Tuesday's presentation came in a school board review of initiatives to boost "student connectedness" — a much-discussed priority for schools following a devastating string of Palo Alto student suicides in 2009 and 2010.
In response to the tragedies, the school district helped form a community-wide youth mental-health coalition, Project Safety Net, and hired a staff member to coordinate an array of efforts related to student social-emotional health.
The schools, along with many community groups, also adopted a youth-wellness framework known as the Developmental Assets, a list of characteristics needed for healthy development that is now widely promoted across Palo Alto.
Nearly three years after the first student died in what came to be labeled a "suicide cluster," Tuesday's progress report delivered by school Student Services Coordinator Amy Drolette was greeted with praise.
"We asked you to stitch together this net at a time when people were raw — I think that's the word," Superintendent Kevin Skelly said of Project Safety Net.
"It's a sign of how this community is dedicated to kids, but we still have a lot of work to do."
The Healthy Kids survey, given in schools statewide, assesses students' "resiliency, protective factors and risk behavior."
From 2007 to 2009, Palo Alto students scoring "high" on the "school connectedness scale" went from 66 percent to 67 percent among seventh graders, from 58 percent to 62 percent among ninth graders and from 56 percent to 62 percent among 11th graders.
Those numbers were far above statewide averages.
The Palo Alto Reality Check Survey assesses middle and high school students in areas including bullying, risk behaviors and substance use.
From 2009 to 2011, the percentage of students reporting they "have a good number of adults" they can talk to about problems went from 69 percent to 73 percent. Students reporting that adults "listen to what I have to say" went from 59 percent to 66 percent.
Kids reporting that "youth are included in the important decisions" made in schools and community went from 56 percent to 59 percent.
More than 4,000 Palo Alto students took a "baseline Developmental Assets Survey" in October 2010, and that survey will be repeated in 2015.
The schools have set a goal to boost by five points the percentages of students who report having the "assets" of a "caring school climate, other adult relationships and bonding to school."
They also set goals for improvement on the California Healthy Kids and Palo Alto Reality Check surveys.
Accompanying Drolette in Tuesday's presentation was Jordan Middle School seventh-grader Marion Sellier, who described a Jordan program called "Open Session."
During weekly advisory periods, students are invited — anonymously or not — to write on white cards about challenges they're dealing with. The issues range from "being too tired after soccer for homework" to problems at home.
The cards are passed in, shuffled by the teacher and read aloud (unless a student writes that he or she does not want the card to be read). Classmates then make suggestions, in writing or orally, on what to do, often saying they have the same problem.
"It helps you see you're not the only one with problems — that your peers are human," Marion said.
Though some kids were initially skeptical, "at one point or another they become in favor of the session. After class they might even come up and say, 'Thank you. That really helped me,'" she said.
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