News

With a sense of urgency, board approves mental health funding

Board waives two-meeting rule to bring two licensed therapists to Paly, Gunn

Facing what multiple board members and the superintendent called a public health crisis at Palo Alto's two high schools, the school board voted unanimously Tuesday night to allocate $250,000 in district funds to hire two full-time licensed mental health therapists as soon as possible.

The board waived a two-meeting requirement necessary to take action in order to approve the funds immediately and not wait until the board's next meeting on April 21 after board member Ken Dauber made two motions to take both actions.

"Being able to move quickly to do something when there is a crisis – it's our job," board President Melissa Baten Caswell said prior to the vote.

At Dauber's request, the principals of both high schools provided statistics that demonstrate the extent of the mental health crises on their campuses: There have been 16 Palo Alto High School students hospitalized so far this school year (there were 25 total last year) and 212 students identified as high-risk or at-risk in the four days following a student death by suicide earlier this month, Principal Kim Diorio said. As of last week, 42 Gunn students this year had been hospitalized or treated for "significant suicide ideation," Principal Denise Herrmann said.

"Our mental health team right now is really quite exhausted, as I can imagine Gunn is also feeling," Diorio told the board.

Both principals said the nonprofit Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS), which provides on-campus support at Gunn and Paly through one certified therapist at each campus and a team of interns, is at full capacity. The certified therapist also coordinates and oversees the interns on top of seeing students, Herrmann said.

She added that an additional licensed therapist could lighten that load, as well as support school counselors to do initial assessments of students and take leadership on planning workshops on coping skills, time management and other "upstream" services to support students' mental health and well-being.

"When we've been going through our crisis, it's been very significant when we have licensed (therapists) versus other volunteers and interns," Herrmann said. "We're thankful for every person who comes to our campus, but we definitely know someone who is licensed ... (and) has the training to model groups for us and has the training to do some of those upstream prevention and anti-stress workshops. I see this person being a member of our school counseling team, making sure it's both preventative as well as responsive."

Shashank Joshi, a Stanford University adolescent psychiatrist who has led much of the suicide-prevention work in Palo Alto since 2009, told the Weekly Wednesday that the two new hires will prove crucial not only for treatment, but also prevention.

"I think this is a very important step to take, not only with regard to the difficult year we've had, but also to get needed support for students at earlier phases before distress turns into crisis," Joshi said. "Having more licensed therapists on site, given the size of our high schools, is a needed step as part of a comprehensive school-based suicide prevention and wellness promotion strategy."

Dauber said Adolescent Counseling Services's on-site licensed therapist at Gunn told him that there are students expressing suicidal ideation nearly every day and that staff are overwhelmed and cannot meet the need. He also noted that local private practices are in high demand and full with waiting lists. Joshi said the community does not yet have a "well-designed system" for outside referrals that can meet the current demand.

Diorio also stressed the importance of having a permanent licensed therapist who gets to know the students and school community rather than a person brought in on a temporary, emergency basis.

Baten Caswell said that she wants to make sure that the schedules of ACS and school counselors are not completely full, so there is "some extra breathing room" to give prompt help to both at-risk students and others who need help.

"If it's only always the crisis-situation kids, then we will never get in front of it," Baten Caswell said.

Dauber echoed this earlier in the board's special meeting Tuesday night, urging his colleagues and superintendent to think about potential upstream expenditures as next steps. At a mental health "opinion leaders" conference hosted by the Stanford University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences on March 20, one speaker pointed to the critical need to have in place both "downstream" interventions – mental health treatment and support for depression, anxiety and suicide attempts, for example – as well as "upstream" preventative work.

"These are downstream expenditures," Dauber said of the $250,000 in district funds. "These are designed to catch students who are experiencing symptoms, essentially. We really also need to invest upstream in order to reduce this level of distress," with the most important "upstream" issue being sleep.

Dauber pointed to a letter a group of health professionals recently sent to the board urging that Paly and Gunn start school no earlier than 8:30 a.m., in accordance with a recent American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation.

The letter, first sent to the board on March 18 with 35 signatures, now has 92 signatures from a range of local and regional health professionals, many of whom specialize in sleep or adolescent psychiatry and some of whom are parents of current students in the district.

"We don't have any doctors on the other side telling us that that would be a bad move, and I think in the current crisis that that's the appropriate step," Dauber said.

Dauber has also proposed that the board eliminate academic classes during zero period, a topic of heated debate in the community that will return to the board for discussion at its April 21 meeting.

"The board is also are aware of facts that, due to student privacy, are not shared with the public," Dauber said. "I can't share all of what I know. What I can say is that there are reasons that I am worried about zero period and I believe that if all the facts were publicly known that the public would share my concerns."

Joshi told Dauber that "sleep deprivation cannot be ruled out as having played a role in at least some of our tragedies," Dauber said.

Dauber also suggested the district keep support for staff in mind with many teachers "working with post-traumatic stress symptoms."

"Our staff is also hurting and that's something we need to address in the next step," he said.

Dauber also suggested investing in professional development to educate teachers about the connection between sleep and teen health and to help them redesign courses so that there is less homework, particularly in Advanced Placement (AP) and honors courses.

Board member Heidi Emberling also urged the district to ensure it is providing sufficient mental health support at its elementary schools and to focus on teaching social-emotional learning and coping skills at an early age.

"We have not addressed this in the past with the alacrity and seriousness it needed," Dauber said. "I'm very happy we are taking these steps. I think this is all about stopping tragedies, saving lives and I think we need to keep that in focus."

Board member Camille Townsend requested more information about the role that the two new licensed therapists would serve at Paly and Gunn in the full context of the mental health services currently offered at both the high school and middle school level.

"If you look at part of the picture, it does not help us," she said.

Townsend was wary of putting the funding to a vote before having a more full-fledged report and discussion, but she ultimately voted in support of it after her colleagues indicated support for Dauber's two motions to waive the two-meeting rule and make the $250,000 available now.

Townsend also asked Superintendent Max McGee to look at bringing in an outside agency, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to help the district better evaluate and gather data on the current suicide contagion.

McGee said that these two positions could be filled either by one of the district's partner organizations or from an outside agency, and there is funding available to support that. He also wrote in a staff report for Tuesday's meeting that he plans to recommend at least $500,000 from the district's reserve funds be earmarked for student health and wellness supports.

The new therapists would see students as well as work with school counselors and psychologists, Adolescent Counseling Services staff and teachers to coordinate support, interventions and education on all student mental health issues.

The $250,000 was put to the board as part of several proposed resource allocations for the 2015-16 school year; the board will vote on the rest of the proposals, most of which relate to new staffing throughout the district, on April 21.

Resources: How to help those in crisis

For more coverage on teen well-being, go to the Weekly's Storify page.

Comments

17 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 31, 2015 at 10:23 pm

Reason is a registered user.

As Ms. Walworth described - more bandaids for gunshot wounds. Necessary, Good, but Bandaids.

I did not know that the gunshot wounds were so serious, and that the bandaids are arriving so late. Smells like panic.

It would be really good if they Board got ahead of this issue. NOW.


24 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 31, 2015 at 10:30 pm

You are exactly right. Not to be too cynical but sthe panic is probably more about the parcel tax than the well-being of kids.

They still need to take action on zero period. Therapists are not enough. Get rid of zero period and enforce the homework policy!


7 people like this
Posted by Is this normal?
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 31, 2015 at 10:40 pm

The stats seem high!
This many stressed out students with such severe depression. Why not also implement more positive psychology, meditation, group therapy/social events. So glad that support will be provided to these wonderful students.
Gunn Mom


21 people like this
Posted by 2nd worst board ever
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2015 at 10:47 pm

It's almost like they are reading these comments to determine course of action. You know the $150,000 public relations person is reading all of this, and then Max McGee, but then again, the public relations position should never have been created or refunded. It had had, and will have, no positive effect on student achievement or student safety. It was the last board who approved the position. This board is running for cover after spending its time cheerleading and pushing Measure A on us, while most folks have been hurting and mourning. The approval of this "new" money and positions will do nothing to help. We need a culture change. Ken Dauber opened the door, and we need to show the other four board members the door, and bring in new blood. Specifically, I trust the judgement of the two student reps more than the adults. Folks, get a good look at the second worst board ever in action.


20 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 31, 2015 at 11:06 pm

Reason is a registered user.

@2nd worst board ever: "We need a culture change."

Needed. 4 years ago. Now we need a complete reset at some schools. It is amazing how long it has taken the board to recognize issues brought to their attention years ago. Steering the Titanic at this stage is going to take some serious torque on the rudder.

Here is what they can do: start advocating for the students. I know it seems obvious, because, you know, the student is at the center of their Strategy. But they give this lip service, all the while the classroom experience is NOT placing students at the center of anything.

Culture Change Indeed.

Per classroom engagement surveys, test what you teach, identify teachers that are abusive, and the big demotivators and rubber-room them.

Rubber room the worst, retrain the rest. Make it public. Announce that Measure A money is going to fund replacements that value student engagement.

Start next week, and put them all on notice that from here forward student well-being is more critical than their teaching methodologies. This is not some dumbed-down effort to give everyone 'A's, but rather a serious effort to go after the most abusive, worst teaching practices and get them out of the classroom.

Why? Because if you remove the disengagement, the abusers, and show publicly that you really care about student well-being, it works to prevent the depression and disengagement that is a large source of depression and hopelessness. Eliminate the gunshot wound before you need another bandaid.

#RightNow


7 people like this
Posted by great start
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 31, 2015 at 11:26 pm

Now if they can go to having all (or almost all) full-time, certified, permanent therapists on staff rather than relying on the (more affordable but far less experienced) ACS interns, that would be even better. And btw, the # of at-risk students is likely far higher than what the pricipals reported as many such students responded in other ways than talking to the crisis counselors.


31 people like this
Posted by Been There, Done That
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 1, 2015 at 12:48 am

Why does Townsend want more data? More stalling on a solution? The solution is clear - stop the stress and depression before it occurs!

Teacher evaluations completed by students! Most know who the bad ones are. Or just go to ratemyteachers.com for accurate reviews.

Thank you, Ken Dauber, for your pitbull approach to helping our students. We need a pitbull to talk some sense into this BoE and Superintendent!

@Reason: The last BoE was full of Ivy and elite school graduates so they were fine with more rigor, and in fact, ruled that World Language must be taken for 2 years to graduate from PAUSD (unless petitioned, but that's not publicized). World Language in PAUSD is difficult because no English is allowed in classrooms. Why should a non-academic student have to suffer through World Language? While Dauber has an Ivy League degree, he is the only reasonable member on the BoE who truly cares for our children. Hooray for his dedication!


7 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 2:21 am

I wish there were a way to give the district office a collective shake and say, "It's the TRUST, stupid!"


18 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:18 am

Just being real here --

If you're feeling frightened, you're going to go to someone you trust. Are you going to go to anyone who is part of an organization where people otherwise normally act in a way that demeans you, misjudges you, treats you with little respect or honesty? Are you going to want to go pour your heart out to someone who has the power to turn that interaction into a record you have little practical ability to correct if it is wrong, and involves something as stigmatizing as mental health?

Nothing about the way our district still functions inspires trust. In any circumstance in which something could go wrong, the only thing we are absolutely sure of is that the district's efforts will be for district personnel CYA and digging in on past mistakes, not to do whatever is necessary to be on the side of students. How is hiring more people going to solve that problem? We have many good professionals in the community already, and I think people from outside the district are more likely to be working first in the interests of the students.

Trust is so important to being able to help students who are vulnerable. Hiring more mental health people who will answer to people who aren't trustworthy, in a still overly political and legalistic environment, isn't a good thing to do to vulnerable children and families. This isn't bandaids on a gunshot wound, this is thinking no one will notice the gangrene if they just cover it better til everyone looks away again.

We need to take the mental health needs of our students seriously, urgently. We also need trust, or we will be providing for everyone except those who need the services the most. Camille Townsend is right in a sense -- we should have a third party who will act rationally and sensibly, and actually dialog with families in a trustworthy way, come in to protect students. Oh wait...


5 people like this
Posted by thank you PAUSD Board & principals
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 1, 2015 at 7:18 am

There is a teen mental health crisis all across the US.

"The Child & Adolescent Mental Health Crisis" (Web Link:

"Behavioral and mental health disorders have now surpassed physical health problems as the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in children and adolescents."

"15 million children and adolescents in the U.S. are affected by a mental or behavioral health problem, making prevention and treatment of these disorders a major public health problem."

The challenge: a severe shortage of mental health care providers and the stigma that keeps parents from seeking help for their kids.



The sad stats for the US and PAUSD teens:

sad or hopeless in last 12 months: 30% (US/CDC) - 23% (PAUSD)

suicide ideation: 17% (US/CDC) - 11% (PAUSD)

attempted suicide: 3% (US/CDC) - 3% (PAUSD)

Web Link
Web Link



Short of an emergency, in our town families have to wait a month or two to get an appointment with their child's pediatrician and 6 months beyond that to see the psychiatrist he or she refers them to.

Unacceptable.

So until PAMF hires the mental health doctors needed to meet the demand and our City Council steps in to help its town's teens in a more meaningful way too, our school principals and school board are leading AND funding.

Thank you PAUSD on behalf of the teens who are struggling, and their classmates and the community who cares about them. They all will be helped by your actions last night.


27 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 1, 2015 at 7:28 am

"212 students identified as high-risk or at-risk in the four days following a student death by suicide earlier this month, Principal Kim Diorio said"

At least 10 times that number of students are buried under excessive homework, close to the edge. What are principals, board members, McGee doing to lower the major stress inducers??? What urgent ACTION did they take for controlling and enforcing sane levels of HOMEWORK LOAD and preventing TEST STACKING?


39 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 1, 2015 at 8:05 am

What concerns me is that this is the first time the board is hearing these numbers at all. When Dauber asked Diorio and Hermann for the numbers he clearly knew them already. But the rest of the board didn't. Emberling and Godfrey started crying -- itself incredibly disturbing -- and then everyone rushed to support Dauber's proposals to get the money out faster and let contractors be hired if necessary.

To me this raises 3 questions about McGee's leadership:

1. Why didn't he just give more money to the sites to handle the emergency in the first place. Bob Golton said that the money was just sitting there. "We have this money, no problem," said Bob. OK, why is it "sitting there" when your high schools are literally burning to the ground. One hears these numbers and conjures a mental image of a MASH unit. They are hospitializing suicidal students at each high school at the rate of more than one per week.

And the money is just sitting there. What was McGee doing instead of ensuring that our schools had the resources for school based mental health that they needed? Dauber first asked for school based mental health money more than a month ago, following the Byron's suicide. What did McGee do instead?

2. He planned his junket to Singapore to take students to do "research" when they could have gone across the street to Stanford, and planned his $140,000 "research coordinator" position that will serve 10 select-elite students at the cost of $14,000 each.

That raises some real priority questions. Is he even thinking about the right things? The optics of jetting off to Singapore while the schools are in his own self-admitted "crisis" are jarring.

3. The Board has heard no fewer than three board presentations from district staff in the past several months devoted to student wellness. AT NO TIME did McGee disclose to the board the context for the 'crisis' he finally admitted to yesterday. He never gave the board the statistics, and he has never given them anything other than happy talk about how well the sites are handling the crisis.

We have had story after story about how counselors are being speeded to the sites, etc etc. All happy talk from district staff. If you listened to Brenda Carillo you would think we are elevating suicide response to an art form.

While I don't agree with Townsend about her priors, I do agree with her that the context for the proposal was completely absent. If she merely relied upon the board presentations since the cluster began, which she is fully entitled to do as a board member, she would be stunned that we are basically in a state of collapse.

And this 11th hour demand for a quarter million dollars came from nowhere, with no context again. No information about how many sessions, how many counselors, how many are certificated, how many students in crisis per week or per month, etc. Had Dauber not elicited this she still would not know. Then when he did, half the board started weeping. [Portion removed.]

Townsend actually did something very interesting which was ask for an independent agency review of our situation, perhaps because she has lost confidence in the honesty of the district's board reports. Who can blame her?

McGee has evidently spent the last few months not informing the board of what was going on at the sites, and filled his days with developing fantasy programs for research internships that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and serve once again a select few. Getting these internships is just one more brass ring our kids do not need to grab for. His priorities are broken and his transparency is lacking.

The one bright spot in this meeting is that Caswell took a break from bullying Dauber so that he could finally tell the truth about the medical recommendations on sleep. I was stunned to hear that Dr. Joshi and the HEARD alliance have asked the district to stop teaching classes in zero period.

Folks we have trouble here in River City.


12 people like this
Posted by replace district staff
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 9:33 am

Reality check,

Thank you to Ken Dauber for doing this work.

[Portion removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2015 at 10:05 am

While we can all hope that these changes make a difference, they ignore the number 1 causal factor in Palo Alto.

This is the accessibility of the train tracks.

What should be implemented - by the City, by Caltrain, by whomever is responsible, is:

1. Higher train fences throughout the city.

2. Closing the Churchill crossing entirely.

3. Make East Meadow and Charleston crossings underpasses such as Embarcadero and Page Mill.

Access to a lethal means is the number one predictor of unusually high suicide rates. We need what Caltrain calls "grade separation."



20 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2015 at 11:54 am

My Thoughts is a registered user.

@Reality Check writes: "What concerns me is that this is the first time the board is hearing these numbers at all."

You got to be kidding me.



"Emberling and Godfrey started crying -- itself incredibly disturbing"

I think they should visit some of these kids in the Hospital. It would be a nice gesture.

Then think more about their actions as Board Members.

What the system is doing to our kids is terrible, terrible, and they are either uninformed or uninterested.

Hospitalizing 1 kid/week is terrible. But for every kid hospitalized 10 more are suffering in silence, and 100 more are having these ideas.

Catching all these problems is not going to work with the current methods of band-aid after the fact. The statistics are too many to catch with our safety net.

We need to eliminate the problems which cause the generating of all these issues.


31 people like this
Posted by Another dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 1, 2015 at 11:55 am

We don't need "positive psychology, meditation, group therapy/social events."

Those are just fluff.

What we need is to fix the root problem: stop assigning abusive levels of homework. Stop the insane levels of stress being heaped on kids by the school. Stop ignoring kids when they ask for help with the problem. Stop lying to the kids, telling them "we are going to help" when in fact we're not doing any such thing.

It's so sad, how much we as a society are lying to these teens, and then we all wave our hands around and deny it. "Oh no, not us, we wouldn't hurt our kids" we say. Then we slam them with another 4 hours a night of stupid, meaningless junk homework (which will don NOTHING to help them in a career or even in college). Then we say "oh, well, there is nothing to be done. The state/common core is forcing us to abuse you. Sorry kids"

The kids are committing suicide because they see the stark truth. The schools have become organizations designed to exploit kids, not help them.

All of this so they can raise test scores and get higher funding from the state. Yes kids, it's true. You are being worked into the ground so the school can get more funding and keep the teachers paid. That's your job as kids...to be the bottom of the pecking order. You can't escape...all this is state-mandated. Private school? Nope, too expensive.

Trapped.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 1, 2015 at 12:00 pm

@ Paly Parent:

A less expensive and more expedient solution is to add more "track watchers" at the crossings, as well as stationed along the areas in between the crossings. Lastly, it would also make sense to have at least two very visible track watchers positioned at both the Downtown & Cal Ave. stations.

You can close off every crossing and raise the fence to 15 feet, but you still have two very obvious access points within the city limits and many more north or south of the city limits...with express trains flying through at 50+mph.

By definition, the NYC subway has no crossings or out of the way access points. Yet they experience the same problem on a regular basis (on average every other week).

Will closing the crossings help? Probably. Will it eliminate the problem? Not likely.


2 people like this
Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 1, 2015 at 12:02 pm

"they were fine with more rigor, and in fact, ruled that World Language must be taken for 2 years to graduate from PAUSD (unless petitioned, but that's not publicized). World Language in PAUSD is difficult because no English is allowed in classrooms. Why should a non-academic student have to suffer through World Language? While Dauber has an Ivy League degree, he is the only reasonable member on the BoE who truly cares for our children. Hooray for his dedication!"
Here are the UC application requirements: Web Link Please note that 2 years of foreign language are required.
This article states that the group Dauber founded - We Can Do Better Palo Alto (WCDBPA) - lobbied on behalf of aligning graduation requirements with UC application requirements.
Here's a quote of his he left in a comment he left on an article: (Web Link) "Let's take some of this energy and thinking and send it to the school board. They should hear from the community about our desire to give all of our kids access to an A-G curriculum that prepares them for our public university system."

I wouldn't blame the board -- many lobbied for the change, and while some disagreed with the decision (like myself, and it appears you) they were not as vocal. The little-known "opt-out" claim removed much support for dissenters anyway. But regardless, please reevaluate your past post which seemed to imply that the board made this decision alone and Ken cared for children and therefore didn't because he 'cares for kids,' whereas in reality Ken lobbied to have the board make this decision. In the end, after listening to public input, the Board made it's decision -- it did its job!!


1 person likes this
Posted by C is for Crisis
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 1, 2015 at 12:10 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


5 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 1, 2015 at 12:34 pm

So much misplaced angst/anger for so little reason. Blaming the schools is nonsense. Simply allow educational vouchers, then the parents can choose the school of their choice...public, private, charter or homeschool. Once that solution is provided, the parents will no longer have the option of blaming the schools about teenage suicides, for being too demanding, because they chose the school(and educational approach).

We should not be wasting significant money on crossing guards...it is a false notion of a solution.


5 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2015 at 12:34 pm

@ Crescent Park

The empirical fact is that there have been no teen suicides by train anywhere else in Santa Clara county in the last six years (only data available, don't have data from San Mateo county). There have been numerous other means in SC county.

All but one in that time period in Palo Alto was by train.

Access is too easy right now - it doesn't have to be foolproof to be effective.

No doubt track watch is cheaper and immediate - but permanent infrastructure would be better, especially with more high speed trains.


11 people like this
Posted by outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2015 at 12:35 pm

CDC ;would be great and maybe district attorney or california dept of education to come in and evaluate how teachers are stacking tests, giving information but little instruction and not following state guidelines for evaluations on general and AP classes. ACLU would be interested in the huge achievement gap and lack of children of color or lower income in the high lanes. When the brightest most supported kids have to work and have tutors to maintain a b or and A in these classes, they become only for the rich and well served population. pausd does have to answer to the state. They are a public school, not a private school with their own rules. I am wondering if they are paying for their own lawyers or if they have malpractice type insurance that pays for this. Are tax dollars paying for lawyer fees?

It costs nothing to actually follow up on a problem and give feedback without involving egos.

It is totally free to enforce district and state standards. There just needs to someone to do it who may not be everyone's special friend. For instance, three of my kid's teachers have taken the week off before their week off. They left no lesson plans, just a test for the kids to complete. This would depress the most optimistic child. Why is this allowed? Pay and retirement credits would be docked at other school districts. Any other business would not allow this. The teachers were actually bragging about their trips to the students- this, to me shows lack of support and belligerence.( wouldn't they want to keep their lack of duty to their students and their job a secret?) Would you want to be taking a test while your teacher was in Spain or river rafting or in Disneyland?

The students at Paly and Gunn are going to have many issues through their entire lives and are all at a greater risk for suicide in my opinion. Will there be funds for them when they have their own children and actually see how deeply sad their high school was and how tragic the loss of lives were. I do not think many students are realizing anything now except that nothing has changed for them and they still need to get through this year. They are all still expected to perform while still in shock.

So.. I humbly think that all the kids at both schools should get to be evaluated for finals on a project or an open book test. Any other future years with 3 suicides should also have this as an option. This is free and all kids will benefit

. My quiet, high achieving kid would avoid going to counseling at all costs. This emergency action will not help most kids. There is unclear privacy issues.

I would hope that the parents can see the emperor has no clothes even if some on the board can get (fill in the blank professional ) to say otherwise. This school is only great for tutors bank accounts and for the few that can afford one for each subject.


on a side note. parents pushing for zero period need to be told "no" take on online brigham young class on their own .. or in the summer 2 allowed in 4 years for HS credit.. I know many kids take zero period so they can be in band and choir or art classes for more than 2 years and this is a valid reason to allow some online, easy credit for certain classes. Get rid of the requirement for life skills which is outdated so kids do not have to take zero period to be involved in music. Give the kids life skills credit for pe and music. so many kids have to quit music and art to meet requirements. Music and art for 4 years gives kids a very solid, fun support group and should be protected.



Like this comment
Posted by Another Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 1, 2015 at 1:23 pm

Paly parent, where do you get your information about the number of juvenile train related suicides in Santa Clara county? I'm pretty sure I can remember several in Mountain View over the past few years- and I know there have been some in Redwood
City. I think the CDC figures about suicidal ideation and attempts is very telling- we are not higher than the rest of the country but we have a fatal mechanism available. I would be interested in seeing some statistics about the trains in other cities, but am also curious how well this could be reported, given privacy laws.


1 person likes this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Paly Parent and Another Paly Parent,

I think it's really dangerous to get involved in a comparison with other districts nationally, because this is already such an unusual student population -

1) we aren't exactly an average district - the rates of other kinds of risk-taking and self-destructive behaviors that most districts have problems with, we have almost none of, kids here are really engaged and concerned about the future, and
2) suicide is a growing problem nationally, too, and simply saying we are worse or better than someone else is meaningless or even counterproductive if there are specific things we can do to reduce or prevent the unacceptable depression and suicide we are experiencing.


9 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 1, 2015 at 1:38 pm

I have a daughter at paly who's been acting stressed and angry, who told me she wanted help in some way. I called ACS at paly and was turned away because they are full. This was this week. It's best at the school because them it doesn't disrupt normal life. If you have to choose between getting help and doing your sport, you have to get to a much more severe state - and be able to acknowledge it. If the kid needs a parent to come home from work to go to an appointment... That's needing to jump a much higher hurdle in fear if crying wolf. I hope that makes sense. If help is easier to access, more will be accessed. (Don't blame working parents, that's not the point)


3 people like this
Posted by Another dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 1, 2015 at 1:46 pm

There have been at least 2 teen train suicides in Pleasanton. Same type of school district...crazy pressure, parents largely helpless to protect their kids.


26 people like this
Posted by A Parent, 2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 1:49 pm

I have been a longtime supporter of some of these board members, and have voted for most of them. But I have been genuinely saddened by the words and actions of the senior board members at recent board meetings. We do not need to gather more information before hiring mental health professionals to help us. We don't need to wait for more studies and more discussion and more "input" to take action. With deep respect for all you have done, Camille, these are not the same schools your children knew. I believe that zero period PE (as a freshman or sophomore) worked well for your daughter. But these are not the same schools she attended. My children are only six years apart, and the experience is night and day (in some ways much better, but in terms of constant pressure, competition, stress and work overload,it is much much worse.) I will feel nothing but relief when my PAUSD days are over. Ms. Walworth's letter to the editor should serve as a guidepost for all board members. She seems so upbeat and positive and board meetings. To learn what she really feels, below the surface, is heartbreaking. If you want more surveys and town halls and data collection, by all means do it. But please, please don't wait for every result before taking the most obvious and useful of actions. You can't wait to hear from every "stakeholder" when your stakeholders are dying.


2 people like this
Posted by Another Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 1, 2015 at 1:59 pm

Parent, what are the "risk taking and self destructive behaviors" that other districts suffer from that we don't? If you think we don't have drug use, crazy partying and binge drinking at a high rate in high school, you are not aware. We aren't the victim of gang violence as is in many urban areas, but that is homicide, not suicide.

I don't want to stereotype at all, but our teens are out there taking risks every day. The fact is that the teenaged brain doesn't accept that the risky behavior could result in something bad happening to THEM. That is just plain part of brain development, whether you are engaged or concerned about the future.


15 people like this
Posted by Another Dauber voter
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 1, 2015 at 2:39 pm

I feel so grateful that Ken Dauber is on the board putting our students first. He put up with a lot both before and after the election. His dedication to students is different from any board member I can remember. I'm sure we've had some good ones but I have to go all they way back to Diane Reklis to find someone who fearlessly advocated for students on a very different topic without worrying about being liked by "the powers." Suicide is so much harder and of course he had his own brush with tragedy so that must make it so much worse for him. Thanks for sticking in there Ken. Thanks.

The rest of you get in line.


9 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 1, 2015 at 2:52 pm

it all starts at home. we have this holier than thou Palo Alto mindset when it comes to our children, we all think that we are elite and our children deserve whatever it is that they want or that we want for them. this is unhealthy and unrealistic--but, it is what we demand. i say children need to learn the right/ wrong of situations and not expect to be given everything just because... this causes a lot of self-pressure, peer pressure, and confusion when things don't go the way a child is accustomed. therein lies a major portion of the problem.


23 people like this
Posted by HR
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 1, 2015 at 2:57 pm

I place blame on real estate agents advertising in foreign countries and supporting AP and Honors programs so the schools look better (schools are often "graded" based on these statistics) . Greed is causing the cultural change in this community. That change has put a larger emphasis on academics rather than a well rounded education.


16 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 1, 2015 at 3:01 pm

Sorry, $250K for a couple of therapists doesn't cut it. Academic zero period needs to go and the policies on homework need to be enforced.

It's also pretty clear from what Dauber said that, yes, at least one of the suicides (or attempted suicides) involved a student who was in a zero period class.

Calling for an investigation by the CDC strikes me as a stalling tactic on Townsend's choice--it's clear from her earlier comments and correspondence that she opposes ending the academic zero period. I think Townsend's ego is very, very tied up in the academic prestige of Palo Alto.

Her comment "We've lived through this before," really kind of shocked me. No, Camille, we *didn't* all live through this before. Those children are *dead*. They're not coming back. Never. They're gone.

They didn't live through it. And they mattered. Those 212 kids at high risk MATTER.


3 people like this
Posted by PAUSD Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Thank you for adding the therapists. This will not fill the gap but it will certainly provide greater support to those families and students who can leverage these services in the future.

In addition, hopefully the new therapists can provide valuable feedback to adminsitration, staff, teachers, and community.

Our community needs better mental health options.


2 people like this
Posted by keep zero period
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 1, 2015 at 3:35 pm


Since we know exactly which kids are at-risk, why can't we just NOT allow at-risk kids to take zero period and let risk-free kids take zero period if they want. The best of both worlds.


2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 1, 2015 at 3:45 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

I agree with "keep zero period" - don't start using this as an excuse to take choice away from students. What's more demoralizing than disempowerment?


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Posted by Accuracy
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2015 at 3:50 pm

Opar

Camille's actual quote was "We lived through suicide clusters before and dealt with it." The reporter's quote was incorrect, and left the improper impression.

Your verbal sparring is misinformed.


4 people like this
Posted by Julia
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2015 at 3:50 pm

"Blaming the schools is nonsense. Simply allow educational vouchers, then the parents can choose the school of their choice...public, private, charter or homeschool. Once that solution is provided, the parents will no longer have the option of blaming the schools about teenage suicides, for being too demanding, because they chose the school(and educational approach)."

Leave it to Craig Laughton to cut through the Gordian knot. He gets it, and is not afraid to express the truth. Our schools are not at fault. If there is any fault, it our genes and our insistence that our kids all get a college education.

Thank you, Craig.


19 people like this
Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 1, 2015 at 3:56 pm

I think the official bird of Palo Alto should be the ostrich. Sand, meet head.

@keep zero period
"Since we know exactly which kids are at-risk, why can't we just NOT allow at-risk kids to take zero period and let risk-free kids take zero period if they want." Because the premise of your statement is wrong. All kids are facing higher risk, we don't know which ones are particularly high risk, and the thing they are at risk of is death.

@Slow Down
"What's more demoralizing than disempowerment?" Death.

@Accuracy
"Camille's actual quote was "We lived through suicide clusters before and dealt with it." The reporter's quote was incorrect, and left the improper impression." Why is this better? We didn't deal with it. Look around you.


19 people like this
Posted by roots
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:02 pm

So much anger and vituperation on this forum. None of it helpful. The problems we face are deep, systemic, cultural, and complex. The ranting about getting rid of the school board and the blame being heaped on teachers and the schools just adds to the angst our teens feel. They read this space as well, and they feel the rage of the small angry horde here. Why? we ask. Why are our children so stressed and pressured? There is not a simple answer. But they feel the rage here, and it does nothing but add to the stress and angst. There are a few people on this forum who are using this platform to vent about relatively single-issue beefs with particular teachers or administrators; this does nothing but fan the flames of anger and stress. Remember, your children can feel your anger, even if you don't talk about it directly with them. They will carry it with them for the rest of their lives, long after they have forgotten about what a meanie that chemistry teacher was in high school. It is like a brand or an invisible tattoo. Think long and hard about the energy of anger and fear that you send out into the world; your innocent child sits right there, absorbing it. The model you provide and the energy you are sending out at them is what they will adopt and remember. Its roots go deep.

All that said, it is worth remembering that in Palo Alto we are at the pulsing, beating heart of the most potent and influential juggernaut of power, information, data, and wealth on the planet. THIS PLACE is where it happens. It's where the Stanford incubator gives sustenance to the next generation of tech and data and finance power brokers and the most elite wealth on the planet. The kids know this. They can feel it. And they feel pressured to succeed in this environment, sometimes by their parents, sometimes by their peers, sometimes by their teachers. That is an ungodly amount of pressure for anyone to deal with, let alone a 15-year old who is desperate to please his/her parents and teachers and gain the approval of peers.

What can we do to help? Love them for being exactly who they are, not who they will be if they get into the right school, or have the right SAT score, or take 5 APs, or become a star athlete, or create the next killer app. Love them instead of being so angry, and fearful, and resentful. Love them and forgive them if they screw up and fail a class or just decide that they don't want to try out for that team. Love them and let them be kids. Just love them. And forgive yourself if you can't control the world and make it all better for them. That's not your fault either.


8 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:04 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

This really bears repeating. As an emergency message, @outsider writes:

"...all the kids at both schools should get to be evaluated for finals on a project or an open book test. "



Immediate action should be taken to announce NOW, that upcoming finals will be either open-book, or optional (with grades based on pre-final work), or oral exams.

Student's choice.

Should be announced well in advance, before finals-cramming pressure starts.

There are a number of mechanisms that teachers could be doing to relieve the current powderkeg pressure in the school.

I would hate to lose any more students this year.

And the school can decompress long enough to focus on strategies to eliminate pressurizing students.


2 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:09 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

@roots recommends we ignore the problems: " Love them and forgive them if they screw up and fail a class or just decide that they don't want to try out for that team. Love them and let them be kids. "


And beat the unholy crap out of those that harm them, abuse them, and drive them to suicide.

Or vote NO on Measure A. <-- I'll take the more peaceful route for now.


2 people like this
Posted by Accuracy
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:11 pm

Re: Gunn Parent

If the fundamental problem is contagion, the recommended solutions are:
- Avoid high profile coverage of the events,
- Limit access to similar means,
- Intervene with high risk individuals.

I'll leave it to you to judge how well the media and this discussion work toward these recommendations.


9 people like this
Posted by Come TOGETHER.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:14 pm

I wish everyone would get out of their combative corners and start working collaboratively with and for the kids. Please stop pointing fingers and laying blame. We should all be asking, "What productive thing have I personally done this week to help kids in our district besides poke blame at others?"

My high school senior went into the year excited to be a senior, but the suicides were devastating to her and her community. Suicide clusters are a contagion. I know a couple of the families of these kids. People make a lot of unbased assumptions, but these were impulsive decisions made by kids for very individual reasons. A key problem is that we have at-grade train tracks at the center of our community. This presents an easy opportunity for kids who struggle with depression. Combine that with impulsivity and the contagion of a cluster. It has been hard. These suicides are highly visible because of the way the kids are doing it—on the tracks at the center of the community in a cluster.



We have two high schools in Palo Alto. Each has about 2,000 students. As you can imagine, the experiences these students have widely varies. This is a school district that resides in a community with Stanford University at the heart of Silicon Valley—with more PhDs per capita than most cities on the planet. This naturally creates a highly competitive academic environment.


Overall, I feel like my kids are learning and getting opportunities to try various art, music and athletic activities. These are good things. It’s competitive. That has real up- and down-sides. I think the [portion removed] tone of this thread is completely unhelpful to problem-solving. Let's start talking like grown-ups. I think adding the support of additional therapists can't hurt. It may help. I hope families who need them will be encouraged to use this new resource. Thank you, PAUSD, for taking this action.

Let's all breathe deeply, love our children, and speak in civil tones. Make sure we have your facts straight before we speak. Our children are listening and learning as they observe how we solve community problems together.

By the way, my daughter (a Gunn student), just read this, and she agrees.







Like this comment
Posted by Come TOGETHER
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:17 pm

Thank you, Accuracy. My reading indicates that this is correct.

If the fundamental problem is contagion, the recommended solutions are:
- Avoid high profile coverage of the events,
- Limit access to similar means,
- Intervene with high risk individuals.

I'll leave it to you to judge how well the media and this discussion work toward these recommendations.


1 person likes this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:18 pm

I wonder....... if the root problem is the parents who are pushing their children to enhance and to protect the family honor. Sports? The sport that features individual achievement ,not one which involves teamwork where the student is 'lost in the crowd'. The musician who is not 'first chair violin' but sitting in row three - or four. (hours of after school practice to move up a row). The flutist or cellist who is part of the team in the back row and not a star... The parents don't say "look , that's MY daughter".... A team sport is not as family-enhancing as track or swimming or tennis. It is how may trophies adorn the mantel! Think about it. Go to some events and see the 'star-culture'. - and watch the audience. Maybe it isn't the schools' but it is the home-atmosphere. After-school tutors, Saturday morning classes, ballet, music lessons , tennis instruction. Just drive past the Palo Alto Golf Course on a Saturday or Sunday or after school and see who is getting lessons or practicing.


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Posted by keep zero period
a resident of Southgate
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:18 pm


@Gunn parent

The article stated that the schools know the 212 kids who are at-risk or high risk thus the others are risk-free. They actually have names. I bet if you approached them and told them they couldn't have zero period because they are at-risk they would say "No no, I'm not at-risk. Where did you get that from?" And we would say that we know better than you.

And The Academy of Pediatrics states that the increased risk is of negative impact due to sleep deprivation which includes being tardy to your first period class (sleeping through your alarm), falling asleep during class, drowsiness during the day, depression, suicide, decline in academic performance and several others. They lumped them all together in their recommendation. Something Mrs. Fletcher, Fairmeadow's Science Teacher, told our elementary kids repeatedly that you shouldn't mingle your variables with scientific analysis; but for The American Academy of Pediatrics it wouldn't have the same punch so they lumped it all under one category. But people continue to think studying at 7am is killing our teens.


6 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:25 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

@keep: "The article stated that the schools know the 212 kids who are at-risk or high risk thus the others are risk-free. They actually have names."


While the list is high in specificity (they have 212 specific names), it is low in confidence. Do they have all the names? Are more kids becoming high-risk as we approach finals? Do you trust the accounting and tracking? Who determines high vs. medium risk? What if they got the wrong determination?

What if the kid does not trust the schools, and come forward to identify?

Most of the at-risk is identified due to students coming forward. Many have learned distrust through years of dealing with the schools, abusive teachers, psych evaluations that deny IEP/504 services, principals that deny support during prior years/previous crisis.

You see, in an environment of retaliation and distrust, the students don't self identify. Even in a perfect environment, many won't identify and will work very hard to mask any problems.


So while the school has a specific list, it is very hard to believe it is complete. Forming a strategy around this imperfect list is going to miss many cases.


1 person likes this
Posted by keep zero period
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:31 pm


"So while the school has a specific list, it is very hard to believe it is complete. Forming a strategy around this imperfect list is going to miss many cases."

Yes and forming a strategy around no list is going to eliminate CHOICE, chipping away at freedom and the American way.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Professorville

on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:33 pm

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


2 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:38 pm

@keep

And who said satire wasn't the original American art form? Well played, sir.


2 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:39 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

@keep zero fails to imagine different solutions: "Yes and forming a strategy around no list is going to eliminate CHOICE, chipping away at freedom and the American way."


I don't see how that is the case. There are many many things that can be done to relieve the pressure in the school that don't erode choice, don't degrade the quality of learning, and have nothing but positive outcomes.

For example, if you eliminate zero period, maybe they add 8th period as optional late in the day. [Portion removed.] Or maybe you take VPA classes outside of school. Choice is the one thing we have in abundance.

Aside from zero period, there are many things that can relieve student pressure during normal school hours as well.

But forming a strategy that assumes perfect knowledge of the at-risk population is likely to miss the mark


12 people like this
Posted by Recall Townsend
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:40 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:43 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

[Post removed.]





3 people like this
Posted by keep zero period
a resident of Atherton
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:49 pm

@My Thoughts

But if kids are doing ANYTHING at 7am besides sleeping, didn't we miss the point of the AAP. So it's just studying that is dangerous at 7am?


14 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:54 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

Sure - let them sleep. [Portion removed.] There is no loss of choice - you can choose to do classes elsewhere, you can choose to go to a private school, you can choose to wake early.

It is a myth to imagine that the school placing limits translates into someone barging into your home to remove freedom, flags and choice. Your legal right to choice is not impaired; just one of your state-funded choices is gone. Go fund your own choice if it is that precious to you.


17 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Ten percent of the entire school at Paly is on the high risk for suicide list.

My blood ran cold when I read Dauber's quote about information the board has that the public does not have. Of course, that means Townsend and the rest of these do-nothings have it too. So, message received. I wish we could Recall them, but all we can really do is vote no on Measure A unless then get rid of zero period and enforce the homework limits.

I agree with Recall Townsend. The zero period insanity has to end now.


1 person likes this
Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:59 pm

"Greed is causing the cultural change in this community."

Bingo; thank you.


12 people like this
Posted by Thank you
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 1, 2015 at 5:00 pm

My Thoughts, thank you. I would rather not be paying for a practice in our schools that may have actually contributed to the death of a child, no matter how many [portion removed] are behind it.


4 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2015 at 5:09 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

Perhaps NO on Measure A will constrain financing enough that they will stop paying for an extra period (zero-period) for a small minority of students.


No on Measure A.

We pay less, so that more can live.


9 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 1, 2015 at 5:11 pm

Accuracy,

How is the correct version of Camille Townsend's comment an improvement?
"We lived through suicide clusters before and dealt with it."

No, by definition, if there's a suicide cluster, let alone clusters, we did NOT all live through it. Those children are dead. For Townsend to have said that implies that those dead kids weren't part of Townsend's "We"--just who is part of Townsend's "We" is a good question. She's shown more than once an us v. them attitude that's undesirable in a school board member. She has her pet causes, but little interest in looking at the larger picture as to what is good for all the children of the community.

And since we're have a second suicide cluster during Townsend's tenure how is that we've "dealt with it"--because clearly how ever that was didn't work to well. Not when 212 kids are considered to be at high risk.

Oh, but excuse me--that has nothing to do with the schools. It's just *all* of those bad parents out there. (AKA--blaming the victim).

This is *not* about verbal sparring, it's about getting the school district to take some damn responsibility about an untenable situation and make some substantive changes.

Keep Zero Period,

Logic is not your strong suit. That 212 kids have been identified as high risk, hardly means that the others are risk-free. If 212 people are identified as having cancer does that mean no one else will get cancer? [Portion removed.]

The American way includes the rule of law. Are you free to murder people without repercussions? No. Do we have seatbelt laws? Yes. We have all sorts of rules about public safety. Furthermore, our public schools already have lots of rules about curriculum and behavior. Elminating zero period is not some big incursion on choice--that *this* is the argument your side uses shows just how little merit there is to the whole thing.

It wasn't supposed to be there. It's only been there three years. It can go. Its absence won't kill anybody. Its presence on the other hand . . .


3 people like this
Posted by keep zero period
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Apr 1, 2015 at 5:11 pm

@My Thoughts

That's EXACTLY what Gunn High School did two years ago barring 5 minutes. School use to start at 7:55am and long before AAP's Aug 2014 recommendation, Gunn was ahead of the game. 100% of Gunn kids get to start at 8:25am. We did it. Only 15% of the high schools in the nation have done what Gunn has done. But 299 kids are given the chance, if they want, to 'ride their horse' by taking a zero period class. It is completely optional. If they don't like it they can even stop mid-year.

These kids are getting up to study, to learn. And some are taking really hard classes even. They are not getting up to do drugs at this hour. They are not drinking and driving at this hour. No bullying, raping, sexual assaults. Nobodies up. They can't even text or play video games because all their friends are sleeping. But this is BAD. Studying at midnight, ok! Studying till 2am, ok. Where do you draw the line? When does it turn from 'ok' to 'forced sleep'. What would Malala say? She took a bullet in the head to stand up for educational rights of women. Aren't we restricting educational rights.

Even the AAP recommendation states 'most' or 'on average'. They never say ALL.

But now a strong vocal group [portion removed] want to take our CHOICE away.


8 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 1, 2015 at 5:16 pm

OK, they've jumped the shark.

"What would Malala say? She took a bullet in the head to stand up for educational rights of women. Aren't we restricting educational rights."

Malala would probably say that you should go to statistics class [portion removed] because you make no sense.


13 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 1, 2015 at 5:26 pm

Hogwash Keep,

You are not addressing the basic logical flaws in your argument. Fact: there are always regulations and laws in place that restrict choice. The American Way is due process, not unfettered choice.

Fact: we have a very high rate of suicide and suicidal ideation among our high school students.

Fact: research shows that adolescents, for *biological* reasons have a melatonin cycle that means being a night owl is easier than being a lark.

Fact: sleep deprivation has serious consequences--cognitively, emotionally and physically.

Fact: the students taking zero period have not been shown to be biologically different than their peers. Nor has it been shown that they are, somehow, the exception to the rule and are the only Palo Alto teens getting nine hours of sleep a night.

Fact: Maintaining the academic zero period runs counter to the AAP, whose members, unlike you, are actually trained in this sort of thing.

But, hey, if you want, make your case. And I mean really make it. Prove that the kids taking zero period are getting the recommended amount of sleep. Just start there.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 5:36 pm

There are many things that we don't have freedom to choose.

We can't choose to drink and drive.

We can't choose to buy prescription drugs without a prescription.

We can't choose to drive on the left side of the road as they do in many other countries.

Some things are not good choices and we don't have a choice and should not have a choice to do them.


Like this comment
Posted by keep zero period
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 1, 2015 at 5:37 pm


@OPar

forced sleep: Really?


4 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2015 at 5:39 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

I think Malala would say that eliminating a public-funded option in a society where YOU are allowed to privately fund your choices

IS NOT THE SAME AS TAKING A BULLET FOR GIRLS TO GET ANY EDUCATION AT ALL.


You see, it is different. You still have choices. You can pay for whatever class you want at any hour you want.

Whereas Pakistani girls did not have choices - they really faced bullets because they tried to go to any school. Nobody is shooting you. Nobody is saying you cannot go to school. We just aren't going to fund your play-time at 7am. Go hire a tutor and do your learning on your own nickel.

[Portion removed.]


23 people like this
Posted by Another dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 1, 2015 at 5:39 pm

Actually I disagree with a previous poster. I don't want this to be a "nice" discussion. I don't want to "COME TOGETHER"

We have a crisis. Kids are dying. We need strong, immediate action, not more talk.

The people in charge are negligent and they are putting the entire district at risk. We need to make executive changes. At any organization, any corporation, there would have been heads rolling LONG before now. Time to start demanding change.

1. Vote down A
2. Demand that Max McGee resign.
3. Get rid of zero period. Does that remove choice? Too bad. This is a crisis, and sometimes that means strong measures. This is an important lesson for students...sometimes you have to act.
4. Start enforcing homework limits, with harsh measures if needed.
5. Start holding this school district responsible for the safety and mental health of students. Either the district does this voluntarily, or they will be forced to do so by lawyers in a much less pleasant way.


2 people like this
Posted by Dauber-Reklis voter
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2015 at 5:51 pm

I proudly voted for Ken and Diane. Diane was 30 years ago, but she was fearless. Took on a board majority that voted to close Gunn, including Joe Simitian. Forced them to reverse themselves by having an election. Knew her stuff backwards and forwards.

One of the great school board members of my time.


1 person likes this
Posted by it's the sleep
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 1, 2015 at 6:07 pm

"Dauber has also proposed that the board eliminate academic classes during zero period, a topic of heated debate in the community that will return to the board for discussion at its April 21 meeting."

And what about non-acedemic classes?! The point behind zero period is that the students have to attend school and loose sleep. This has NOTHING to do with whether the class is academic or not. Why do we have to keep putting up with the hypocrisy of this board. We have all health professionals telling us that lack of sleep is a factor in depression and instead of the board members doing something about it, we get toned down responses such as "oh, we only have to eliminate academic classes".
Get a grip board members. You were elected for change not for hypocrisy.


5 people like this
Posted by experience
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 6:13 pm

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Sarah1000
a resident of Los Altos
on Apr 1, 2015 at 6:19 pm

I'm a member of the newly-formed SELPA 1 CAC subcommittee on mental health and a Los Altos parent whose son was hospitalized last summer for having a suicide plan. I have attended your community events for the past three weeks. Please when your district does something right-like funding these two positions- say it is awesome and, say, it would be even more awesome if one of the two therapists were Asian and Mandarin-speaking so that part of your community would feel included. (The 20 yr old Sunnyvale man who took his life last weekend was Asian as well.)
And please just organize as a community and build the fence. Meet for coffee. Contact all PTA presidents and find out which construction companies have donated time and supplies to the schools. Pick a weekend in May. Get it done before finals. It's not rocket science (and some of you might be rocket scientists).
My group is working on getting a comprehensive adolescent psych program in our county.
Together we can all make a difference. I know it's been frustrating but this Board decision was a step in the right direction!


9 people like this
Posted by experience
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 6:33 pm

roots,

How is your post helpful? Let's see... Your post comes across as: This problem is too hard to do anything about. Don't blame the school administrators, they can't do anything. Blame the parents.

It would be laughable except more children will die, and more families will endure the dishonest harm caused by a few incompetent administrators behaving badly.

I just spoke with another parent today whose child experienced what amounts to bullying by adults in the school, something we've experienced, too. That's behavior by adults at school who don't act like responsible adults and all by themselves destroy trust kids WANT to place in them, that we adults WANT to place in them. You think our kids are too stupid to know when adults they spend all day with bully them and treat them in an untrustworthy way? How do you think it feels for a child to have that kind of experience of school, then to be told to go to those same people when vulnerable? And you think you can someone blame this on parents not hiding it well enough when they are being lied to and bullied themselves by the same district people as they try to help advocate for their kids?

Stop twisting yourself in a pretzel to blame parents. There are serious problems with a few of our district leaders. [Portion removed.]

If anything, us parents have the unpleasant task of trying to cover up for adults at school behaving badly and have to deal with the consequences of how unsafe our children feel because the adults they go to school with make them feel unsafe.

[Portion removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by experience
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 6:40 pm

Sarah1000,

I appreciate your volunteering, but please do NOT assume parents in this district have not tried that kind of approach over and over and over and over and over and over and over -- and gotten HAMMERED every time.

Sometimes there really are individuals to blame. Charles Young's job is to deal with problem situations, but he finds it easier to try to push any families who might cause him problems out the door. Really.

Attending some of our meetings doesn't make you an expert on what has happened here, and telling us to try the ineffective approach that gets us nowhere isn't helping. If it were, we wouldn't be going through this now.


10 people like this
Posted by experience
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 6:44 pm

Another Dad,

I agree with you. Except not that McGee should resign. [Portion removed.]

And then he should find some replacements who are energetic, hardworking, ethical, and who know how to put the kids first. The rest will take care of itself.


2 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 1, 2015 at 6:51 pm

Dear P.A. Onliners,

In “a crisis situation”—as our Superintendent has now termed it—our interventions should be the most effective ones possible. Bringing mental health therapists to the schools, though, will be of scant use.

With its determined focus on mental illness (implying that the way the schools are run makes little difference), the District front office stigmatizes its own sufferers, by suggesting they’re a different kind of human being, oblivious to their surroundings.

But even a child in despair knows the difference between foul and fresh air, labor and rest, a slap and a caress.

All of our mental-health “cavalry to the rescue”—including on the heels of each death— suggest to kids that the flaw is not in the administering of their school-day but somehow in them, in their personalities.

(To bring about change in the school-day, change in the way our high schools are run, visit: www.savethe2008.com.)

And Project Safety Net’s original report to the District says it all: their 2010 forums elicited “the strong expression by youth that, in times of need or concern, they will only reach out to adults with whom they are familiar.”

I would italicize that word: "only."

This doesn’t include add-on therapists—even those in a school office somewhere all day—just as it doesn’t include administrators or our (vastly outnumbered) guidance counselors.

With whom are our kids familiar? Their teachers.

But now Gunn’s teachers—long tried by sorrow, overworked, under siege—are talking about leaving. Some with strong opinions in town may feel of departing teachers, “Good riddance.”

If we let this happen, though, we’ll further rend the school’s social-emotional fabric, placing our own kids in deeper peril.

Sincerely,

Marc Vincenti
Gunn English Dept. (1995-2010)
Co-Founder, with Gunn sophomore Martha Cabot
“Save the 2,008”



4 people like this
Posted by Sarah1000
a resident of Los Altos
on Apr 1, 2015 at 7:50 pm

Experience- I did not mean to come off as I know what is happening in your district and that I have "the" answer and I apologize for doing so.
I am a parent who has been active in SELPA 1 (which includes Palo Alto, Mt. View and Los Altos) for over ten years. My son was first diagnosed with major depressive disorder at the age of eight and I have had many close relatives commit suicide. Through my son's illness and his hospitalization, I have become personally aware of what mental health resources are and are not available in our community. These therapists could be a great resource for teens in crisis. Through the MVLA district my son has a "case manager" who he checks in with daily. She is his go-to person who looks out for him on campus and helps resolve any issue he has. He also has had a therapy session once a week with the same psychologist on campus for the last two years. By the way, he is a straight A student. These are services MVLA offers to any student and over 400 students are active in this therapeutic program.
Please support what could be a meaningful step in the right direction.


10 people like this
Posted by Rovers
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2015 at 8:38 pm

This article and comments are so frustrating to read. I agree with "Another Dad." How is it possible that the administrators have a magic list of 212 at-risk students? Is my son on it? He's a freshman at Gunn. Most kids who are in trouble don't say anything and adding a couple of therapists is useless and after-the-fact. Ever deal with the actual counselors and administrators they have now at Gunn? They are not helpful in the least. I had one interaction this year with them -- AFTER the first child died on the tracks -- and the answer I got to my particular concern was, "well the world is competitive so it's good to get used to it." It's like the complete opposite of the happy talk in the school district press releases. I wish I'd recorded the conversation. I get so sick of the self promoting propaganda from the school admin and school board. I told my son to suck it up and keep his head down and soon high school will be over and it gets much better after that.


4 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 1, 2015 at 8:43 pm

Keep Zero,

See, the funny thing is that you don't have to force anyone to sleep. Given a chance, adolescents will get sufficient sleep.

I'll take your lack of any other answer as a sign that the kids taking zero period are not, in fact, getting nine hours of sleep a night and are, thus, susceptible to the ill-effects associated with insufficient sleep.


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Posted by roots
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 1, 2015 at 9:25 pm

@experience:

At the risk of repeating myself:

"Love them instead of being so angry, and fearful, and resentful."


2 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 9:41 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by keep zero period
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 1, 2015 at 10:14 pm


"See, the funny thing is that you don't have to force anyone to sleep. Given a chance, adolescents will get sufficient sleep."

Then why does the AAP need to make a recommendation if our adolescents get sufficient sleep.

And I just got back from Gunn's Choir Concert. I didn't see any at-risk. I just saw AWESOME.


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Posted by R Wray
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 1, 2015 at 10:27 pm

There is no "crisis" of PA teen suicide; PA's rate is less than the national average. But never let a crisis go to waste as they say. The taxpayer always pays.


4 people like this
Posted by Green mom/Silvia
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2015 at 11:01 pm

Thank you to all who are concerned and are working to help change the course of Palo Alto's tragic trend. To cut the problem at its buds, and to change the culture and prevent more tragedies, a radical change must be made; NO MORE TRACKS AND NO NEED FOR APS" Sorting out children according to their perceived intellect is detrimental and hurts them" How can one feel motivated to learn, connected and valued, if one has been classified as less capable? How can one feel he/she has something to contribute, if one needs to compete with their peers/friends for the "best places"? If getting recognized by others as "being smart" becomes more important than actually wanting to learn, and a matter of life and death (in terms of status,at least if not worse)?
All high school students are capable of good quality courses. Students with more interest in a subject can be given more material, and students lagging behind can be given more support. This is more work for the teachers, yes, but we got it wrong until now: Lets think on the students convenience, not the teacher's convenience.


3 people like this
Posted by experience
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 11:03 pm

Our rate of other teenage risk factors are proportionately FAR lower. Why then isn't our suicide rate? You can't compare. Your comment is unhelpful and nonsensical. Comparing rates as an excuse to do nothing is like saying, our rate of teen motor vehicle deaths is no worse than nationally and therefore we don't need to teach kids not to text or drink and drive. Kids lives are at stake.


@roots,
Not only do I love my kid, according to my kid, our advocacy and love has been life and sanity saving and a sanctuary. I wish we could have homeschooled because it's so heartbreaking to have to send a child back to school who is begging to be homeschooled.

Do you mean love the people who lie to us, abuse our time, our child's emotional health, manipulate for their own personal political purposes? I do try to forgive. It doesn't mean I am going to confuse an unethical D-player with an A-player or want them to continue having anything to do with children.



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Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 1, 2015 at 11:36 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@opar "Fact: research shows that adolescents, for *biological* reasons have a melatonin cycle that means being a night owl is easier than being a lark."

The real fact is that 7-16% of adolescents go through delayed sleep phase. That means a vast majority don't. What might differentiate Palo Alto from some other cities is the number of kids with smartphones, tablets, laptops which also affect sleep (both through light, and distraction). Regardless zero period isn't the problem. You'd do better to ignore zero period, and try to get period one made optional as well so the truly sleep deprived could start at 9. More option, more choice, more empowerment. Otherwise you are just another version of a controlling tiger parent.

Web Link


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Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 1, 2015 at 11:48 pm

Reason is a registered user.

@R Wray downplays what is a very serious crisis: "There is no "crisis" of PA teen suicide; PA's rate is less than the national average. "

I believe this to be mistaken.

From the article above, we have 16 (Paly) and 42 (Gunn) hospitalizations for mental health reasons in 3 months.

This is a rate of 58/4000 students in 3 months, or 232/4000 in a year. Some cases are certainly under-reported, and the Gunn numbers include both hospitalizations and treatments. Let's say this is still roughly accurate.

That is an annual rate of 5800/100,000 population.

The NIMH reports rates in the U.S. at 969/100,000 population.

So Palo Alto is something like 6x the national average.

Web Link

So, yes, this is a crisis. A crisis with disastrous outcomes for many students. The rates of actual suicide are typically about 1/10 of hospitalizations. So do the math and we are looking at a very serious problem here.


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 2, 2015 at 8:09 am

Alphonso is a registered user.

It seem to me than the mental health funding should be reported, but the cumulative impact of all of this suicide discussion will just lead to more suicides. I understand the PA Online needs to make money by having people read and respond to stories, but that may be contrary to what is best for the students needing help. People opt for dramatic suicides (trains, bridges,planes) because they think there will be a reaction. Please close this comment thread and as you do so erase this comment.


13 people like this
Posted by parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 2, 2015 at 8:09 am

parent2 is a registered user.

The recent disclosure that Max McGee has worked behind the scenes with teachers, parents, and students to preserve zero period while assuring the board that he was bringing an unbiased presentation to them on April 21 (and even working behind the scenes to "delay" that presentation are alarming.

Also alarming is McGee's ongoing willingness to ignore the ballooning list of doctors who are advising the district to discontinue zero period classesincluding the district's own consulting psychiatrist and the HEARD Alliance.

McGee declared a mental health crisis, yet ignores the clear warning of our mental health doctors.

Instead, he writes to a teacher behind the back of the board that he blames parents for not "putting teens to bed," when the doctors are telling him that the schools should not create the risk by offering early classes. That's a risk that one board member, in a rare moment of transparency, said this about:

"Dauber has also proposed that the board eliminate academic classes during zero period, a topic of heated debate in the community that will return to the board for discussion at its April 21 meeting.

"The board is also are aware of facts that, due to student privacy, are not shared with the public," Dauber said. "I can't share all of what I know. What I can say is that there are reasons that I am worried about zero period and I believe that if all the facts were publicly known that the public would share my concerns."

Joshi told Dauber that "sleep deprivation cannot be ruled out as having played a role in at least some of our tragedies," Dauber said."

I wonder how many of those hospitalized students were enrolled in zero period or early classes/practices/activities?

That is why we need to stick to our guns about Measure A. It would be great if McGee would get rid of the zero period distraction he has created, stop putting students at risk, and allow the community to take doctors' advice and move on.

I would like to support Measure A. And the sooner this district takes suicide prevention seriously, by following the advice of doctors even when it inconveniences the squeaky wheel parents [portion removed.]

Until then, NO ON MEASURE A. For principles to mean something you have to be willing to sacrifice behind them. You have to make what John Lewis called "good trouble."

Using our power as taxpayers makes "good trouble" for the system. It disrupts the idea of business as usual and forces the system into reconsidering the decisions it is making which are ethically and morally lost.

It will help the school board to find its compass.

[Portion removed.]

#RightNow





3 people like this
Posted by Sarah1000
a resident of Los Altos
on Apr 2, 2015 at 8:46 am

Sarah1000 is a registered user.

Alphonso- These students are choosing the train as a suicide method because they want to ensure that they die. It's called "overkill". It is common in people who "hang on" until they can't "hang on" any longer. It is different than a cry for help suicide attempt through something like a pill overdose. A deeply depressed suicidal teen cannot think past their depression to envision notoriety beyond death.


11 people like this
Posted by parent2
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 2, 2015 at 9:01 am

parent2 is a registered user.

I think it was a fair criticism of an unnamed City Council member who wants half-measures on suicide. Rather than give my summation of his views, let's let the man speak for himself. As a member of the City Council Filseth surely knew that his letter would become public, so he is clearly not ashamed of his view and does not mind if it is shared with the voters and parents.

Filseth characterizes the 100 doctors who have advised the district that zero period is a health hazard due to its effect on sleep deprivation, as well as the over 60,000 member physicians of the American Academy of Pediatrics as "a few gung-ho people" intent on "dumbing down the entire curriculum" by eliminating zero period.

He urges the board not to "cave" to these doctors, who he dismisses as the "'save our kids' minority." Such efforts to "save our kids" are harmful, according to Filseth, to the top 5-10%, which is where Filseth locates his own child, and whom he says that the district poorly serves. His child, he brags, took 13 AP classes and took zero period so he could do an after school internship at NASA. "If Fate did not send you one of these kids, it must be hard to imagine," what it is like to have such a marvelously talented child, he says. Indeed, it is hard to imagine any democratically elected official thinking such a sentence, let alone committing it to paper.

He concludes that it would be OK with him to add counselors, but urges that eliminating zero period would "hobble" PAUSD's ability to serve children, like his, who were sent by Fate.

Filseth urges half-measures -- yes add counselors. But don't do anything that would impair the ability of the Fate-sent to take their 13 APs. The doctors are an extremist minority bent on "saving our kids" and should be ignored.

I am not sure what kind of public servant would make such arguments, but I cannot express my contempt for him strongly enough here to not be deleted. Shame on him.





6 people like this
Posted by _Parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 2, 2015 at 11:31 am

_Parent is a registered user.

Hi parent2,

I understand your frustration, because I feel the same frustration about our indoor air quality problems at school -- and the way everyone is ignoring the surfeit of scientific evidence linking them to student physical and mental health, and performance. We could be doing a great deal for our kids -- and measuring how well we are doing it in very simple ways -- but don't.

Although I agree with you that zero period should be eliminated for the same reasons that driving with young peers in cars needed to be eliminated (it's always true that some kids can handle it, but lacking clear criteria for judging it, the rules have to err on the side of safety), I am also sympathetic to why Filseth may have written a defense from his own experience. Rather than dismissing his experience, and that of other kids trying to express something very similar, we should be figuring out how to move forward together, best serving everyone's needs.

I wish, wish WISH the parent community would come to terms with the idea that there is a spectrum of learning styles -- nothing to do with intelligence, just how people learn) -- that challenge is actually good for happiness and all children want to feel competent and useful, and our system currently does a poor job of that for most of our kids. However, there is a segment of kids who do well in this kind of system -- the answer to serving the others is not to take away what is working for them, but to provide what works for everyone else. We should expect pushback from people for whom the system is working, and they should push back -- how would you feel if what was working beautifully for your family and kids was being threatened? You forget that kids, including the President of the student body at Gunn have defended the status quo -- because it's working for them. And it's a terrible thing to take that away from them, especially when it's not necessary to do so. (Please note that I am not defending zero period, actually, I'm defending a more intense educational approach for SOME kids. I believe their having that approach doesn't depend on zero period, though.)

I equally SO WISH the families and kids for whom the system is working -- and for whom it is NOT working -- would start appreciating that the hierarchy they are used to doesn't do a good job of sorting for intelligence and capability, it sorts for a particular kind of skillset and mindset. Don't tear down the people who do well in this system, celebrate it -- but realize the rest deserve better than ongoing, wrongheaded judgment about them, and some kind of "dumbed down" version of what already isn't working for them.

We have a vast body of students in this district who are so amazingly intelligent and capable (I personally think every child has their GIFTS), whose abilities are languishing, and worse, who think they are just "average" and need to lower their sights, and worse still, whose parents encourage them not to dream or challenge themselves because they are more afraid of the kids "realizing" they are just "average" than the negative consequences of never letting their kids challenge themselves in a safe way/failing and learning and growing and succeeding. Our system doesn't support that. Our system most especially doesn't support the kids on the most creative end of the spectrum.

Our system doesn't encourage the kids who are supported by the intensely academic program (I was one of those kids, so I get it) to appreciate the gifts of kids who are not supported whether because they are so outrageously creative, or because they learn better by doing than sitting (as my child, and so many boys do), or whose gifts extend to endeavors not well supported in school, or because they just simply need time to develop or explore to find their gifts. The one of my siblings who was THE top student in the university for his graduate business degree and whose compensation pkg is written up in all the business magazines, and is also the most organized person I know as an adult, was also the least inclined of my siblings to the academic sorting system in middle and high school, the least organized and worst student of my siblings at that stage (but running a successful business out of his bedroom because he had TIME and was undeterred at being punished for his self-motivated entrepreneurial pursuits at middle school). Then, as now, our system made gifted, intelligent people like him feel like washouts. Today it would manifest more in hurting future opportunities, and that's another reason we should care.

Worse, our system doesn't encourage the kids who aren't supported by the intensely academic program to realize their gifts to the world and understand their own strengths (and shore up their weaknesses) -- they think less of themselves. Which is a real risk if you read about gifted kids, of low self esteem already.

This is Palo Alto -- Nerd Utopia -- we should be LEADING in providing a system that supports the spectrum of intelligence. If the system supported project-based learning, de-emphasized grades for those kids, and even allowed more child-led project-based learning, serving a broader range of interests and skills, all of our kids would and should understand their gifts. (I saw someone earlier make a disparaging comment about McGee having a child who is a blue collar worker -- as if having really happy and successful people in all fields, especially manufacturing, wasn't important to the strength of our nation! Users are innovators, including in blue collar work, too.)

We NEED a broader appreciation for intelligence and a system that supports that diversity for the majority of students. But while we are doing that (and it's not a given, we AREN'T doing it yet), we have to also realize that we should not abandon the students for whom a very intense academic challenge IS their bliss, IS where they are most able to succeed and see themselves as successful. We need to change the system so ALL of our kids can find their bliss, not take away what some kids are doing well with.

I mean really, it comes across as rank, petty jealousy, beneath good people, when they go on a rant against kids who are doing well in our system. That's great, some kids even need more of that. Taking it away to avoid any kind of competition while NOT changing the system WOULD be dumbing down the system. We need to change and broaden the system, not attack people whose needs are currently served well by it. (Again, please don't attack me, I support removing zero period - even for high achieving kids in the current system, teaching work life balance is paramount.)

But equally, those people for whom the system is working need to stop thinking about everyone else as a wash out. and think how they would feel if the situation were reversed and they had no access to the kinds of educational program they currently succeed in.

I used to bring up that my own child had won all kinds of major science fair awards last year, and had done work that resulted in a new explanation for a common physical phenomenon and disproved the old explanations. He gave a sponsored poster presentation at an adult science conference this year, and was so engaged with all the talks and presentations, he was just drinking it in. And then it was back to school where he feels incompetent and average, and mostly unsupported, and where he had no time to do a science project this year because of all the homework in the fall (and unfortunate behavior by some adults in the spring). He also plays violin at an advanced level - his own interest - which is a pursuit that does require years of discipline and persistence. But his school notebook looks like everything spent time in the bottom of several backpacks. I thought it was a good example, because he DOESN'T fit well with the current system, won't be recommended for any of the top tracks (even though he is bored and unhappy at being unchallenged) in high school, and the burdensome homework and utter lack of understanding of and support for creativity is destroying that light of creativity and curiosity, he absolutely struggles now. He's not an A student, to say the least, now (we are clear demonstration of just how little room kids have to just "slack off" as is commonly assumed will solve all ills - if my kid just slacked a little bit more, it would be a full slate of D's and F's).

If my kid had not had the time that year to do these outside pursuits (in fact the project was something he was doing anyway out of interest and us parents encouraged him to enter it), he would not have anything in his life to take him out of the feeling from our narrow sorting system in the schools that he is a failure and below average. More than that, he would never have been able to continue the experience of how joyful learning really is.

It is absolutely SOUL DEADENING for creative children to be subjected to the gauntlet we call school on a daily basis. Kids who are naturally inclined to being very creative are made to feel at best that they are being tolerated in our schools. I've seen this since kindergarten. The trouble is that the need for creative expression is so strong in these kids, being forced to subsume it all one's life is incredibly psychologically damaging, it's another kind of suppressing who you really are that makes kids despondent. The schools tell creative kids in so many ways, every day, that all the many things about them related to that creativity and their need for creative expression are wrong and bad. This isn't a STEM versus artistic dichotomy, it's a creative mindset versus literal mindset difference. Many kids in the middle just try to do what they are told and end up less than they could be, but for those on end of the spectrum, being forced to constantly subsume their creative nature is like being imprisoned. (Let's not forget that the doctors also pointed out the importance of giving the kids creative outlets.)

I didn't realize for a long time that when I brought up my child's situation, how a kid who is struggling in our sorting system can truly shine if given the right support and opportunities, people just thought I was bragging, and were assuming because of a success - outside of school - that my child was gifted and not like theirs, which is absolutely NOT the takeaway, and is exactly the limited and wrongheaded idea about intelligence and growth we ALL need to get over in this district. ALL kids in this district have their gifts. Intelligence is plastic and universal, opportunity is in short supply. We need and can begin to be a place where ALL kids feel supported to find their gifts to the world, to find their bliss, to shine individually as they all can. One of the reasons I love this place is how interested and curious the kids are. It's such a rare thing to have so many peers like that. We need an educational system up to the task. We CAN do it. We just need the will, and the personnel, interesting in and capable of supporting rather than thwarting it.

I've brought this case up before -- I know someone who went to Cubberly, wasn't a great student, and went on to be one of the best stylists in the world, was an instructor in a legendary salon in New York, was extraordinarily successful with shows, etc, people in the business have usually heard about this person. Absolutely gifted artist. Was almost destroyed by our school system. This is someone who knew her passion even as a young child. Why aren't we developing ways to teach the core within the context of children pursuing their passions? Maybe it would have been hard years ago, but the tools now are transforming education. The negative consequences to the psyches of truly gifted people (like the person I just mentioned) of our current, limited, sorting and weeding system is an absolute tragedy. Children should all feel like being in school here is a sanctuary that allows them to challenge themselves, explore, learn, be creative, make things, DO, and collaborate with equally talented peers.

Think about all the things you wanted to do in the world, but didn't because of needing to make a living, etc -- write a book? try your hand at a business? take up wood working? -- we should be making it possible for our kids to explore these kinds of self-driven endeavors while they are still in a position to explore, fail safely and try again. In those activities, they will find the seeds of their interests and success.

We really need to GET OVER the idea our sorting system has instilled in us, it's hurting the potential of THOUSANDS of smart, creative, engaged kids. Every child has potential, every child has their gifts.

But please remember, for some segment of kids -- and it probably is 5-10% - the very academic track IS their bliss and we should not be taking that away from them (most especially NOT out of petty jealousy and a narrow view of what education is!), they need a challenging very academic program to fulfill their own best learning path.

But we also need to remember that that system is not serving the rest of the kids very well, especially the 5-10% of the kids on the opposite end of the spectrum who are creative to the core of their beings and are languishing. Please STOP treating and viewing kids who aren't succeeding in the narrow sorting system as if they are just washouts who need to just accept it. If nothing else, please STOP It because of how stressful and degrading it is for kids who already feel bad. More than that, it takes away the kids' chance to participate and explore ways they would shine and feel right in the world. If we provide opportunities for the rest to be their best and shine, kids can start developing an appreciation for their own talents and interests, and start respecting differences in the world. Projects that are student driven and require many different kinds of skills sets usually help in that regards. Kids learn the world is made of many different kinds of people and different kinds of intelligences and gifts.


16 people like this
Posted by Peggy Duncan
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 2, 2015 at 11:58 am

Peggy Duncan is a registered user.

I have not read Eric Filseth's letter so I cannot comment on it. However, I am convinced about the ill health effects of not getting enough sleep for teenagers. With our current crisis, we have to be particularly mindful of the public health issues. Certainly providing a way for students to take 8 or more classes, and to load up on 13 AP classes, is not a good reason to put students at risk. I wonder too if this is another case of politically connected parents pushing the schools to deliver things that are not available to all students. Isn't there a rule against taking too many classes at once?


15 people like this
Posted by Paly Mom 2
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 2, 2015 at 1:30 pm

Paly Mom 2 is a registered user.

I agree with Peggy. I read the Filseth letter (I didn't vote for him because I just didn't like him and now I am even more sure that was a good call). I did also see the document in the same set that showed that 45 students are taking 8 or more classes at Gunn and using zero period to do it. There are some taking 9 and even 10 classes. The Gunn website says you can not take more than 7 under any condition.

There are 300 students in zero period at Gunn, and 45 of them are loading up and getting an unfair advantage over others. They are using it to get secret, special treatment for a few select insiders to advantage their children in the college application race over others. They don't have to play by the same rules as the rest of the community. They can be on City Council, talk behind the scenes to their buddies on the school board, and get special status. They can get 13 AP classes, when everyone else is limited to 6 or 8. Then when it seems like that isn't healthy, they can send a back-channel email to their buddies about not "caving" to the "save our kids" minority.

So who should the board "cave" to Filseth? The small group of highly connected insiders getting special treatment for their own kids secretly like you?

Disgusted.


10 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 2, 2015 at 1:45 pm

Marc Vincenti is a registered user.

Dear Palo Alto Onliners,

This message will sound alarmist. But, given the extremity of what's going on in our school district, and the neglect and haste sometimes shown by some in charge, I believe these questions are worth asking.

We should ask under what circumstances the 58 high-school students hospitalized this year were separated from their schools and homes.

We should ask whether this was agreed to by the children or was against their wills.

We should ask whether they were confined on locked wards.

We should ask to what extent they were medicated and whether it was by informed consent.

We need to know who identified them for hospitalization, who recommended it, who ordered it, for how many days the students were confined, and who determined their release dates.

Are these hospitalizations deemed in the interests of the school, the students, or both?

We ought to ask to what extent their absence from daily instruction set them back. Were they provided with tutors while confined?

We should ask whether this practice of hospitalization tends to inhibit troubled children from confiding in the adults who are pointed out as their helpers.

To what extent will the two newly-approved on-site therapists have the power to hospitalize?

I'm aware of how these questions sound, what they may be heard to imply, and the "drama" they suggest. But power is easily abused; all of us do it sooner or later.

And because these statistics on hospitalizations have been apparently held close till now, and because too often we adults are insensitive to our teens, and because it's in the nature of bureaucracies (schools, hospitals, agencies) to be blind to individual needs, we must ask these questions calmly but firmly, out of concern for our kids.

Sincerely,
Marc Vincenti
Gunn English Dept. (1995-2010)
Co-Founder, "Save the 2,008"


11 people like this
Posted by My Thoughts
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 2, 2015 at 3:40 pm

My Thoughts is a registered user.

I want to ask Marc Vincenti's question much more directly:

Is the school forcing hospitalizations of students without parents knowledge or consent?


Is this even possible?

There is an analogous case: We had the principal at Jordan threaten to put our child in Special Day classes. Not because they needed it. [Portion removed.] This was over a disagreement on teaching quality issues. And I suspect that he had a legal right to do so, and was fully willing to punish our kid by doing so. (Keep in mind our kid is in an upper math lane and taking advanced English, with no behavioral or emotional wellness issues - the threat was not based on need; it was just a threat to bully us to accede to his demands.)

[Portion removed.]

Can this kind of person force hospitalizations? What authorizations do the schools have over kids?

[Portion removed.]


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