Opinion: When ill students are accused of truancy | April 28, 2023 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - April 28, 2023

Opinion: When ill students are accused of truancy

by Elizabeth Johnson Lee

When my daughter, "Laura," attended a Palo Alto middle school, she got frequent fevers, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. According to the student policy handbook, I kept her home until she was symptom free.

This story contains 978 words.

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Elizabeth Johnson Lee is a Palo Alto parent, LMFT and author of "The House at 844 1/2." She can be reached at liz@funghi.com.


Posted by Sam
a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2023 at 11:34 am

Sam is a registered user.

Wow, this is a really inspiring story, I have no words, just because I resonate heavily with Laura's experience and it was all articulated so well. I've been looking into stories of those struggling with chronic absenteeism and whatnot-- especially after the pandemic-- and this is the first one I've stumbled upon so far.

I myself am a junior in high school, struggling with a 90 minute commute to and from the building as well as a lot more psychological issues that manifested into physical symptoms. I struggle with anxiety, with many fears of failure for the situation I've put myself in, being absent for half the week if not more. My anxiety makes me feel physically exhausted. I felt like I was just trying to survive. I didn't feel like I could really live, and I still don't at times. It's been difficult to find a mental health professional that could I could feel comfortable with too, but even then, the school has 8 floors, so commuting that far and throughout the building, even with escalators... It's not a traditional high school experience, and I just felt bad for choosing to commit to this at the age of 14. I realized recently that I'm eligible to transfer due to my commute, but I still appreciated my school for the curriculums offered by my teachers and the resources and guidance offered by my counselor.

I've still had some teachers made me feel a little bad for not showing up as often as I needed to, but most have set up their classes to put up their resources online, which I greatly appreciated.

The thing is, it wasn't my absences that held me back from doing well in school, as a lot of articles seemed to suggest. It was the guilt I felt. When I pushed aside that guilt, I recognized that I truly did thrive working on a blended schedule that mirrored that of my schedule during COVID in freshman year. I take breaks when I need to, I do more work than asked sometimes too. I have a 96.43% WGPA, and I'm doing well.

Thank you so much for writing this article

Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 30, 2023 at 1:33 am

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

PAUSD is notorious for mistreating students with "invisible disabilities," especially female students, and especially in middle school. Greene, fka Jordan Middle School, denied my autistic daughter an IEP for 3 years (her entire time at Jordan), despite their own assessments plus outside assessments identifying her as autistic on every measure.

Their ignorance about autism was horrifying. Their psychologists watched behavior that a trained professional would know as typical for autistic girls (unlike boys) and mislabeled it. For example, many autistic young women become skilled at "masking," so when watching them in a group without hearing them speak, a viewer might think they are behaving typically. Being close enough to hear them speak often solves that challenge. Jordan's evaluators viewed only from a distance. Similarly, autistic females often stim by playing with/twisting their hair or cuticles/nails rather than shaking their heads or hands. It's quite obvious, actually, when you know what to look for.

The arrogant and ignorant staff at Jordan did not know what to look for. They called my daughter anxious and blamed it on me, for putting too much pressure on her. When the circumstances could not support that, they then insisted that the fact that I attended prestigious schools put undue pressure on her.

They lied about my daughter's responses in interviews in order to support their positions, which upset my daughter greatly when she read what they said (being literal, of course, is a part of her autism). As hard as I tried to point them to resources online about autism in females, they refused to get informed.

It was the three worst years of her life, and far less importantly, the three worst years of mine.

Fortunately, most of the staff who mistreated my daughter so egregiously ended up being fired or re-assigned (for different reasons) after that year. But the harm they caused my daughter was, unfortunately, lasting. Our children deserve better.

Posted by PA mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 30, 2023 at 10:25 am

PA mom is a registered user.

Sam, I worry for your safety when you say you “feel that you aren’t living, and still do at times“, and that you haven’t found a mental health professional you feel comfortable with. That’s a lot of responsibility for someone your age. Is there an adult you can reach out to for support, such as your parents or relatives, or any school staff ? You can call 311 for support and someone to talk with. Wishing you well.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 30, 2023 at 1:39 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

Ms. Lee. Do you know or can recommend any child / adolescents LMFT's in Palo Alto who will accept medi-cal or costs on a income based sliding scale? Thank you.

Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 1, 2023 at 3:20 pm

Hulkamania is a registered user.

Fight the power!!

Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith
a resident of Downtown North
on May 1, 2023 at 5:41 pm

Alice Schaffer Smith is a registered user.

When I was in what is now middle school, I missed 43 days of school. No one ever thought I was truant: I was ill. I hope that the PAUSD School Board is reading this article and comments. Clearly, something is not right.

Posted by Paly Mom
a resident of Midtown
on May 1, 2023 at 6:10 pm

Paly Mom is a registered user.

My daughter went to jls and she got a back to back flu and missed a month of school. She managed to stay up with work and got straight A’s. I was asked to come to a meeting and was told it was for the teachers to give me work to bring to her. One teacher showed and I was surrounded by at least 6 other staff members including the nurse who firmly asked for permission to speak to our pediatrician and questioned my parenting. I felt unsupported and bullied. Another time she had the stomach flu and asked to come home and the nurse told her it was probably her hormones and that time if the month. She eventually let her call me and my daughter was sick with a 24 hour bug and then was fine except she was scared to go to school when nauseous because they did not believe her the first time. I know many other parents with worse stories and I hope someone pays attention to this feedback and makes some changes. It’s not just the parents in Palo Alto contributing to the stress and anxiety these kids are having these days. All three of my kids were so happy to leave JLS, and they were happier and felt more supported at Paly.

Posted by Morgan
a resident of Meadow Park
on May 1, 2023 at 7:54 pm

Morgan is a registered user.

Never a surprise to hear that PAUSD doesn't care about students and gangs up on parents. I can't remember how many meetings I was at where there were 4-5 administrators trying to intimidate either me or my children.

District will deny it ever happens, but the neverending list of parent's stories is too compelling to overlook.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2023 at 2:23 am

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

I will inquire again. Behavioral Heath of a PAUSD student is in word, paramount. They are shamed into seeking on campus psych care by a college student qualifying hours. Pulled from core, key coases during school hours. Q: Ms. Lee are there any qualified LNFC in the city of Palo Alto who willingly accept medi-cal, covered California or sliding scale payments? My child is in much bead of PTSD help from a certified therapist. Her issue is needing real face 2?(“face care at a local Palo Alto therapy office. Not getting on a deadly, commuter freeway or a zoom session from Merced. Please fill our locals in. No links to 211 or 911 , our family need names of local licensed therapists that will consider ou instance. TY! When our children cannot be access services by the community in such duress, what or where the soul of our future. Heath psychologically and physically is primary to the growth and integration of us. We have “out of net work approval”. Yet not one therapist takes our insurance in Palo Alto. Stanford does not accept our insurance either. This is pretty urgent situation.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2023 at 2:31 am

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

[Post removed; successive comments by same poster are not permitted.]

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on May 2, 2023 at 10:13 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

@Native is the child in a managed care plan? If so contact your Medi-Cal managed care plan or call the Medi-Cal Mental Health Care Ombudsman at 1-800-896-4042 and ask for an assessment or needed services. Call the health care plan first and if you get nowhere, report that to the Ombudsman when you reach one.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 8, 2023 at 12:24 am

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

Grateful to you @myfeelz. Will call the number. And get back to u on results. Yeah or neah.

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