To the Palo Alto Weekly, Board of Education and the Palo Alto community:
As a Gunn student, I am privileged to have the freedom to make my own choices, such as choosing what classes I want to take, and when I want to take them. These choices allow me to balance my own lifestyle, pursue my interests, and work out a schedule that fits with my life.
Making decisions by myself allows me to manage my priorities, learn from any mistakes I may make and become a more independent individual. If the school board were to prevent students from choosing their own schedules, they would be doing us a disservice. We will not always have somebody to micromanage our lives there will not always be someone to dictate which classes we should and should not take, how many classes we should take or when we should take them. When we leave Gunn for university or a career, we will no longer have the same kind of comfort and support that is paired with living at home. Our mistakes may have larger consequences without the guidance and support that we have in high school. If you do not allow kids to figure things out for themselves in high school, they will only have a harder time later on in life when they are forced to manage their time and priorities independently.
The argument against zero period is rather weak, in my opinion. First of all, it seems that people do not understand that enrolling in zero period is a CHOICE, not a requirement. That being said, it is a choice that nearly 300 students at Gunn make each year. Although that is a substantial portion of our student body, it is ridiculous to make broad assumptions and claim that zero period causes the deterioration of our students' well-being. I understand the correlation between sleep and student wellness. I understand the correlation between sleep and earlier start times. However, correlation does not imply causation. Believe it or not, not all teenagers stay up late at night. In fact, most of my peers that chose to enroll in a zero-period class go to bed much earlier than I do. The key word in that sentence is that they chose to enroll in zero period. They chose to wake up earlier, and as a result, many of them pay more attention to how they manage their time and what time they go to bed. It is not impossible to get a good night's sleep and still wake up in time for a class at 7:30 a.m.
Furthermore, some students choose zero-period classes simply because they are early risers and it complements their lifestyle. Although I am definitely not one of them, there are plenty of morning people at Gunn. Choosing to enroll in an earlier class allows kids to end their school day earlier. Once again, this gives students an opportunity to create a schedule that is well-suited to their needs. I would argue that zero-period enrollment allows many students to create balance in their lives rather than disrupt it.
My final question for the Palo Alto community is this: When are you going to start supporting us in these times of need, rather than dishing out blame? I understand that you do it out of love and concern for our safety, but it breaks our hearts. Our friends are dying, our schools are grieving, and yet, our school board members seem to be attacking us and our community is supporting it. After the loss of yet another Titan in January, the board meeting was filled with students begging to have their voices heard.
Although my fellow Titans touched on many different subjects, there was a strong underlying message: Stop blaming these tragedies on us. Stop attacking our school. Give us support, not blame. The Titan family has a motto: We are all in this together. However, we are not ALL in this together until we have the support of the greater Palo Alto community. It hurts me to realize that despite our efforts, our voices are still not being heard. Do not only listen to our voices when it is convenient for you. If you are sitting around and wondering, "What can I do?" the answer is simple: Look around, gather perspective and listen to your kids, because they know a lot more about these issues than you may realize. Listen more, and listen deeply.
Chloe Sorensen is a sophomore at Gunn High School.