After fifth teen death on tracks, efforts toward 'safety net' press on | January 29, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 29, 2010

After fifth teen death on tracks, efforts toward 'safety net' press on

Leaders praise family's openness on son's mental illness

by Chris Kenrick and Sue Dremann

Palo Alto leaders this week expressed sympathy and appreciation to the family of 19-year-old Brian Taylor, who died on the Caltrain tracks last Friday, for publicly stating their son had been under treatment for a diagnosed mental illness.

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Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be e-mailed at Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be e-mailed at


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Posted by Midtown Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 31, 2010 at 2:19 am

Thank you Sue and Chris (Palo Alto Weekly) for your article, hopefully more people will volunteer. The work will be easier if more people joined.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2010 at 9:06 am

I agree with the sentiment, but I want to remind you that there have been two other deaths recently on the tracks in Palo Alto or very close. The first last year was a 29 year old woman who was in an abusive relationship who died near Charleston and this was just before the first student. There was also a man from Mountain View who died at the San Antonio station, so close to Palo Alto that we think of it as home.

The headline should read seven.

Like this comment
Posted by Lip Service
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2010 at 10:03 am

This is good intentions gone wild. There is no way to protect all the tracks. Brian proved it by standing 150 ft. away from E. Meadow. There were two other deaths on different areas of the tracks.

Have the other Gunn parents been interviewed regarding the causes of their Gunn students' deaths? Brian's was unrelated to Gunn stress. How about the others? It's the BoE who needs to end the rigor of academics in Palo Alto and change the starting times until later so students can get more sleep and finals should be moved to before Winter Break so students can relax during the break.

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 31, 2010 at 10:32 am

Read the article. Guarding the train tracks is only a small part of this program. The major effort is improving mental health services.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Just to say that finals week, although only 3 days long, was one of the most stressful weeks our family has had in a long time. The studying, projects due (which involved rides to school for our normal biking family), and the changes in starting and finishing times, made this normally calm family very frantic. Fortunately, there was nothing else stressful happening at the time, and the bad rainy weather made it very difficult on top of finals themselves, but I am so grateful that we did not have this week in December when we had so many other things going on in our lives to give us enough stress without finals. Finals even later in January would be a good idea, not included in stressful holiday periods.

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Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2010 at 8:47 am

Lip Service, Although it was reported incorrectly by the press, the recent incident did not occur 150 feet from the guard. It was further North and in a very dark area. Steps have been taken to increase visibility there, to deny access, and to broaden the scope of the watched area. I suggest you get involved with the education side of the issue as you suggest and leave these efforts to others. It's so easy to attack something, but when you do so with partial knowledge you do harm. In watching the tracks we have prevented tragedies and will continue to do so. Yes, it's not the perfect solution. The perfect solution will mean zero incidents. The best one we have is a city wide effort which is underway through the hard work of many people and includes everything from changing the education system to reducing access to the area to mental health screening. Please put your effort toward one of these positive projects.

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Posted by Disbelievin'
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2010 at 11:58 am

There are at least two Veterans' Hospitals nearby that deal with former military personnel, a goodly number of which have mental disorders and are near death from any number of maladies. Is the Palo Alto Government supposed to protect these people from themselves too?

This is Nuts!

Like this comment
Posted by Mary
a resident of Gunn High School
on Feb 1, 2010 at 5:05 pm

For over two years, two local school districts have had exams BEFORE winter break with great success (Sequoia & Los Altos). The parents, students, and staff enjoy having a FREE two week vacation. If your December is stressful, try cutting out some of those useless holiday "obligations." Get back to the basic joys of the holiday season - family first!

Yes, slowing down the train and other interventions with the railroad are a SMALL part of the solution, Parents need to get more in touch with their kids. Stop being their friends. Stop stressing them out with unreasonable expectations. Accept where they are and not where you want them to be. Forget the parental unit bragging rights. They are not your prize pig or dog. They are human - therefore flawed - like you.

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 1, 2010 at 5:23 pm

I asked one of my kids and some friends about exams before or after the holiday break. They agreed that taking exams before the break would be better...just to get them out of the way. The stress, however, would be same or worse building up to exam week they admitted.

I asked them if they were stressed during this year's holiday break (due to pending exams). The answers were all "no". They didn't study, they didn't even think about school. And BTW - these kids all get mostly A's and some B's.

Maybe not too scientific, but at least a snapshot of data to consider.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2010 at 7:15 pm


Do you have kids in choir, orchestra or other school related arts? Because if you did you would realise the amount of extra practices and extra performances are put on during the holiday period? Do you have kids in outside extra curricula activities, because they likely have holiday parties or holiday gatherings? Do you have family, grandparents, etc. come to visit or expect you to have special dinners with them during the holidays?

And do you remember the holidays from when you were a kid or a teen? Did you have fun things going on because it was the holidays?

I think you need to get your priorities rethought. It isn't always the parents who are getting the kids so busy during the holidays, it is school and other activities that get the kids so busy. And for the few fun things that the kids do get to do, are you going to tell them they can't go to something fun or celebratory because they have to stay home and study?

I think Crescent Park Dad has it right. Most of the kids don't spend all winter break studying for finals, it is the parents who think they should be or are arranging study sessions or tutoring?

Let the kids enjoy the holidays, let the kids enjoy winter break and have finals at the end of January when it is dead.

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Posted by APs
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 2, 2010 at 11:35 am

Most AP classes have finals just before the break anyway.

I think it would be LOTS easier to have all finals done before the break, and so do my high school kids who DESPITE the promises from the district DID have homework over break (teachers specifically said they were not following district mandate and could do what they wanted). I do understand the frenzy that comes from all the performing arts though if you review the calendar, most concerts were held prior to the week before the holiday this year (and all could be held a little earlier with planning).

Move finals. Reduce AP classes (don't let kids take more than 3 per year). Start school later. HELP OUR TEENS REDUCE STRESS.

Like this comment
Posted by concerned
a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2010 at 12:00 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by tactical deterrent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 3, 2010 at 9:11 pm

The cyclone fencing along the Alma St. side of the Caltrain tracks can be easily scaled by a nimble teenager.
Looping razor wire along the top would discourage suicide prone stealth incursions out of the the view of the paid guards at Meadow crossing

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

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