The 16-year-old male killed by Caltrain Tuesday morning at the East Meadow Drive crossing was a student at Gunn High School, school officials have confirmed.
They declined to discuss the boy's identity or cause of death, yet urged parents in emails immediately following the tragedy to be aware when kids are troubled, to open lines of communication and to show concern.
An official cause of death of the Gunn junior is expected to come Wednesday afternoon, pending positive identification by the family, the Santa Clara County Coroner's Office said.
"Our hearts and condolences go out to the student's family and friends at this extremely difficult time," Gunn Principal Noreen Likins wrote in an e-mail to Gunn families and community members.
"As you welcome your children home this evening and tell them you love them, I encourage you to talk with them about the importance of letting caring adults in their lives know if they are having problems or are worried about friends who have problems.
"Breaking the code of silence so often observed by teens, even when they know friends are wrestling with difficult issues, can be the very best, most supportive thing they can do for their peers."
The incident occurred about 8:20 a.m. Tuesday after a northbound commute train hit the teen, who was on the tracks between lowered crossing gates.
"We've got another suicide," a train-intercom announcement believed to be from a train engineer informed conductors, who passed the word to passengers. The train immediately applied full brakes and stopped, a passenger said.
In recent years, two Palo Alto High School students committed suicide on the CalTrain tracks. Steven Wertheimer died in 2002 and Ben Tachibana died in 2003.
School superintendent Kevin Skelly spent Tuesday afternoon at Gunn working through the crisis.
In an e-mail message, Skelly said: "As parents and guardians, we are naturally deeply affected by this type of event. It reminds us how important it is for us, collectively, to redouble our efforts to look out for our young people as they navigate their way into adulthood."
Psychologists and counselors are available for students, staff and parents, Skelly said. Both Skelly and Likins provided parents with a list of organizations offering crisis resources. (Skelly's message is attached below.)
PALO ALTO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
Message sent - 5/5/2009
Message from Superintendent Skelly
Perhaps you have heard that a student at Gunn High School was killed on the train
tracks this morning. Our sympathy is extended to the student's family, his friends,
classmates and staff at Gunn. I spent the day at Gunn and the entire staff is working
diligently to support students and each other in the aftermath of this tragedy.
As parents and guardians, we are naturally deeply affected by this type of event. It
reminds us how important it is for us, collectively, to redouble our efforts to look out
for our young people as they navigate their way into adulthood.
District psychologists and counselors are available for students, staff and parents
who need to discuss issues surrounding grief and loss. Please contact your school site
principal, psychologist or guidance office if you need assistance. At the District Office,
questions and concerns may be directed to Carol Zepecki at 650/329-3717.
Gunn principal Noreen Likins wrote the following message that was shared with
students today. I hope you will emphasize this message with your child.
"It is very, very important that we look out for each other. If you have problems or
are worried about a friend, if you know of other students who are dealing with
difficult issues, please let a parent, teacher or counselor know. No problem is so big
that a solution cannot be found if people ask for help and support.
Please look after and take care of each other. Each of you is precious to us."
If needed, the following resources are available in our community:
Adolescent Counseling Services 650/424-0852
Center for Living with Dying 408/243-0222
Kara-Grief Support for Children and Adults 650/321-5272
Teen Clinic (Lucile Packard Children's Hospital) 650/694-0600
Teen Line/Crisis Intervention/Counseling 800/852-8336
24/7 Line for Youth 888/247-7717