News

District prioritizes mental health support, outreach to Asian-American families

Cultural differences require new approaches to reaching some Asian parents in Palo Alto, service provider says

The Palo Alto school district is looking to increase its mental health support and outreach to Asian-American families, with the possibility of a more formal relationship with well-established nonprofit Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI) on the horizon.

"What we're hearing and seeing from the community is that the demographics of Palo Alto have changed and the mental health services might not have kept pace," AACI President Michele Lew told the school board Tuesday night.

Students of Asian heritage made up 33.9 percent of the student population in the district in 2013-14, according to Palo Alto High School's Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) report.

Gunn High School's Asian student population has steadily grown over the last several years to 41.6 percent of the student body in 2014, according to the school's WASC report. The report also notes that Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese and "any one of several other Asian languages" are spoken in Gunn students' homes and that the guidance department recently identified the need to sponsor a parent information night in Mandarin "to increase the connection of Asian families to GHS and respond to administrative questions Mandarin Chinese-speaking parents may have."

In approximately 22 percent of Gunn students' homes, the primary language spoken is an Asian language, with the most (15.6 percent) speaking Mandarin, according to the WASC report.

Paly's percentage of Asian students is lower than Gunn's, at 26.7 percent, though "Asian students represent the fastest-growing linguistic and cultural population on our campus," Paly's WASC report reads.

AACI, Santa Clara County's largest nonprofit focused on serving the Asian community, has worked with the school district informally for several years and more so this academic year following several student deaths by suicide, providing pro-bono counseling support at school sites and at various forums, Lew said. AACI is based in San Jose but was founded in Palo Alto in 1973 and has employees who speak more than 40 languages and dialects.

Lew told the board that her organization will be submitting a proposal soon for a "more formal" relationship with the district.

"While mental health and mental illness are topics of interest to the entire community, there are some cultural differences that make us eager to do more work in Palo Alto," she told the Weekly Wednesday.

She said the proposal will include parent education in both English and Mandarin and a more formal counseling relationship.

Lew said that some Asian families may take longer to open up and talk about their issues with a counselor due to their cultural backgrounds. She hopes to discuss with district staff the district's free outside-referral program, in which it allows families to receive at least three free counseling sessions with an outside service provider. Three sessions might not be sufficient for some families, Lew said. She added that she is not sure how many parents are aware of this service.

However, Student Services Coordinator Brenda Carrillo said Tuesday that "there are opportunities to be seen for longer period of time," up to nine sessions, through the program. She later told the Weekly that the three-session referral program was created to provide short-term intervention in crisis, and any extension in care is decided on an individual basis. Students are referred to the program by a school counselor or school psychologist.

"The 3 Session Referral Program was developed to meet a specific need at our sites, which is to provide students with free mental health services during a time of crisis or when the family lacks access to other supports," Carrillo wrote in an email. "It is not meant to be a long term intervention, but rather a bridge between the immediate need for mental health support and a referral to longer term mental health services."

Carrillo also said the district is working to expand its list of outside providers to make sure that they can accommodate the demand and that they can receive families who feel more comfortable speaking in another language.

Palo Alto Unified is also now part of a collaborative, led by Stanford University psychiatrist Steven Adelsheim, working to provide greater outreach to the Asian community. The district has also worked closely with Palo Alto University and The Gronowski Center, a psychology training center in Los Altos, " to explore ways in which to broaden services to our diverse community," Carrillo wrote in an email.

The district this year has helped coordinate Asian-American parent information nights and provide Mandarin translation at other events. Carrillo said Tuesday that the district is looking at organizing events in parents' native languages rather than having them translated from English.

Such events are seen as critical to reducing the stigma about mental illness and opening up conversations about health and well-being with parents, many of whom are immigrants.

At an Asian-American parents event Monday night, a panel of local psychiatrists, psychologists and community members working in mental health – many of them themselves born to Asian immigrants -- emphasized that mental illness and suicide are universal but recognized that this particular community does face a different set of issues when it comes to mental health.

"We wanted to particularly offer support to the Asian-American community because ... we do face some special challenges above and beyond what the community as a whole is facing," Rona Hu, a Stanford University professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences, told a full crowd of parents at Paly's Haymarket Theater, many listening to a translator via headphones. "One is that there is more stigma (around mental health) in the Asian-American community than in many other groups of people."

"We can accept when our vision is not perfect that we are not less good of people than people who have perfect vision," Hu continued. "Having glasses, having contact lenses doesn't mean were inferior. And yet when there's a mental health issue, that becomes something that can be a source of shame. We want to do something about that."

Hu encouraged parents to challenge their "hardwired" assumptions about parenting, communication, success and failure.

Jorge Wong, an AACI clinical psychologist, stressed that this might be best accomplished through providing culturally relevant events and education.

"Sources in their primary languages may help them understand better some of the challenges that the school district has or children face," he said.

AACI's pitch for a more formal relationship with the district comes at a time when the schools' primary source for on-site counseling support, Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS), is reportedly overloaded at the two high schools.

"They're completely full within first few months of school starting," Carrillo said.

Gunn student school board representative Rose Weinmann similarly told the board that ACS is in high demand on her campus and asked if there's an opportunity to expand their services.

"We're looking at, very closely, do we have adequate counseling services?" Carrillo responded. "We are looking at expanding, whether it be through ACS or other organizations."

Comments

1 person likes this
Posted by Observation
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 11:46 am

[Post removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by Third Gen Chinese
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Changing a culture is like trying to change a religion. Good luck.

It's still a good opportunity for people to connect, however.

The second generation will understand the lifestyle balance.

Only Asians know that there are differences between Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese. It's too bad everyone clumps us together.


22 people like this
Posted by All our kids need support.
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:03 pm

Mental health services should be available EQUALLY to all students based on need, regardless of ethnicity. Any family with a seriously depressed child is unlikely to be able to resolve those issues in three sessions.


3 people like this
Posted by Observation
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:12 pm

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:26 pm

Whereas we do know that Asian cultures are different between the different cultures of Asian countries, they are similar. In the same way, there are big differences between European cultures between the different European cultures of European countries. However, European cultures are very different from Asian cultures. Many people lump together European cultures in the same way others lump together Asian cultures.

For this reason, unless we have a special support group for each culture, treating them similar makes sense. Treating all European cultures as similar makes the same sense.


4 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:42 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

I am very encouraged that Asian-Americans for Community Involvement is being called on as a resource. The cross-cultural aspects of dealing with mental health issues must be recognized and appropriately addressed for the district to be effective in its attempts to address this piece of the challenge we face in assuring all of our students' well-being. Please, PAUSD, take full advantage of what they have to offer.

A sidenote on PAUSD's connection to AACI: in the mid-70s I had the good fortune of teaching ESL at Ventura Elementary School. A previously failing neighborhood school was implementing, under Principal Jerry Schmidt's leadership, Nathan Glazer's "Schools Without Failure" approach with a school community that was heterogenous on almost all counts--racial, ethnic, linguistic, socio-economic, parental academic achievement. The school was closed, over strong, emotional objection from the Ventura school community over the loss of this truly integrated school during the school closures of the early eighties.

Among the many parents from outside the neighborhood who chose to put their faith in this model of education to the test by enrolling their own children despite Ventura's reputation of low test scores and anemic academics were Allan and Mary Seed, pioneers in the establishment of Asian-Americans for Community Involvement.


5 people like this
Posted by Need more self help
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:47 pm

[Post removed.]


33 people like this
Posted by Acculturated
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:49 pm

For those who are organizing/brainstorming these events, please consider offering a presentation, or series of presentations, covering the range of choices in American higher education for immigrant parents--a healthy move away from the focus on a limited number of elite universities. That narrow focus on elite schools seems to be part of the core--if not the very core--of stressors leading to high stress, anxiety, and depression for high school students. Parents unfamiliar with American higher education (this can include American parents) need to understand the benefits of different types of schools and programs that don't exist in most other countries: community college (transfer), liberal arts colleges, honors colleges within public universities. Parents need to become more aware that the research universities (what most are probably familiar with from back home), are great for the research and professionalization phase of education (grad, law, business, med school, etc.) but are not always that great for undergraduate learning. At the research schools, the faculty and staff are often focused on RESEARCH more than teaching. At the smaller schools (community college, liberal arts, honors colleges), the faculty and staff tend to focus more on actual TEACHING, which really helps to prepare students for graduate and professional school.




23 people like this
Posted by Dickinson
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Stop blaming schools. Blame the parents.
I graduated from Gunn a couple years ago (having attended Fairmeadow Elementary and JLS Middle School)and what I observed of friends' parents or what they told me about their parents was shocking.

One of my best friends slept on my couch Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night one weekend during junior year because he got an B+ on an AP Bio exam. His mom told him to leave their house and never come back.

Parents, look up labeling theory. If you tell your son/daughter they are failing and are not "good enough", they will slowly believe you and convince themselves that they are garbage.


2 people like this
Posted by Nancy Ng
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 25, 2015 at 12:59 pm

thank you, Jerry Underdal for the poignant reminder of a better Palo Alto. i hope that are enough "Ventura-minded" parents to turn the culture around to one of true inclusion and respect.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2015 at 1:02 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Here's a link to that story Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2015 at 1:42 pm

Don't other groups have unique cultural differnces that would benefit from mental health support? Where is the Latino mental health support group. They make up a substantial percentage of PAUSD students.

[Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Please be kind
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 25, 2015 at 2:20 pm

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Jim,

Your first two paragraphs raise questions that certainly merit investigation.

You might do a search for --ECCAC Latino Community-- (ECCAC stands for Ethnic and Cultural Communities Advisory Committee, a Santa Clara County agency) and see if they have programs in Palo Alto.

When you look at the percentage of students in PAUSD who are of Asian background and the likelihood that it will increase substantially going forward it should be evident to all that getting it right in engaging Asian residents effectively is crucial. By the way, in the article it wasn't clear to me whether the percentages of Asian students included South Asian students (India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Bangladesh), for whom the cultural specifics would differ from families with East and Southeast Asian backgrounds.

I hope your ominous conclusion is incorrect.



Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 2:43 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 25, 2015 at 2:49 pm

A bold and politically correct article.

However, if you read between the lines the Asian community is growing due to the fact that we have great schools here in Palo Alto. The Asian population as a whole are harding working and high achieving and hold education and learning as a highly valued part of their culture. [Portion removed.]


18 people like this
Posted by excellent idea
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 3:18 pm

Virtually all of the recent suicides were Chinese-American boys. I commend the district for moving quickly to support the mental health needs of this community.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2015 at 3:27 pm

It seems that the Weekly editors have removed my comment about this but please read this link Web Link as already linked above.


6 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2015 at 4:04 pm

Okay, I'm all for the outreach, particularly given what's been happening, but did the zero period issue get addressed at all? I'm looking at the Web site and I don't see any indication of whether it was addressed or not.

My concern about the focus on Asian students is that this will become a way for the board to dismiss the issue of stress in the school. Yes, the latest group of suicides were Asian-American boys. The last time they were a mix. Depression doesn't care about race and unhealthy school environment is bad for everyone.

This needs to be a part of a larger community effort.


2 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2015 at 4:34 pm

OPar,
I agree. Was the latest group really Asian-American boys? The boy I know was half, and pretty Americanized. The last child was white.

I think the district has a long way to go to create trust across the board, so I guess in that sense, I agree with you. As long as the district isn't trying in yet another way to blame anyone else but themselves and avoid acting, then it's positive for them to try to reach out. I share your concerns, though.


6 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2015 at 4:35 pm

Dickinson,

That sounds like a very difficult experience for your friends, I'm glad the friend you described had someone to turn to. My parents took in a friend of my brother's in high school because the friend's (white) mother threw him out of the house for less. My Chinese-American immigrant father was the one who convinced him he wasn't worthless and he really was smart -- the friend has said this to us -- and this is why he ended up getting an education after serving in the military and is successful today.

Even if you want to "blame" parents, how will that help this situation? You cannot solve this problem through blame, and you cannot solve it by trying to change parents. If that is the approach, at best it will have a temporary impact that will disappear when new parents come in and the urgency of the latest tragedy is gone. All the school district has control of is its own programs and behavior of its employees, and there is much room for improvement there, including with areas that impact mental and physical health of all students. Many districts around here have even more heavily Asian parent populations, and they do not have our suicide problems, and it's not because they somehow are blaming parents where we don't. Not only is blame not an answer, it could cause real harm.

In your own example above, if the school programs were geared to truly provide high level competency for every student, then in theory, every student would be an A student. By simply focusing on being a better program for every student, the problem is solved for your friends whose parents interpret the grade as evidence of how hard the student is trying to do a good job and valuing his education.

Beyond that, it's very unhelpful to stereotype groups of people, especially based on a few examples.

You have expressed a negative opinion about a whole group based on a few experiences. Your experiences may be true, but they not only don't represent everyone, they may not even represent the dominant way of parenting by parents in the same group, especially since, as has been expressed, so many immigrant parents come here seeking something different.

When you use stereotypes that way, you also risk creating the negative impacts of what is called "stereotype threat" - that is, the risk of creating a self-fulfilling prophesy, of affecting people's behavior negatively by the constant imposition of negative public stereotypes. Web Link

If your friends' parents did positive things, do you assume all parents are positive because of it? My brother's white friend in high school was in an accident in a parking lot, no people involved, and panicked, left without leaving a note. This was a hit and run, it was against the law, and he needed to face consequences for it. However, like your friends above, his (white) parents not only didn't want to talk to him again, they left him in prison. My Chinese-American immigrant father was the one who risked his relationship with the parents, some of their only good friends there (this was the South), to go bail the boy out and bring him home because he did not think it was safe for him to be in an adult prison. The friend remains enormously grateful to this day. My father's siblings all treat friends like family that way. Does this mean you can say the same thing about all Asians? Why is a negative stereotype so easy to put out there?

I am not calling you a bad person, but please recognize how easy it is to negatively stereotype people, how damaging it can be, and how unlikely it is do improve the situation.


Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2015 at 4:46 pm

By the way, the two examples I gave above are not the same person. My brother's friend who came to live with us had been abused his whole life by his single (white) mother and was thrown out for nothing. I could give more examples of problems among my brother's friends. What I can't do is stereotype their parents, their parents' race, or parents in general because of it.


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 6:10 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@resident

" the Asian community is growing due to the fact that we have great schools here in Palo Alto"

Effective demand (both desiring and being able and willing to pay) for our high priced residential real estate is predicated at least in part on the perceived excellence of our schools. How often can our reputation come out from under the shadow of a student suicide intact?

Purchase of residential property here, by Asians and others, is often a matter of investment in a hot market. Houses are often rented out, sometimes left vacant. It would be of interest to me to know whether P.A. homes are being bought primarily by people with jobs in the area or by investors with no particular stake in the place where they’ve chosen to put their money.

So I wonder about the extent to which sustaining the rising real estate market depends on how we handle the crisis of confidence in the suitability in our secondary school model.

I asked a real estate agent at an open house a few weeks ago whether he detected any hints of an impact from concerns about student wellbeing. He said that there had been some concerns expressed by potential domestic buyers but none from overseas. Given the fairly efficient real estate market networks connecting the Bay Area and Asia, it will be interesting to see if that continues to be the case.


1 person likes this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2015 at 6:44 pm

[Portion removed.]
Some of the points you bring up should probably be explored, such as whether we are going to be vulnerable to an economic drop in another country in our local real estate prices. However, it has nothing to do with student mental health and the current crisis in our schools.


Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2015 at 7:05 pm

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by As expected
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2015 at 7:10 pm

Palo Alto is great in many ways, but there is a growing segment of Palo Alto that makes me sad and disappointed. I'm talking about the closet racists who look for any opportunity to air their racist stereotypes and complaints and generalizations about "tiger" parents. One look at this title, and this was bound to happen in this forum.


Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2015 at 10:49 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by _Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2015 at 11:47 pm

_Parent is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Palo alto native
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 27, 2015 at 2:31 am

Palo alto native is a registered user.

When I went to Gunn, we had 3% Asians. Today, (primarily from China), Asians now (by Gunn's own website numbers), make up the majority of the population on campus. Here in lies on variable behind the academic stressors at PAUSD. However, [portion removed] the culture in Palo Alto has changed no matter one's ethnic background: too much concentrated wealth and technology in one area has produced a competitive obsession overall. Back to my mantra on capping density development and the benefits of spreading the wealth beyond our boundaries. I know, I know: CEOs complain: but we can't attract the same type of talent anywhere in the nation. Yes you can. You just want it all here on a one shop basis: talent, venture capital, intellectual property law firms. Oh, and a school district designed to churn academic results while living in a comparative safe neighborhood next to one of the premier universities in the world. Yup, that should do it.

In addition, being able to fast track one's citizenship based on a magical 500k investment in the US society is to me - selling my country to the highest bidder: that's the first challenge in an immigration provision that must be amended. Second, selling property to non US citizens is the second challenge. Don't worry if you strongly disagree with my last statement, I know many "patriotic American born" realtors and sellers of property who have no hesitation selling to the highest bidder - who cares what their citizenship status is! They want the money - and at often several times over the asking price.

Nonetheless, despite the challenges noted above, any counseling to help ALL students, independent of cultural norms, is a good thing. And given the Asian focus on academics with the potential higher risk of shame and disowning one's own child (wow, over grades, really?); well, they can likely use the extra counseling to love more and judge less. At least for the first generation parents.


Like this comment
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 28, 2015 at 11:16 pm

Marc Vincenti is a registered user.

You're invited to sign:

"AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PALO ALTO SCHOOL BOARD AND SUPERINTENDENT"

It concerns the lives of our teenagers and will occupy a full page in the Weekly next Friday.

To read it and decide whether you'd like to sign, visit: www.savethe2008.com

But HURRY! Signing window closes at noon on Monday (3/30).


5 people like this
Posted by Dick. N
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 29, 2015 at 2:23 pm

Dick. N is a registered user.

To "Parent"

You wrote: "You have expressed a negative opinion about a whole group based on a few experiences. Your experiences may be true, but they not only don't represent everyone, they may not even represent the dominant way of parenting by parents in the same group, especially since, as has been expressed, so many immigrant parents come here seeking something different.
When you use stereotypes that way, you also risk creating the negative impacts of what is called "stereotype threat" - that is, the risk of creating a self-fulfilling prophesy, of affecting people's behavior negatively by the constant imposition of negative public stereotypes."

First off, nowhere in my initial response to this article did I mention a specific race, religion, or culture.
You assumed I was talking about one of my Asian friends because of the article's title. I would never generalize an entire culture of people, that's totally fallacious.
The specific friend I referred to was an Italian/Irish American kid brought up in a traditional Catholic household. Plenty of my Asian friends had strict parents, but none of them were ever kicked out of their house.

Second, I'm not saying we should blame. I'm saying stop blaming the schools. Everyone turns to the schools as their scapegoat. I believe the parents are far more responsible for these events than the schools are.

As my Korean friend's mom put it: "If you want to be a tiger mom, don't be surprised if you lose a cub."

It was never my intention to highlight parents of a specific racial identity.
Parents who move to this town (white, black, asian, hispanic, etc...) have incredibly high (almost unrealistically high) hopes and expectations of their children.
This town has a social disease (look up 'Anomie') which causes young individuals to feel ostracized and useless in society. To be honest, I considered suicide when I got rejected from Stanford back in 2012. I understand why these kids end their lives.


Like this comment
Posted by _Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 30, 2015 at 10:45 am

_Parent is a registered user.

Dear Dick. N/Dickinson,

You wrote, "Second, I'm not saying we should blame."
But in your post above, you wrote, "Stop blaming schools. Blame the parents. "

I'm not trying to make you feel bad, just pointing out that there is no reason for you to get defensive. You didn't just defend the schools, you did in fact overtly say we should "blame" the parents.

I responded to that point, because in my experience with more than one school community, compared to other parts of the country, the parents in this community are unusual in the level of concern and care they have for their children, and their willingness to be involved.

You also wrote, "First off, nowhere in my initial response to this article did I mention a specific race, religion, or culture. You assumed I was talking about one of my Asian friends because of the article's title. I would never generalize an entire culture of people, that's totally fallacious. The specific friend I referred to was an Italian/Irish American kid brought up in a traditional Catholic household. Plenty of my Asian friends had strict parents, but none of them were ever kicked out of their house."

But you were in fact generalizing to an entire group, that is, parents. I don't know if you intended it, but the use of the word "fallacious" usually goes beyond error to include an intent to mislead, which in describing my response to you would be ad hominem on your part, as nothing in my post was intended to mislead nor could be construed to mislead if read in good faith. I am glad to hear you say that "It was never my intention to highlight parents of a specific racial identity" but in fact you made a post telling people to "Blame the parents" on a thread specifically about mental health outreach to Asian-American families, immediately after several posts dealing with race and culture, and especially focusing on parents.

Although I did in fact conclude from very strong context (because I had read the actual article and previous posts) that you were reporting the experience of an Asian-American friend -- your post comes across as polemic and out-of-place otherwise -- I never said that, because that wasn't the focus of my response. My response was primarily defending parents, and the blaming and negative stereotyping of parents by you in your post and in this community (regardless of race, culture, etc, but especially immigrant parents who were being castigated on this very thread and in many other discussions).

Not to turn our interchange into a tempest in a teapot, though, I do accept your explanation that "it was never [your] intention to highlight parents of a specific racial identity" and that the very strong implication in context was just a mistake.

I would rather get back to the real point, which is your contention that parents are to blame when you say, "This town has a social disease (look up 'Anomie') which causes young individuals to feel ostracized and useless in society."

So, first of all, looking at the kind of risk-taking behavior of the most idiotic kind, the kind that demonstrates lack of values and standards, that kids in other communities typically engage in, we have almost none of that here, freakishly low rates of the most stupid behaviors of youth without morals. I think we have good and caring families and parents, and good kids, to THANK for that. (Though I will grant you we are not without a certain level of "affluenza" especially on the north side of town, but that's the opposite side from Gunn.)

Secondly, when you say "causes young individuals to feel ostracized and useless in society" -- that is exactly the problem many of us parents have been trying to address that comes from SCHOOLS, where kids spend most of their day. (And after which they spend the rest of their day doing homework for.)

The traditional schooling that sorts and weeds kids, keeping them sitting in classrooms doing "low grade clerical work" (as Sir Ken Robinson calls it in his wonderful TED talk about education) - that is causing the majority of our kids to feel dumb and useless, and numb to the possibilities. It is not wrong to teach your kids to dream and aspire, it is wrong to force them into a sick hazing ritual in which they can never DO anything that would ever lead to those aspirations. High school is the time when they should feel safe to try different things, not just stuck in desks learning facts they could look up on the Internet.

I am a parent, and like nearly every parent I know, we want the school district at the high school level to come into the 21st century and make school a place focused on learning (not sorting and weeding), on helping each child realize his or her gifts to the world, on giving kids lots of freedom, support, and opportunities to do things at school that are meaningful (not sit sit sit test repeat). If we had had the power to accomplish this, you might have had a much better high school experience. I don't know if you realize this, but the blaming and stereotyping of parents as overly pushy, etc, has been the traditional power play of school administrations.

There are a surprising number of us who believe educational resources in the modern age should be obsoleting homework altogether, and that every day when school dau is over, it should be over -- kids and families should have control of their time until school starts again (no mandatory homework). Parents shouldn't be faced with having to homeschool to give their kids a balanced life.


Like this comment
Posted by _Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 30, 2015 at 11:16 am

_Parent is a registered user.

Dick N./Dickinson,

"To be honest, I considered suicide when I got rejected from Stanford back in 2012."

I am so sorry you went through that. I am glad for whatever helped you stay with us, and I hope things have gotten better for you in life. I am even glad for your speaking out about the pressure and problems you experienced, even though I disagree with the conclusion about parents, I appreciate your perspective.

I do want to make you aware that environmental problems can impact emotional pathways (actual physical environmental issues, such as indoor air problems like hidden mold).

The way it manifests is not "Achoo!, I'm depressed" but, as people feeling more hopeless and sad than they would otherwise, often not understanding why, or worse, blaming whatever is going on for it, even if the blame is out of proportion to events in their lives. In other words, it might make someone more fragile in the face of a rejection or a fight, or make it harder to deal with the ordinary stresses of school. And it wouldn't necessarily get better right away when people graduate because the unhealthy spectrum of microorganisms can colonize human lungs and sinuses especially kids who are vulnerable (not out of the question as so many take things like antibiotics or steroids). It's hard to give examples and keep confidences, but someone who is aware that they face this kind of vulnerability but unable to avoid the environmental influence might be able to analyze a given situation and cool off, and think, "I'm not thinking rationally right now because of that influence" -- but the emotions still roil, it's not like it the feelings go away because of it. (It just helps cope and also know it's possible to improve things.)

We have such environmental conditions in our schools. One issue we have that is specific to California is that we don't insulate buildings very well because it's not very cold here. Unfortunately, the ground and the exterior environment often are cold enough relative to inside temperatures to cause temperature gradients that make surfaces, especially cold concrete slab foundations, sweat the way a glass of cool water will sweat in a warm room. Add to that the respiration humidity of hundreds of kids, the water they track in on their feet, and the organic matter dropping from them that filters into the base of carpeting, and you have a petri dish for hidden mold that ends up in the air anytime kids step or plop down on the carpeting. Carpeting is certainly worse, but not the only kind of material subject to such influences.

Another thing you should know, and that should help, is that a lot of research has been done on the issue of indoor environments and health, and it turns out that ordinary observations such as of musty smells correlate better with health risk to people in the building than expensive testing. (That's not just an opinion, that's the strong scientific consensus based on years of research.) In other words, if you think you might be vulnerable to experiencing depression or attention problems because of environmental reasons, learn to trust your senses, and speak up about it. Also, getting to know someone with mold allergies could be really handy :-)

On that general issue, this is an interesting article about recent reserarch Web Link
(Maybe the cafeteria should serve more yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi! I'm only half joking.)


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