San Mateo is on the 500 block of North Delaware. Very few if any use the train to get to school. Sequoia is West of ECR and the Train stops at Broadway. Menlo Atherton is East of the R/R. Only Burlingame has had SOME of the same issues and it seems eons ago that at PA/Gunn to BHS comparison could be made. Hillsborough is no longer a young family neighborhood.

I would have to look at the curriculum's of Paly and Gunn more than anything else as well as who in the family structure are alums of both schools and where those alums attended college.


5 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2015 at 12:16 pm

outsider is a registered user.

I think it is really tempting to come up with minute exceptions as to why this horrible crisis is not in your town and does not apply to you personally. the price of real estate and former reputation of this school district or just plain fear. would you get onto any ride that had lost children without concrete reasons and without a guarantee yours would not be one of them? it is really difficult when there are so many variables here that are somehow coming together in such a bad way. I would love to see a more thorough investigation or even one of the mathematical geniuses working and somehow seeing which things are common and can be taken out so there will not be so many. I think one thing that is overlooked is the lack of privacy any of these children have. Instant transparency has taken away the joy of talking a teacher out of a bad grade or missed assignment or cutting class to go the beach.. It has given all parents more ways to compare their children to others instantly and has put kids into a strange submissive zombie state.


13 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 11, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I worry that we are outsourcing far too much to our schools and not doing more within our family structures to deal with the issues being raised here.


Like this comment
Posted by a Paly parent
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2015 at 3:34 pm

a Paly parent is a registered user.

There has been research, for example the following by MTI, funded by the US Dept. of Transportation and Caltrans:
Actions to Prevent Suicides on Commuter Rail Systems
Web Link
Based on existing literature and data analysis, the recommendations include:
*relatively inexpensive signs posting call-for-help suicide hotline information
*a very focused strategy, i.e. surveillance and response systems near road access points, coupled with broader community-based prevention efforts
Let's push for research-based action as a stop-gap to protect our children!


1 person likes this
Posted by Rogue Trader
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 11, 2015 at 4:27 pm

Rogue Trader is a registered user.

CDC reports that across the US, nearly 1 in 6 teenagers in high school reported seriously considering suicide, and 1 in 12 teenagers actually attempted suicide in the 12 months preceding the survey.

Given that there are roughly 4000 students at Paly and Gunn, average US statistics would suggest that about 640 high school students in Palo Alto consider suicide, and 320 attempt suicide in a 12 month span.

I suspect the problems in Palo Alto are everywhere. I would like to see more data and research to investigate whether it's truly a "Palo Alto" problem. Again, just using national averages, we would expect 320 suicide attempts by Palo Alto teenagers every 12 months

Web Link


7 people like this
Posted by Organiclaws
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 11, 2015 at 5:20 pm

Organiclaws is a registered user.

@Rogue Trader - self reported statistics from a survey are interesting, and depressing, but shouldn't be used to minimize the issue.

The actual national teen suicide rate (a real hard number, not a survey result), is 8 suicides per 100,000. So with high school population of 3700-4000 students, you might expect to see 1 suicide every three years in Palo Alto. Given those numbers, it is pretty obvious Palo Alto isn't having the same problems as everywhere, it is much worse here.


2 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2015 at 5:25 pm

relentlesscactus is a registered user.

"Even if people think there is only a 10% chance the people catcher will actually prevent them from dying, they won't take the risk of major pain and probably crippling injury."

So instead of killing people, your device would instead cripple them, and your logic is that would deter people jumping in front of trains because they would know they wouldn't die? Wow. Speechless.

"I proposed this to Caltrain some years ago but was completely ignored."

That's because several people with engineering backgrounds tore your idea to pieces on a factual basis.


Like this comment
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2015 at 5:26 pm

relentlesscactus is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2015 at 5:31 pm

relentlesscactus is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2015 at 5:38 pm

relentlesscactus is a registered user.

"As for at least a stop-gap, I don't see what is more obvious and simple then a requirement for trains to slow down when approaching the Palo Alto crossings. If the speed is reduced enough so that a train could a chance of stopping, what is the downside?"

These incidents don't happen only in Palo Alto. They could happen anywhere, and therefore by logic would have to be extended throughout the system. As well, let's say the trains did slow only in Palo Alto . . . two problems: 1) The intent on killing themselves would move down the line to where the trains didn't slow down and; 2) The triple track sections of Caltrain built for passing of baby bullets were built for trains overtaking other trains on precise time schedules that were planned years in advance of construction. Slowing down trains in Palo Alto by 5-10 minutes would throw all schedules off and render the passing tracks useless, reducing the capacity of Caltrain significantly. Also, passengers react negatively to longer commutes and change modes of transit, this is scientific fact. More people on the freeways would cause more deaths, as auto travel is far more deadly on a per-mile basis than rail travel.

OK, enough downsides for you, since you asked?


Like this comment
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2015 at 5:42 pm

relentlesscactus is a registered user.

"At 40 mph the probability of death for a pedestrian hit by a car is 85%.
At 30 mph the probability of death drops to 45%.
At 20 mph the probability drops to 5%."

Not sure where that came from, but another statistic is that more people try to beat a slower-moving train because they think they are going to be delayed longer and perceive a slower train as less of a threat. Even if your stats above are true, the fact is that auto-strikes drop with higher speeds. I know that's counter-intuitive in some ways, but that's the stats.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 11, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"At 40 mph the probability of death for a pedestrian hit by a car is 85%.
At 30 mph the probability of death drops to 45%.
At 20 mph the probability drops to 5%."

"Not sure where that came from,"

Please read the previous posts:

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
9 hours ago
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
Source of above data:

Pedestrian Injuries at Impact Speeds
Data Source: U.K. Department of Transport Image: saferoutesinfo.org

San Mateo County Comprehensive
Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan
Adopted September 8, 2011
City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 11, 2015 at 5:50 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" the fact is that auto-strikes drop with higher speeds."

Source please.

And note that higher speed tracks MUST be protected with grade separations and/or fencing etc. so the opportunity for automobile strikes is eliminated.

It really is important to present the source data and not just anecdotal comments.


2 people like this
Posted by Small towner
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Small towner is a registered user.

Hi.

This article came out in the NY Times on Monday. It has some good information regarding suicide in it...
Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2015 at 5:55 pm

relentlesscactus is a registered user.

"*relatively inexpensive signs posting call-for-help suicide hotline information
*a very focused strategy, i.e. surveillance and response systems near road access points, coupled with broader community-based prevention efforts"

All of which has been done, and has possibly stopped some suicides. Good. There is a point at which we have to accept that there is no absolute solution.


1 person likes this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2015 at 6:15 pm

relentlesscactus is a registered user.

"I suspect the problems in Palo Alto are everywhere. I would like to see more data and research to investigate whether it's truly a "Palo Alto" problem."

What is not clear is whether the rate or the specific means rates are higher. Trains are a glory means. By that I mean the media reports them and they are glorified. Someone committing suicide by [insert means here] will go unnoticed and unreported by the media.

What is clear is that glory means do create temporal suicide clusters. For one, the absolute effectiveness is trumpeted by media. For two, the person, especially as a teenager, sees all the attention directed at a peer, and knows they too will be the focus of attention for a time, however warped that thinking may seem to us.

It's a delicate line. I am all for free speech (especially so since the moderator keeps deleting what I post), yet glory means do create clusters.


7 people like this
Posted by Thoughtful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2015 at 6:44 pm

Thoughtful is a registered user.

Whenever one sees herself in a ladder mentality, she will see someone above and may feel she does not measure up and is therefore not OK. Feeling oneself unacceptable creates painful feelings. Isolation compounds.

We need to see the link to the culture in which we live to understand the suicides.

All things are connected.


8 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 11, 2015 at 6:51 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

Dreaming of "what I will be" when I grow up is great.

Unfortunately, the high tech educated population (not a new phenomena, just a bigger population)is forcing THEIR dream on their children. Being a Policeman or construction worker is looked down upon and labeled as "being a loser". Saying it enough times and it becomes real.
I rebelled, others took their lives.

The bottom line is no matter what you do, you will always be "A loser" for the rest of your life, even if you do invent the next Internet. You will end up being sure to "be a failure" by some action: Booze, Drugs ...

Dreams are the property of the Dreamers.
Not the parents, not the store front shrinks


Like this comment
Posted by Thoughtful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2015 at 10:09 pm

Thoughtful is a registered user.

Thanks SteveU!

Important dynamics in what you post. Discordant groups manage to stay cohesive by focusing upon someone lower in the hierarchy. These factors surely play a role in the suicides.


1 person likes this
Posted by Perspectives
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2015 at 6:29 am

Perspectives is a registered user.

Relentlesscactus: "Ok, enough downsides for you since you asked?"

No, not really. I see what you're trying to point out, but I think you're going to an unreasonable level of causation and domino effect. To say that slowing trains at several Palo Alto crossings guarantees a higher incidence of deaths on the freeway is too remote of a connection for me. And not fully fleshed out logic.

I continue to return to my opinion that desperate times call for desperate measures. And the cheapest and best stop-gap in my opinion is to slow down the trains at the crossings in Palo Alto until a better long-term solution can be implemented. And that doesn't even seem like a desperate measure. It's not without some negative consequences, sure. I understand the schedules would be affected elsewhere. Yes, sometimes train schedules change over the years- they aren't permanent. And we wouldn't be adding on significant commute time. And people inconvenienced by a slightly longer commute aren't exaxtly my priority here...


2 people like this
Posted by Perspectives
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2015 at 6:41 am

Perspectives is a registered user.

And by longer-term solutions I'm referring to not only potential physical characteristics of the trains (ie grade separations, overpasses, etc), but the solutions that address the root causes- the emotional, mental, psychological needs of our town's youth. Those I believe are the main issues that need to be addressed. I'm not suggesting slower train approaches solve that. But we aren't going to change a town's culture overnight. So in the meantime, I'd like to see something done other than "no-homework" night once a month.


6 people like this
Posted by Organiclaws
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 12, 2015 at 11:28 am

Organiclaws is a registered user.

@Perspectives - the problem with your proposal is that it places most of the burden on non-Palo Alto residents. You would be impacting every Caltrain commuter.

If you are that adamant about doing something, would you be willing to fence off every at grade crossing in Palo Alto? That would be even more effective at keeping people away from trains, and the impact would be entirely local. You could get temporary pedestrian bridges for < 100,000 for students and cyclists.

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Perspectives
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2015 at 11:43 am

Perspectives is a registered user.

Yes, I think the fencing would be a great idea, and relatively inexpensive. A good and preferable longer-term solution actually. My concern has been/is how long it would take to implement, how many approvals, and how much red tape would need to be navigated in the meantime. Perhaps slowing the trains upon approach would take just as much beurocracy- seems it wouldn't although I don't know. But yes, I'm definitely in support of the fencing/ped bridges idea.


Like this comment
Posted by Ado
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2015 at 1:03 pm

Ado is a registered user.

proposed airbag solution to reduce harm from train-pedestrian collisions, Web Link -- a rehash from 2009/10


Like this comment
Posted by alpaca
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:08 am

alpaca is a registered user.

The opinion that trains are a glory means and that media reporting on train deaths glorifies the victim is questionable. Trains are accessible and as this NY Times article indicates, the availability of means is a significant factor in suicide.

Web Link

The caution about not glorying the victim is solid according to mental health experts, but it has to do with memorializing and giving attention to the victim, which could encourage others who want the attention.


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

He said – she said – who is lying? Justice Brett Kavanaugh or PA resident Christine Ford
By Diana Diamond | 69 comments | 4,983 views

Let's Talk Internships
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 663 views

 

Race is tonight!

​On Friday, September 21, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run, or—for the first time—half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More