News

Editorial: The 'zero period' hypocrisy

While preaching the value of sleep, high schools quietly offer early classes

In the face of a community-wide discussion over how to respond to a suicide contagion that has now taken four teenagers since October, there is one factor on which all experts agree: Sleep and student wellness are inextricably connected.

For this reason, later high school start times have become the norm throughout the country and were implemented at Paly in 2010 and at Gunn the following year, in partial response to the earlier 2009-10 suicide cluster during which five teens died.

Realizing its importance, Gunn administrators have recently made educating students and parents about the importance of sleep a priority and brought in renowned Stanford sleep experts for a school assembly in January.

It was therefore more than distressing to learn this week that for the last three years, and apparently without the knowledge of the school board, Gunn has been offering high-level math classes to students in a special "zero" period before the start of the regular school day at 8:25 a.m..

The so-called zero period, which begins at 7:20 a.m., was introduced after Gunn's starting time was pushed back in 2011. This year about 300 Gunn students, or 15 percent of the student body, are enrolled in 10 different zero-period academic classes, which include some of the school's most demanding courses: AB Calculus, AP Stats, Algebra 2/Trig, Intro to Analysis Calculus and AP Economics. PE classes are also offered.

And while Gunn's website states students may not use zero period to enroll in an extra eighth class, at Tuesday night's school board meeting Principal Denise Herrmann acknowledged that non-freshmen are allowed to take eight classes, a practice that was in place when she arrived at the beginning of this school year.

Palo Alto High School also has an early zero period, but it is only for PE and is a way for freshman and sophomore athletes to be registered for PE during their sports season and then, under school rules and the state Education Code, skip the class. Principal Kim Diorio told the school board that Paly doesn't offer academic classes in the zero period because she philosophically opposes it due to the research on the importance of sleep.

While the existence of the academic zero period classes at Gunn clearly caught the school board by surprise, more surprising was the board's lack of conviction or urgency to take any action about it.

Trustee Ken Dauber, who drew out the details of the zero-period practice through questions to Herrmann, proposed that the board at its next meeting consider adopting a policy on zero periods, which Herrmann said she would welcome. Citing a recent report of the American Academy of Pediatrics that said the risk of suicide significantly increased among teens who get less than eight hours sleep a night, he argued that the board should not leave it up to the school sites to decide their own policies.

And while board members Terry Godfrey and Heidi Emberling voiced support for addressing the issue, they both retreated in the face of objections by trustee Camille Townsend, who said she wanted families to have choices, and board President Melissa Baten Caswell, who deferred to Superintendent Max McGee's desire to delay further discussion because "there's a lot of work to do to develop pros and cons" on zero-period academic classes.

Hogwash.

In the face of the greatest youth crisis this community has ever faced this is not the leadership we need. If there are challenges to doing away with zero-period classes, such as push-back from teachers who prefer starting work early and getting home early, then let's get those issues on the table and deal with them openly and honestly.

But to suggest this is a complicated issue needing extensive data collection and analysis is merely a tactic to delay and appease some unidentified stakeholders who are apparently wielding influence behind the scenes.

The work ahead of us to formulate actions to address youth well-being in our community is enormous and urgent. If we can't even move quickly to fix a practice that all experts agree is harmful, then those standing in the way are part of the problem.

An organization that believes it can't move forward without "buy-in" and agreement from everyone is one destined for failure. Most Silicon Valley companies wouldn't exist today if that was the model for decision-making. Strong leaders listen to input and then make decisions; they realize that achieving consensus is an impossibility.

McGee has commendably chosen to tackle other issues knowing there will be push-back from some segment of stakeholders, and he needs to muster the same resolve with zero period.

Related content:

Gunn High School explores scheduling possibilities

Gunn administrators call attention to teens' sleep

Comments

13 people like this
Posted by Very concerned Gunn Parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2015 at 8:26 am

Here, here. I feel very disappointed in McGee. I am starting to wonder if he is out of his depth in this job. This is a much bigger job than he has had before. He seemed visibly afraid of taking on the Gunn IC. I agree that this is a test of leadership, and given the Pediatrician recommendation and the fact that there is already community support and a board decision for late start it is not even a hard test. [Portion removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by who care's about data
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 8:30 am

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:04 am

I had noticed that many people were surprised about the underground zero period when it came up in the threads after the last Gunn tragedy. That tragedy happened in the early hours of dawn, as did the recent Paly tragedy when the clocks changed as well, so it was even earlier.

There are many things about the Science and common sense to stop zero period, I would say immediately. But what is absolutely stunning is that the board should not correct a travesty of process and misleading on schedule and now educating on sleep.

I encourage any ELECTED board member who is afraid to do the right thing to get over whatever politics you are beholden to on this one. I cannot blame all the new people who have entered this den of stupidity.


13 people like this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:14 am

And to the 300 or 15% who are insisting on "choice" shame on you.

I would like to know if PAEA is also opposed to eliminating zero period and what they have to say about what happened.


5 people like this
Posted by stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:17 am

Meaning what happened to keep zero period without the Board knowing?

A policy is urgent, and that is what the Board is elected to do.

If there was a policy, the people who allowed zero period to continue could have been fired.


10 people like this
Posted by who care's about data
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:19 am

"Palo Alto High School also has an early zero period, but it is only for PE and is a way for freshman and sophomore athletes to be registered for PE during their sports season and then, under school rules and the state Education Code, skip the class."

There is hypocrisy here. Why on earth, when all "there is one factor on which all experts agree: Sleep and student wellness are inextricably connected" does the Weekly say it's "only for PE". These kids are still being deprived of sleep regardless. It doesn't matter what they are doing and the schools are encouraging it by allowing these zero periods at BOTH PALY and GUNN.

It's disgraceful that the Weekly endorses Paly's practice and even tries to justify it.


11 people like this
Posted by Future Paly parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:31 am

This is so disappointing. What is wrong with our school board? I went to gunn 25 years ago. No zero period classes. Everyone did pretty well. [Portion removed.] I am so disappointed.


16 people like this
Posted by Very concerned Gunn parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:38 am

@ data, please see Matthew chapter 7, verses 3-4.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?"

There is a big difference between a placeholder ghost gym class for freshmen and sophomores who mostly don't attend it, and the entire math department teaching and early class and then leaving at 2:00. For one thing, no one is building a 4 year plan around taking 8 classes including extra AP classes by taking zero periods at Paly.

Furthermore, Paly parents should want to end this Gunn zero period practice even if they don't care about suicide risk because it is disadvantaging their kids in college applications. Gunn students can get 8 classes, so more APs, while Paly students can't. They are all competing for the same slots. Paly actually has fewer APs per student. This could well be part of the explanation. It's unfair and creates pressure to take 8 classes to keep up within Gunn and disadvantages Paly students. [Portion removed.]

A lot of what Denise Herrmann said at the board meeting made no sense. She said for example that no one has to take zero period and anyone can move out of it at any time. Any Gunn parent knows that cannot be true. In order to move out of a zero period class into another class, there would have to be space in the same class. Right there you know that is not true, since there would have to be very small classes in order to make that space. If all 30 students decided to move tomorrow from zero hour AP AB Calc, there would not be enough spaces. And then, if there was space, every student's entire schedule would have to change, and that means that every other class that they were in would also have to change. Good luck with that! I think anyone who has ever even tried to drop down a lane, let alone move a whole class knows that is impossible. Sorry, but that's just not true and the entire Gunn population collective laughed when she said that. Watch the video and look at Diorio's face when she says it. Kim used to be a Gunn counselor, and she looked ashen.

And what about the students in 8 classes? They could not change without dropping another class. She said that there was a large number of students with Four Year Plans who have 8 classes all set in those plans for multiple years (and by the way, editor, watch the tape again it was Paly not Gunn who said that Freshmen cannot take 8 classes, Gunn allows freshmen to do it). Their entire 4 year plans are based on taking zero period classes as 8th classes. You can't just move that, and that proves that it is a course offering not just some rando thing to solve a specific problem.

I am not saying that Herrmann is being intentionally inaccurate. I am saying that the IC told her things that are not true and now she is repeating them unwittingly without realizing that is impossible and cannot actually happen. But Gunn students and parents (and Diorio, watch the video) do know it. The Weekly got this right.

We need to get this over with and move on. There are a lot of things that need to be addressed and this is a completely unnecessary distraction. See Max's goal 5.


3 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:43 am

Not sure about Gunn and I know it is hearsay, but the rumor mill at Paly says many use the zero PE period at Paly so that kids can be driven to school when there is less traffic and end the school day with less traffic also. Some parents like to drive their kids to school and drop them off on campus and pick them up on campus too and can do so without the normal commute mess. These parents are the ones who think that their kids can't walk or bike to school because it isn't safe to do so and they want to drive their kids to school.


4 people like this
Posted by casey
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:50 am

casey is a registered user.

Why is Gunn offering zero period classes? Are students not able to enroll in the classes they want during regular school hours?


2 people like this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:51 am

OK that would take the cake, to have zero period for traffic management, excuses will be found.

The PE thing - can't t be resolved by just excusing athletes from PE? The athletic programs could be accredited college credit with their rigor, it can certainly qualify.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of another community

on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:56 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


42 people like this
Posted by Gunn Father
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:07 am

IT IS ABOUT THE KIDS !!! Not the teachers and their commutes, not the local traffic concerns, not the administration that must lay down the law and say ' this will be done starting in August, period ' ... kids are dying. There is nothing more important. Again, teachers, etc , get on board, get these kids the sleep they need , or quit.
Parents have an important role too --- put those cell phones out of the kids bedroom, and let those kids know there is more to life than getting a "A" at Gunn !


12 people like this
Posted by who care's about data
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:10 am

@very,
What are you talking about? Zero period is zero period and it should be stopped - period! To try to justify any zero period because "it's only PE" or a "placeholder ghost gym class" is disingenuous at best. These kids are attending these classes when they should be asleep. Paly needs to stop this practice as much as Gunn. There should be a board directive that no school, ever should be able to start before the official school start time.

You also miss how Jordan and JLS middle-school students are going to early Paly 9th grade math classes and need to get back to Jordan for the start of school.

There is this whole underground set of zero period classes at both schools. We need to stop this anarchy. it's the only way to stop the suicides.


36 people like this
Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:14 am

Eliminating Zero Period academic classes at Gunn is VERY clearly something that the BOE can and should do to protect the students, in this case from themselves, peer pressure and family pressure. This is NOT something "families should have a choice" about per Camille. And there is not "a lot of work to do to develop pros and cons on zero-period academic classes" per Melissa. There are NO pros for zero period classes for the students. Period.

Kind of like parenting - the BOE and Superintendent have to make touch choices for the true good of the students.


3 people like this
Posted by very concerned
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:16 am

Sorry data, I misunderstood your posts. I thought you were defending Gunn and saying that it should be allowed to continue, due to your first post that seemed to be defending zero period which has now been deleted. I agree with you completely that "There should be a board directive that no school, ever should be able to start before the official school start time." Thank you for clarifying.

I do think that it is OK to address the biggest problem first. [Portion removed.]

Please say more about the middle school math classes at Jordan. I am now wondering if it is the same -- are there Terman students in those Gunn zero period math classes? Uh oh, I think there must be. [Portion removed.]


16 people like this
Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:21 am

Both schools have multiple sports teams that have before school practice (start time as early as 6 am and as late as 7 am) yet neither the athletic director nor principal at either school seem to think this is a problem. How can Paly be "philosophically" opposed to zero period but allow sports team to have before school practice? How many more Gunn students are on campus well before school starts due to sport practice?


17 people like this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:24 am

The suicides cannot be traced to any one factor alone. The Post has a story about a student blogger who got it right - it's not one root but a network of things. Peer, parent pressures, workloads, etc.

Zero period is a placeholder alright - to over scheduling and working these kids to the bone.

And if it's a ghost, it's that ghost of insanity we have all bought into about what a "career" as a PAUSD student is, athletics, academic athletics, Math athletics, test scores.

Elected board members PLEASE do not ever use "the love of learning" again, or advice about sleep wile you fail at the basics. Do you really not get it?

This is the time to do your job so everyone can heal and it's like you are playing games.


16 people like this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:33 am

very concerned,

"Please say more about the middle school"

It would take a lifetime.

Does anyone think this all happens because of Gunn of Paly?

No, it starts in Middle School, and even the biggest macho has a war wound to prove it. Have heard the feeder schools for Gunn are not as bad as Jordan and the contrast may hit Gunn students more harshly. Talking about everything - from homework to peer connections.

Caring about the overall network matters, and what happens at one school spills over to the other. Hard choices? Yes, and I voted for some of these people to make them, where are they???


13 people like this
Posted by very concerned
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:43 am

@stunned, I was asking specifically about "data's" statement that there are Jordan students who go to Paly for an early advanced math class and have to be back to Jordan for the first bell at 8:00. I don't know about that but I would like to know more.

By the way, the American Academy of Pediatrics warning that school should not start before 8:30am applies to middle as well as high schools. They concluded based on the evidence that starting school before that time elevates suicide risk. Wasn't one of the 2010 suicides a middle school student?

We need to come to Jesus on school start times and pronto. To sit around wringing our hands about the suicide cluster as Max did at the last board meeting and then to turn around and not do something easy that doctors think is important is just wrong. It hurt my heart to watch that poor Paly board rep crying on the podium and then watch Max and Denise refuse to fix this easy thing. We cannot act against medical advice and then cry that no one knows how to solve our problem. It's gross.

Lots of the things we are trying to do -- homework, stacking, etc. those are all aimed at sleep. They are based on an indirect causation model that suggests that kids with high workloads do not get enough sleep. This isn't indirect. This is direct. This is Max McGee coming into your house and setting your child's alarm clock back an hour, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics and every other scientist and doctor says: look out, that elevates suicide risk 200-300% even in kids who are not depressed. That is shocking. Anyone who cannot see that is part of the problem as the editorial says.


8 people like this
Posted by who care's about data
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:45 am

It's all behind the scenes. Jordan claims 6th graders can't test out of 6th grade math and can only test out of units as part of their "school within a school" philosophy for 6th grade. However, every year several students wander off to do math 7 grade math.

After 6th grade, there is a huge push to test out of 7th grade math and not settle for 7a math. This was a recent issue where parents of a child demanded their child be allowed to take the test 3 times. Those that test out of 8th grade math need to go to Paly in the morning to do 9th grade math and then get back to Jordan for their usual classes.

It's not documented anywhere. it just happens if the parents know how to make it happen.


20 people like this
Posted by Grumpy Old Guy
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:46 am

Grumpy Old Guy is a registered user.

I believe that we should re-think the idea that a school day is 8 - 4pm. This was something that worked long ago. But things have changed. And this town, of all places in the world, is where 'change' can and should happen.

I begin my proposal on my memory of freedom and joy I felt at college. I was free to pick a morning/afternoon or evening class. It was my choice to sleep in and work late, or up early for classes. It was the same class, but I had choices for my day.

Proposal 1: Palo Alto high schools should consider shifting their academic 'days' to a college style class schedule -- including evening classes. Thus students, who so choose to do so, may attend classes during morning, afternoon or early evening classes. Based upon their own activities, they have to choose which classes fit their lifestyle and their activities. The kids are still limited to 'x' credits per semester.

Suggestion 2. Academically, albeit it may be denied by loyalists, the two high schools are equal. Thus, allow Palo Alto students to take classes from either high school if it fits their schedules. Thus, you can take math classes at Gunn in the morning or the same class offered at Paly in the evening. Or take a math class at Paly and Bio and Drama at Gunn. This increases diversity of the student bodies, integration of the fields of studies and balances the class loads of all students within Palo Alto.

There will be a lot of logistics involved with the teacher's union agreements, turf wars and record keeping. (The athletic teams can stay the same). And yes, I concede that it may create problems with greenhouse gases with kids going all over town and transportation issues. But that's logistics. That can be worked out.

If we really wish to serve our kids well, give them flexibility to plan their day and to recognize that the block schedule we have for them isn't working well, then let's look at this concept.

We're educating our kids, not just molding them into robots. For all the things that we ask of our kids, it's time we treat them like adults when it comes to their education.


22 people like this
Posted by CT dad
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:47 am

An analogy – many Gunn parents really, really want their children to be able to smoke in school. It helps them concentrate and offers a valued chance to relax between intense classes. Without the chance to smoke, parents believe, their children’s grades would slip badly – hurting their chances at attending the most highly sought-after colleges in the nation. Furthermore, while other children might have experienced poor health while smoking, these children have shown no evidence whatsoever that smoking is doing anything other than making them more successful in school. Most importantly, though, parents believe that whether or not their children smoke must be their and their children’s choice. To deny them that right is to impede their educational advancement. Yes, they understand that the behavior comes with scientifically proven long term health risks in the general population and that smoking and student wellness are inextricably connected, but they are very willing to accept responsibility by signing a waver, if necessary, to allow their child to continue to smoke as and when they need. Again, to deny the right to smoke on campus is to deny children the chance to excel. Finally, parents do not believe that allowing their child to smoke in school will impact other students in any way. What should Gunn, district administrators and the BoE do?


9 people like this
Posted by just wondering
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:47 am

Did the kids who committed suicide take zero hour courses? Did they take 8?


17 people like this
Posted by learned the hard way
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:48 am

"Here, here. I feel very disappointed in McGee. I am starting to wonder if he is out of his depth in this job."

What were people expecting? They put him in there with Charles in Charge and his protegee, the head of student services, and he's down there all day, eventually their smoke and mirrors are going to seem the norm to him.

I'm really disappointed in the board for not insisting on a reorganization at 25 Churchill in order to give McGee a team that could really succeed. McGee is a smart guy, and he could make some really good contributions to our district, but we make it all but impossible by squirreling him away with the CYA team of the Skelly years.


2 people like this
Posted by MIchael O.
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:49 am

The later the start to the school day, the better. Kids stay up late no matter what time they have to get up and the only way to ensure that they have more time to sleep is to start the school day later. Zero period is elective should remain so, and with a later start to the school day could start later. The fact is, you cannot take 8 classes at Gunn without permission to do so. That is something the school can actually crack down on.

I'm also not too sure that the Paly kids are disadvantaged getting into colleges. The scuttlebutt is that the Gunn kids aren't getting into such great schools, given their scores and grades. Do we actually have any data on this?

[Portion removed.] Why does anyone think a little change here or there (zero period, number of classes, number of APs, block scheduling, semester ending before Winter Break) is going to change the suicide risk? It's certainly something larger than any of those things that is leading to this problem, but none of us -- repeat: none of us -- knows what it is.


6 people like this
Posted by learned the hard way
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:51 am

@just wondering,

A more relevant question would be to look at the 25% of 11th graders who report feelings of chronic hopelessness and sadness, and see if there is a difference.


Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:55 am

The real scheduling conflict about zero period and changing the bell schedule was sports practice and games.


28 people like this
Posted by Barron Park Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:56 am

Can there be a recall campaign for school board members?


13 people like this
Posted by very concerned
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:57 am

@Michael asks Why does anyone think a little change here or there (zero period . . is going to change the suicide risk?

I am glad you asked that @Michael.

Here is the American Academy of Pediatrics statement on school start times and the health impacts of adolescent sleep deprivation caused by early start: Web Link

Here is the accompanying review of the scientific evidence which concludes that: "Sleeping less than 8 hours at nightseems to be associated with an almost threefold increased risk of suicide attempts after controlling for number of confounding variables."
Web Link

As a result, the Academy concluded that school start times are an important public health measure and issued a warning and recommendation that middle and high schools adopt start times no earlier than 8:30am.

That is why.


4 people like this
Posted by Tiger Moms
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:58 am

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:04 am

TM,

Low blow, having seen the diversity of parents who feel they are in the 15%, your label is uncalled for. A look at the PIE Board is recommended. They have had more influence on our schools than any parent.


11 people like this
Posted by Keep zero period option
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:05 am

My freshman takes zero period PE and it is then a prep when she does Gunn sports. My son is a junior and taking math as his zero period. They choose to take zero period. It has worked great for us. They are both in bed by 10pm. Don't take this option away. Taking zero period away will not force kids to sleep more. I realize our community is grappling for answers to all the recent tragedies, but taking zero period away is not one of the answers.


Like this comment
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:07 am

TM,

Actually take a look at the Board.


4 people like this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:11 am

Keep,

Your teenagers have a different physical condition from MOST adolescents.

Teens go to bed later for physical and hormonal reasons. DId you think the medical recommendations are because of time management?

[Portion removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Wrath of Khan
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:19 am

@option

The needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few or the one.


9 people like this
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:20 am

Alphonso is a registered user.

Preventing suicide is more important and throwing things at the wall and hoping something will stick. [Portion removed.] As I read the comments, nobody (including this paper) are really interested in discussing the specifics of why Paly and Gunn students committed suicide - as if it is not politically correct to understand and talk about the real issues. I suppose it feels good to do something - I would guess students would be better off if the adults tried implementing some of the students ideas rather than continually pushing parent/adult agendas.


13 people like this
Posted by Tell it like it is
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:27 am

"Hogwash."

That paragraph is the best part of this Editorial. Thank you Palo Alto Weekly for being willing to speak out so boldly. Your influence in the community is immense.


9 people like this
Posted by Sw
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:33 am

I really like the suggestions of Grumpy Old Guy. But given the inability of our school board or district administrators to act on anything, I believe they are probably pipe dreams. I would like us to at least push the Paly start time back to 8:25am like Gunn's, or even better to 8:30am as recommended by the AAP. I went to Paly in the 80's and remember literally sleeping through first period some days. My soon to be 9th-grader has a terrible time waking up in the morning and is often late to first period at Jordan. I am dreading getting him up in time to get to Paly by 8:15am. I feel like an extra 15 minutes would make a big difference for him. If other kids do fine with an early start and can handle zero period, that is a choice they and their parents can make. But for the kids that need more sleep to function at their best, how about giving them some options too?


8 people like this
Posted by PalyParent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:34 am

There seems to be some confusion over zero period PE. Freshman and sophomores who are multisport athletes choose this because they are exempted from PE when their sport is in season--so for multisport athletes that's pretty much always. They then have more flexibility in terms of scheduling their other classes so they can get the electives they want--and, usually a 7th period prep; that's a class that, for an athlete, often conflicts with games. So they aren't taking more classes, or getting up early. It really is a "ghost class" that simply allows them to be registered for PE, and fulfill the requirements through their sport. I'm not sure, but I believe "contract PE" athletes (who are doing out of school sports for a certain amount of hours and therefore don't need to show up for PE) also take this class. I don't see a big problem with "ghost PE" in order to allow more schedule flexibility during rest of the day and get first-choice electives.


2 people like this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:38 am

Alphonso,

I would suggest the case be made the other way around. What is your case for Zero period to be policy for both High Schools?

It is an equity issue for one school to take 8 periods as opposed to 7.

If the Board wants Zero period, it should be POLICY for both, and rules followed accordingly.

There is nothing I would want more than to hear their case in favor of Zero period, and thereafter that they will not be hypocrites.

Having hypocrites as Board members is a problem.


21 people like this
Posted by Hopefully Rational
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:39 am

Everyone,

In these comments, and the broader discussion regarding suicide, there's a recurring trend of blaming the schools, or the PAUSD Board. I think our community of parents need to look inward before blaming the Board. Our community of parents creates a lot of the academic stress. We should all be working on helping to diffuse it. If the Board changes some policies in an attempt to help, that's great, but the real work needs to be done at home. There are some simple messages that can be reinforced:
- there are a lot of great colleges out there. It's not just Stanford and Harvard.
- 10 years from now, what will matter for your kids is the kind of person they are, and the effort they put in to what they are doing. That is true whether or not they go to a big name school.
- you, as a parent, will love your kid regardless of where they go to school, or what math lane they are in now.

There's also the tendency to generalize, and to say things on a comment board like this that one would be unlikely to say face to face. Inflammatory comments don't really help, especially in an upsetting situation like this.

Let's put energy into being nice to each other, and helping our kids.

Respectfully,
Hopefully Rational


10 people like this
Posted by Choice or None
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:43 am

I am not advocating for zero period and no one in my family takes zero period classes. Just some questions.

Why do we assume kids will sleep more if they do not have zero period or assume that kids go to bed the same time (so no zero period equals more sleep)?

Sleep is a "social contract" at best between the parents and their kids. Parents need to do the job.

Commute is an issue if people have to drive a long distance to work and also need to give their kids rides to and from school. Our family doesn't but we can see how zero period can help some families.

There are kids I know who are off-the-chart smart and need extra academic stimulation. And not wanting to make them choose between after school sports/extracurricular activities, or to disrupt the regular schedule for the rest of the student population, zero period is an option. No?

The question is how to make sure families make informed choices.

Now we have, very unfortunately, quite an astounding number of suicides within the last five years. Is it possible for the school district to have conversations with these families? There is no need to name names and since, again unfortunately, there are more than a few, the chance of matching info with student is lower. And there is no need to provide details, just enough of a picture for the community to have a more informed discussion on how best to help.

In that regard, I appreciate the courage, kindness, and generosity of Kathleen Blanchard.


13 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:45 am

Can I have a voucher to let my kid go to other school?

Since we bought a house in Palo Alto, now we have just enough money to live. We don't have money or spirit to move out so soon. I can not afford to pay extra money for a private school on top of tax for supporting Palo Alto public schools.

I don't want to send my kid to Gunn at this moment, knowing nobody there knows what they are doing. He might be the next sacrifice to the evil god of Gunn.

If I rent a house and it has just a possibility of unsafety, I can ask for money to live somewhere else. The landlord is obligated to pay for it.
I would like to send my kid to other better school with the voucher until they are sure.




11 people like this
Posted by very concerned
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:46 am

I have no problem saying this face to face. I encourage all parents to man up like the editorial says, come to the board meeting, write a letter, write an email, and demand that this be fixed immediately. I have absolutely no problem, and no one else should either.

You know who has a problem acting face to face? The cowardly board members Melissa Caswell, Terry Godfrey, and Heidi Emberling who fell all over themselves trying not to offend Max as if that would be a worse sin than letting kids die a preventable death.

Blah blah blah. Damn right I blame the board, except for that one board member who did take this on, perhaps because of what was said about understanding first-hand what it is to lose a child to suicide.


1 person likes this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:49 am

Hopefully,

Have you read the Editorial?

This is about Board policy or lack of policy. Democracy of sorts.

I agree with you about not blaming anything or anyone for the suicides, like the student blogger said no single root, a network of things.

The Board is both school and parents. You can even say they are the parents. I can and will say that I elected them for better than this.


5 people like this
Posted by Michael O
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:51 am

@very concerned: I'm sure lack of sleep is a bad thing, but it misses the point. Gunn high school has a start time at 8:25. The average start time for high schools in the US is 7:59. So why are Palo Alto kids killing themselves? Not because of the school start time. My point is this: the reason that kids here are killing themselves is not because they are not getting enough sleep, nor because they had to study over Winter Break, nor because of too many AP classes. If you read my post you would see that I'm in support of an even later start time than 8:25. My point is that by doing all these little things we might think we are helping reduce the suicide rate, but more likely these changes are besides the point because NONE OF US knows why these kids are killing themselves. Each family has their own story. What we are not doing is making all the kids realize that their suicides are the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

As my Gunn freshman son (who spent time with one of the boys who died) said to me, "Even though they might think so, none of these kids has a problem worth killing themself over." Maybe, maybe not, but I understand his sentiment. If only these kids did too.


14 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:53 am

Bravo! to the Palo Alto Weekly for exposing this "zero period" nonsense to sunlight. I had no idea until I read this.


6 people like this
Posted by Loosing sleep
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:55 am

If you have not studied the research on sleep; Brody, “Hard Lesson in Sleep For Teenagers”, New York Times, 20 October 2014 offers a quick overview of the American Pediatrics sleep policy statement that was issued in August 2014. see

Web Link

Here are some excerpts from the article:

“Sleep is not optional. It’s a health imperative, like eating, breathing and physical activity,” Dr. Judith A. Owens, the [American Academy of Pediatrics sleep policy] statement’s lead author, said in an interview. “This is a huge issue for adolescents.”

Insufficient sleep in adolescence increases the risks of high blood pressure and heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity, said Dr. Owens, pediatric sleep specialist at Children’s National Health System in Washington. Sleeplessness is also linked to risk-taking behavior, depression and suicidal ideation, and car accidents.

Sleep deprivation can also have a negative effect on mood. Inadequate sleep raises the risk of depression, and sleeping less than eight hours a night has been linked to a nearly THREEFOLD increased risk of suicide attempts, after other potential causes are accounted for.

“Lack of sleep can be fatal,” she said. “The level of impairment associated with sleep-deprived driving is equivalent to driving drunk. Would you let a kid drive who just consumed three or four beers? Well, guess what — kids do that every day.”

In a 2008 study in Virginia Beach, where classes began at 7:20 to 7:25 a.m., the crash rate for 16- to 18-year-olds was 41 percent higher than in adjacent Chesapeake, Va., where school started at 8:40 to 8:45. “Lack of sleep can be fatal,” she said. “The level of impairment associated with sleep-deprived driving is equivalent to driving drunk. Would you let a kid drive who just consumed three or four beers? Well, guess what — kids do that every day.”

And with the current intense concern about raising academic achievement, it is worth noting that a study by Kyla Wahlstrom of 9,000 students in eight Minnesota public high schools showed that starting school a half-hour later resulted in an hour’s more sleep a night and an increase in the students’ grade point averages and standardized test scores.

“When the students were more alert, they were able to get their work done faster and thus get to bed earlier,” Dr. Owens said. “It takes a sleepy student five hours to do three hours of homework.”
************************


I have always appreciated when Camille Townsend reminds us to focus on the physical health of our children. I was extremely disappointed by her efforts on Tuesday night to keep the discussion of zero period off the Board’s agenda. This is not trivial. We know too well the consequences of sleep deprived impulsive acts.



4 people like this
Posted by who care's about data
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:55 am

@PalyParent,

"It really is a "ghost class" that simply allows them to be registered for PE, and fulfill the requirements through their sport. "

No it's not. It really is a class. If it was a ghost class, no-one should able to attend. From a different thread: Web Link

"At Paly, the only class is freshman and soph gym and it is for athletes, approximately 1/3 to 1/2 are not even attending at any given time because they are playing in season and are excused from gym."

That leaves 2/3 to 1/2 regularly attending this class. It needs to be removed.
If a class is needed for athletes to skip PE, then schedule that PE class at the end of the day not the zero period.


4 people like this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:56 am

I would encourage anyone trying to say that Zero period was not the cause for the suicides to justify keeping zero period to stop the nonsense.

If you can't see the bigger picture of a board speaking with two sides of their mouth, we should actually investigate that first.


1 person likes this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:59 am

There is also zero period drivers' ed at Paly, run by Stanford Driving School. Kids must attend every class and make up any tardies, to get the certificate to get their permit.


15 people like this
Posted by Gunn Mum
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:59 am

All 3 of my kids have had zero periods and never had more than 6 classes since sophomore year.

Make sure that a reactionary solution is indeed addressing the problem. The study notes the amount of sleep is pivotal. Shifting the schedule in no way changes the hours but just the timing. Personally my students find the morning hours much more productive. If they have a big project they get up early to work on it rather than staying up late. Having a zero period has also allowed them to pursue outside interests in the later afternoon which alternatively decrease their stress. Our family chooses zero period in order to maintain balance and a certain lifestyle. Anecdotally my children consciously sleep longer than a majority of their peers.

There are many generalized assumptions stated in these posts that are gaining traction without any supportive data. Please ask the students what they want and why they want it. Well meaning intentions should not be knee jerk reactions.

We LOVE the OPTION of zero period.

Ask the students, don't assume!


28 people like this
Posted by Thank you Ken Dauber
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:00 pm

For digging this out and standing up for our students health. We are behind you 100%.


22 people like this
Posted by Gunn mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:03 pm

Thank you for writing this editorial. This is clearly a health issue and there are very clear recommendations by American Academy of Pediatrics about youth and sleep. We are in the midst of huge crisis and we need leadership that will do the things they can do to reduce the stress and contribute to the mental health now. Schools are certainly not solely responsible for where we are but they have a responsibility to do all they can to address the pieces that they can and this is an obvious one.


8 people like this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:04 pm

Gunn Mom,

This is not about your family's time management.

And everyone needs to stop putting the students in the middle of this one. Or make it sound like it's a choice issue.

It's not about choice.

It's not about time management.


2 people like this
Posted by stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:06 pm

That was for Gunn "mum" not mom

I agree with Gunn Mom from Midtown.


6 people like this
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Alphonso is a registered user.

Stunned
Actually, two people on this thread have offered reasons why zero period is worthwhile - early rising students and student athletes. As for sleep, parents can act like parents - take the cell phones away at 8PM and require lights off at something like 10:30

I don't care if they have zero period or not. All I care about - I want to see a thoughtful approach in dealing with suicides. Talk about the real issues and do something about those issues.


15 people like this
Posted by CW
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:15 pm

[Portion removed.]

Here's the problem. During the suicides in 2009-10, people [portion removed] argued that we needed to reduce student stress in order to stop the suicides. So they pressured the school board to create a two-tier set of graduation standards (a normal track and a DIY track for under-performers), a dumbed down homework policy, a new academic calendar, and so on.

None of these changes stopped the suicides. That's because the problem isn't academic stress, it's mental illness. That's what Dr. Joshi Shashank, the Stanford adolescent psychiatrist, said in the Post the other day. That's what the parents of Harry Lee said about their son and what other parents of suicide victims have said.

But instead of focusing on mental health, Dauber and the Weekly are pushing another cure even though they have no idea if the problem they're trying to solve is related to any of these deaths. Who needs data? Who needs evidence? Who needs a causal link? Let's just wing it!

And if somebody like Melissa Baten Caswell wants to thoughtfully examine the pros and cons, Johnson stamps his feet and screams "hogwash."

If we eliminate zero period with zero evidence that it was related to any of these suicides, we're just doing the same thing we did in 2010. That didn't work, so why are we repeating it?


7 people like this
Posted by very concerned
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:20 pm

What did Dr. Joshi say in the Post the other day? Did he say that zero period was a good idea and that school can start at 7:20? Did he say that none of the students who died were in a zero period class. I would be extremely interested to know that if he said that, so please, post his quote.


Like this comment
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:23 pm

CW,

You confirm this is about politics, your own issues with Dauber?

Stunned.


17 people like this
Posted by Board watcher
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:26 pm

Emberling and Godfrey at least supported Dauber to the extent of getting this issue on a future agenda. They were far weaker than they should have been but without them, his proposal would have died. They deserve some credit. Townsend bizarrely rejected the idea of a connection between school start time and sleep, and ignored the American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement for 8:30 school start times when Dauber brought it up. Caswell is carrying McGee's water.

All of that is predictable. The interesting question is, why is McGee not just ordering this change? It's an obvious change from a health perspective, and he must have known he would get hammered for not doing it in the middle of a suicide cluster, and even known that he should do it. He looked incredibly nervous on Tuesday night, and it was clear from his comments that he's worried about the pushback from the 10 teachers at Gunn who are teaching these early morning classes. Unfortunately, until we get a superintendent who is willing to stand up to the faction of teachers at Gunn who ran the place under Villalobos, there will be no reform at Gunn. This is a preview of the resistance that is coming to the block schedule.

To me, the fact that Dauber managed to put together a pro-health, pro-reform coalition on the board for long enough to keep this issue alive, in the face of opposition from the old board of Townsend and Caswell, and delay/stall tactics from McGee is a hopeful sign. If that holds up, there could be some real change coming.


2 people like this
Posted by very concerned
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:31 pm

If the parcel tax loses, it will be McGee's fault for not just handling this quietly and making sure our teachers follow doctor's orders.


3 people like this
Posted by Paly mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:43 pm

I agree with @data. We don't need zero period PE.Most student athletes are enrolled in seventh period PE to accommodate sport schedules. For the minority of frosh/soph athletes that cannot take 7th period add 8th period PE or let them take independent study PE.


22 people like this
Posted by Hayley K
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:43 pm

Excuse me, but did you do ANY research by talking to Gunn students? If you didn't, that's HOGWASH. As a student at Gunn, many students are "morning people" and love being up early anyway. They enjoy the opportunity to take early classes and then leave school early. It is not for the benefit of the teachers. The opportunity that zero period allows for 8 classes is an issue for kids who are taking on too much, and that needs to be addressed, but that does not mean we need to eliminate 0 period classes altogether. It's not like they are required. The administration is not pushing anything on us as students; it is our own prerogative to take this classes and if anything should be changed, it should be thag mindset, but not removing 0 period. Gunn really appreciated all these spiteful articles from the outside community that have no idea what's actually going on.....NOT. We've been through enough, thank you. Please don't take the opportunity to insert your opinion into something you don't fully understand.


4 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:52 pm

I am for the optional zero period as it is. I am against the 8th period, though.

I don't know why some people think the zero period leads to suicide. They claim doctors say so. They are not always right.
It's summer time now.
All high school students now get up and go to school just like students with zero period until last week. So are all the Gunn students going to suicide?

Are we going to form a class action against the US government who forces us change the clock?


3 people like this
Posted by CW
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:57 pm

[Post removed; suicide is not the topic of the editorial and discussoin of individual suicide cases will not be permitted.]


Like this comment
Posted by former PALY parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 12:59 pm

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 13, 2015 at 1:00 pm

My daughter is in her second year of zero period P.E. She is taking it so she can have prep periods in her junior and senior years and also so she can continue her band elective which she loves while also fulfilling her graduation requirements. It was a conscious decision on her part to take this class and was never forced into it.


8 people like this
Posted by Khan
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 1:05 pm

[Portion removed.] I encourage you to think more objectively sbout the medical evidence. It reminds me of my daughter explaining why it was ok for her friends parents to provide alcohol or let kids smoke pot at a party at their LAH home. It's all about choice. Well no it's not. And where there is contagion no one gets the liberty of pure individual choice because all are affected. [Portion removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Khan
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 1:08 pm

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Whiskers
a resident of Los Altos
on Mar 13, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Here's a far-out idea: how about a school-wide "nap time"; that is, take one hour a day for kids to lie on the floor on their sleeping bags and take a nap. The hour could vary so kids would be less likely to cut the class.

Or, perhaps a 20 minute "power nap" daily. Or two naps. Or three naps. As I understand it, power naps are supposed to be helpful to working people, so why not kids? As much as the word disgusts me (read: Obamacare), the naps would probably have to be "mandatory" or kids would kid (poke fun) at each other for taking an easy class.

Yes, my ears are ringing from your laughter. I'm well aware at how silly it sounds. On the other hand, think of it as a brain storming thought and perhaps - just perhaps - it might lead to a new train of thought.


3 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 13, 2015 at 1:27 pm

@Hayley, I'll back you 100%. Nothing is more beautiful than the sunrise. Anyone who thinks humans were not meant to get up early should go backpacking in the Sierras for a week. Being a night owl is the unnatural state. Odd that anyone here would attack a Gunn student's well thought out observations. This whole thread is better understood when we realize that many people view early birds as a threat who have a unfair advantage.


24 people like this
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2015 at 1:28 pm

I don't understand our school's leadership. The Gunn Counseling department puts out this FAQ with the specific question of "I want to take 8 classes", with the answer being, "Students are allowed to only sign up for 7 classes"

Web Link
They go on to state the reasons are for a balanced life and that the school is not funded for students to take 8 classes.

So, if the school states this as policy, why do they allow it? Why is it a discussion. This has nothing to do with zero period. This has to do with following the rules set out by the administration. Who is allowing students to take 8 classes? Why are the adults not being held accountable for doing their job?

If someone is registering a student and they see 8 classes, why are they allowing it? At Paly, the schedules all go through the Advisory teacher and counselors. There're more than enough checks along the way to catch someone with 8 classes. Heck, why not set up Infinite Campus to now allow it? It's a simple thing, but obviously the Gunn admin is unwilling to do what they're being paid to do.


18 people like this
Posted by Patsy Mink
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Patsy Mink is a registered user.

Apparently Ms. Townsend and Ms. Caswell have forgotten the work that was done on adolescent sleep deficits in 2010. see Web Link

“[In 2009] the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Trustees identified the need to "Raise the level of discussion around and importance of sleep in determining physical/social/emotional health” as an initiative of its strategic plan focus for [2009/10].

PTAC beg[an] a process in educating the community including the students, parents and staff of the sleep needs of teens for optimal physical and mental health. [The Student Sleep Subcommittee] believe[d] the outcome would foster knowledge of teen sleep, the consequences of sleep deprivation and lead to appropriate action in the community including a possible later start/stop time in the PAUSD high schools.”

The net result of PTAC advocacy was a later start time for both Paly and Gunn, albeit not as late as the report’s recommendation for a 9:00 AM start time.

“Parents setting age appropriate bedtimes and enforcing wind-down time for teens is important and beneficial but parents must also recognize that most teens will not be able to sleep until 11pm or later. Thus if teens need about 9 1/4 hours of sleep to do their best and naturally go to sleep around 11:00 pm, one way to get more sleep is to start school later. Teens can naturally fall asleep by 11:00 pm or so; therefore simple math dictates the need for a start time of 9:00 am or later.”

Here are the members who made the recommendation for a 9:00AM start time:

Mandy Lowell – VP Parent ED PTAC [former President PAUSD Board of Trustees]
Kathy Schroeder – PTSA Gunn [current Executive Director PiE]
Micaela Presti – Co-VP Health & Safety PTAC [Project Safety Net]
Sunny Dykwel – VP Parent ED PTAC [Project Safety Net]
Maureen Simons – PTSA Paly Parent Ed [SHARE committee]
Katie Shade – Co VP Health & Safety PTAC (Chair)
Melinda McGee – Parent Advocate
Glenn Krasner – VP Communications PTSA
Chris Campen – PTSA Paly
Meri Gruber – Parent Advocate

To above posters who say that teens can handle the earlier start, years of data and multiple studies prove otherwise. Web Link Research has proven that only a very small minority of teens can adjust their internal clocks to an earlier start time. Web Link The dangerous and sometimes fatal consequences do not justify catering to a very small subset of students while putting hundreds more at risk.


8 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 1:48 pm

If the purpose of Zero Period (that is, abnormally early classes) is to allow the student squeeze in another set of classes, that is not OK. If the purpose is to allow certain Gunn teachers to leave early because of personal preference, that is also not OK.

A lot of people here on this discussion are wrongly conflating the desire the start high school an hour earlier -- either because of personal habits or personal preference -- with the ability to take a heavier-than-average school load . . . . e.g., 8 periods.

If eliminating Zero Period classes reduces academic stress, and indirectly student suicides, then that is something that should be seriously considered by Board. And consider it quickly, without delay!


Like this comment
Posted by Choice or None
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2015 at 1:50 pm

I do like social media to an extent or too much homework. But why do we think only social media or homework keep kids up all night or that these two are the main culprits?

We are young once. First off, it's just fun staying up. No? And then, in the absence of social media, there was pop music, radio, pulp fiction or worse reading materials ;-), doodling on scratch paper or real artistic renditions, or that diary we keep away from our parents, and so on so forth.



Like this comment
Posted by Choice or None
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2015 at 1:51 pm

I meant "I don't like social media to an extent or too much homework."


5 people like this
Posted by Paly mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 1:51 pm

@CW Consider that the Weekly staff does know the answer to your question and show some respect.


2 people like this
Posted by Apricot3
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 1:53 pm

Zero period is not only for high school students. It is also for advanced Math of middle school students.
Some 8th grade kids are taking a zero period class at Gunn. If Gunn will not offer a zero period, how PAUSD will manage of advanced Math middle school students. They are skipping grade in middle school. I feel that PAUSD has to rethink "Skipping Grade" system at middle school.


8 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Dear Ms. Patsy Mink,

Are you saying that the minority should follow the majority for the sake of the majority?
Is it so hard to accommodate various kinds of people when it is possible?

There are some students who like to go to school early and finish early.
There are teachers who like to teach early and finish early.
What's wrong with this?






13 people like this
Posted by Terman mom
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Making it so some teachers can beat rush hour is not worth increasing the risk of suicide. Shame on you, Max. I expected better.


3 people like this
Posted by CW
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 2:14 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 2:33 pm

[Post removed.]


16 people like this
Posted by Barron Park Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Why are Gunn and Paly allowed to have such a different policy towards 0 period?

Don't we all live in the same town? Don't we all elect the same city council and school board members?

It's time to have consistent polices for ALL the schools in Palo Alto!


6 people like this
Posted by Gunn Mum
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 13, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Stunned - I am not trying to be confrontational and I am sorry if my experience and opinion should not be spoken. I in no way suggested that I knew all the answers nor that my preferences should come before the whole. I, to your obvious dismay and stress, simply wanted to present evidence of how zero period works for some. I have not heard or seen anyone citing an actual incident where zero period is used to fill an 8 period schedule. My kids didn't know of this happening either.

Please remember we are all in this together even if our opinions differ. Getting angry and confronational is definitely not something our students need to see modeled as a coping mechanism when dealing with conflict.


2 people like this
Posted by former PALY parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Competitive parents want their kids to take zero period without others knowing - for competitive advantage.
Also, I remember full well about the practice of 8th graders taking Math over at the high school - one must "test out" of 8th grade, and I personally knew two moms who had their kids take the test more than once (!) to make this happen - neither kid ended up as a Math major in college but they did as the parents said, and did get entrance to high quality universities. If the kids were so gifted, then they would not need to be tutored, prepped, and tested multiple times to "test out"of 8th grade and gain the honor of going over to PALY for Math. Both these kids also did Stanford Math as seniors (therefore, took AP Math BC as juniors at PALY), to their parents' great pride, but as I say, it was on the order of the parents not because of inherent giftedness nor particular interest in Math. Neither became Math majors in college.


16 people like this
Posted by A Parent, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 2:50 pm

I'll say upfront that I have rarely agreed with a Weekly editorial regarding Palo Alto schools. I did not vote for Mr. Dauber. But I agree wholeheartedly that zero periods are unnecessary and antithetical to the wellness of our kids. No one needs to prove "causation" to suicide, of the children who died this year or any other year. The evidence that sleep deprivation hurts the physical and mental health of adolescents is abundant and unequivocal. As adults, we must set limits that benefit our kids, not hurt them. We support seat belt laws and speed limits, as we know they help protect our teenagers' safety. We don't accept arguments that its "more convenient" to drive 45 on Embarcadero or Arastradero. We don't accept "I'm unique and I drive better without a seatbelt." As a society, and as adults, we say no. We do not need more data or more public hearings. We need to be adults, and set limits - not school by school, but for the entire district. We need it now.


1 person likes this
Posted by unbelievable
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2015 at 3:09 pm

It is stunning to me that this newspaper is yet again blaming teachers without any evidence. Teachers are not in charge of the bell schedule that is the purview of the school site administration and the school board. Ask how zero periods were even created in the first place and I would wager to guess they were created at the demands of parents who want their kids to be competitive when they are applying for college.

By all means, let's keep scapegoating the teachers, instead of looking at what other factors are leading to these kids being so stressed out. Other communities offer zero periods without the tragedies that keep playing out in Palo Alto.


4 people like this
Posted by Sequoia parent
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2015 at 3:10 pm

Why not let 0 period stay, but prohibit students from taking 8 classes?

Extracurriculars are also extremely time-consuming. Getting up an hour later is not going to help if a student is staying up till 3 a.m. to finish homework because they were at practices and meetings all afternoon and evening. Perhaps schools should limit the number of extracurriculars a student can take (I suppose the honor system would have to apply for activities not coordinated by the school).


6 people like this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 3:24 pm

Unbelievable, from another community

99.999% of the teachers would not object to eliminating Zero period. They are responsible professionals which consider research based and common sense practices. We would never know this because only one organizations speaks for them and your comment does not count as representative.

Clearly not every parent agrees. Not about consensus anyway. Please read the Editorial.

Why else do we have a Board of Education?


14 people like this
Posted by Patsy Mink
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 3:39 pm

Patsy Mink is a registered user.

@ mom

My son is also an early riser. He does his homework in the morning before school. As a Junior he has one prep period and next year will have two. This did not require him taking zero period PE so I don’t understand Pat M’s comment about her daughter taking zero period so she can have prep periods. To graduate you need 215 credits. If you take 7 periods each year you accrue 280 credits.

As the editorial states we are in the face of the greatest youth crisis this community has ever faced. In this context I do feel that the needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few. We should be implementing and I will continue to advocate for implementation of every possible solution to keep our children out of harm’s way. The data on teen sleep is irrefutable that led the American Academy of Pediatrics to issue a policy statement recommending that no school start before 8:30 AM.


9 people like this
Posted by very concerned
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2015 at 3:41 pm

@unbelievable Well, the teachers are being blamed because it was the teachers, by way of the IC who rebelled against Dr. Herrmann and insisted on keeping zero period. [Portion removed.] Whether or not to offer so many academic classes to so many students (and 15% is not a limit -- it could be more and in prior years it was more, they say it can be up to 400 students, probably because that's how many teachers want to leave early) is a board level decision. It should never have been made at the site level after telling the board that the school had late start. It's almost a lie, to come before the board and go on and on about your late start and how great it is to have late start and how you got late start and then pull this kind of a fast one.

A lie by omission is still a lie.

[Portion removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by 3M
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2015 at 3:42 pm

My freshman daughter prefers zero period PE at Paly for the following reasons: she is a morning person, likes to start the day off with some activity, and more importantly, loves the prep period that allows her to end her school day most days at 1:45 and come home to complete her homework before dinner. She also goes to bed early knowing she will be tired the next morning if she doesn't.
As to the traffic issue, I've taken her to school and don't see any crowd of driving parents looking to avoid traffic. I will also note that I have also not heard her mention the class being empty due to student atheletes.
I'm a night person so I didn't understand her desire to do this but said we would give it a try this year. Her brother has observed this and now he too says he wants to do zero period PE next year- again, to have time to work on homework during the day which is his most productive time. They are not doing this to take more classes, just to do be able to work on school during the day when they feel most effective. However, as a parent I would not have approved this if I thought or knew either child would not get sufficient sleep by staying up too late. This would not have worked for me- in fact, I appreciated that my school hours with 9-3:30 and thought even 8 was early. As many including the student blogger have noted, it isn't just one thing. We aren't debugging a product one error at a time. Thoughtful, comprehensive analysis of the range of stressors upon our students is overdue. I participated in the earlier round of Project Cornerstone outreach to parents but have to say I walked away from that bemused by all the talk of "assets" and site independence. Lets get past the terminology. I also will put in a note here for the quality of the counseling and teacher advisory I've seen as a freshman parent at Paly. Charles Taylor has been more than responsive, he has been proactive as has the advisory teacher Ms Evans. An issue was brought to Mr Taylor's attention this week and even with everything else going on, he immediately reached out to me and my student. Some things are working and we need to also understand those successes and acknowledge and scale them.


2 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 3:53 pm

I wrote this earlier, but I would like to write it again briefly.

Last week before the daylight savings time, our students began school at 8:25 at Gunn. This week, they were fine with beginning school at 7:25 in "before the daylight savings time" time. Right now, they are like going to school for zero period and everyone is OK about it.

How do you explain this, Patsy?


6 people like this
Posted by I Support Zero Period
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 13, 2015 at 4:08 pm

Zero period makes it possible to do more non-academic stuff. That is the reason why it should exist. Take my past as an example:

When I was in high school (in Orange County), I was part of the orchestra for all 4 years, but I also played on the tennis team. The reason why I needed zero period was because if I didn't take it, then I would be constantly missing class whenever we had a tennis match (because we'd leave for matches before the last class ended). The alternative would be to drop orchestra or tennis, but that would've been painful. I definitely took zero period my senior year, and can't remember if I took it junior year. I never took 8 classes. The point was to eliminate 6th period so that tennis matches would not interfere with my academic classes. As a result, I took periods 0-5, then period 7 was tennis. In earlier years, I would enroll in summer school to eliminate a class, such as World History, so that in the standard school year, I would have room for both orchestra and tennis, which allowed me to avoid 0 period. By doing this, I was able to do the fun things I wanted while still taking on a heavy load of AP classes.

If you take away zero period, today's kids in my position will be forced to drop fun classes because chances are, they won't drop their academic classes.

There are tons of highly intelligent students at Gunn that are capable of having it all, so let them choose zero period if they are capable. And besides that, when I took zero period, it started around 6:30am! I still remember going to bed by 9:30-10pm so that I could wake up by 5:50am every morning to get to class, which was quite a chore because it took me about 12 minutes to drive to school each morning.


14 people like this
Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 4:09 pm

This editorial hits the nail on the head. The hypocrisy is absolutely astounding. Camille Townsend needs to pull her head out of the sand and realize that it is incumbent upon the schools to stop offering more choices and to start setting healthy limits for our kids and this community. No zero-period academic classes and no one should be allowed to take 8 classes in high school.


2 people like this
Posted by unbelievable
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2015 at 4:19 pm

Why don't we let parents parent? As a parent, it should be MY call as to what I think my child is capable of doing or not doing. Many parents and students have already provided explanations as to why they want zero period. I may not agree with that decision, but if you do not think your child can handle it, and another parent thinks differently - why are you taking that option away?

Guess what, parents, you have the right to tell your child no if you think it's too much for them. That's not the job of the BOE, the school district, or even school administrators.

Finally can someone show me where in the teachers contract is shows they have the power to make the bell schedule?


6 people like this
Posted by Patsy Mink
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 4:20 pm

Patsy Mink is a registered user.

@ Mom
The effect of daylight savings time is not inconsequential.

Here are some excerpts from an LA Times article, "Change to daylight saving time takes biggest health toll today":

Heart attacks are more likely in the first week after we spring forward

Traffic accidents are 8.6% more common on the first Monday of daylight saving time. A more recent study based on 21 years' worth of accident data from the U.S. concluded that there's "a significant increase" in fatal crashes on that first Monday.

The disruption to normal sleep rhythms was blamed for an uptick in suicides among Australian men in the first weeks after daylight saving time begins. "Small changes in chronobiological rhythms are potentially destabilizing in vulnerable individuals," study authors wrote in a 2008 edition of the journal Sleep and Biological Rhythms.


5 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 4:21 pm

We can make all rules for:
1. when to sleep
2. when to get up
3. # of AP to take
4. # of extra curricular
5. time limit spent for sports,
6. time limit spent for music,
7. time limit spent for everything else
8. no zero period, and so on.

Who will check if all families follow them?
Will we hire another Palo Alto personnel just for this job for over $100,000 a year per person?

Then inch by inch, the school allow individuals for exceptions quietly.
What's the point?



4 people like this
Posted by Parent too
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 4:28 pm

Does not it all have to do with sports teams? I believe it does. It has to do with being available for sports early enough in the afternoon to attend meets. I think the whole zero period issue revolves around sports. To eliminate it would require the approval of all the sports directors and coaches for all the competitive sports. It seems very difficult to achieve and this is probably why the board will not even try.

Personally, I think there is way too much emphasis on competitive sports in schools.


4 people like this
Posted by former paly mom
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2015 at 4:36 pm

I'm a former Paly mom of two who happily teaches a zero period English class in the South Bay. Most of my students are credit recovery students who made mistakes during 9th and 10th grade and are now aiming for higher grades. Zero period classes tend to be small like mine. So, I give this group extra attention because I can check in with each of them.


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Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 4:40 pm

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Not just any community
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 4:40 pm

The medical research on this is clear - and concerning. Web Link

Under any circumstances, sleep deprivation puts all adolescents - from ANY community - at much higher risk for very serious health consequences.

Conducting academic classes this early in the morning makes zero sense. And "zero period" is a misnomer, an insult, and bad policy.

Claiming to have a "late start" and be a "Challenge Success" school is a joke. In reality, by practice, Gunn HS conducts an 8 period academic day on its campus (for many students).

Arguments of "choice" and "early risers" might hold more weight elsewhere but not here and not now. We are not a typical community, nor are we in typical circumstances or time. As we look for ways to help ALL students be healthy and successful - and we look for concrete ways to reduce risk among our most vulnerable teens - Gunn's 7:20 start time, and with these classes?, is unconscionable.

What a sad irony, that creating the "later start" time a few years ago made room for this possibility. But who would have ever believed this decision-making?

Hope? It's out in the open and the research is conclusive. I look forward to seeing how our school, health care and community leaders work together to turn this around.


4 people like this
Posted by paly mom
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2015 at 4:55 pm

As a zero period high school teacher whose two children graduated from Paly, I suggest all of the dissenters dotheir homework in looking into suicide rates of Silicon Valley high schools that have offered zero period for decades. Also, hasn't Paly been offering a band class at before 8am for years? Jazz I think. [Portion removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Paly parent too
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 13, 2015 at 4:59 pm

I hope you are not teaching health or statistics.


10 people like this
Posted by Resident now
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 13, 2015 at 5:02 pm

My 1 cent comment...Zero period exists in PAUSD starting from 7th grade for a long time. However, parent is in charge to decide if they allow their kids to go or not. It is not “advertised” in school catalog, rather, the parent will be notified by their math teacher if the teacher thinks your kid is good enough to move on, jumping a grade. Of course, some “anxious” and nosy parent will ask for it…somehow they know a lot more than a “regular” parent. I was contacted by my son’s math teacher when he was in JLS. However, I optioned out this zero period math class in Jordan Middle School because I think it was too much to get up that early. So, my son was always in the class that follows his grade, never jump high, because I against it. And he did not take lots of AP classes at Gunn neither. He was always in the top lane class with A at Gunn. Now, good or bad when he applied for college…Good part was that son was never stressful in Gunn, the bad part was that we were told that he had very little chance to get in any ivy college because he did not take the maximal number of AP classes that Gunn offers ( I even asked son to skip AP US History) and he did not take any math class beyond high school level. Son was not happy when he heard this . So, we aimed on UC, and yes, he is in Berkeley majoring Computer Science. More, he is happy at Berkeley, not even feel stressed for Berkeley. And, he gets all that he can get from Berkeley as he would be in other ivy college. People say that UC has too many students, less chance to know professors. Yes, Berkeley has lot of students compare with private college. However, if a student is good, professor will notice it even in a huge class. My son was contacted by his professor to do research in his lab. So, no need to push too hard in high school. If a student is smart, he/she will stand out in college. No need to push them into ivy colleges to catch that “smart-train” too early….save you lots of money!


16 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Consider this; a kid who takes 0 period and always sleeps 9 hours every night. And then, consider another kid who does not take 0 period but sleeps only 5 hours every night. Which one is more at risk?

Are you really concerned about kids not sleeping enough? or, are you afraid that zero period would give advantage to some kids? I am afraid parents who are attacking this option are assuming both of these.

My kid is an early bird, takes 0 period, does not do that to take an extra class (no extra period), does not take it to pass others in any way. There is NO advantage, there is NO superior scheduling here. Just a choice.

I truly dislike the way some parents attack others by jumping into conclusions without asking the kids.


1 person likes this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 5:06 pm

If the issue is really choice and time management, then don't call it Zero period.

Have 8 periods, available to both high schools.

At least keep it all in the open - who knew there was all this "rationale" for zero period. Who invented zero period?

Policy should not be "zero" period, it's a first period.


7 people like this
Posted by Not just any community
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 5:07 pm

@ paly mom - how do you reconcile the medical research that spells out why this is bad policy for teens anywhere and everywhere?

Please make your case for why heavy academic courses at 7:20 in the morning is good policy for this school community, for our teens. Increased car accidents, obesity, depression, sucide ideation as a consequence - for our kids. Why is this an acceptable risk or a good practice for a public school to continue? How is it consistent with a formal stance supporting "late start for student health" in schools?


7 people like this
Posted by Gunn Mum
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 13, 2015 at 5:33 pm

It would be interesting to know if us parents are doing all we can to help. Before throwing others under the bus are we living a life that demonstrates the importance of sleep to our own household?

Are we carving out time to eat as a family and listen to our kids? Are we talking too much about school, marks, SATs, college and applications. This knot is huge and we can point fingers at everything. My first responsibility is to check how my own threads exacerbate this knot. This way be PollyAnna but I can start today.


8 people like this
Posted by former paly mom
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2015 at 5:35 pm

Stunned, I lived in Palo Alto for 11 years, leaving after my son graduated from Paly last June. You need to look at high schools that have offered zero period for DECADES here in Silicon Valley. I have taught high school in Silicon Valley for over twenty years. Plenty of high schools have low suicide rates AND zero period. Do your homework. Because I can give my students so much attention zero period is why they are passing. I don't think this would be the case if they were in a sixth period class at the end of the day. My class has seventeen students


9 people like this
Posted by Paly parent too
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 13, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Thanks but I think I'll follow the American Academy of Pediatrics and the universal opinion of the entire medical community. Just curious, what do you teach and where?


2 people like this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 6:14 pm

former Paly mom,

"DECADES"

means outdated in my book - not an endorsement.

Resorting to zero period to get a small class size?




6 people like this
Posted by Perkoy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 6:28 pm

What about parental pressure? Certain parents really tighten the screws, with threats of disowning their child, sending their new puppy to the pound, etc.

Their is a book that addresses this. It was written by a Chinese-American and is called, "Love is Only for White Kids". it was written long before Amy Chua wrote her book.


21 people like this
Posted by Max, time to man up
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2015 at 6:38 pm

I agree with this editorial. If not now, when? If not an issue as basic as school start time, then what? When I talk to my sophomore son, he seems so cynical about the school. "Mom, they aren't going to change anything". Please prove him wrong. You don't need to wait for the school board.


1 person likes this
Posted by a qualified recommendation?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 6:46 pm

The American Academy of Pediatrics August 25, 2014:

"It is clear that ADDITIONAL RESEARCH IS NEEDED to further document the effects of changes in school start times over time, to examine specific factors that
increase or decrease the likelihood of positive outcomes, and to assess the
effect on families, the community, other stakeholders, and the educational system
in general...a delay in start times [is] a POTENTIALLY highly cost-effective countermeasure to adolescent sleep deprivation and sleepiness."


12 people like this
Posted by Max, time to man up
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2015 at 7:15 pm

@a qualified recommendation?

There is a lot hidden in those ellipses. Here's the actual text.

Taken together, these studies support the presence of significant improvements in benchmarks of health and academic success in a variety of settings in association with later school start times, including in urban school districts with a large percentage of low-income and minority students, suburban public schools, and college preparatory independent schools. It is clear that additional research is needed to further document the effects ofchanges in school start times over time, to examine specific factors that increase or decrease the likelihood of positive outcomes, and to assess the effect on families, the community, other stakeholders, and the educational system in general. However, it may be strongly argued that both the urgency and the magnitude of the problem of sleep loss in adolescents and the availability of an intervention that has the potential to have broad and immediate effects are highly compelling.
It should also be emphasized that delaying school start times alone isless likely to have a significant effect without concomitant attention to other contributing and potentially remediable factors, such as excessive demands on students’ time because of homework, extracurricular activities, after-school employment, social networking, and electronic media use. One of the biggest challenges school districtsface is the need to inform community stakeholders (eg, parents, teachers and administrators, coaches, students, bus drivers, businesses that
employ students, law enforcement officials) about the scientific rationale underpinning the merits of delaying school start times; the threats to health, safety, and academic success posed by insufficient sleep; and the potential benefits for adolescents of school start time delay. Thus, education and community engagement are equally key components in increasing the likelihood of success.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes insufficient sleep in adolescents as a public health issue, endorses the scientific rationale for later school start times, and acknowledges the potential benefits to students with regard to physical and mental health, safety, and academic achievement.


5 people like this
Posted by Off My Lawn
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 13, 2015 at 7:23 pm

"Here, here. I feel very disappointed in McGee. I am starting to wonder if he is out of his depth in this job. This is a much bigger job than he has had before."

Just FYI - he was the State Superintendent of Schools in Illinois for 3 years. That's something on the order of 850 districts, 4000 schools, over 2 millions students. I think he's up to the job.


14 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 7:30 pm

The academic zero period classes as well as the blatant disregard of the PAUSD homework policy are clear signs that the BOE and Supervisor are really not in control of their High Schools, and perhaps willingly so. It's very hard to imagine that they didn't know of Gunn's offering of Math classes at 7:20am and students taking 8 classes.


16 people like this
Posted by A Parent, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 7:42 pm

I don't agree that zero period should be a site choice. And I don't agree that School Board action is an infringement on "parenting choices." I believe that it's not possible to create a schedule that suits the individual preferences of every student or every family. My kids have all insisted they "do their best work" late at night. Let's assume that was true - even then the School District should not offer evening classes for night owls. It is their responsibility to study the preponderance of evidence and make decisions based on the overall safety and well being of 10,000 children and adolescents. Individual kids can still hop of of bed early and study if that is their (and their parent's) choice. They can stay up all night if that is what they and their parents think is best. They can hire 6:30 am tutors and take 8th period classes at Lydian Academy. *Those* are parenting choices. The Superintendent's and School Board's obligations are to the overall wellness of the entire district. I encourage them to act soon and uniformly for all PAUSD students.


8 people like this
Posted by Texas Parent
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2015 at 7:45 pm

My brother forwarded this blog to me because he knew my daughter's schedule.

1100 of 1500 students in Montgomery Texas get up at 5:50am to catch a 6:05am bus for a 45 minute ride to high school getting back home between 4 and 5pm every week night. Our homes are very far apart so extensive bus system.

No teen suicides in the last ten years.


4 people like this
Posted by Except for that...
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 7:50 pm

He got fired from that job.


22 people like this
Posted by Gina Dalma
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2015 at 8:04 pm

We have often discussed the need for consistency in our schools. Zero period at Gunn and nobody knows about it?
Really?
Facts:
- Four suicides of young people in our community.
- Lack of sleep is a known factor that contributes to depression.
- Incredibly high competitive school system
We don't need choice. We need consistent policies that drive towards students engagement and well-being. If a zero period exists in this highly competitive district, some kids will feel compelled to use it. We have a huge emergency in our hands and we have the wherewithal to deal with it and we still think this is a choice?



4 people like this
Posted by Except for that
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 8:12 pm

[Post removed.]


19 people like this
Posted by Ken Dauber Thank You!
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 8:26 pm

Ken Dauber, finally a board member with backbone. I just watched the board meeting online after reading this. OMIGOD the way Melissa Caswell and Camille behaved was shocking. They cut him off repeatedly and tried to stop him from talking whenever he tried to give the medical opinion. It was so rude and immature I kid you not if you watch it you will be offended. They tried to stop him and he kept going he was very polite but he stood up for our kids.

Gina, I am so sad you didn't win but next time you will. We sure need you now.


8 people like this
Posted by Gunn '15
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 8:34 pm

First of all, "Stunned" needs to stop shooting down everyone who is in support of zero period and actually take the time to look at both sides before simply shrugging off any opposing arguments.
With that said, I agree with one of the previous commenters suggesting we allow zero period, but restrict the number of classes a student can take. I mean, most students taking zero period already have prep periods, but a limit would make sure of that. In freshman and sophomore year, I was in zero period PE and had a G prep period, so I had to usual seven classes and got to go home earlier than other students.
And of course, there may surely be students who hate zero period, but are taking it because of some reason (perhaps parents?). In that case, I would suggest that we have a system where any student wanting to take a zero period class talk privately with their counselor first about why they want to take that class and how they plan on managing their time.


8 people like this
Posted by Tiger Moms
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 8:43 pm

I blame some PA parents. They work their kids literally to death. The Tiger Mom mentality is a big part of the problem.


7 people like this
Posted by PAEA blew it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:04 pm

PAEA has fought any administrative effort that upsets the status quo. It happened at Gunn with Katya Villalobos, it happened with Denise Herrmann when she tried to encourage a little too much the homework policy. It is a lie to say that teachers have nothing to do with changing the schedule. Ask about the meetings where it is made clear that when enough of the powerful teachers don't want the change, the change will not happen. Kevin Skelly exacerbated this current crisis by managing, instead of leading, Glenn McGee is at the critical point in his career, thrust into it by suicides that he no doubt thought were a 2009-10. I do not think he is up to it yet. And if he is unwilling to lead due to PAEA's very real power to oust him, then he needs to go. We do not need another seven years of Skelly. I want all of you to go back to 2010 when PAEA president Triona Gogarty was running the show, then remember how one suicide was an anomaly, but that the five or more were surreal, and Skelly seemed to lament and apologize without making any significant changes. Did any of us think this would happen again? Well, it did, and that we still have to run things by PAEA is also surreal. These are our children dying and this has been an extreme crisis, but we are allowing it to be treated as something that merely needs to be managed. Don't think that PAEA is powerful? Search back on these forums for the bullying policy debacle a year ago when a board member seemed to reverse her decision based on a conversation with PAEA. This is the norm. Now it is Teri Baldwin who is in charge and she has failed miserably. She needs to resign. PAEA needs to lead this reform effort and just represent their members behind closed doors. As for McGee, he needs to reform his own house: Charles Young must go. He has made no significant effort since Skelly moved to Mountain View. Even Scott Bowers has been taking up space at the district office without demonstrating any leadership. The Weekly is write to cry hogwash. Students are killing themselves and we are debating baby steps to address the suicides. You all should be chanting Not One More. I was chanting it in 2009.


11 people like this
Posted by local yokel
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:07 pm

Some of the reason for zero-period math classes at Gunn is that wiz-kids from JLS want to take these classes and Gunn allows them to do so. Therefore, it's not just high school students that are losing sleep, it's middle school students. Let's bring Principal Ofek into the discussion.

Also, people need to be aware that if a student wants to get into UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine or UC Davis, they will need a 4.0 or above. For UC Berkeley and UCLA they will need above a 4.2 GPA. THAT is why these kids are so stressed out. Getting into a UC has become in insane proposition.


11 people like this
Posted by Apricot3
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:22 pm

I agree with local yokel.

Most of people are thinking about that Zero period for high school problem.
However it's not. The bottom of this has started from elementary school. One of choice elementary school has many advanced kids and some kids prefer to skip grade at middle school. Naturally those kids(7th and 8th) have to take an advanced Math class as Zero Period at Gunn. After they start 9th at Gunn, they are already college level Math and have advantage of getting high GPA scores. How regular students can compete with those kids?

It's a time to think about not only high school system, but also elementary and middle school system in Palo Alto.


2 people like this
Posted by oops we did it again
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Um, I didn't believe it but it looks like "except" is right. McGee was forced out from the State Board of Education in Illiinois. Pretty interesting why -- it looks like he had trouble handling a big job like that, and made a lot of political missteps, had poor political judgment, and did not understand how to build key alliances. This is a bit eerie, given what is happening now. McGee mishandled key constituencies, and though he talked a good game of "big picture" ideas, he didn't get the right staff in the door to get the job done. Ultimately he did not accomplish the goals that the board set.


Web Link

This is from the Chicago Trib in 2001:

"Four months before his contract is to expire, the state superintendent of education is fighting to keep his job.

Max McGee has spent the last few months trying to convince members of the Illinois State Board of Education that he should be retained as the state's top education official. Board members haven't made up their minds.

[Portion removed due to copyright violation; please use links to copyrighted content such as this.]


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:05 pm

I don't understand what Apricot3 wants by accusing students in an advanced Math class.
If we put those kids in a regular class, they will take your kid's As away.
Your kids will never see As in their math classes for entire high school time.
You should be happy that those advanced kids in Math are in other class, so your kids can shine in their regular class.


13 people like this
Posted by Curve
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:12 pm

No class in any school in PAUSD should grade on the curve. Grading on the curve invites competition, rather than collaboration.

Grading on the curve invites the exact environment "Mom" of Fairmeadow describes.

Are PAUSD classes grading on a curve???


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Posted by mattie
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:18 pm

Fellow Palo Altans,

Symptoms, symptoms, symptoms. Keep responding to symptoms. Because the symptoms feel easier to control, and the disease is painfully close to home. Fight about 0th period and watch it make no difference. (The nature of the fight is another symptom.)

I wish I could do more to help, but honestly I don't know how.

The moon is beautiful if you're up early these days. Enjoy the winter constellations while they last. Relax, enjoy the weekend, good luck and love.


10 people like this
Posted by Curve
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:28 pm

Mattie, Did you have a helpful idea or thought in there? Or just want to tell everyone to chill out while our kids are dying? Focusing on the symptoms is at least a step toward identifying the disease. Or do you think the moon is causing the disease? Sorry, but your post seems condescending and simultaneously completely unhelpful.

Maybe I'm missing something.


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Posted by mattie
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:41 pm

Curve -- I didn't mean to be condescending. I'll be more clear. The disease is something like out of control stress and pressure, and this comes from parents, peers, and the community at large. This repeated suicide cluster is a symptom too, in my maybe simplistic analysis. LIfe and human thriving is way bigger than the narrow way it's being defined by this community, imho.

I think about cosmology a lot as a source of beauty and inspiration in my life with my friends, family, and kids. It's hard to imagine being too stressed out about work or school if your mind is attuned to those rhythms, I find. At least, it keeps ME in check. :)


13 people like this
Posted by oops we did it again
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:58 pm

The problem with Palo Alto and suicide from the very beginning is that they want to "do something" but not too much. This is kind of the last straw, fooling the public into thinking the change happened when really it didn't. Gunn allows 20% or 400 students to take zero hour classes. Over the 3 years of zero period's life, that is 900-1200 students who have been exposed to a three fold increase in the risk of suicide. Why don't we just spray them with toxic waste on their way into the building. That probably has a lower risk of injuring them.

Shame on Max McGee for not doing the right thing. I thought he would be different -- he seemed so refreshing and honest but he is just another self-interested politician.


12 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:06 pm

Reason is a registered user.

If Principal Hermann has an issue with this, why doesn't she simply neglect to staff zero-period. Problem solved.

We have lived by the nonsense of the site-based disaster for a decade, why would we suddenly need the board to do anything?

Just shut it down. Don't need the Board's help to decide what is good for students. (as if they could decide how to wipe their own nose).

Grow some stones. You're going to need them.


23 people like this
Posted by Curve
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:09 pm

0 period should be eliminated from PAUSD. Period. (No pun intended.)

Our kids are dying. As so many people have already said, it's not one single cause, it is a confluence of causes including mental ill-health, hormones, sleep-deprivation, peer pressure, college pressure, parent pressure, insecurity, etc... We must acknowledge that there is not one, single cause of the suicides, but many factors combined that are taking our teens.

WE MUST MITIGATE AS MANY OF THOSE DAMAGING FACTORS AS POSSIBLE.

Realize, for every child who commits suicide, there are many more who attempt it, or think about it, or are just quietly hurting in this environment. Allowing "super smart" kids to over-achieve in our public school puts unreasonable pressure on all of their peers. Kids who are smart feel like they have to do more, kids who are average feel like losers, and kids who are below average, well, God help them in this environment.

THESE ARE CHILDREN!!! OUR CHILDREN ARE HURTING AND KILLING THEMSELVES! HOW MUCH SICKER CAN WE BE AS A COMMUNITY TO SIT BACK AND WATCH OUR CHILDREN KILLING THEMSELVES??

If you have a super exceptional child please challenge them outside of school, or put them in private school. Please don't expect PAUSD to cater to your child and create an environment where "normal" kids are forced to feel like losers.

For all of the people who feel the early morning hours a great time for their kids to get things done, they can use that time for homework. The kids who like P.E. zero period can do home work at that time and then have P.E. 1st period. For those that like to get out at 1:45 so they can do homework - tough. Do your homework at 7:20 if you love getting up early so much.

There is ZERO reason to justify a zero period. Early riser kids can use that early time to do homework.

And learning that my tax and PiE dollars are funding an 8th period for the select few ticks me off to no end. I will dedicate my efforts to ensuring that this is stopped now. PAUSD wants another property tax extension, while Gunn and Paly are funding a secret 0 period? FAT CHANCE!

Shame on PAUSD for allowing this deliberate undermining of what was clearly in our kids best interests. I expect school administrators to be fired over this, and want answers as to how this could have continued for so long.


4 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:09 pm

@Curve,

I don't think they say explicitly that they grade on a curve.
Based on my observations of my kids' classes in the past, they might have done it in a tricky way.
They give very hard tests so that even top students don't get 100% easily.
They don't tell the average scores for us to compare, but students with lower score get free points if the class don't do well, perhaps up to fit the curve???
One math teacher we had for several years told his class that the class scores should spread on the curve.
These experiences made me write like my previous post.
I admit things may be different now.


12 people like this
Posted by Gunn Student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:10 pm

Its Not Just The Sleep, because it doesn't happen at all in the first place.

Gunn/Paly are hyper-competitive, bland, boring, etc. Everything is spirited for a quarter and then its "study mode" for some 6-7 months. Ridiculous outliers sprinkled here and there, and that's it. This is vastly true for all classes, reguardless of outside factors. And as horrible as it sounds, inclusion and "hanging in there" are the only things that can make it better without McGee or divine intervention.

That Said, Sleep Well Palo Alto,

See you tomorrow. All of you.


3 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:35 pm

I believe that the zero period came back by demand from athletes' families at Gunn.
It's so strange to me that they are very quiet here.
I think they are not wasting time by writing here.
If they were able to bring the zero period in the past, they can influence the school now, too.
If athletes can take zero period, non-athletes should be able to take zero period PE, too.


2 people like this
Posted by Another Gunn Student Voice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:36 pm

Maybe this community needs more healthy disrespect for authority. You say I need x? Who gives a rat's *&#$!?!

Most of our parents won't like that, but who says you should care? Parents here are largely functionaries for the modern immoral imperialism anyway. Whatever... I feel sad for the pain I see some classmates experiencing. It's so unnecessary.


13 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:39 pm

Man, there's a lot of poor reasoning and thinking on this thread.

CW, mental illnesses don't simply appear out of nowhere. Depression is both created and exacerbated by environmental factors (i.e. tons of stress and lack of sleep.) It's dumb to talk about suicidal depression and pretend that external factors have nothing to do with it.

People defending zero period--man, do any of you get statistics at all? Yes, it may work for you and yours, but, by and large, an early school start has a seriously adverse effect on teens. It is reckless and morally repugnant that we know this and ignore it.

Gunn's administration and faculty *should* be held accountable for ignoring the rules on this.

We have dead kids and, yet, when it comes to actually doing *anything* that might create a healthier environment, we get foot-dragging and whining over anything that might slightly inconvenience anyone.

Camille Townsend should be deeply ashamed of herself--fluttering her hands about "choice" when four kids have *chosen* to kill themselves this year. She was on the board and didn't do a damn thing when we had the *last* cluster of suicides.

Melissa Baten-Caswell can maybe wake up and smell something besides her cup of privileged coffee.

But, hey, I guess those kids don't count--I guess we only care about the winners around here. Everyone else, no matter how loved, how unique, is just collateral damage.


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Posted by Curve
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:39 pm

[Post removed.]


24 people like this
Posted by Gunn Junior
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:48 pm

I am a junior at Gunn. This is my third year taking zero period, one of them being PE and the other two in math. I am a two sport athlete and participate in many other extracurriculars. I also take 8 classes. Zero period offers me consistency within my day, school always starts with math, so I wake up knowing that is what's first.

I am not much of a morning person, and I really appreciate my sleep, so what do I do? I go to bed early. Yes there are some nights when I don't get into bed until 12 but there are others where I am asleep by 7:30. I know that sleep is important and it has been rammed into my head that I need 8-9 hours of sleep. So I take it upon myself to get those 8-9 hours.

In regards to taking 8 classes to gain advantage over other students, I don't see it in my class. I personally take 8 classes because it allows me to take electives that I am interested in. There are so many classes offered at Gunn, I wish I could take nine classes just so I can take more electives to learn about things that interest me. Of the 8 classes I take now, I take my 4 core classes, a language, and three electives.

Zero period has always been a choice for everyone, and originally I didn't make it into the class, and had to ask my counselor to put me in it. We did have a talk about how I will manage my time while taking 8 classes.

Zero period should continue being an option for students to take the classes and course load that they want and can handle.


5 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2015 at 11:57 pm

Sorry Gunn Junior, but no. It's wonderful that you're interested in so many things, but I suggest you find other ways (summer classes, independent study) to explore some of them. Gunn's adults (administrators, teachers and parents) have shown little ability to maintain a healthy environment at the school. When they show better judgment, we can talk about greater flexibility.

But first they need to show that they can A)actually adhere to the rules set by the district, B)understand how to reduce the levels of stress and depression at the school and C) be better role models for students.


3 people like this
Posted by Other ideas
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 14, 2015 at 12:10 am

The comment about the Texas schools is interesting.
Probably not a popular idea here but what about the faith community? It takes a village. And perhaps in other places there is more community for youth. Yes, there are lots of options here for overly programmed kids. Competitive sports. A thriving SAT prep industry. Maybe we need more youth group, more scouts, more fun community activities for youth. And a city culture that values those things as important to create positive peer pressure.
Those support networks can be powerful for teens. A group different from your daily peers and perhaps an adult thats not your parent to talk to.
Believing in a power greater than yourself can be a comfort in times of despair. While many here may not be actively religious, we shouldn't discount the benefits for your kids.
Just another idea beyond our schools and tiger parents.


8 people like this
Posted by 8 at Paly
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2015 at 12:14 am

I'm surprised this hasn't been said yet, but Paly does allow a student to take zero period PE and another 8th academic period too with permission. My son's classmate did this, and I admit when I heard I was a bit jealous because I didn't know that was allowed.


8 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2015 at 12:18 am

Other Ideas,

A lot of those groups and activities are in Palo Alto. The town has tons of them. However, a lot of them have trouble attracting teens because our teens have too much homework and tons of school-based extracurriculars. One of the ongoing things you see posted here is about a kid having to give up a dearly loved activity because he or she just had too much homework.

Another variation on this is that some of the extracurriculars are insanely demanding--a 100 hours, say, over a six-week period to be on a robotics team.


24 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 12:24 am

When one child died because the mom didn't watch her 5-year old in the Great America wave pool, Great America immediately imposed a rule that certain ages have to wear a life vest in the pool.

PAUSD needs to have a backbone and make some serious decisions regarding the children. Screw what the parents think - do what's right for the children. There is research that lack of sleep results in negative health issues. Most teenagers are not early risers so the decisions must veer toward the majority. Athletes already can wave P.E. period so it needn't be a zero period.

What are parents going to do if PAUSD changes the start time, ends zero period, and limits APs? Are the parents going to sue the public school district? For what? Are they going to move out of town (please do)?

Townsend and Caswell are Ivy League graduates and Townsend's daughter attends Princeton. They are the tail end of the Ivy League School Board which allowed stress to continue for years (Tom & Klausner are Stanford) along with former Superintendent Skelly (Harvard). Don't expect Townsend or Caswell to support any stress relief for our students.

Thank God we have Dauber on the Board to courageously fight for our children's health.


1 person likes this
Posted by other ideas
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 14, 2015 at 12:40 am

I know they exist. My comment was that we need a way to create community values that makes some of those things a priority to keep more teens involved. I suspect that's true in other communities.


2 people like this
Posted by M-A, Class of '56
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 14, 2015 at 12:52 am

Someone said something here a while ago that struck a memory. If I remember correctly, when I was in Kindergarten or 1st grade, we had to put our heads down on our desk for a short nap time every day. I don't really know why, but it must have been to calm us down or relax us or something. Maybe make us sharper for the rest of class. But if it helped then, why not today?


9 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 1:26 am

Actually, Josh Bloom, physics teacher, and some other teachers do teach students to meditate and my child in college still meditates to this day. Perhaps freshman Advisory classes could be taught to meditate.


4 people like this
Posted by Jaime
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2015 at 2:26 am

[Post removed; out of respect for the privacy of the families, please do not discuss specific circumstances of individual suicides.]


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 14, 2015 at 7:01 am

@Paly Parent, which Ivy League school did Townsend graduate from?


8 people like this
Posted by oops we did it again
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 14, 2015 at 7:24 am

@jaime The answer is known and it is not zero. One problem I foresee is that the board members and Max talked about the need to get "data" and investigate and find out what students and families and teachers think. This is not just a stall and delay tactic as the Weekly says. It is also a way to protect zero period by creating a "fact" that it is popular. People who smoke crack like crack and if you took a survey of crack users, you would probably find it is very popular. That doesn't negate the medical fact that it is bad for you.


11 people like this
Posted by RussianMom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 14, 2015 at 7:30 am

RussianMom is a registered user.

Before witching the zero period (yes, there are GPA builders and early risers in this class), how about switching our attention back to the enormous stress level in our schools? We brought an enthusiastic, eager to learn middle schooler to get a stressed, overworked, anxious test taker 6 months later. We always teach a kid to challenge himself and old-fashion: 'work hard to get what you want'. Doesn't work that way at higher lanes. Gunn math and science departments are playing a power game with parents on the expense of our kids. You asked for last year tests? Fine - here is the test (no answer to check), just to make this year test harder. You are asking for an advanced class? Be careful what you are asking for. Here is the test, with material, not covered in the classroom. The level of instructions (some teachers) are left our kids with tutoring and Khan academy to self study. It must be a troubling statistic for the administration - why kids are dropping lanes? What's wrong with higher lane if students are LEARNING and not trying to game the system?
We need an independent study of course material and teachers evaluation!
What's the root cause of kids stress? Our kids have no life to get a decent GPA, while school kids next door are studying hard and get some free time to enjoy the life....


7 people like this
Posted by Hays mom
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 8:11 am

Its not just high schools with early morning classes. Elementary schools also institute an early start with intervention classes. Imagine a 9 or 10 year old having to be at school at 7:25, an hour before the normal school day starts, trying to focus on reading strategies. We did this just once a week for 8 weeks and my child was exhausted. I let her stay home and catch up on sleep when I felt like she needed it.

My point with this is to say that it starts early. Someone mentioned looking at the middle schools, but I believe the answer comes much earlier, in elementary school, and our large school sizes are a significant root of the problems.


6 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 9:07 am

Yes, I remember math club at elementary school starting at 7.30 once a week. My math loving son went for the first couple of weeks but then decided he wanted to stay in bed rather than get up early.

I think the big point about this is how it seemed to be something that the board and superintendent weren't aware of. How can things be going on like this without district oversight. I mean doesn't there have to be extra liability, insurance reasons to get permission for student activities on campus before or after school hours? Surely if a teacher wanted to offer extra help to students at say 6.00 pm on school property, that teacher would need to get all sorts of permission to do it? Additionally, doesn't it mean that janitorial staff have to get to school early and if they are paid per hour it has to be sanctioned?

I know we have swim teams practicing before school starts too.

I think we have to question the wisdom of kids arriving at school while it is still dark. This week has been miserable in our house getting up once again while it is still dark.

[Portion removed; out of respect for the privacy of the families, please do not discuss specific circumstances of individual suicides.]


4 people like this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2015 at 9:54 am

Scanned the replay of the Board meeting.

Camille Townsend seemed very well aware of the Zero period at Gunn.

As someone pointed out, the data the Board is waiting for is the "popularity" of this "choice."

They will survey 300 students who signed up to ask them if they like their choice? Maybe they will add a parent survey of the same 300 students.

Then we will know they all like this and need it.

Board, then you actually have to make a choice yourselves about what is good for the THOUSANDS of students that go through the schools.


22 people like this
Posted by It's the teachers stupid
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 14, 2015 at 10:02 am

We have some great teachers but we also have SO MANY teachers who are smug and complacent with a status quo that benefits themselves, where they immediately suggest there's something wrong with the student if everything's not going right. The teachers want zero period to make their day convenient, period. Otherwise they would protest starting their work day that early and refuse to do it, like they refuse to do so many other things like post on Schoology, or anything else they don't feel like doing. Same with the hostility to the homework policy. Same with any accountability around how they grade and their arrogant notions of "rigor" vs. state curriculum standards. Have had plenty of conversations with elitist teachers who actually say they view themselves as wearing a sorting hat to decide who should go to college, losing sight that GPAs determine UC and CSU eligibility. Radu Toma is still head of the Paly math department despite his infamous math letter. Imagine a world where teachers don't believe they can teach algebra 2 except to the elites, and that is our world. Townsend and Baten-Caswell are just reflecting PAEA backchannel agenda. Same with block scheduling, imagine how they would have to revise their lesson plans, oh the horror of it all. The problem is, PAEA and teachers do their lobbying behind the scenes; they should have to make their objections public at school board meetings to the rest of the community and reveal their truths.


15 people like this
Posted by Creative scheduling
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 10:14 am

Academic courses in zero period at Gunn = a three year old phenomenon (with decades of non-existence). Let it go. Bad idea. Not necessary. Science agrees. Students will be fine. Let it go. This should not be difficult to understand or do.

The fact that this "mission drift" happened at all - from Late Start and a school in support of Challenge Success ideals and practices - tells us all something very important about the decision-makers on this campus. Trot students to an assembly on the importance of sleep - when you create this type of schedule and allow 8 periods? let alone no block? Really?

They either do not see the connection of their policies and practices to student health or they believe their practices are worth the risk. And that should concern all of us.

Are there other aspects to this overall problem? Obviously. But this "little one" is very very telling. Decision-making is the problem. We need wiser and stronger leaders.


11 people like this
Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2015 at 10:42 am

I find it ironic that the Palo Alto Weekly owners and editorial board sits on a high horse telling the district what it should do, yet when it's been pointed out over and over again to The Weekly that its coverage of the train suicides is partly to blame for the copy cat suicides, they have done nothing to rein in their coverage. The district has pleaded with the Palo Alto Weekly and local media to stop the coverage of the train suicides. There have been other suicides of kids in this town, and several at Stanford, that did not get the kind of coverage the trains get and we didn't see the copy cat cluster following those deaths. The Weekly should follow its own advice -- as the kids say "we are all in this together" -- and show us that they care by tamping down their coverage of these tragic deaths.
.
Copycat suicide is mostly blamed on the media. "Hearing about a suicide seems to make those who are vulnerable feel they have permission to do it," Phillips said. He cited studies that showed that people were more likely to engage in dangerous deviant behavior, such as drug taking, if someone else had set the example first.

Copy cat suicide clusters have been studied and the increase in suicides following other suicides in the same manner is known as the Werther effect. This is from Wikipedia:

The Werther effect not only predicts an increase in suicide, but the majority of the suicides will take place in the same or a similar way as the one publicized. The more similar the person in the publicized suicide is to the people exposed to the information about it, the more likely the age group or demographic is to die by suicide. The increase generally happens only in areas where the suicide story was highly publicized.[5] Upon learning of someone else's suicide, many people decide that action is appropriate for them as well, especially if the publicized suicide was of someone in a similar situation as them.


8 people like this
Posted by PAEA blew it
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2015 at 10:48 am

PAEA doesn't do it just behind closed doors. Certainly, that's where real decisions are arrived at, but remember PAEA school representatives Cara Stoneburner and Tom Culberson speak after the earlier student suicide, followed by Stoneburner defending teachers and promoting battle pay because teachers were suffering because of the student suicides. Teachers are suffering, as are students and parents, and everyone in the PAUSD community. But the adults in the room, so to speak, the parents and staff, must be responsible for their actions and open to criticism, even anonymous criticism. This is about our children. This has been an emergency since May of 2009 and it must be treated as such. If we can't make simple changes like zero period or enforcing a board policy on homework, then we value our political territories more than our children. Max McGee, the $300,000 and $1,000,000 are not free. You have to step up and risk your image, your reputation, and your career to stop the student suicides that were mismanaged from 2009 to now. You have to remind PAEA and CTA of their motto of representing teachers only. They have had their chance to lead this district in this emergency and blew it.


14 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2015 at 10:52 am

As far as I know, there are many sports teams -- including football and water polo -- that have early morning practices at certain times of the year. Paly football has to lift weights at some ungodly hour like 6:45 am and the water polo team practices twice a day in something called hell week. A friend's son who is on the team regularly sleeps in academic classes to make up for the lost sleep. Every sports team at Paly is a huge time sink -- with three hours a day spent on fields that could be spent catching up on studies or finishing school work. Many of these teams require their players to leave school early and miss many classes so they can travel to other teams for games after school. Is anyone screaming about that? We let our kids pound their heads up against each other in football -- a sport that we can pretty conclusively say could be life threatening and cause severe brain damage -- yet no one seems to get riled about that, indeed, parents and kids seem to be proud about how much time their kids are doing sports. That's as much of a pressure cooker as anything and probably goes a long way in explaining why kids feel some much stress about school -- they don't have time because they are doing sports. When I was in high school, Paly used to relish not being a great sports school and they had fantastic academics and kids did well and no one was feeling these horrible pressures.


1 person likes this
Posted by Except for that
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 14, 2015 at 11:57 am

[Post removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by Bill Johnson
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Mar 14, 2015 at 12:04 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

@PalyParent,

The Weekly is very mindful of the role we play in bringing the issues surrounding teen suicides to the community. We work extremely closely with mental health leaders in the community to ensure our reporting adheres to national recommendations, including discussing stories with them in advance of publication (and on occasion providing drafts of stories for review and input) and lengthy conversations about we can contribute to greater public awareness about the signs of depression and available local mental health resources. We also work closely with the school district in each case of a teen suicide in order to ensure our coverage does not preempt its strategies for informing teachers, students and parents.

Contrary to the perception of some, mental health professionals do not advocate that public suicides not be reported, and recognize that in today's social media climate teens are almost immediately aware of these tragedies and engage in discussions and spread rumors very rapidly.

Our belief, supported by our local health practitioners, is that it is important for the community to have professional journalists reporting the essential facts so that parents and others are better equipped to talk with their kids, and to provide a forum for people to share their grief and ideas.

For the reasons you suggest, we monitor the posts on Town Square very carefully after these events, and over the objection of some, delete many comments that steer the conversation in the wrong direction. As readers of Town Square know, in accordance with advice we've received from the local experts that help us with our coverage, we remove any comment that probes the individual circumstances of a suicide, including the victim's school activities, class schedule, academic record, family structure or background, etc.

While you are of course free to and should make your own conclusions about our coverage, you are incorrect that the school district has requested that we not report on these suicides. School leaders realize it is our responsibility to inform the community, just as it is theirs, and we work very collaboratively to coordinate performing those responsibilities.


Like this comment
Posted by Max Skelly
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2015 at 12:08 pm

What happened to the bold leader I have been reading about? Less bloviating about change, more actual change please. If he can't act to protect kids under these circumstances, the new board needs to find new leadership.


8 people like this
Posted by Politely disagree
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 14, 2015 at 12:21 pm

No disrespect but I don't think it invades the privacy of any family to want to know if zero period or early practice was a factor in ANY (that is not specific individuals) of the deaths at either school. That seems like public Heath information like how you get AIDS or Ebola. The public should know the risk factors. There have been 12 such deaths so saying hypothetically yes one or more did have a zero period class does not reveal who when or which school. It is hard for the public to be able to protect their children from a similar fate if the ball is being hidden. Since our leader does not seem willing to stop this dangerpus practice by withholding the info if it exists you are disabling parents from taking preventive action.


5 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Paly Parent,

You really think the kids learn about the train suicides from the Weekly? Come on.

I can tell you for a fact (because I was online at the time) that the teens can know about the suicides before the rest of us. One time, years ago, some teens were posting here about sirens at the train tracks and how they hoped it wasn't another--and, then, one of them just said "Oh no." The Weekly removed these posts (which is fine), but there was little question about which way the news was travelling.

Any train casualties are required to be a matter of public record. A public investigation is legally required.

You can't hide something that happens in public; that people live near, that people witness.

The Weekly has tried to be careful--certainly, they've done more to amend their policies than our schools have.


5 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 12:59 pm

I agree that it is fair for the Weekly to report as it does.

In our home, we heard about the suicide on Monday from tv news which gave traffic reports of a delay on Caltrain. This was important and necessary news to get out to Caltrain riders and also to anyone who uses Alma and Churchill for their commutes. In fact getting traffic to avoid this intersection was a public service to us all.

As far as hiding the news from parents, I would much rather hear from the school and the Weekly rather than hearsay from my kids.

To hide the news completely is a denial of the facts. To pretend that everything is fine and dandy and that these suicides are not happening would be a gross injustice to the public at large, and the Palo Alto and school communities in particular.

I know that we have to be careful in presenting the news in such a way as to prevent copycats, but denying that it has happened is more like something that Soviet USSR would have done.


13 people like this
Posted by Bill Johnson
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Mar 14, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

@Politely Disagree,

If school officials or the parents of a victim provided this information, the Weekly would consider publishing it in the broader context of all the co-factors that the mental health professionals have described as potentially leading to depression. On the other hand, if, hypothetically, a classmate who knew a victim posted that he or she was in a zero-period class, or just broke up with a girlfriend, or had an eating disorder, we would delete the comment because 1) it isn't verifiable and 2) in the opinion of mental health professionals, it oversimplifies the complex factors that can lead to depression.

In the case of sleep deprivation, however, there is no disagreement among experts on the dangers, nor on recommendations that high schools start no earlier than 8:30, and that inadequate sleep can increase the risk of suicide by as much as 300 percent.

That information should be plenty for parents to determine strategies for reducing risk without knowing how many, if any, of our Palo Alto victims may have been in a zero period class. Whether or not one of our teen victims had been in a zero-period class is of little or no research value because the sample size is so small. That's the value of national studies and the conclusions of national experts.


12 people like this
Posted by Another Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 14, 2015 at 1:48 pm

It's not the schools. It's the families.
Both of my kids tell me it's not the schools.
Kids should have chores and responsibilities inside the home and a part-time job outside the home, to keep them busy.
Not more honors or AP classes.
But some families do all the work for their kids, and just expect them to do homework or activities outside the school solely for the purpose of building their resumes - not because the teen wants or cares about volunteering.
And the denial by many parents about the high use of Adderall and other drugs is ridiculous. Kids are using these like crazy, and they misuse them. It keeps them up all night and going all day.
But having more time won't cure anything.
It's the driving nature of the families to succeed, and you can't spot it from just knowing the kids at school.
We are not the only school district with a high suicide rate.
Some of the most rigorous schools in NYC have the highest number of suicides.
Just look up Stuyvesant High School.


8 people like this
Posted by what we do know
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2015 at 1:49 pm

We know that sleep deficit can contribute to a three fold increase in suicidal ideation. In the midst of this crisis why would we be willing to play Russian roulette with our children?



Many parents claim their students can handle zero period. That may be true for a minority but hear what renowned pediatric sleep expert Mary Carskadon has to say on this subject, particularly about parent perceptions of their teen’s sleep habits.





“Sounding alarm on need for later school start times”, American Academy of Pediatrics

Web Link



“Kids are struggling,” said Mary A. Carskadon, Ph.D., a contributing author to the statements and professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University, and director of chronobiology and sleep research at Bradley Hospital in East Providence, R.I.

When addressing problems in adolescents’ lives, health care providers, parents and school officials need to be asking about sleep, she said.

A National Sleep Foundation poll revealed most parents think their kids sleep enough, when 59% of middle school children and 87% of high school teens were not. The average high school student was getting seven hours a night. "A lot of times, it feels like the inkling is to move to another explanation that may involve prescribing medications for symptoms, but not addressing what may be at the root for some of these kids which is unhealthy sleep," Dr. Carskadon said.



A previous poster wrote about Dr. Carskadon’s 1998 teenage sleep. The study included 10th graders with a school start time of 7:20. Web Link

Not one student was sleeping the recommended 9 hours per night. Only half were able to achieve 7 hours. 64% of the students had sleep lab results consistent with narcolepsy.



The time is now to end this experiment.


14 people like this
Posted by longtime resident
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Oh, if we could only stop being controlled and governed by technology and the media, and remember the values that really matter.

Happiness in this life doesn't come from having lots of money and power. Really, it doesn't.

True happiness comes when one is at peace within -- when one knows that HOW we choose to live our lives really can help make the world a better place.
When we choose to live as if everyone is important then our lives take on a new meaning. We begin to realize that we do have some power -- the power to contribute to the good of all - even in a small way. We are happy when we can help others to be happy -- not when we get ahead of someone else in traffic, or get to the front of the line or win the top honor. Those are only momentary joys if they can even be called "joys" at all.

Also... all life is precious and valuable. All life.
Everyone has worth. Everyone matters. It might be that we are forgetting this.

We are forgetting more and more about our Creator, too, and how He asks us to live. We are making a world that is less compassionate, loving, forgiving, selfless. God asks us to live our lives a certain way for a reason and maybe we are finding out what happens when we don't stop and listen for His guidance and wisdom -- thinking we can muddle along on our own.

Just a few thoughts I wanted to share.


6 people like this
Posted by Permission Required
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Someone above suggested that students be required to get their doctor's permission before enrolliing in zero period classes. I like that idea. At least, it would be one step where health professionals have an opportunity to screen students for signs of stress, sleep deprivation, or more serious health issues. Also, anyone enrolling in zero period should be given a list of guidelines about adjusting their sleep habits and monitoring themselves for signs of sleep deprivation. Parents should have to sign a statment to support these adjustments. The schools could also offer the option to drop classes (no penalty to GPA) for zero period classes after 6 weeks. Students could then try the class, but drop it if they feel it was not the right fit for them. Does the new block schedule being proposed at Gunn include zero periods?


16 people like this
Posted by Gunn Student
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Hardly any Gunn students are taking 8 classes. The main reason people want zero is that they don't want to end the school day at 3:35. I take zero, get plenty if sleep and love it. Many of us are involved in sports and other activities in the afternoon and by having a G prep, we are able to do them.


16 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 14, 2015 at 3:08 pm

Dear Gunn Student,

I support your post, but the adults in this forum don't want to listen to you.
You are too young to figure out what makes you happy.
They believe zero period leads you to suicide even though you sleep for 9 hours.
Watch out what else they are going to limit your life because they know how you feel better than you.


5 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Mom,

[Portion removed.] We have an issue with kids killing themselves and high rates of self-reported depression--now is not the time to sneer because it's being pointed out that there's a correlation between early school starts and suicide.

Gunn Student,

How do you know "hardly any" Gunn kids take 8 classes? The article above says that 300 kids take zero period, a sizeable minority at Gunn. So, of that group, how many take 8 classes? To what extent is taking eight classes seen as conferring an advantage in the college admissions game?


17 people like this
Posted by Gunn Student
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2015 at 3:24 pm

OPar

None of my friends are taking a G class who are in zero and most of us have an F and G prep. I really don't think anybody is taking zero to gain an advantage for college by taking. 8 classes.


13 people like this
Posted by oops we did it again
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 14, 2015 at 3:50 pm

@Bill Johnson

A few comments. First a clarification. The literature does not show a three-fold increase in suicidal ideation, or in depression. The literature shows a three-fold increase in suicide ATTEMPTS as a result of getting less than 8 hours of sleep per night. Multiple studies show a connection between sleep deprivation and suicide attempts, and suicide itself. You speak of sleep deficit as leading to "depression" but that is not what we are discussing and not what the American Academy of Pediatrics technical report states. Depression is also a bad thing that can be caused by sleep deprivation. But this is far more serious and more directly causal for suicide. Not a small point.

In terms of the relevance of whether student(s) who died were hypothetically in zero period, you say that even if you had an eyewitness to that event it would be "unverifiable." I am not sure why eyewitness reports are not verification. The entire journalistic enterprise is based on eyewitness reports to things that are far more controversial than whether someone was sitting next to you in math class -- whether the President had sex with an intern, whether another President lied or authorized a break-in in the Watergate Hotel, whether a drone strike in Yemen happened as the US government says or not and so on. Please explain why "I sat next to Johnny in math" is different.

Most important, I think you are missing a crucial point about causation. If a child, or several children, died of a rare form of leukemia, and it later turned out that their school was built on a toxic waste dump and that there were scientific studies strongly linking exposure to the exact specific chemicals in the dump to a 200% increase in that specific rare form of leukemia, then that would be considered highly relevant by any journalist (and by the public). In fact, said journalist would probably consider it his duty to let the community know about this death and the correlation in the literature between the cause of death and the toxic exposure.

That does not mean that the exposure caused the death. Indeed, the chemical company would argue vigorously that it didn't -- that factors like family history, and other exposures that we don't know about, and diet, and too many x-rays, all caused it. Cancer is complicated, how do you know that it was caused by our chemicals they will say? Even though there is a connection it doesn't mean it caused it in this one specific case or cluster of cases. And that is true. It's not conclusive proof. But this is not a world that has "conclusive" proof of much, and frankly "conclusive" proof is not the standard for publication. If it was we wouldn't know about Love Canal or the downwinders.

When a string of children die, the public does want to know if there is even a possibility that something toxic in the environment could have been a contributing cause. Just as the public would want to know and deserve to know if there was contamination of the air or soil or groundwater, it deserves to know if there are other toxic factors at play.

I think there is a double standard being applied to suicide and mental illness that would not be applied to physical illness. The scientific evidence is such that it is impossible to rule out sleep deprivation as a significant risk-elevating factor for suicide. if a suicide did occur, it is impossible to say that it did not play a role. It is appropriate to give the public the facts, leavened with expert quotes and opinions about how this doesn't mean it was a cause in this case but it is certainly not possible to rule it out as a cause given the scientific evidence, and then let the public evaluate that evidence for themselves.

This is an emergency and lives are at stake. The public deserves all the facts.


10 people like this
Posted by Barron Park Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2015 at 5:27 pm

Can you imagine if Ken Dauber was not on the school board? These issues would never be brought up.

We need more board members like Ken. If only he was elected the first time he ran, there might have been actions taken years ago.


6 people like this
Posted by Gunn Student
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 14, 2015 at 5:36 pm

As a student of Gunn High School who takes a zero period, I would say that having a zero period has allowed me to have a much more flexible, balanced life. I am a morning person, so, I am able to concentrate more in my zero period class than I am in my class after lunch. Also, my school day ends an hour earlier thanks to having a zero period. This has allowed me to actually live a life outside of school. Because I get out so early, I am able to ride my horse every day after school and still have time do complete all of my homework and be in bed by 9:30. Also, the commute to school is much quicker in the morning, so, I only have to wake up 30 minutes earlier than I would for a normal school day. Although a zero period does not work for every students, for some students, it is a great way for them to live a balanced life. Taking zero periods is 100% by choice of the students. Do not take away choices from students. Having choices takes away stress.


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Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2015 at 5:46 pm

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by longtime resident
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Being a teenager isn't easy. One isn't a child anymore and one isn't quite an adult yet, either.
There are many decision to make -- and fortunately one doesn't have to make them alone. Find a trusted person, with a good deal of life experience, who is a good listener. More than one person is probably better. Be sure to choose wisely. And then just talk and listen.

There are many things still to learn -- and not just in classes at school.
Many things going on and not enough life experience to draw on for most of them.

Some things to think about (at any age):

-- As quickly as something can turn bad, it can turn good again.
Life experience teaches us this. So don't let one bad thing ruin one's whole life. Life is a mixed bag and we get stronger and wiser as time goes on. Dinah Washington sang a song about this a few years ago --"What A Difference A Day Makes." So true.

-- Be good to oneself. Take care of yourself. You are worth it. Take time to do something you enjoy. Something that renews and lifts you up. It's okay.

-- We are all here for a reason and it might take a while to figure out why, but there is definitely a reason.

-- Life is precious. When feeling down look beyond the painful moment and see who else might be hurting -- then do something for that person. Remember -- even though it may not seem that way, we all carry burdens.

-- All of life is a classroom -- not just our school years, and that can be extremely exciting. If we allow ourselves to look at life in that way - and view obstacles as simply challenges to be worked out - this can be very uplifting, because, when we find our way through something, it strengthens us and brings a sense of accomplishment.
If we don't find a solution, so what. There ARE times when we WILL find a solution, so keep memories of those positive times to draw on.

I'm not a professional, but I'd say that depression is a part of life and it touches us all at some time-- either our own depression or the depression of someone we know.

I have a dear friend with clinical depression and he is learning how to cope with this. He's making great progress but he's not doing it alone. He has a support group of professionals and friends. It wasn't always that way. He was trying to do it on his own, but after getting some help through friends and doctors he now has enough understanding of his situation that the depression doesn't control him as it used to. He talks about it when he needs to -- and can even joke about it which lessens the weight of it.

There is also depression that isn't clinical, I understand, but is the reaction to something that is happening, or has happened, in our lives - and is a very normal reaction.
Most of us will probably go through this once or twice in our lives. Keeping busy, talking, living one's life by taking care of the things that need to get done -- and not pretending that everything is alright, but looking at the situation as directly as one is able at any given moment. These things seem to help.

And also -- time is a great healer.

And please don't forget prayer to God. Just a quiet moment telling him what we need and asking for strength and patience.

Like I said, I'm not a professional -- just been around for a while.


6 people like this
Posted by paly parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2015 at 6:16 pm

I didn't say the Palo Alto Weekly shouldn't report, but they should rein in their coverage. In this editorial they call the district hypocrites for having the zero period at Gunn. I think the Weekly is hypocritical when the studies show too much coverage of teen suicides brings about more suicides. The coverage that The Weekly gives to the train deaths is over the top beyond what it needs to be. There was a high school girl who jumped off an over pass on 280 a few months back and it was appropriately and very respectfully reported by The Almanac News, your sister publication -- very briefly without reader comments but didn't have 100's of parents and students weighing in on the cause and what was going on in her school atmosphere. There weren't copy cats in her neighborhood. The evidence is clear as day that the copy cat cluster suicides are brought about by intense media coverage which is what The Weekly does over and over again, every time there is a train suicide, but not when there is a suicide by other means -- which there have been. Most other media outlets have let this go, but The Weekly keeps hitting it over and over again. I believe there are better forums to deal with it by professionals who know what they are doing. Check out this recent story on the Daily Beast about copy cat clusters. Don't accuse the district of being hypocrites when you know your own actions may very well be fueling this cluster, too. I have been told by reliable sources that the district has asked you to tone it down, maybe not recently, as they have given up trying to control what and how you write articles.

Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2015 at 6:48 pm

My son has a 0 period to REDUCE his stress.as he plays sports. Sports often requires students to be pulled out of class early. Consequently, by taking a 0 period his last period can be a prep period which enables him to minimize how much school he misses. Many of the other students take 0 period for the same reason. An analysis should be done for why students take 0 period rather than jumping to conclusions. 8 classes should not be allowed.


8 people like this
Posted by Current Gunn Student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 7:53 pm

As a current gunn student I feel obligated to give me opinion. The board has no right to take away our zero periods. Zero periods are NOT the main cause's of the suicides at gunn and paly and zero periods are not an "underground" or "secretive thing". Each student is completely different and you are treating us like a number, instead of going to other people how about you come to the students first if you truly believe that student come first.


2 people like this
Posted by go ken
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2015 at 8:01 pm

"analysis is merely a tactic to delay and appease some unidentified stakeholders who are apparently wielding influence behind the scenes. "

This is very worrying. Thankfully Ken pledged to stop this. His election promise to "pledge [himself] to make available to the public, via the Web, all of my communications with district staff and other board members that are not legally confidential."

I've been unable to find Ken's link, can someone point me at it? Weekly?


13 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 8:40 pm

Reason is a registered user.

The facts remain that many many students are very unhappy at our schools, and the school board is not doing anything proactive to go an find out what is stressing the students, and fixing what they can. They sit on their hands with their thumb up their [pre-deleted to save the moderator the time and effort]


We can all wait for Bill Johnson to drag a dead rhino to the table, like zero period, then argue about it for months, and maybe with this approach we could fix like, maybe, one thing per 3 years (homework? Oh. That is not fixed yet.).

However, the reality is that school for our children is a deeply disturbing and profoundly unhappy place. A place where nobody on the board has even whispered a single word to go and figure out the problems. Not one.

Why not simply ask the students what stresses you?

What stresses you outside the classroom?
What stresses you during lunch?
What stresses you during class? Which class?

Then rank the issues for the teachers, class by class; every class, in precise detail that is immediately tied to each specific teacher: Is your teacher teaching you effectively so that you may do the work, learn the material and pass the test? Is your teacher stressing you? What about their class is stressful?

Rank the responses for each specific teacher, and go fix the problems.

This is not hard. It would probably take about a month in the private sector. It would need someone willing to face teachers and tell them : I am sorry, but you are not teaching very well, and you are stressing your students. Please fix the following items, or next week you will be TOSA. Nothing personal, but our students need a teacher who does two things (1) teaches the material sufficiently well that they learn and can succeed on the tests. (2) doesn't stress the kids inordinately (with disorganization, failing to teach test material, loading homework beyond the needful, yelling, bullying, or any other dysfunction.)

If you cannot do this, you should be moved aside to make room for someone who can. While on TOSA, work on the skills needed to return to the classroom. Nothing personal. But you're here to serve a function, and it cannot continue to go unserved.

That is what leadership would do.

Would it cost money? Probably. But who gives a shit. Money is one thing we have. I would vote for double the parcel tax if it got some of the lemons out of the classroom. I don't even care that they are retained in a weird dystopian nod to the union. Fine, okay, you are not fired. But you are too useless to be in a classroom, so we will literally pay you to do nothing; but please stop harming our kids.

And lacking any serious action to improve the classroom experience, I will NOT vote for any parcel tax.

A better campaign than measure A would be a recall of Camille.


8 people like this
Posted by Creative scheduling
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 8:44 pm

@current Gunn student and other students who've weighed in with supporting zero period,

If you were in charge of a school system that has lived through 2 clusters of student suicides in 5 years - and were knowledgeable about the medical science showing a three-fold incidence of suicide attempts when students are sleep-deprived and that MDs were strongly recommending an 8:30 start time for schools, what would you do about zero period for your 2000 students? Keep it or end it? Or something else?

This is what it comes down to for leaders - what decision do you make for the system?


3 people like this
Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 8:54 pm

While I am not the the biggest supporter of the Weekly (I tend to disagree with Bill's opinions) I would like to defend them on this front: They have improved their coverage on suicide. I disagree with your belief "they have done nothing to rein in their coverage."
Though I understand the need to espouse and convey grief, I think that it was improper to have articles memorializing the deceased as these types are associated with an increase in copy-cat suicides. I do hold them responsible for their part in this, as I believe they DID have an impact. On this, you and I agree. But they did improve. To show the contrast, I provide two articles:
Web Link The first, from 2009, doesn't list helpful numbers (ex who to call if you're feeling depressed), and publishes photos of grieving friends + a memorial, among other suggestions ignored here Web Link

The contrast between this article Web Link (no manner of death, no pictures, numbers posted etc) and this other Web Link is obvious.


RE The main topic: I'm fairly certain that when I was at Paly, they offered AP Chemistry 0 period in the course catalog - I think I saw it twice? But not enough students enrolled, so the class never happened. I don't know when the "no 0 period for academic classes at Paly" policy came in, but I think it's new.
Also, I'm inclined to agree with Gunn student about very few students taking 8 classes.


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Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 8:56 pm

I apologize, the line should read: "The contrast between these two articles Web Link manner of death, no pictures, numbers posted etc) and Web Link and the first article I posted is obvious."
I didn't mean to imply "contrast" the two articles that are similar.


6 people like this
Posted by A Gunn Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2015 at 8:59 pm

This is not the fault of teachers. Although there may be some bad apples, the great majority of teachers in this district somehow manage to remain positive, sincere, supportive, flexible, compassionate, and humane. This is not the case with the parents, not a majority, but a significant number, who teach their students to game the system, to cheat, to choose the ends over the means in an effort to outstrip the competiton, students who may be smarter and more able, but who are striving to be fair, well rounded, humane, and honest. We are all at fault for allowing you do succeed at this, and I will be adding my voice to the effort to stop rewarding you for your tactics. Your children will certainly demonstrate in the long run that you have been a negative influence to them and to the rest of us. You are not of any particular ethnic group, but you know who you are, and so do we.


6 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 9:03 pm

Reason is a registered user.

"This is not the fault of teachers. Although there may be some bad apples, "

Then find and remove them. We can count the number and judge how many afterwards. I contend that there are bad apples. And they have a disastrous effect on students well being.

Why not remove them? Really? Like, what is the logic that says: 'lets keep people who are harming our kids, soaking up money, and NOT delivering an education.'

Is there some benefit to having disengaged students that I fail to recognize?

Let them go. Now.


5 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 9:06 pm

Reason is a registered user.

..Or pay them to sit idle. Whatever.

It is just a cost of having a union. Okay. Fine, but get them out of the class.


4 people like this
Posted by Clean up Gunn
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2015 at 9:15 pm

For zero period at Gunn, it is the teachers. If it's just a few bad apples, why are the rest of them silent? Why are so few Gunn teachers willing to stand up and be counted for kids? There had been a failure of leadership at Gunn but also a failure of followership. The current IC needs to be replaced with teacher leaders who put kids first.


5 people like this
Posted by RussianMom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 14, 2015 at 9:37 pm

RussianMom is a registered user.

@reason, I will vote for you for the school board! 100% agree. You offered a great plan. any independent firm can actually survey STUDENTS and we have money in the district to pay for it. Look what happens even in this forum. A few students choose to participate, asking to keep a zero period as an option that works for them, but are telling them that they are wrong. It's a CHOICE. What secrecy? We got multiple emails from the school at the beginning of the year, describing the zero period.

Zero period switch our focus. It's only one of many stress factors. I am tired of hearing that parents push kids, don't talk about IVYs, don't take APs. Stress comes from unreasonable school expectations, bad teachers, unrealistic tests, excessive amount of homework, HW free weekend with 4 tests to follow. YES, LETS SURVEY KIDS. Let's find the factors not only from the most local. Not every kid is brave to be on stage.


11 people like this
Posted by A Gunn Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2015 at 9:39 pm

Again, please no witch hunt for teachers. Gunn teachers have been on the front lines and doing a wonderful job of connecting with students, providing opportunities for them to connect and thrive, offering moral support in addition to their excellent teaching. Once again, there are parents in this district who are relentless in their absurd demands on their children, their children's teachers, the administration, the other parents, and really, anyone at all in their striving to force their often average kids into the ivies. There is, literally, nothing they won't do. It is the rood cause of so much pain, strife, despair, and also, within the district, accommodations, including these terrible end runs around the early start times, ie 'zero period' in an effort to just get them off everyone's backs. The district needs to band together and just say no to these relentless, amoral parents. It has gone on long enough.


5 people like this
Posted by RussianMom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 14, 2015 at 9:45 pm

RussianMom is a registered user.

I agree. There are many wonderful, supportive, carrying teachers and administrators in our schools. Then specifically they have nothing to worry at the possibility of an independent survey. ASK THE KIDS, don't think for them.


1 person likes this
Posted by Gunn Student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 9:59 pm

@Creative Scheduling you do realize zero period is completely optional, right?


1 person likes this
Posted by A Gunn Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2015 at 10:09 pm

Sorry, I meant end run around the reasonable start times.

Russian Mom, please quit blaming teachers for this. Yes it is your relentlessly forcing your students into the Ivies. If there is a bad teacher, that is a problem for another situation. It is not causing this problem. Just because your student has a bad teacher, or more likely, you are not happy that your student was not able to get the A you have demanded, that is not a reason for you to insist the resources of the whole district be mobilized in a witch hunt.


14 people like this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 10:39 pm

Everyone has an opinion, don't they? How about a little respect for the students who are posting here about their experiences. Zero period is a choice, not an obligation. For goodness sake, school at Gunn starts at 8:25 am for 85% of the students. An early start time is certainly not the reason that kids are killing themselves and no matter how often people quote the American Academy of Pediatrics it is not going to make it so. It's something else -- not lack of sleep, which is no more a problem in this community than anywhere else in this country -- and the more people talk about Zero period the less they are talking about the issues that are more likely to be associated with it.


8 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2015 at 10:51 pm

Current Gunn Student,

The school board has every right to take away 0 period. In fact, they're elected to do just that sort of thing--make decisions, show leadership.

I'm open to some negotiation on this--BUT we are having a second cluster of suicides in five years. The status quo is unacceptable.


7 people like this
Posted by oops we did it
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 14, 2015 at 10:57 pm

"An early start time is certainly not the reason that kids are killing themselves and no matter how often people quote the American Academy of Pediatrics it is not going to make it so. It's something else -- not lack of sleep"

Thank you Dr. Michael O. I appreciate having your well-reasoned medical opinion. You are a doctor, right? [Portion removed.]


19 people like this
Posted by Paly Dad
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 14, 2015 at 10:57 pm

Michael,

I don't think anyone is trying to say that zero period is the cause of any of the suicides. The point that's being made is that changing this is among the easiest steps of many that would begin to not only address what has been nationally identified as a risk factor but also send a clear message that as a community we are committed to a unified and best practices approach. I understand the attraction of giving kids and their parents choices, but we as a society limit choices in many ways for the greater good. In a public school system in a hyper competitive community, it is particularly important that we not think that every time there is a group that wants something special or different that the system should provide it. And this should especially be true with regards to the health of children.


4 people like this
Posted by Curve
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 11:04 pm

Michael O:

Please provide the source of your wisdom on all of the statements you made:

1) "Zero period is a choice, not an obligation." (Is it always the choice of the student, or is it the choice of their parents?)
2) "An early start time is certainly not the reason that kids are killing themselves." (How do you know this?)
3) "It's something else -- not lack of sleep, which is no more a problem in this community than anywhere else in this country" (Are you kidding?)

If you are certain the medical experts are all wrong, and this community is no different than anywhere else, please come up with a hypothesis for the large number of teen suicides.


7 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 14, 2015 at 11:09 pm

Thx Michael O.

Data and research are good things. Making assumptions without facts, not so good.

I don't think anyone disagrees with the findings that sleep deprivation causes stress --- for children or adults.

Of the Gunn kids who take 0 period, who knows how many of those kids are sleep deprived and how many get plenty of rest? Answer: No one on this forum (unless you're a parent of one of those kids). Yet many of the negative 0 period commentators seem to be claiming that all of those students are sleep deprived. Where's the proof?


2 people like this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2015 at 11:10 pm

It seems everyone agrees that 8 periods is bad. Or is there a demand for 8 periods?

And most objections are about losing the choice to leave school early for other activities.

Can there be an option to leave school early for a sport, or other activity?

It is high school, there should be more freedom.

Schedule options could be really creative, as long as academic subjects do not start before the regular school day.


10 people like this
Posted by Creative scheduling
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 11:40 pm

@Gunn student - Zero period came into being soon after the Leadership agreed to a Late Start for the purpose of promoting student health and well-being. I think that's odd.

Removing zero period after its short 3 year existence seems objective and elementary given the medical research and our community's loss of life. To NOT take this step I think is odd.

Please make a case for why academic courses in zero period makes sense to include at Gunn - and why the health risk to your fellow students is worth taking.

I don't think "choice" is the right answer here - given the evidence, the risk and recent tragedies in our community. Just too many examples in our lives of choice having to be limited for public health benefit (seat belts, cigarettes, graduated drivers license, no soft drinks sold on campuses, etc.)- and my argument is that Palo Alto's circumstances warrant that kind of decision-making by our leadership.

I know you like zero period and you feel fine - but if by insisting that it remain you know other students' risks are increased - are you fine with that? Please help me understand your argument for zero period - as it pertains to acceptable risk to others.


10 people like this
Posted by Curve
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 11:47 pm

Reputable studies and experts say school should not start before 8:30am. Protecting the vast majority of our kids should take priority, even if we are protecting them from demanding parents or themselves (they are still kids, afterall, and rely on adults to look after their best interests). And yes, peer-pressure is a stress factor for teens just like second-hand smoke affects non-smokers.

For the small minority of kids who are biologically different and naturally sleep earlier, the one hour shift in their schedule (to starting at 8:30 instead of 7:20) should not be that traumatic. It's not like they are being told they can't get out of bed when they want to, we are just saying they need to use that time for homework or other activities besides public school class. BIG DEAL!

Finally, if school sports are forcing kids to leave school early then that needs to change. Every child should be able to start school at 8:30 (or, optionally, later) and complete their school day before sports activities begin.

For all the students with special scheduling needs, please look to private schools to accommodate you. Better yet, make choices! Six classes or seven? Sports or no sports? Please stop expecting the public school system to accommodate your specialness, at the expense of the vast majority of our students.

Like all of the electives? Many interests can be pursued outside of school. No public school student should be allowed to take eight classes.

PAUSD SHOULD NOT BE FUNDING EIGHT PERIODS FOR ANY STUDENT. This issue alone is why I will vote "No" on Measure A. Clearly there is a lack of over-sight on how our tax dollars are being spent. That needs to change NOW.


6 people like this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 14, 2015 at 11:48 pm

@Curve: [Portion removed.] [I]t is a choice to take zero period classes. If it is the parent who is choosing, then I will suggest that you you may have identified a problem that doesn't have anything to do with lack of sleep -- and that we should still respect what the students posting here are saying. And no, it is not possible that the start time of classes at Gunn is causing the suicides because the start time is later than most high school in in the US. Read my post above.

[Portion removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 15, 2015 at 12:00 am

@ Curve: Atheletes who take zero period gym DON'T HAVE TO GO TO THAT CLASS. They are exempt from gym can sleep in. Those school atheletes who take zero period academic classes sometimes do so in order not to miss their last period of the day to travel to games. And what does Measure A have to do with the time school starts or how many classes are offered? Whatever.


3 people like this
Posted by Curve
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 15, 2015 at 12:16 am

Michael O:

[Portion removed.]

These are complex issues, and we need to do what is safest for our kids, not what the vocal minority demands.

Eliminate the zero period and stop allowing any PAUSD student to take 8 classes.


4 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 15, 2015 at 12:41 am

This is a long thread, so some might have missed that athletes who take zero period P.E. can skip attending P.E. ONLY during the duration of their sport. So they have to roll from sport to sport all year to skip attending zero period P.E. If they only play football, they have to attend zero period P.E. when it's not football season.

Athletes can skip their P.E. class period during their sport so they can have time to study during that period since they dedicate time after school for the sport. Not all schools have this policy.

Another helpful policy would be to allow athletes to play their game and leave to go home to study instead of having to stay and watch the other Paly teams play (ie: freshman have to watch JV and Varsity games, resulting in returning home late at night).

Another reminder is Patsy Minks' posting above about the later start time being endorsed in 2010.

"Parents setting age appropriate bedtimes and enforcing wind-down time for teens is important and beneficial but parents must also recognize that most teens will not be able to sleep until 11pm or later. Thus if teens need about 9 1/4 hours of sleep to do their best and naturally go to sleep around 11:00 pm, one way to get more sleep is to start school later. Teens can naturally fall asleep by 11:00 pm or so; therefore simple math dictates the need for a start time of 9:00 am or later."

Apparently, 9:00 was not going to work for the sports teams and the latest start time allowed was 8:15 at Paly.



4 people like this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 15, 2015 at 12:51 am

@Curve: I did substantiate my comments. Read them again. No medical expert, whatever that is, has determined that the school start time or too many classes is causing kids in Palo Alto to kill themselves. Where did you get that from? I've read the AAP report and much of the primary source material that they use to conclude that kids need more sleep (have you?) and I agree: kids need more sleep. But no where in their report is there evidence that school start time and completed suicides are correlated, and certainly none that says that shows that changing school start time reduces suicides. You are right that these are complex issues, so I'm confused why you think that eliminating zero period (which you appear not to understand completely) and prohibiting anyone from taking eight classes is an answer to anything.


9 people like this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2015 at 5:42 am


I've disagreed from the start that this is about suicide prevention and the Editor I think only connected it with student wellness. But the argument in favor of zero period is, "prove it" that this is connected, and Camille Townsend suggested, zero period reduces stress for those who choose to take it.

What may be the case is that Tonwnsend is not the hypocrite, and she is coming out for the 15% which IMO in PAUSD is the vocal minority who cannot take no for an answer. Everything is a war here. Math wars, calendar wars, OCR wars, and now student wellness wars. The squeaky wheel in PAUSD rules. Addressing squeaks is good and can help others but we all know that to appease the squeaky wheels, instead of fixing real problems for all kids, a bandaid is handed to a few, and these are underground fixes.

Zero period is an issue of trust and equity. After a lot of public blah blah, it's always different rules for different people. Who wouldn't want to take more of our schools' electives instead of being told you have to choose. Or to beat traffic, by arriving earlier.

Double standards for the two high schools confirms what we really are not all in this together.

I do not believe a case can be made to offer this same choice to Paly, and Townsend's refusal to take no for an answer is exactly the kind of attitude that promotes the invincibility of some.


5 people like this
Posted by Stunned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2015 at 5:50 am

This being said, while there may or may not be a zero period connection to sleep, there is actually a connection between sleep and suicide prevention, and to the extent that school starts later, there is less pressure to wake up too early.

What I was trying to say is that this is about even more than sleep.


Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 15, 2015 at 6:11 am

Thank you Paly Parent for clarification.
I knew that the zero period was made for athletes, but I didn't know how it worked.
In your previous post, I didn't know the "ONLY" part in your sentence "(A)thletes who take zero period P.E. can skip attending P.E. ONLY during the duration of their sport."

I wish Palo Alto online researches more, describes what's going on in every aspect, and does not try just to make arguments in order to attract more readers.




8 people like this
Posted by Gunn Student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 15, 2015 at 8:05 am

@Creative Scheduling as I said before, zero period is entirely optional. Certainly for students who are depressed, their families, and doctors should think whether or not zero period is right for them. Any student who is getting adequate sleep should have the option of zero period. Many students are able to fall asleep by 10:00 so zero period does not stop them from getting enough sleep. All the data about schools start time and sleep are for kids as an aggregate. None of the data shows that there aren't plenty of students in which an earlier start time is perfectly healthy. I don't believe that there has been any studies done on schools permitting an OPTIONAL early start time that show harm.


9 people like this
Posted by Gunn Student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 15, 2015 at 8:14 am

@Curve just want to say again that I believe that there is no data saying that allowing students the OPTION of an earlier start time causes any harm. If kids as a group overall function better with a later start time, this in no way proves that there is not a significant minority of students who do well or better with an earlier start time. Let's be responsible about our use of scientific data in this discussion.


12 people like this
Posted by Gunn Mum
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Mar 15, 2015 at 8:24 am

The majority of posters who are part of Gunn, students and parents, seem to support zero period and report that hardly any of the users take 8 classes. Those who vehemently oppose zero period have not identified their ties to Gunn and continuously throw out the "8 classes" red herring. It even appears the issue may be more about the perceived advantage of zero period, that Paly doesn't offer, rather than true concern for mental health. Zero period does require counselor and parent approval.

BTW my teenager was in bed at 10 last night and awake at 6:30 this morning. They also say the school, teachers and administration have been caring and fabulous. There are resources available and they have friends that openly take advantage of them when problems arise. The kids are showing great maturity looking out for one another.


18 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 15, 2015 at 8:40 am

I think what is trying to be said here is that PAUSD have to make some changes and make them fast.

Since the first suicides back in the early 2000s, we have had later school starts and block schedules at Paly. We still have to make more changes. These changes are many and varied, but they are changes that have to be made.

Why?

It is not because any one of these changes may be the cause, but it is because by doing something PAUSD will be doing something concrete to change the culture that may or may not be at fault.

So far, all the talking in the world, parent meetings, having sleep assemblies, is only talk.

Making changes may show all our high school students that their well being is a priority.

So make the changes. Get rid of zero period. Get homework loads sorted. Get grading realistic so that if all students work is A worthy, they all receive As. Get block schedules. Get sports sorted so that attending games at other levels is not mandatory. Sweeping changes to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of students.

And lastly, let Palo Alto start a nationwide movement to overhaul the college application process which, when it comes down to the bottom line, is the biggest problem.


19 people like this
Posted by Gunn student too
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 15, 2015 at 8:48 am

Gunn senior here. I have plenty of friends taking 8 classes including I know freshmen. I wanted to take AP calc and was told by my counselor that with the rest of my schedule it wouldn't fit unless I either took it zero period or dropped another class that I needed to graduate. I took it in zero and now it is really hard to concentrate with events. It's not always a choice. I feel I had no choice. Sometimes a choice is not a choice. I don't know anyone in zero period who was like great 7 o'clock class.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident and Paly Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 15, 2015 at 8:50 am

Gunn Mum, you said what I've been thinking:
"... the issue may be more about the perceived advantage of zero period, that Paly doesn't offer, rather than true concern for mental health."
I think zero period is a good option for students.


8 people like this
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 15, 2015 at 10:29 am

Alphonso is a registered user.

The discussion indicates the Superintendent is following a reasonable approach - "there's a lot of work to do to develop pros and cons" on zero-period academic classes. The teenage suicide problem will never be solved and the last thing needed is the implementation of a bunch of knee jerk ideas by a group of know it all adults. I would bet kids would feel less stress is adults listened more and stopped making unsupportable decisions for them. I agree children should get adequate sleep, but that could be solved by asking parents to get their kids to bed at a reasonable hour. Perhaps some children can be saved if a thoughtful approach is taken. Blaming the Superintendent, the schools and teachers is just a hogwash reaction that will gain nothing!


16 people like this
Posted by Patsy Mink
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 15, 2015 at 10:39 am

Patsy Mink is a registered user.

"Gunn student too" writes, "I wanted to take AP calc and was told by my counselor that with the rest of my schedule it wouldn't fit unless I either took it zero period or dropped another class that I needed to graduate."

This helps explain why 300 Gunn students are taking academic courses during zero period. Apparently it is not always a choice. Gunn did not add more teachers to teach these classes. These are classes that would have been taught in periods 1-7 if zero period had not been added and "Gunn student too" would not have been forced into zero period to take AP Calc.


27 people like this
Posted by another gunn upperclassman
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 15, 2015 at 12:28 pm

another gunn upperclassman is a registered user.

I would like to suggest that the experiences of commenter "Gunn student too" are fairly anomalous. I can only think of two instances where a student would be forced into a zero period to take core classes. The first would involve senior transfer students who lack necessary graduation credits. The second would be students who absolutely insist on taking classes which are offered during only a single class period--AP music theory, AP Spanish Lit, AP Art History, and French Civ/Culture come to mind--none of which are "necessary graduation classes" as "Gunn student too" suggested.

Gunn seniors who take standard schedules freshman + sophomore years will have an excess of credits by senior year. Unless a student was missing significant credits from underclassman years, i find it hard to believe that all necessary graduation requirement classes couldn't be worked into a schedule with a non-zero period math class. Again, it's totally possible that specific classes that are only offered during a single class period couldn't be worked into a schedule with a nonzero math class--but to call any of those classes "necessary graduation requirements" is a misnomer.

If one actually couldn't fit necessary graduation requirements into a schedule with nonzero AB Calc--a class offered during at least 3 normal class periods--then that is a grievous error by admin, but that is a rare if not unique occurrence.

Furthermore, the only upperclassmen I know of to be taking over seven classes are those taking music/theater classes that don't meet during regular class times. Jazz band and stage tech are technically classes, in that they show up on the student's transcript, but they neither meets regularly during the school day. I do not know a single upperclassman who attempted to sign up for 8 true academic classes--or 7 academic classes alongside PE--who was actually given such a schedule. To state that a large number of one's friends/acquaintances are taking 8+ classes is doubtful, or purposefully omitting necessary information (for example, the band classes that meet outside of normal school hours).

Finally, I genuinely don't understand the article's defense of Paly's zero period alongside the criticism of Gunn's zero period. The legitimate complaints against zero period--the damaging mental and physical effects of sleep deprivation--are equally true whether a student is taking PE or an academic class. I don't see how any defense of Paly's zero period can be justified alongside an attack of Gunn's system, at least not under grounds of the mental health effects of sleep deprivation.


8 people like this
Posted by former_teacher
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2015 at 1:13 pm

former_teacher is a registered user.

In light of this "editorial," I think we need to look at some of the other underlying issues and felt that this article from the NYT was appropriate. Kids can have very successful lives by going to state colleges and universities.

Web Link


10 people like this
Posted by rick
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2015 at 4:33 pm

rick is a registered user.

Something bothers me about Ivy Leaguers or Stanford people telling kids they don't need to go to Ivies or Stanford. (NYT article by Frank Bruni, M.S. Columbia.) Maybe it's similar to zero period kids telling others they don't need to have a zero period. But following that logic we'd have calls for prohibiting application to elite schools.


20 people like this
Posted by parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 15, 2015 at 6:17 pm

parent2 is a registered user.

TThe school board and superintendent are charged with making decisions that will protect the health and safety of the student population. The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a strong warning and recommendation on school start times. It could have, had it wanted to, issued instead a less strongly worded recommendation suggesting that schools screen for students who are depressed, or that parents ensure that students get enough sleep, or that doctors sign off after counseling about the importance of sleep. All of those alternatives were available to the AAP but it elected, based on the medical and scientific evidence, to issue a stronger warning. All of the ideas that are posted in this thread that are variants of "it works for me" were considered and rejected by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

It would be the height of irresponsibility for any school board to decide to ignore a guideline issued by the AAP under these conditions. Zero period should have been eliminated by the district this year, 2014-15, because the AAP recommendation was issued in August 2014, before the beginning of the school year. [Portion removed.] For now, it is enough to say that it should have been done and it wasn't done and a high price may have been paid.

No school board or superintendent could responsibly decide to ignore the collective warning of the nation's pediatricians that early start times place students at risk for suicide attempts under any circumstances and certainly not under these circumstances. Not following this recommendation is really not a viable option.

All that being said, why isn't it done yet. Why all this Sturm und Drang? This is an inevitable decision since at the end of the day no one is going to actually decide to ignore medical warnings. The drama should stop now.


3 people like this
Posted by Patsy Mink
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 18, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Patsy Mink is a registered user.

@parent2 posted this peer reviewed research on another thread on zero period that has now been locked down so I am posting my comment here.

Anyone interested in the subject of zero should read this report.
Web Link

This was a study done on 27,939 students with a school start time of 7:20AM. Only 3% reported a recommended sleep value of 9 hours per night.

“Sleepless in Fairfax: The Difference One More Hour of Sleep Can Make for Teen Hopelessness, Suicidal Ideation, and Substance Use”

Received: 13 May 2014 / Accepted: 12 August 2014 Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014


(Excerpts with page numbers copied below)

ABSTRACT
The present study examined adolescent weekday self-reported sleep duration and its links with hopelessness, suicidality, and substance use in a suburban community with very early high school start times. We utilized a large (N = 27,939, 51.2 % female) and ethnically diverse sample of adolescents from the 2009 Fairfax County (Virginia) Youth Survey, an anonymous, self-report, population-level survey administered to all 8th, 10th and 12th grade students in public schools in the county. High-school students reported an average 6.5 h of sleep per school night, with 20 % obtaining 5 or less hours, and only 3 % reporting the recommended 9 h/night. Females and minority youth obtained even less sleep on average, and the reduction in sleep in the transition from middle school to high school was more pronounced for females and for Asian students. Hierarchical, multivariate, logistic regression analyses, controlling for background variables, indicated that just 1 h less of weekday sleep was associated with significantly greater odds of feeling hopeless, seriously considering suicide, suicide attempts, and substance use. Relationships between sleep duration and suicidality were stronger for male teens, and sleep duration was more associated with hopelessness for white students compared to most ethnic minority groups. Implications for intervention at multiple levels are discussed [in the report] p.1

INTRODUCTION
The current study examined weekday reported sleep duration and its relationships to depression, suicidality, and substance use in a large and ethnically diverse sample of adolescents in a large, suburban Northern Virginia community with very early (7:20 a.m.) high school start times. p.2

CONSIDERING SUICIDE
Adding sleep hours in Step 2 removed the effects of being in high school, being Black, and being Asian, suggesting that it is specifically the number of hours slept that is associated with suicidal ideation and not ethnic status and type of school attended. Because suicidal ideation is typically correlated with hopelessness (r = .43 in this sample), we investigated if sleep duration predicted youth suicidal ideation even after controlling for hopelessness. Thus, we ran the same model as above but entered youth hopelessness as well in Step 1. Sleep duration entered at Step 2 was still significantly associated with suicidal ideation (b = .191, OR = 1.21, p\.001) even controlling for student hopelessness. For each hour less sleep, the odds of seriously considering suicide still increased by 21 %. p.9


ATTEMPTED SUICIDE
We found similar patterns when predicting actual suicidal attempts among adolescents. The same background variables were associated with an increased risk of attempting suicide. However, Blacks and Asians were no more likely to try to kill themselves than were Whites. Each hour less of sleep reported per night was associated with 58 % greater odds of attempted suicide. p.9


CONCLUSION:
The present study found that the odds of teen hopelessness, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, and substance use are sizably reduced with one more hour of weeknight sleep. Thus, it appears that one does not have to make a huge leap from obtaining, say, 6 h to getting nine hours of sleep as a teen in order to see the positive health benefits of increased sleep. Attention to, and intervention for, reduced adolescent sleep is critically needed at multiple levels (individual, family, school, and community) in order to optimize the mental health and wellbeing of adolescents. p.10

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Anecdotal observation: The zero period student who wrote the guest opinion piece "In Defence of zero period" talks about early risers but says, "I am definitely not one of them".


6 people like this
Posted by parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 18, 2015 at 1:05 pm

parent2 is a registered user.

Thank you Patsy Mink.

I am very troubled by the Weekly publishing the student letter and by the student comments. I am not so much troubled by the fact that teens don't like rules or limits as I am by their seeming imperviousness to data and scientific evidence. The students, including the author of the op-ed, dismissed this kind of evidence out of hand for reasons that are quite spurious. The best case one could make for their desire to keep zero period would be as follows: The studies are based on mandatory start times and we have an optional start time. It is possible all 300 students who sign up for zero period have an abnormal circadian rhythm for a teen and get 8+ hours of sleep despite being in a 7:20 class.

There are many problems with this. Most glaringly, it's a hypothesis not a fact, and we don't have time in the middle of a public health emergency to test that fact. Second, it's an unverifiable fact, i.e., it would be based on self-reports by people who are incentivized to lie. Third, it ignores evidence that zero period may have already resulted in tragedies. Fourth, it balances the risks, costs, and benefits incorrectly, insisting on being allowed to continue a risky behavior against medical advice until it is proved harmful (which it frankly already has been) versus a more conservative risk management approach of ending a risky behavior to protect public health because it cannot be proved to be safe.

It makes me sad that the Weekly published this because it has now even further polarized this debate, likely made school board action impossible, made Dr. Herrmann in an even more precarious position, set the medical community advising the district against the students, and done a lot of more harmful things [portion removed.]

I keep wondering what the role in all this controversy is on the part of the teachers. As we know, the teachers want to teach these classes as they get to leave early. Dr. McGee said at the board meeting that teacher "workday" was a factor and Dr. Herrmann said that the IC had "voted" too retain zero period, though it is not clear why the IC has a role in the master schedule. Under the union contract, teachers do not set the master schedule. They can request when or what to teach but not both.

I think that the Weekly should investigate why it is that the IC has a role in this, what that role is, why teachers are driving a demand for something that is known to be harmful to student mental health, and so on. There are many unanswered questions about how this even got started, given that the community was never told that the late start was a sham and there was actually early start happening behind the scenes.


4 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2015 at 3:22 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Most of my teaching career was at Mission San Jose H.S. in Fremont, a school that was transformed over two decades from an academically OK school to a public school powerhouse as measured by API scores, number of students taking AP tests, national merit semi-finalists (107 qualified this year), acceptances to UC's, and the like.

A lot of the fun of being a student at MSJ has been drained away by academic competitiveness over the years, but, just as here, strong students thrive and continually look for ways to improve their college prospects through extracurricular activities, tutoring academies (appeared several years before here in PA) and courses taken outside the school district, at Ohlone College, for example.

Students have a six period day. Start the day at 8:00 am, wrap up at 3:00 pm. Marching band, yearbook and leadership meet during zero period,and there's a 7th period for special circumstances. But no one gets more than 6 periods of instruction on the district's dime.

There's been little change to the factory-like bell schedule apart from a mid-morning 25-minute reading period. Same six period sequence every day of the week, all periods the same length--no block scheduling at all. Why would a good school with exacting parent expectations not take advantage of better, more innovative methods of delivering instruction? I believe it's because the parent community, who judge by the markers listed above, believes it works, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

That's a valid reason for caution, but if you find students' over-all well-being is clearly not what it should be, it may be time for change, there and here.


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

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