On Dec. 25, Palo Alto police officers Nicholas Enberg and Zachary Wicht fatally shot William Rath, a psychiatric patient at the La Selva group home on Forest Avenue. Allegedly, Mr. Rath was brandishing an ordinary table knife when he charged at the officers in the dark of night.
Beyond these few basic facts, we know little about the events that transpired in this residential area. We are unlikely to learn more until the police department releases audio-video recordings documenting the actual circumstances. Even so, many citizens have been quick to condemn — or condone — the police actions.
According to city spokesperson Zach Perron, prior to discharging their weapons, the officers radioed for a backup car equipped with a pistol that shoots rubber bullets. If the officers on the scene had already been carrying such a firearm, it is quite possible this tragedy could have been avoided.
A thorough investigation is in order whenever police use lethal force, particularly in light of the crises rocking departments across the nation. Even if the deaths are deemed reasonable, there are often opportunities for improving procedures. Perhaps to provide all squad cars with rubber bullet guns would be a good local lesson.
Alma Street, Palo Alto
How it happened
Your article on developments during 2015 in PAUSD aptly focuses on the district's response to the ongoing mental health crisis in our schools. But it mischaracterizes the process that led to Superintendent McGee's decision to end academic classes at Gunn during "zero period" before the 8:30 a.m. start of the regular school day. That decision followed the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, supported by over 100 local doctors, including the pediatrics department at PAMF, sleep experts at Stanford, doctors advising the district and the HEARD Alliance. Those recommendations link early school start times to sleep deficits and a host of negative consequences, including increased suicidality.
Your article appears to criticize Dr. McGee for a lack of transparency in his "decision to ban academic classes during early-morning zero period at the two high schools — communicated in a message to students, staff and parents over spring break rather than during the full board discussion that was promised to students."
This requires correction. First, Dr. McGee's decision applied only to Gunn. As Paly principal Diorio told the school board, Paly already had no academic classes during zero period because of the importance of sleep to teen wellbeing.
Second, when I raised this issue at the March 10 school board meeting, I asked that a board policy banning academic classes during zero period beginning in fall 2015 be discussed at a future meeting, in the event that district staff did not end the practice independently. A majority of the board supported my motion. However, after reviewing the scientific evidence, Dr. McGee wisely decided to take action to protect student health and fully explained his decision to the community at the time and during a May board item on that topic.
Given the research on the importance of sleep to student mental health and educational achievement, we need to do more. The research strongly suggests that if there is a "magic bullet" of teen suicide prevention, it includes promoting healthy sleep. Our top priority in this regard should be full implementation of the district homework policy, and I look forward to working for that goal in the coming year.
Board of Education member
Paul Avenue, Palo Alto
I see the signs that say "Thank you, Palo Alto, for saving water." I am one of these people who contributes by limiting watering, flushing sporadically, reusing shower water for trees. Is it the right thing for people to have water pumped for a basement? It is alienating our neighbors because of this selfish act. I don't even want to meet my neighbor who is planning to build a basement. I don't respect this action. Please stop groundwater pumping.
Guinda Street, Palo Alto
Respond with education
As we discuss terrorist attacks, we should be mindful of youth who rob, shoot and kill. There are many reasons for this violence. Chief is that nobody raised these people to be human beings.
California holds parents responsible for the willful misconduct of their children. Liability is capped at $40,600 for inflicted property damage and medical bills. But who can squeeze water from a rock? Israel advocates a policy of retribution and deterrence against terrorists by bulldozing the homes of suicide attackers. But how can inflicting misery on families be productive?
We need to pro-actively address a violent society, the mentally ill and Americans fanatics brain-washed to kill the innocent and helpless.
First, remove guns from hands of lunatics and outlaws. We register cars and drivers. Why not do the same for weapons and gunowners?
Second, racism and imprisonment in the U.S. has created an underclass of despair, unemployment and poverty. The violence we see is this underclass thrashing and drowning in a sink or swim society. Isn't an ounce of prevention and education still worth a pound of cure?
Third, we must recognize that the enemy is not Islam. It is Sharia and we can counter the systemic hatred of nonbelievers taught in Saudi textbooks. The Pew Research Center has found that an astonishing 26 percent of American Muslims between the ages of 18 to 29 believe that some suicide attacks in the name of Islam are legitimate. How did we and their parents give them reason to believe that?
Santa Rita Avenue, Palo Alto
And a murderer?
My interest in changing the name of Jordan Middle School, my alma mater, goes beyond eugenics. More important, there is strong circumstantial evidence that David Starr Jordan may have been involved in the murder by poisoning of Jane Lathrop Stanford.
See "The Mysterious Death of Jane Stanford" by Robert W.P. Cutler from Stanford University Press, reported on the Palo Alto Weekly: paloaltoonline.com/weekly/morgue/2003/2003_10_01.cutler01jd.html.
It is ironic that the honoree of one middle school may have murdered the honoree of another.
I support renaming Jordan in memory of my friend and schoolmate, Mayor Gary Fazzino.
El Camino Way, Palo Alto
This story contains 1041 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.