News

Guest opinion: In defense of zero period — and choice

Early morning classes allow students to create balance in their lives, not disrupt them

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.

Related content:

Storify: Community urges support for teen-wellbeing

Gunn High School explores scheduling possibilities

Editorial: The zero period hypocrisy

Guest opinion: Gunn community deserves support, not blame

Comments

18 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 4:23 pm

Dear Chloe (Ms. Sorenson),

You may remember me, at least a little bit; we ran into each other one day at Starbucks, but didn't have time to talk.

You and others probably don't think well of me, or of my grassroots campaign; and I'm not sure I blame you, because it's really too much to ask anyone at Gunn to take in, amid the terrible losses and heartbreak and grief (which you so poignantly and accurately describe).

Despite disagreements, though, you've had the perfect good manners to not mention me in public by name, or sometimes even the name of the campaign; and the respect you show others is all the more reason that all of us should listen to your voice.

I hope I never do attack students (and teachers) who are shouldering so much. I hope I especially never criticize someone like you, who are standing up for not only yourself but for your fellow students, and who in a time of great sadness is voluntarily taking on the extra burden of writing, persuading, speaking out.

Respectfully,
Marc Vincenti
savethe2008@gmail.com


46 people like this
Posted by GoneOnTooLong
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2015 at 5:12 pm

Excellent Guest opinion article!
I agree completely with your points and comments.

I believe this community needs to support choices and options for our kids and schools. Not take them away.

The Parents job is to provide unconditional love, understanding and support for their kids and help them find their place in the world. The schools job is to provide educational opportunities (including remedial classes, ESL, study skills, core, zero period, and AP classes).


15 people like this
Posted by mom of PA teen girls
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2015 at 5:52 pm

[Post removed; try responding respectfully.]


10 people like this
Posted by mom of teen girls
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2015 at 5:56 pm

[Post removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by danielle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 17, 2015 at 6:05 pm

the suicides are happening in PA and nowhere else on the Peninsula that also has trains and high-achieving high schools. the elimination of zero period is good for the overall community [Portion removed]


36 people like this
Posted by Gunn student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 6:06 pm

[Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

I applaud Chloe for taking the time/action to get at least one student's voice out there [portion removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2015 at 6:21 pm

> the suicides are happening in PA and nowhere else on the Peninsula

A man jumped in front of a Caltrain Express this afternoon at the Mountain View/San Antonio station. His age, identity and home city are not known at the moment. This death is being reported as a suicide.

Since various health care agencies claim that 1 out of every 10 teens attempts suicide, we would need to look at all of the peninsula closely to determine if there are actually no suicides other than PA.



Like this comment
Posted by Thanks Weekly!
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2015 at 6:22 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


45 people like this
Posted by A Gunn Student!
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 17, 2015 at 6:22 pm

Thank you Chloe for this poignant and wonderful opinion. You have truly represented the opinions of our Sophmore class at Gunn to the best of your ability. Keep slayin girl!


59 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2015 at 6:48 pm

the comment thread on this posts highlights our problem exactly-- our community is not even willing to ALLOW students into the conversation. I commend this student for speaking out and it breaks my heart to see people attacking her when she is clearly just trying to represent her peers.


24 people like this
Posted by mombo
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 6:53 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


53 people like this
Posted by Dad of 2
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 17, 2015 at 6:57 pm

With all due respect, I usually agree with the Weekly but this time I must say that I agree with the deleted poster that it was ideally questionable to publish this given the medical evidence against early start times. It puts a child in the position of advocating something that adults know to be dangerous and that may have contributed to the deaths of local teens. A teen who is too young (a sophomore not a senior even) to fully appreciate what she is saying due to the developmental stage she is in should not be placed in the position of publicly and on the internet yet committing to a position that is just wrong and that the editor knows is wrong. There is something just distasteful about.

It's hard to see how this can turn out well. Either parents will be angry like the deleted person or students and some parents will rally to her side. In either case that does not prevent suicides. That is the goal that must be kept in view at all times. Lives may literally hang in the balance.

If you had a responsible doctor who wanted to dispute the AAP that would be one thing. Maybe debate would be worthwhile. But this? This is not real debate. I also agree that while it may be age appropriate to want ones way it is not fodder for a newspaper story.

The larger issue is what is safe for our students. The board and super have to do that job, which you yourself said. Why make it harder for them? This isn't an issue of zoning. Lives may be at stake. You should not set up a 15 year old girl to argue against the AAP -- it doesn't flatter her or this publication.


8 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 17, 2015 at 6:59 pm

I truly would like everyone to listen to this student's intention.
I don't want to say in my mind anymore "Oh, gosh! Why is the helicopter hovering over the railroad? Is it a student?"


119 people like this
Posted by Recent Gunn Graduate
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 7:00 pm

An excellent piece written very eloquently by a student at Gunn High School who has actual experience with the situation and understands much better than 99% of the adults on here.

Everyone is so quick to weigh in with what they think can "fix" this problem without having even the slightest clue about what it's like to be a Gunn student. Zero period doesn't cause depression. AP classes don't lead to suicide. I understand there is concern about fostering a less intense environment, but you can't do that by further restricting student's choices.

My junior year I took a zero period AP Statistics class. I chose to do this so that I could have a prep period during the school day. This made my day way more relaxing and reduced stress for me. I'm not saying zero period courses have this effect for everyone, but I know several people who chose zero period for similar reasons and getting rid of this option for everyone is just plain stupid.

Furthermore, to those who favor limiting AP courses, at the end of the day, Gunn students are still going to want to get into top colleges no matter what you tell them and like it or not, the admissions process favors students who take a rigorous courseload. Making it difficult to access the challenging, but worthwhile courses that Gunn offers may just add to their burdens. Restricting access won't change what the students want.

PLEASE, before you chime in with what you think is best given your experience in a completely different high school 20-30 years ago and what the biased things you've heard from like-minded parents, LISTEN to what actual students want. And yes, actually, other Bay Area schools have zero period, and lots of AP classes.


74 people like this
Posted by Gunn Student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 7:07 pm

Listen to the Gunn students. Stop pushing your own agendas, there is no quick fix. I am sorry, it's upsetting to all of us. To everyone who feels compelled to diss Chloe's ideas and her thoughts: The Gunn Community has Chloe's back just like she has ours. I hope that any parent reading this can realize one thing-- we are sympathetic to your fears but you have never gone to Gunn.
Research and numbers are safety but they are not always applicable. Zero period starts at 7:20. Although not in zero period, I wake up at 6:30 everyday. I have had to attend zero to make up a test (my choice) and I still woke up at the same time.


80 people like this
Posted by zero period student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 7:16 pm

i am in a zero period and it was absolutely the right CHOICE for me. if you do not want your son or daughter to take zero period, they don't have to, but students should absolutely be able to make a conscious decision to adjust their schedule to their lifestyle.

stop attacking chloe for doing the same thing the author of the first article did: share an opinion on a problem within the community. you do not attend gunn right now, and you do not understand the issues facing students.


75 people like this
Posted by gunn sophomore
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 17, 2015 at 7:17 pm

Chloe's opinion is in fact shared by many, many others. She conducted a survey on zero period, and an overwhelming majority (95%) is against the elimination of zero period. I really appreciate Chloe representing the students' voice. We know of the medical evidence against early start times, but, to emphasize, it is a choice. A choice that many students want to be able to have.

Most important, a choice that has to be approved by parents as well. I think a lot of people forget the fact that a student's parents must approve the child's schedule.

Instead of eliminating zero period as a whole, perhaps urging a more stringent process is a better way of handling this. Set up a conference between the students and the parents, ask for a legitimate reason of wanting to take zero period, ask them what time they go to sleep. Have a conference with them separately, make sure that both parties have the interest of taking zero period, make sure that it is not something forced onto the students.

Students can choose to wake up early or not, just as when they go to college, start working, etc, they have the choice of managing their own time to best suit their needs. I, personally, am not taking zero period, though it is comforting to know that the option is there when my extra-curricular activities are beginning to take place earlier. If I plan to start working my senior year, the extra hour will work greatly in my favor. Regardless, this article describes exactly what the sophomore class (if not the entire student population) thinks. I have to pose this question and ask, have those who support the elimination of zero period discussed the topic with a substantial amount of students? Surely those who are actually being affected by a decision should be the ones making it.


50 people like this
Posted by GunnSophomore
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 7:29 pm

GunnSophomore is a registered user.

Chloe is right! No one at our school is forced to take zero period by any means and it is completely their choice. Even though we are younger than most of this community, we are the ones at Gunn right now. We are the ones going through this, and this article voices most of our opinions perfectly.


61 people like this
Posted by GreenmeadowDad
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 17, 2015 at 8:15 pm

GreenmeadowDad is a registered user.

To: Dad of 2
- Quote:
"With all due respect, I usually agree with the Weekly but this time I must say that I agree with the deleted poster that it was ideally questionable to publish this given the medical evidence against early start times. It puts a child in the position of advocating something that adults know to be dangerous and that may have contributed to the deaths of local teens. A teen who is too young (a sophomore not a senior even) to fully appreciate what she is saying due to the developmental stage she is in should not be placed in the position of publicly and on the internet yet committing to a position that is just wrong and that the editor knows is wrong. There is something just distasteful about."
------------

Wow!!! With all due respect, how distasteful to watch an adult diminish the honorable and earnest efforts of a student in our community. I feel that she did an outstanding job representing Gunn students and her/their position. Students/teens that to into a public forum (Board meeting, even posting comments on the internet) regarding how they want to be treated by their school, should be respected and heard by the community. Can you not make your point without attempting to discredit a teen? From your login name, I take it you have children, don't you? We are trying to teach our children that life is more than a test score meritocracy. We want them to go out in the world and take action to move mountains. And, this is what they get from our community here in Palo Alto.

I think we should pause a moment ... and LISTEN ...


25 people like this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 8:27 pm

Michael O. is a registered user.

Way to go, Chloe! I hope that people listen to what you are saying.


27 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2015 at 8:27 pm

Fred is a registered user.

Chloe - nice job stating your case.

@Dad of 2 - I hope you can open your mind and listen to some of the facts from the people on the ground. I doubt the AAP (or any national group) has the definitive view of whether Gunn High should offer an optional zero period. The idea that an actual Gunn High School student could not have anything relevant to say - well, I guess that gives us some perspective when teenagers complain "adults don't listen."


7 people like this
Posted by _Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 8:36 pm

_Parent is a registered user.

I'm very heartened that kids can speak out for opportunities they value.

I really wish our community would come together and work out these issues. It will have to be done online, with moderators so we don't keep rehashing the same stuff - what about in a Wiki? so that we can list out
1) concerns
2) potential solutions related to those concerns
3) refining the proposed solutions so they address any concerns

Maybe then we could reach ways forward we can all agree on, and continue to refine them over time.

The concern here is that depression can come from too little sleep, and people don't always know in advance if they will be affected. Worse, if the depression is from too little sleep or another environmental factor, hardly anyone thinks to themselves, 'I'm depressed because of too little sleep or the environment', it's more natural to blame relationships or emotional aspects of life, even if sleep is mostly to blame and the depression doesn't make sense in proportion to past experiences.

Additionally, realistically not everyone will end up with suicide ideation, but if even one out of 60 does and takes their life, it's too many. The trouble is that if these things were predictable, they wouldn't happen. Adults aren't looking at the odds, they're looking at the consequences and the potential consequences aren't acceptable. How many kids would go to school a little later if they knew it would save the life of a classmate?

That's the concern. But it's always necessary to look at how theory meets reality. If we're working from data showing that kids need sleep and a later start time is important, is that based on average data? If so, what does the curve look like? Are the averages taking into account kids with different sleep patterns who go to sleep earlier, as was pointed out above?

There are 300 kids in zero period. Many of them are saying they are early risers and this schedule works better for them. I had a zero period class in high school, and because we students begged for a language opportunity that wouldn't otherwise be available. No one dropped out or suffered any ill effects (and I was driving from outside of town, not walking from the neighborhood, no one so much as had an accident). My spouse got up at 5 am the first 15 years of our marriage because my MIL was an early riser and made everyone else get up early. She was an early riser because of coming from a farm family -- let us not forget that for as long as humans have engaged in agriculture, young people who worked on farms got up pretty early and worked, too.

Is that relevant to the kids here? Maybe, maybe not. The kids are right, someone's experience from 30 years ago is not a reason to make a decision today. But the adults are right, sometimes kids don't understand the implications of their decisions and adults are responsible for their safety. The adults have serious concerns, and the kids have important counters to those concerns. Is there a way to figure out what is really right?

Since the opportunity is clearly important to the kids and even some of our faculty, this should be worked out in dialog, with relevant specifics, not speaking in generalities. Maybe the research the adults cite isn't really relevant to all kids. (Sure seems like the whole agricultural history of humans speaks to early rising being ok at least for some.) Maybe there are ways to allow the choice and ensure any risks are mitigated completely. Maybe not. We can't know unless we work it out.

And if the adults' concerns on this issue can't be allayed, is there another way to achieve the students' goals, such as a zero period independent study at home, done online? Or a bed-time check-in by computer that parents have to ok and if kids miss too many dates, they have to drop zero period?

We can only work things out in dialog.


11 people like this
Posted by worth noting
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2015 at 8:55 pm

worth noting is a registered user.

@ Danielle -- according to the Stanford publication The Fountain Hopper which sent out an issue today there were two Stanford suicides in the past year. Other schools do have suicides and suicide attempts but because they are not in front of the train we do not hear about them. The media hears about the train and follows it, but they don't frequently know about or cover the quieter deaths, which also sadly happen.

As for the sleep issue, in my opinion the competitive atmosphere of our high school sports teams can equally be held to blame for lack of sleep among our students. If kids are expected to show up for practice three hours a day and, for some sports, twice a day, then that is clearly going to have an impact on what time they are going to bed because they still have to finish their homework. Sports is the big drain on kids lives, but we don't hear many complaints about how that is impacting sleep schedules. Zero period seems like a decent option for kids who like to rise early and are committed to academics. No one is trying to cut back on sports, when it could easily be blamed for creating stress in academics and causing kids to stay up much later than they should. If you are going take a look at zero period, seems only fair that you weigh how much sports, or for that matter Paly's drama productions -- which often keep kids after school for hours and hours on end, are impacting sleep/study habits. Zero period, which is predictable and known, probably pales in what impact it has compared to the other extracurriculars that are huge time syncs.


30 people like this
Posted by A Parent, Sr.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2015 at 9:18 pm

A Parent, Sr. is a registered user.

Chloe,

I don't agree with everything you said, but I applaud you for saying it. Many, many parents and educators DO want to hear what you and your friends think, and we ARE listening. It breaks my heart that you think people "blame" students. I can't imagine anyone doing that. What I have seen in the wake of these events is extraordinary compassion and bravery from Gunn and Paly students alike.
We're all learning more each day. We are learning about the pain of mental illness. I think most of us know zero period doesn't cause depression or suicide. Neither does any other one thing.
I'd like to suggest that what we are doing, like you, is trying our best to provide the best for students in this town. I agree that choices are good - and am proud that our schools offer so many classes, levels, electives, activities, clubs and other options.
But I want to add something to what commenter "Gone Too Long" said: "The Parents job is to provide unconditional love, understanding and support for their kids." Yes, that is absolutely true. But is is also the parents' job - sometimes the most difficult job - to set limits. We set curfews and driving restrictions, and we try to enforce existing rules about smoking, drinking and driving safely. And I like to think that's what parents are talking about here - how to provide as many opportunities and choices as we can, while deciding on what limits may (or may not) be best for the community as a whole. Settings limits is not the same as not listening. Please don't stop telling us how you feel.


17 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 10:17 pm

Reason is a registered user.

Chloe,

Thank you very much for sharing your opinion, and being willing to stand up and publicly discuss some very difficult topics. I respect that.

You write: "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."

Okay. Done. When I actually follow your advice, and actually listen to my students, they actually tell me horror stories of how they were treated at Jordan and at Paly. By some very specific teachers bullying them, assigning ridiculous homework loads, and testing to a level far beyond what is taught in the classroom. There are teachers that are setting up students for failure, and these teachers DIRECTLY LEAD TO DISENGAGEMENT OF STUDENTS, and a hatred of learning.

It is very hard as a parent to hear these facts, see the reality, observe the disengagement, and connect this to depression and anxiety and sit idle by. I am sorry, but I simply cannot ignore what is a very real problem. Did this cause the suicides? No. Not yet. Could it? Almost certainly. It is a real problem that a minority of teachers are treating kids terribly, and many kids are just barely hanging on. It is literally survival mode that we are in. The environment created in the schools is a tinderbox.

I am not blaming Gunn, or the Gunn community.

I am blaming specific teachers who have gone unmanaged and as a result they overload our kids with insufficient support or teaching in the classroom. This is at Jordan and Paly. I definitely blame the principal at Jordan for his complicity in this problem. Your best sentiments aside, I have listened to our kids, and I can see exactly where the problem is.

So I cannot follow your advice and simultaneously listen to the kids, and remain silent about the cause.

It is clearly a problem the schools should fix.

And I agree with you on one point: we should listen to our kids. I would like the school to survey class-by-class, teacher-by-teacher and measure the fairness, education quality, stress, and workload from EVERY KID. This should determine how the staff is managed. The fact that we do not do this in any actionable manner is evidence that the district has no real interest in listening to kids. They could have done this years ago.


18 people like this
Posted by Perspectives
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2015 at 10:19 pm

Perspectives is a registered user.

A Parent, Sr- great post. I completely agree.

Chloe- thank you for writing your article and giving voice to your point of view. We as a community care, and no matter what comments and opinions you get resulting from your article, please know that we value your thoughts and the thoughts of all of our youth here. A friend of mine committed suicide in middle school. My heart goes out to the students here- no young person should have to suffer the effects of a fellow student's suicide.

The one thing I would personally add to A Parent, Sr's post is that sometimes even what a large number of people want (high schoolers or otherwise) isn't what is most wise. Just because so many students at Gunn choose zero period doesn't therefore make it healthy necessarily. While recognizing many like yourself truly enjoy zero period, I doubt it's the case for all 300. It's impossible to know how many of these students who seemingly want this class are wanting it of their own volition. It's possible many of them feel pressure to take it from their parents, and we would never truly know. It's also impossible to know how many of the students who do personally want to take it are doing so only to get an academic edge. Which in and of itself is not a bad thing, but when combined with the high-pressure success culture of our town, that can very quickly become unhealthy.

Zero period does not cause suicide, clearly. But I would caution against the type of thinking that results in the conclusion that because a lot of kids at Gunn want to take a zero period it is therefore a good thing and should not be removed as a choice. Even majority opinion is not always wise.


18 people like this
Posted by EP Parent
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 17, 2015 at 10:22 pm

EP Parent is a registered user.

One of my Paly daughters chose zero period PE this year and loves it. She does sports some seasons so is able to have it as a prep and get an additional open space in her schedule, which literally allows her to go to school at like 930 two days a week. It's awesome and she gets to sleep in more, not less. More importantly it works for her and I'm so grateful she has the flexibility to work her schedule the way that works best for her. I vote no to fewer choices.


23 people like this
Posted by Organiclaws
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 17, 2015 at 10:38 pm

Organiclaws is a registered user.

Kudos to Chloe Sorensen for the thoughtful piece. We need to respect our students, not baby them. Give them freedom and responsibility, not control them.

When you tries to micromanage student's morning schedule, you are committing the same sin as "tiger parents" who control every minute of their afternoon.


13 people like this
Posted by a friend
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 11:05 pm

a friend is a registered user.

Go Chloe! Student voices should be heard more -- these events are happening to them, and their input is more valid than one that doesn't know what really is going on inside the schools.


57 people like this
Posted by parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 17, 2015 at 11:08 pm

parent2 is a registered user.

Listening to a teen and doing what a teen wants are not the same thing. I hear Chloe saying that she would like Gunn to retain zero period classes. She feels that the fact that students choose to take them means that the risks of sleep loss are negated. She also feels that students have to be able to make mistakes and make their own choices. She does not like the idea that the administration could just take away a privilege from students or restrict their freedom of choice. She does not find the scientific and medical evidence persuasive, because she thinks that while there is a correlation between early start times and suicide, there is no conclusive proof of causation. She thinks it is likely that the people who sign up for zero period are "early risers." In addition to her views on zero period and science, Chloe also thinks that the fact that the board is considering eliminating this choice and implementing other changes at Gunn to be tantamount to unfairly blaming and "attacking our school" for the deaths.

I hear all of this very clearly. I have heard her. I listened. But I don't agree, and don't support what she wants. That's because of the following:

1. What you want is not good for students. It is the job of adults to make rules. Most teens don't like rules, don't like the loss of privileges, and don't like to be told what is good for them. That's developmentally appropriate, so I would not expect you to like it. Sometimes, you can have what you want. If it's to wear a dress that I think is too revealing but you want to express yourself, or you want to dye your hair blue and I think that's ridiculous but it's your hair, or you want to date a boy who I think doesn't value you enough -- all those are your choices. But if you want to drink and drive, or engage in other risky behavior that puts not only yourself but also others at risk, then I have to take away those choices. I might even have to take the keys if we get right down to it.

Kids don't ever like hearing no. Adults have an obligation not to say no unless there is a good reason, not to arbitrarily limit kids' freedom. This isn't arbitrary. This is a rule based on a large and incredibly persuasive body of peer-reviewed social science showing that early start times are correlated with very large increases in suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, and completed suicides. This is not a rule about whether you can wear makeup to school. This is a rule about whether we have policies that are literally killing your friends. So this time, adults have to decide.

2. Kids are too young to have responsibility for weighing and deciding risks and benefits for things as serious as whether policies are resulting in increased risk of death. You can decide whether to freak dance in my book. You can even decide whether to smoke a little weed if you do it discreetly and responsibly and it doesn't affect your life or grades. But you cannot decide whether to text while driving, wear a seatbelt, drink and drive, or set school policies that potentially lead to death.

3. Schools are full of rules and you can't expect to be able to agree with all of them. Actually I personally think there are too many rules and a lot of them are stupid. No skateboarding is a stupid rule. But we have it. Some poor kid got thrown out of school and didn't get to go to college for having an airsoft rifle in his car. Stupid rule? How about egg wars? Yet in all these cases, there are rules, and kids have to follow them. You can't curse, can't bully, can't sexually harass, can't talk on your phone in class, can't buy and sell weed or things that look like weed, can't smoke cigarettes and more. The Gunn handbook is full of rules you have to obey. Sometimes you have to follow the rules and adults make them. You know what? That's actually a good thing. It means that adults shoulder the burden for youth safety. While you may not like every rule, that's OK. You don't have to.

4. It may feel like this matters, but it really doesn't. Zero period is a fluke. It is an accident that shouldn't have happened. It has only existed for 3 years, and it shouldn't have existed at all. Once your class graduates, no one will even know it was ever there. It may feel like a big deal but it isn't. It's not some hallowed tradition like streaking at Paly -- and they got over that, and you will get over this.

5. Your arguments don't really hold water logically. The fact that someone chooses to take the class doesn't mean that they won't develop sucidality as a result of doing it. It is not possible to predict who will be affected, only that it is far more likely that you will be if you are in such a class. Choice is simply irrelevant to the question of whether there is a connection between early start and suicide. It doesn't matter. Similarly the idea that you have to be able to choose now at age 14 because someday when you are 19 you will also have to make choices does not make sense. There is a big difference between a 15 year old and a 19 year old. You are not in college. You are in high school. Adults get to decide now.

Put yourself in the position of the adults. We have to make sure that the suicides stop and that we are doing absolutely everything we can to make them stop. That's because we love all of you so much and we can't bear to lose another one of you. There is a connection not just between sleep deprivation and suicide but between early start and suicide. There just is. The science is overwhelming. We cannot decide to ignore it in order to give you this choice that you want. That would be the case even if your reasons for wanting it were really good.

But I think your reasons really have more to do with wanting to feel like you have some control over a situation that you have no control over and over wanting to feel like you aren't all at risk when actually you are. You would like to be able to know that the people who died had something wrong with them inside, that they had broken parts, so that you can know that you are safe, and this won't happen to any more friends or to yourself. But that's probably not true. What appears to be true is that environmental factors, most especially sleep deprivation has a huge effect. Most of the students at Gunn are not getting anything like enough sleep. They are in a danger zone for suicide based on the research. Everyone is at risk and you cannot tell in advance who might be next. We are very very bad at predicting who will harm themselves.

I hear and understand that you want a normal life with out all this death in it. You just want to go to your school and be happy about your school, and feel great about your future instead of afraid that your friends are going to be ripped away, or you are going to have post-traumatic stress, or your whole teen years will be about grieving and loss and death. I feel you, But we can't pretend that it is that way just because that is what we would like. It's not that way.

We need to stop telling ourselves stories about how it is "all about depression" without talking about how people get depression. One of the big ways is sleep deprivation. Until we can address that, the entire community is at risk and that risk is multiplied by the contagion.

So while I listened, I don't agree.


19 people like this
Posted by michellea23
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 11:23 pm

michellea23 is a registered user.

The thing I don't understand here is where the direct correlation between taking a zero period and committing suicide is? The fact that the entire point of a zero period is to lessen stress later in the day and leave it to the student to customize their schedule makes it completely not up to the entire community of Palo Alto parents to discuss. As Chloe rightfully mentioned, some students are specifically adapted to rising early, and if taking a class after 7 in the morning leads them to success, then why should we as a community attempt to stop it? The matter of stress comes into play as a completely different factor - that of time management. Again, this is ultimately all up to the student to decide whether or not taking a class at such a time drastically affects their sleeping schedule and overall health but who are we to sit here and criticize them for doing what they believe is best for themselves? If anything, we should be helping these students excel instead of further thinking about how to limit their options.


25 people like this
Posted by Gunn2017
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 11:56 pm

Gunn2017 is a registered user.

As a Gunn student taking zero period, I'm disgusted by the comments claiming that Chloe is "too young" to understand the effects of zero period and the comments implying that students should step down and let the "grown ups" talk. One of the most important things our community should pride itself on is its acceptance of different opinions-- in fact, I laud PA Online for publishing Chloe's letter as a means to provide a conflicting opinion of its editorial. And listening to and considering different opinions is all part of that. It's not okay to brush aside the overwhelming opinion of an entire schoolful of students, claiming that simply because they are young and naive they can't form a reasonable and plausible opinion.


26 people like this
Posted by parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 18, 2015 at 12:02 am

parent2 is a registered user.

You see this is what I mean by listening and acceding are not the same thing. I absolutely listened. I took her arguments seriously and repeated them back, demonstrating that I understand them and received the message she was sending. I just am not going to do what you/she wants. My experience with teens is that what they mean by "listen" is often "do what I want." They are not the same.


6 people like this
Posted by CornBread
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 18, 2015 at 7:23 am

CornBread is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by PA native
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 18, 2015 at 8:07 am

PA native is a registered user.

parent2,
Thank you


18 people like this
Posted by parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 18, 2015 at 8:25 am

parent2 is a registered user.

@cornbread, chloe, and other students.

Cornbread says "And don't try to think you know what is best for us, because you don't"

Do you believe that your doctor knows what's best for you? The American Academy of Pediatrics, which includes your own doctor from PAMF (most likely some of you have doctors there) and speaks for all pediatricians, has unequivocally stated that school should not begin earlier than 8:30. They based this recommendation on the fact that the teen body is biologically programmed to fall asleep later and to need between 8-9 hours of sleep per night.

A large body of research that has been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals that conclusively establishes a 200% (3-fold) increase in suicide attempts for teens getting less than 8 hours of sleep. Another study just published in 2014 shows an increase of approximately 50% in the suicidality for every hour of sleep less than 8.

Your doctor has recommended based on this that there be no zero period. Do you believe that your doctor "knows what's best for you?" This is a serious question so please respond.


12 people like this
Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2015 at 9:03 am

resident3 is a registered user.

Chloe,

If zero period is kept or eliminated, it will be important for you to not see it as a win or a failure.

If I were a board member, I would have a hard time accepting this because it was choice given by circumventing a process which was intended to put a greater good ahead of the needs of a few.

As a community member, I would be disappointed that policy makers are looking at policy as a carved out process which places individual choice above it all, using resources which are intended for many.

It's not only student choice but teacher choice, and it's not just High School, it's all schools.


23 people like this
Posted by another gunn upperclassman
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2015 at 9:16 am

another gunn upperclassman is a registered user.

@parent2:

Frankly, a bigger issue with this (and part of why students are feeling drowned out/ignored on the issue) is that, while it's no doubt well intended, this crusade against zero period is a knee-jerk attempt to find a scapegoat for what is obviously a far deeper issue. Furthermore, the weekly's previous editorial on the topic attacked Gunn's zero period with abandon, while ardently defending Paly's--something that I still don't read as justifiable if the grounds for removing zero period are solely "kids need more sleep to stay healthy."

Also, could you link the medical studies you're referring to? I have no doubt that they exist, but if they "unequivocally state [...]" their arguments, myself and many other Palo Alto students would rather read the actual studies than your cherrpicked lines.


20 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 18, 2015 at 9:50 am

My Thoughts is a registered user.

There is a somewhat larger problem for zero period that is not well explained. While Chloe feels it is her choice, there are 1700 students that chose not to take zero period. Many of them will discovers that other students have one mor AP class, and higher GPA points.

It is unfair. And the only way to compete is to take zero period also.

So now there is some pressure on all kids to take one more AP.

I am wondering if anyone has thought about the colliseum effect we are putting on all the other kids? Should we throw them all into a competitive fight?

This is not just a individual choice. This is a community choice.


31 people like this
Posted by GreenmeadowDad
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 18, 2015 at 9:56 am

GreenmeadowDad is a registered user.

It's disheartening to wake up this morning to see how many people have "liked" comments from adults calling a Chloe "unflattering" and "too young to appreciate what she is saying". Other adults, in rambling style and poorly thought out arguments, suggest it's appropriate for teens to "decide to smoke a little weed" but not how to schedule their day.

Again ... WOW!!!

Here's one thing that's scary, and another that's unfortunate ...
- SCARY: You people are my neighbors?!?!?
- UNFORTUNATE: The kids that this effects are invisible in this process. They don't vote for the school board, and they're surrounded by a community of adult voters who waive peer-reviewed data, while promoting conclusions that are not supported by it.

I understand where you are all coming from. This community has experience terrible tragedy, and we all want to do whatever possible to prevent it in the future.

But, if we are going to waive around peer-reviewed data, then let's use scientific data in our discussion responsibly, shall we?

The AAP has informed us that majority % of high school students were getting less than the recommended hours of sleep. High school students without sufficient sleep at higher risk for terrible adverse consequences. AAP sited numerous studies on the effect of later school start times. What does this say (and what doesn't this say):

1) So, remember that whole probability distribution thing? Perhaps, in your studies, you learned about Gaussian, or Rayleigh, or maybe Ricean ... I have forgotten ... it was a long time ago. But, the implication of the data sited in the AAP guidelines also clearly indicates that there are a minority % of students that are indeed getting the recommended hours of sleep.

2) What are the "start times" in these studies. Well, it is the time for EVERY SINGLE student to begin their first class. This is regardless of whether or not they are in the minority % of students that are indeed getting the recommended hours of sleep. Looking at it a different way, these "start times" could also be described as the "earliest mandatory" first class start time. Fortunately, we live in a responsible school district that has pushed this time back (I think it's 8:25 for Gunn). There is NO STUDY cited that concludes that an OPTIONAL earlier start time that a MINORITY PERCENTAGE of students take advantage of has any increased risk for adverse consequences (for them, or anybody else). The 0 period consent form (signed by the parent, student, and I think counselor) informs of all of these risks. Students who register for a 0 period class have the option of transferring out, if it is not working for them.

The students who are benefiting from this option are trying to have their voices heard. Unfortunately, they can't vote for the school board, so I can see right where this is headed.

[Portion removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 18, 2015 at 10:12 am

parent2 is a registered user.

Dear Gunn upperclassman:

I will post links below to the scientific research. However, I think that this is something you should be able to investigate for yourself. [Portion removed; please try to respond respectfully.]

Please do your own research into the scientific evidence and find some that supports zero period and post it here.

These are not my ideas. These are the ideas of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Stanford Sleep Scientists and Doctors, numerous doctors from PAMF and Stanford, thousands of doctors around the country. This is a rule that has been made for the good of students and families. By the way, in terms of teachers ... [portion removed] It is far more important to prevent teachers from losing more students than it is to make sure that a few of them get to beat traffic on the way home.


The AAP Policy statement is here: Web Link

The technical report of the AAP that supported the policy statement, which includes the statistics on suicide and sleep is here: Web Link

Recent study (2014) on the relationship between start times and suicide finding an astounding 58% increase in suicide attempts for every hour less of sleep obtained by students who had a 7:20am start time.
Web Link, ( "Controlling for background variables, the odds of a student feeling sad and hopeless increased by 38%; of reporting serious suicidal ideation, by 42%, and of having already attempted suicide increased by a striking 58% for each hour less of sleep a student obtained...").

Coefficients of the size observed in the studies cited above (three fold increases, 58% increases for each hour) are not normally observed in scientific research. These are effect magnitudes that are associated with miracle cures like penicillin and condom use for AIDS prevention. When an effect size like that is found, it is the scientific equivalent of seeing bigfoot. To ignore this evidence and the recommendation of our own consulting doctors would be professionally irresponsible.

That is why you cannot ultimately have what you want on this. I think you should interrogate why you feel you want this so badly and whether it is worth it to you given the risks.

If you knew, hypothetically, that half or more of the students who died by suicide were in some early class or practice or activity, would it affect your decision about zero period? If not, why not?





7 people like this
Posted by GreenmeadowDad
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 18, 2015 at 10:24 am

GreenmeadowDad is a registered user.

parent2

Thank you for posting the "sleepless in Fairfax link".

All I needed to do was read the first 2 lines of the introduction to find "20 % of American teens sleep the recommended amount"

Please re-read my post above ... thank you ...


15 people like this
Posted by parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 18, 2015 at 10:24 am

parent2 is a registered user.

@angry CAPITAL LETTER Greenmeadow Dad

What evidence do you have that the students in zero period are getting enough sleep? What system is in place to ensure that is true? What does the school do to ensure that these students get the required 8 hours of sleep? What does the student and family do if during the year the student gets less sleep and becomes anxious and depressed or experiences mental health issues? What happens if a student thinks that they will be able to handle it but then can't? What happens if a student -- some as young as 8th grade -- in a zero period class has difficulty handling it?

Do you have any evidence of any kind that there is:

1. A system in place to determine that the students in all zero period classes and practices are getting 8+ hours of sleep;
2. Any evidence that if a student develops symptoms of depression during the course of the year that they will be identified and treated as well as moved from that class immediately?
3. Any evidence that there exists a screening tool to be able to predict in advance who will be able to do it and who will not?
4. Any study demonstrating that there are no mental health effects that arise from "choices" to arise early?
5. Any evidence that homework load is less after school for those students for example taking 8 periods or extra curriculars or playing sports?

You have no evidence just your own rank speculations and you have arrayed that against the entire scientific and medical community. When a teen does that, it's forgivable (though I would not have allowed her to publish it on the internet where college admissions officers can read it since it does not demonstrate good logical argument or address the science effectively). When an adult does it, even in ALL CAPS it's really beyond the pale.


27 people like this
Posted by Gunn Father
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 18, 2015 at 10:33 am

Gunn Father is a registered user.

In defense of Parent 2 --- I applaud students speaking up and having choices . However this is a bad choice with ample medical weight behind it . Kids have the choice to do drugs and alcohol , although illegal . We dont legally give them these choices because we , as ADULTS , know better. Also the teenage mind is NOT fully developed, again, we know this medically, and teenagers wont always make the best choice . Sleep deprivation , although legal, can be just as damaging as drugs and alcohol , just ask any patrolman about accidents and what causes them.
No, this is not a child's choice on zero period , ADULTS , pls step in and act before more 'issues' arise . PAUSD, you are the ADULTS, pls act accordingly


24 people like this
Posted by another gunn upperclassman
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2015 at 10:39 am

another gunn upperclassman is a registered user.

@Parent2:

You seem to have interpreted my comment of, "cite your sources if you're going to pull specific lines" into, "I'm too immature to do my own research, do it for me!" I don't exactly know where there was a disconnect--but regardless, the first paragraph of your response to my comment was completely inappropriate.

A mocking, personal attack on my own ability to do research, when again, all I had asked for was simple citations--citations which you should have provided earlier regardless--followed by your blunt statement that my completely legitimate comment regarding the lines quoted in your earlier post was demonstrating a "contempt for authority."

All I expressed in my comment was a desire to see exactly where you were pulling your information from, in hopes of reading it myself, rather than simply reading hearing garbled, out of context lines, and I'm fairly appalled by the opening lines of your absurd and immature response. Thank you for providing your sources, however; I look forward to reading them and am sure that they will be of great help to those hoping to become more informed on the medical evidence on the issue.


5 people like this
Posted by parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 18, 2015 at 10:42 am

parent2 is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Organiclaws
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 18, 2015 at 10:49 am

Organiclaws is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


30 people like this
Posted by GreenmeadowDad
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 18, 2015 at 10:57 am

GreenmeadowDad is a registered user.

parent2

Fair comments. I'll address them all for you point by point.

[What evidence do you have that the students in zero period are getting enough sleep?]
None. What evidence to you have that the students specifically in zero period are not getting enough sleep?

[What system is in place to ensure that is true? What does the school do to ensure that these students get the required 8 hours of sleep?]
There is no system in place in place to ensure that students with late start times get enough sleep. How would you propose doing that? We can then take your proposal, and apply it to the 0 period kids. Great idea! I look forward to your proposal ...

[What does the student and family do if during the year the student gets less sleep and becomes anxious and depressed or experiences mental health issues? What happens if a student thinks that they will be able to handle it but then can't? What happens if a student -- some as young as 8th grade -- in a zero period class has difficulty handling it?]
From the Gunn counseling update 03/02/2015: "no student is forced to take a zero period class and can transfer out if it doesn't work for them"

[Do you have any evidence of any kind that there is:

1. A system in place to determine that the students in all zero period classes and practices are getting 8+ hours of sleep;]
Please see comments above.

[2. Any evidence that if a student develops symptoms of depression during the course of the year that they will be identified and treated as well as moved from that class immediately? ]
Again, "no student is forced to take a zero period class and can transfer out if it doesn't work for them". I think concerns about depression are not specifically relevant to 0 period students

[3. Any evidence that there exists a screening tool to be able to predict in advance who will be able to do it and who will not?]
No. Do you have any evidence of a screening tool that will predict FOR A GIVEN SPECIFIC STUDENT that it will not work?


[4. Any study demonstrating that there are no mental health effects that arise from "choices" to arise early?]
No. Do you have any studies demonstrating that there are negative health effects for a minority of students to choose to have an early period?

[5. Any evidence that homework load is less after school for those students for example taking 8 periods or extra curricular or playing sports?]
I don't think that there is any expectation that a 0 period class has less homework. Why would there be such?


[You have no evidence just your own rank speculations and you have arrayed that against the entire scientific and medical community. When a teen does that, it's forgivable (though I would not have allowed her to publish it on the internet where college admissions officers can read it since it does not demonstrate good logical argument or address the science effectively). When an adult does it, even in ALL CAPS it's really beyond the pale.]
That's your issue to contend with. Perhaps some of the "remedies" you have mentioned in your earlier posts can help you cope ...


21 people like this
Posted by another gunn upperclassman
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2015 at 10:58 am

another gunn upperclassman is a registered user.

@Parent2:

It's a CAHSEE testing day, and only sophomores are required to be at school; evidently you don't have a child in Palo Alto high schools or you'd be aware of this.

If you reread my earliest comment, I never took a stance on zero period one way or another, I simply asked for a degree of consistency in arguments presented. From a purely statistical standpoint, we're dealing with a sample size of about five students here (assuming we're looking at events since zero period's inception), and attempting to draw statistically significant evidence from that pool is kind of absurd. So no, that alone would not be enough to cause me to have a firm stance one way or another.


7 people like this
Posted by parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 18, 2015 at 11:15 am

parent2 is a registered user.

First of all, gunn upperclassman, you want to claim that your comment was perfectly innocuous, but let's have some accountability for your accusation of "cherrypicking" [portion removed.]

Likewise, you now want to claim that you "ever took a stance on zero period one way or another, I simply asked for a degree of consistency in arguments presented." But what you actually wrote (above is) that you were the victim of a "crusade against zero period" that you called "a knee-jerk attempt to find a scapegoat." [Portion removed.]

Your response to my question is appreciated but it is very disappointing both for its lack of understanding of the science and for its lack of compassion for the situation. First, you have a large body of evidence that is accepted by all of medicine and science showing a strong association between early start times and suicide attempts. I asked you to hypothetically combine that predictive science with evidence that the projected effect is occurring in our current cluster, i.e., that some of the students who have died were in the early start. That would mean that you had evidence of a strong association and evidence that the association is being borne out here. I asked, would that evidence affect your view of zero period.

Your answer is that five deaths would not be sufficient evidence on which to base that conclusion, even in light of the prediction from research. You have some theory of low statistical power that doesn't really matter here, since you already have statistical power in the published evidence.

[Portion removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by GreenmeadowDad
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 18, 2015 at 11:20 am

GreenmeadowDad is a registered user.

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


14 people like this
Posted by Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 18, 2015 at 11:20 am

Ferdinand is a registered user.

I'm alright with giving students some choice in the matter, but there should--and probably are--some current restrictions on it's use [students can't use Zero for increasing their workload to 8 classes; there should be a compelling reason for awarding it [G prep for work-study, etc.]. I am curious about the attrition rate? Our son took a Zero math class and it wasn't great for him. Student participation was really low at that time of day!

My greater interest is why students want to reduce their time at school, and whether our sports programs are demanding too much time? I would hazard to guess that most students do not have afternoon jobs. Having a quality survey of Zero period students would be a good thing. Perhaps it does allow some students to shift their work time earlier, resulting in an earlier bedtime.


2 people like this
Posted by GreenmeadowDad
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 18, 2015 at 11:39 am

GreenmeadowDad is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


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

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