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Original post made by Sharon Witte, Leland Manor/Garland Drive, on Oct 29, 2009

I used to think that Palo Alto was a great place to raise my kids, now I am beginning to wonder. The bar is high here. How high? Drop by Paly and see what the topic of conversation is: college apps, AP scores, applying to Princeton, getting into Duke, excelling on exams, getting straight A’s, participating in extra curricular activities, competing on sports teams… building their resumes. Room for failure? No. Margin for error? Nope. Okay to make mistakes? Not here, not in Palo Alto. Much of a chance just to be a kid? Not under the watch of the current Paly administration.

Spirit Week is supposed to be fun, foster school spirit and lend a sense of togetherness. Instead, administrators have turned it into a stressful time where kids walk the line between having good clean fun, and running the risk of jeopardizing their college careers. “Egg Wars” -- not a school sanctioned event -- is a tradition that seems to involve good, clean (or gooey) fun. It is intentionally planned to be in an area where no property will be damaged and kids participate willingly. It is not vandalism or hazing, and it should not be treated as a crime. If someone crosses the line and throws eggs at a building or, worse yet, throws a frozen egg, they should be punished. But for the vast majority, it seems like kids being kids and blowing off a little steam, escaping from the pressure cooker for a night. So why do they face suspension if caught participating? Why does the Paly administration even get involved?

After Tuesday night’s egg wars, which were largely thwarted by the police being called in early, Paly administration cancelled Wednesday’s lunch time rally. Cancelled it to prove what? That they are almighty and have the power? Cancelling the rally does nothing more than frustrate the kids, and pit them against the administration. Why not let them enjoy what little they have left to enjoy?

Do we want a school where there is no margin for error, where maximum punishment is the rule not the exception, where throwing a water balloon or streaking become expellable offenses or punishable by law? Life is full of choices, decisions and consequences. Gilbert and Sullivan had it right: let the punishment fit the crime. Make them clean, make them do service, let them set right what they did wrong. But getting suspended for throwing eggs, streaking, teepeeing? Paly administrators should be ashamed that the environment they are creating is one of no tolerance, no mistakes, and stress so intense that depression runs rampant and students’ expression of themselves becomes something for which the police are called. Restrictiveness only adds fuel to the fire of our already stressed out kids. Next thing you know the Palo Alto police will be called in if our kids slip and get B’s. Shame on us all for letting this happen.

Comments (32)

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Posted by Natalie
a resident of Ohlone School
on Oct 29, 2009 at 9:38 am

Agree 100%! I am so relieved that there are people like Sharon who have not lost sense of reality and sense of humor. Calling egg wars "horrific" and suspending students for it (quote: "what happened at Gunn was horrific. There needs to be punishment for those involved.") - this is so extreme and plain stupid .

What I call horrific, or tragic, are suicides on Caltrain track, or gang rape in Richmond high, but eggwars? For goodness sake, people, be reasonable.

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Posted by Disappointed
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2009 at 9:43 am

"It is not vandalism"

If you saw the condition of the newly resurfaced track at Gunn or the brand new pool, you may have a different opinion on this.

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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 29, 2009 at 9:52 am

I have been a Paly parent for more than 4 years and spirit week has always been fun. I have never heard about eggwars before, my kids obviously have never been involved, but this year I have heard rumors and complaints all week from my Paly students.

I think it is time that the rumors about eggwars were verified.

Did the eggwars get more out of hand than previous years?

Did Paly students start throwing eggs on the Gunn campus? And if they did, has this happened in previous years and have Gunn students ever done something similar on Paly campus?

Healthy cross town rivalry is fine and provided no one gets hurt and no serious property damage is done, then it should be viewed as a student prank. After all, the Stanford/Cal rivalry is well known in both our high schools and students from Gunn and Paly apply to both, so the Gunn/Paly rivalry to some extent mirrors that particularly in terms of the pranks surrounding the Big Game.

Paly students were deeply affected by the recent suicides, just like Gunn students were affected by the Paly students a few years ago. A cross town rivalry may be one of the few stress relievers our high school students have and could even be classed as bonding the two schools. Remember, many kids at both schools know students at the other from middle school, sports or other outside school activities. These schools are not islands and we cannot liken the rivalry to feuding gangs, more like to sibling rivalry.

For these reasons, the parents should be informed from an unbiased observer (The Weekly) about what has happened from both the students perspective as well as the administrations. Then as informed parents we can talk to our own students about appropriate behavior and standards. Without this information we are just groping around in the dark and have no basis for giving guidelines to our kids.

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Posted by Phil
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 29, 2009 at 10:08 am

Well said Sharon. Adolescent hi jinx needn't always result in harsh penalties with a lifetime of consequence. Fearful, pantywaist zero tolerance responses needn't always be the reaction to every childish offense. When I was a high schooler we had a tradition of hoisting a Volkswagen Beetle onto the roof of the school during its equivalent of Spirit Week. No one died; thousands laughed, even some faculty and administration. Good God, I bet that would result in a life sentence now.

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Posted by Phyllis Kayten
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 29, 2009 at 10:23 am

As a neighbor of the Southgate community, I have been the host to float-building twice, and I really enjoy watching the spirit week activities across the street from my home. In 2006 my driveway was egged, and I reported it to the school. I certainly did not want or expect the school to hunt down and suspend the students responsible. In fact if I had any thought that that would be the reaction I would not have called the school. My expectation was that the principal or assistant principal would make an announcement to the students to respect the neighbors.

And similarly, I would expect that when there is a student tragedy, the principal, the guidance counselor, or some official from the school would personally speak to the students - not the parents - and acknowledge to the students that they are hurting and that they need some help getting through this.

In the wars of the 20th and 21st century, our soldiers worked hard and played hard. These students are working hard and playing hard, and they are seeing friends around them falling. They are hurting, but, like soldiers, they are expected to buck it up and get on with their lives and ignore the hurt around them. I see a relationship between the vandalism and anger and truancy on the one hand and the lack of response by the school district to the student body's pain.

Spirit week is one of the most lasting memories these students will have of high school. Yesterday it gave me joy and pleasure to see the PALY students dressed in their yellows and oranges walking to school - it seemed like more students were participating than in past years. The students are trying to hang on to something normal and something happy (Don't think that PALY students don't feel the loss as much as their Gunn counterparts)- and PALY reacts to a prank gone a little too far (playing hard) by suspending students and threatening to cancel spirit week activities.

I hope PALY will reconsider its over-reaction. It is so over-the-top. The PALY administration's meanness and resentment seems personal and inappropriate. It is just perverse to take away this one happy and maybe desperately fun event in a very difficult school year.

People who have lost loved-ones want to be acknowledged. They don't want everyone around them to tip-toe around and not mention their loss. The school staff, while acknowledging a problem to the adult community, has failed to personally engage its students. Principals and teachers avoid discussing recent tragic losses. The student body is an ignored mourner. The administration, the teachers, have not enabled the students to feel their loss, to be comforted.

Imagine the despair and subsequent anger these kids are feeling. No wonder they are releasing some of their fear and anger on a silly egg war.

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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 29, 2009 at 10:46 am

Sharon - while I agree with most of what you said and I think the Paly admin is both VERY punishment oriented and somehow expects the kids to do wrong instead expecting them to make good decisions, if you came out tomorrow morning and your driveway, sidewalk, bushes, grass, trees, porch and house were covered in eggs, dozens of them, how would you react? Would you think that kids were blowing off steam, or would you be furious?

The Paly administration is extremely heavy-handed in their need to "control" the students. It is interesting to note how much a principal sets the tone of a school (ask anyone who had students at Jordan with the former principal vs the caring, but firm principal who is there now). Suspending kids for 5 days is excessive for almost any offense.

Kids will be kids and should be allowed some fun, safe traditions (how dangerous is streaking or -tee-peeing or even flipping your car upside down on campus?) But, the egg wars are vandalism and dangerous. Not only could (and did) some students get hurt, but can you imagine the mess, the smell and how all the Gunn students and faculty felt yesterday?

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Posted by kmom
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 29, 2009 at 10:58 am

Phyllis is right and she put it so well. I just have to say that it isn't any different at Gunn HS. The administration has "zero tolerance" for fun and sense's of humor are... well, not met with a sense of humor. My question and confusion is why does the administration continue to foster such an unwelcoming environment especially in the wake of all these tragic suicides? Is it what the majority wants? What the teachers want? What is mandated by the district? It seems that ever since Columbine, schools across the country, suspend and expel students as over-reactions, blowing all chances for that wonderful "teaching moment" and just caring on as usual. No one seems to question their actions until something like this occurs and then really how many people think the students shouldn't be suspended. Not a lot I bet. This is Palo Alto and it isn't pretty.

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Posted by former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 29, 2009 at 11:14 am

This is juvenile behavior, does not add to the reputation of the school :( Doesn't anyone care about that?
If people are getting hurt and property is being damaged that is totally over the line. Using frozen eggs is premeditated to injure someone or something. These students must have a lot of spare time on their hands to plan something like that.
If everyone is so aggressive, why not sponsor a group trip to a challenge or ropes course? Those who want to take risks can do so in a non-damaging manner and get some athletic or adrenaline thrills.
Nonetheless, I am against mass punishments like punishing an entire grade or group of people "upplerclassmen" for example.
Charge and convict individual students and hold them responsible
School policies have to be enforced for them to mean anything.

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Posted by typical
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 29, 2009 at 1:21 pm

as usual palo alto parents are in a hizzy fit with limited information (probably only what their kids told them) and actually approve of the vandalism and destructive behavior of their kids. you should be ashamed of yourselves. the kids are lucky no one ended up in the hospital. my son heard about it the next day and his facebook is full of comments from his friends (who went) about how funny it was to ruin the gunn fields and how there was a big fight. this type of behavior in the real world gets you a prison sentence. you think it is ok because you live in palo alto?

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Posted by atypical
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 29, 2009 at 2:24 pm

"typical" -- Interesting how you condemn others for forming an opinion based on what their kids told them, and then do exactly that. And I'm not sure what world you live in, but I'm pretty sure a consensual egg fight in a wooded area won't land you in prison in America.

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Posted by All talk
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2009 at 2:56 pm

I went by Gunn earlier and they are still cleaning up the mess on the campus. Anyone care to help?

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Posted by Facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2009 at 3:46 pm

In case you are interested in the facts:
Eggs were thrown all over the Gunn brand new track.
Eggs were thrown all over the new girl's softball field and dugout.
Eggs were thrown all over the new boy's baseball field and dugout.
Eggs were thrown in the new pool area.
Eggs were thrown all over the walkway to the football field.
Eggs were thrown all over the parking lot.
We are not talking a few eggs in any one of these places, we are talking about a lot of eggs. Fun, maybe but a huge mess and maybe some permanent damage.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 29, 2009 at 4:13 pm

I'd rather see the egg-throwers cleaning up eggs and maybe even raising money for repairs instead of five-day suspensions--one day plus cleaning would make the point. The punishment doesn't quite fit the crime--and, plus somebody has to clean the stuff up--why not the kids who did it?

I do wonder if the riot aspect of this particular egg battle was a sort of reaction to everything that's been going on.

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Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2009 at 5:47 pm

I question I have for anyone who knows:

Is it only Paly students who threw eggs during the egg war at Gunn? From the description of the event I would guess that Gunn students were there too and threw eggs as well.

Is the Gunn administration looking into who at Gunn participated? And are the Gunn participants going to be / being punished too?

If Gunn students participated and only Paly students are being punished, quite frankly I find that very puzzling to say the least.

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Posted by All talk
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2009 at 6:31 pm

This was an event between the Juniors at Paly and the Seniors at Paly. They chose to have the war at Gunn.

I just walked a half of the track at Gunn and there are 51 spots left with heavy egg residue. I could not get into the baseball area because it was locked but could see many spots of egg residue on the ground near the stands.

Just walked a small portion of the driveway near the tennis courts which had well over 40 spots of egg residue.

A few days later and still plenty to clean up!!

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Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 29, 2009 at 6:36 pm

It is only Paly students that participate in egg wars. However, egg wars isn't supposed to be associated with Gunn in any way. The only reason it had anything to do with Gunn is because the intrusive Paly Administration called the Stanford Police to let them know that the paly students were going to be doing egg wars in the one of the forests on Stanford Property. When the students showed up, the cops were already there. The Paly administration should have nothing to do with egg wars, its off campus and non a school function. If they hadn't called the Stanford police nobody would be talking about this subject.

And to Gunn students and parents, egg wars isn't meant to be vandalism or to negatively effect Gunn in any way. The students were simply looking for somewhere to do it where they wouldn't get caught, since Stanford was completely staked out by police.

Also, has anything been said about the Gunn students who vandalized the Paly football field and track last night?

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Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2009 at 7:02 pm

Thanks for your answers. Now I understand the situation a bit better.

Frankly, shame on the Paly administration for the way they have handled the whole situation from beginning to end.

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Posted by michelle
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 29, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Why didn't they have the fight on their own campus? It took much more effort to get to Gunn than it did to cross the street to get back to Paly. Makes it not so innocent.

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Posted by i love dumb people
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 29, 2009 at 10:17 pm

the students moved the war to gunn because their original location, stanford university, was flooded with cops and they went to the closed location.

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Posted by Also Palo Alto resident
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Palo Alto Parent,

While vandalism might not have been the main priority, it did happen and it was malicious-- the lockers, the track, the pool, pool deck, the campus-- all egged!

If it is so innocent, invite them to your back yard next year. Do you enjoy having to walk through uncooked eggs or deive thriough it? Stop looking to blame others-- accept that it was an awful thing to do and apologize for it-- and then try to do something nice for Gunn-- that community was innocent in all of this. Bad judgement was made worse by purposefully damaging the school campus.

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Posted by Calm Down
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2009 at 10:29 pm

I love Dumb People,

-- maybe you need to read a little a more thoroughly-- Doing the wars on the Palo Alto High Campus was never an option-- their choices were Stanford and then Gunn-- why not do it on their own campus?

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Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2009 at 10:36 pm

Also Palo Alto Parent:

"Bad judgement was made worse by purposefully damaging the school campus."

I don't think that you're in the right place to be talking about whether or not it was intentional vandalism, considering your a parent who wasn't there. It wasn't a main priority you're right... no part of eggs wars is to intentionally vandalize property.

What was intentional was the vandalism done by Gunn students to the Paly field last night. Both things were bad, and neither should've happened.

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Posted by Paly Voice
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 29, 2009 at 10:40 pm

The rumor that Gunn did something to the Paly field is false like most of the stuff being posted on these threads.

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Posted by Also Palo Alto Parent
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2009 at 10:52 pm

Palo Alto resident,

-- are you saying that you there for the egg wars?
Otherwise, you do not know the intent!
Actually to get eggs on the track, the pool area and the locker rooms as well as the softball field it would have to intentional-- how did the eggs get in the locker room? -- By accident? I saw the aftermath--if you were there, then you did too. The egg wars were probably not intended to vandalize-- but it certainly ended up that way.

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Posted by voice of moderation
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Oct 30, 2009 at 12:18 am

-I don't think Paly students meant any harm or insult to Gunn.
-They did harm and insult Gunn. Now what?
That doesn't make them bad people, but they are old enough to learn the lesson that your intent only counts so far. You made a big mistake. Hint - if the police are shutting down your activity, maybe you should think twice. Once you make the mistake, you pay the consequences. You can't choose your own consequences in life. You can choose to take a risk or not take a risk.
Should the consequences be 5-day suspensions? No, and then the dust settles I bet you won't you'll actually see anyone do 5 days. Watch. Should there be total collective punishment? No, and I heard they backed away from any talk of that.
I don't think anyone's college career was ruined here but anyways we'll never know. Valedictorians with 4.0 GPAs aren't guaranteed anything in admissions. They get rejected too sometimes, so if there's no sure thing, how do you ever know that there's some single reason you were rejected? There will still be plenty of colleges interested in highly qualified kids with one little strike against them, besides which the public universities public schools don't find out about suspensions anyways.
Is this an okay way to blow off steam? No, even if they do it in the forest. It's really wasteful, and dangerous to have kids running around in the dark in chaos. If you look the other way with kids driving all over town to avoid police and then getting into fights or getting injured while they litter or vandalize in this "tradition" then it's only a matter of time until something serious goes down and then the school gets slammed, or sued, for its permissiveness.
---Kids and parents should focus on the core issues like - respect for community, smart choices, owning the consequences. School should do enough to punish without putting this on level with a full blown brawl or drug sales.

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Posted by Facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2009 at 9:14 am

Eggs are the arsenal of choice for vandalism due to the almost irreversible damage they cause to painted surfaces if not dealt with immediately. House paint, car paint, painted signs, mailboxes and any other painted surfaces of value are all susceptible to damage caused by eggs.
Egg White
The egg white (also referred to as the albumen) is made up of 15 percent of proteins. Its main purpose is to protect the yolk while providing nutrients to the embryo. Because of its protective composition, egg whites are used for several purposes, including waterproof glue, so it's easy to understand how this part of the egg can dry and then stick to the surface of car paint. If it is not dealt with quickly, it can become extremely difficult to remove from the surface of the car without wet sanding and repainting the damaged area.
Egg Yolk
The egg yolk is suspended inside the egg by the egg white. The yolk contains fatty acids and is responsible for the fat, cholesterol and most of the calories found in an egg. Egg yolk was once used to make paint because of its natural ability to harden and stick to almost any surface. The chemical composition of the egg yolk will eat through clear coat on the surface of car paint--in addition to staining the paint--if not removed from the surface of the paint immediately.
Egg Shell
Egg shells break relatively easily, and when thrown at high velocity, the shells will shatter into sharp shards. The shards of the shells can cause superficial scratches to the surface of the protective clear coat on a car and, in some cases, penetrate the clear coat, scratching the paint.
Egging and the Law
Anyone who has ever had their car egged knows how difficult it can be to remove. Most vandals attack under the veil of night to prevent being seen or caught. Since most victims sleep at night, they find the unpleasant surprise in the morning, long after the egg has had the time to cause permanent damage. Laws against the crime have been stiffened in the past few years, and the punishment to those caught in the act of egging cars and houses is much more severe than it used to be.

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Posted by Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 30, 2009 at 9:53 am

Fry some eggs sunny-side up or easy-over and then let the dishes sit with afterward. Not easy to clean off.

Why can't the kids have a water balloon fight instead? Then make them pick up the balloons. Although some idiot would inevitably fill a balloon with some other type of liquid.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2009 at 10:15 am

Useful tip.

If you ever accidentally drop an egg in your kitchen you will know how hard it is to clean up one egg. If you put a liberal amount of salt on the egg and leave it for a couple of minutes, the salt does something to the egg and it cleans up extremely easily.

I saw this on a tv show and recently it happened to me (or a kid) so I tried it and it really does work!

Just thought I would pass it on.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 30, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Unforrtunately, salt is really bad for things like turf, but now I know what to do in my kitchen.

Fact, thanks, that was interesting in a random sort of way. Eggs are cool.

Suspensions aren't the end of the world re: college applications. You do have to explain them and, of course, it depends on the cause of the suspension.

I'd still rather see clean-up and some sort of reparations for this kind of thing. Or work in a soup kitchen so that there's sense of how a lot of food was wasted.

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Posted by Sue
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Many Palo Alto students have parents who not peform their own chores. Some do not even raise their own kids. They have maids and nannies and gardners. Why should PA students think about a mess they have made? Some low-paid worker will just clean it up.

This is *not* a healthy town to raise a child in.

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Posted by bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 30, 2009 at 1:29 pm

bru is a registered user.

I notice how you have to carefully couch what is a riduclous conclusion, that throwing eggs, or frozen eggs at people and property is ok, in a false context of blowing off steam and sympathy for the children.

How did we work to get to a culture where our leaders, many from his area, feel comfortable ignoring the people, giving themselves raises and bonuses when their performance has dragged the whole country and parts of the world down, and breaking the law when they know they hire PR firms and lawyers to spin their actions into harmless jokes.

Maybe if we had dirt huts and one room school houses we might feel it was not OK to pelt them with eggs, disrespecting public property, gambling with people's lives and limbs, and blowing off the cost and work of cleanup, for a privileged group of people who carry these kinds of lessons through life right to the top.

But somehow the randomizing and gambling about if someone or who will get hurt is OK if no one does actually get hurt. Kind of like Russian Roulette, if you pull the trigger and no one gets shot, it's harmless. Is this really the level of critical thinking these kids and some of their parents want to support?

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Posted by Scrambled
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 3, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Vandalism is not really fun and innocent if people get hurt and property gets damaged or ruined. Those kids should clean up their mess. There are lots of ways to release stress that do not involve hurting others. I believe (as others do) that our town's value system is flawed and that is why our kids are acting out. I'm raising my kids here and I've started to feel very disappointed and discouraged by all that is going on. If we are so smart and talented here (and many are), then we should be using that talent to work with our kids and each other to make Palo Alto a more humane place to grow up.

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

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