Town Square

Post a New Topic

Caltrain fatality identified as Gunn High junior William Dickens, 16

Original post made on Oct 21, 2009

The Gunn High School student who died on the Caltrain tracks Monday night has been identified as William Dickens, 16, a junior at the school. He had been a member of the water polo team since his freshman year, but reportedly quit the team in early October.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, October 20, 2009, 6:50 PM

Comments (10)

Posted by A dad, a resident of another community
on Oct 21, 2009 at 11:15 am

Thank you for a straightforward, calm news story about this young man's death, without the handwringing larger media outlets experience when youth suicide is involved. The Caltrain suicides are a searing local issue that deserves clear, balanced reporting -- especially in this electronic-media age in which cloaking someone's identity (as if suicide was somehow shameful) fails anyway. If anything has contributed to "romanticizing" these suicides, it's not factual reporting -- it's the concerted attempt to sweep them under a cloak of secrecy, making it all a "forbidden" topic. Let the schools, the police, and the community confront this issue, and perhaps it can be cleared up.


Posted by A mother of three, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Oct 21, 2009 at 12:15 pm

I'm worried that our "high-pressure" community has somehow contributed to these teen suicides: we value education almost too much, we value success at any cost, we don't seem to be able to help our children deal with setbacks.
Making mistakes and not being perfect is simply a part of life. Let's not make our kids feel bad if they fail at something (sports, academics, college acceptance, etc.)


Posted by Scholar, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 21, 2009 at 12:30 pm

I agree with A mother of three's comment. This area is unhealthy in the way she described, at the family level and in the schools. It is a known problem that I have seen raised before. Individuals have to be courageously non-conformist in this environment for the sake of the children.


Posted by Roy, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Oct 21, 2009 at 1:11 pm

I don't know the young man or his family, so I won't speculate on the possible cause of his suspected suicide. My heart goes out to his family.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 21, 2009 at 2:41 pm

I don't know that we value education too much in our communities. Rather, to put a fine point on it, we value the "signals" of achievement too much. These are placed on a pedestal and in the process, sometimes we lose the ability to simply allow our youth to be youth.

Now, how that may map to the psychological state of our youth is not a simple thing, but I agree wholeheartedly that that relationship needs to be examined closely. Furthermore, there is no better place to start for each of us than with a careful self-reflection on the values and choices we make on a daily basis.


Posted by Parent, a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2009 at 1:23 pm

I agree with "mother of three." The pressure we (parents) put on our kids to get into the "right" school so they can have the "right" life is enormous and it starts in preschool. I also agree with Roy that we can't possibly know if this contributed to this particular tragedy and my heart goes out to this young man's family.

Only we (and by "we" I mean the college educated professionals who live on the San Francisco Peninsula) have the power to change ourselves. Embrace our children for who they are. Care more about their happiness than their earning power. And (and this is very important) care just as much about the happiness of other people's children, too.


Posted by Roy, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Oct 22, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Well said, Parent! I heartily agree.


Posted by Parent of two, a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2009 at 9:19 pm

I agree that our culture is putting so much pressure on what children are doing to get into the best college, plays sports, get top grades and be the perfect child that we forget about what is in the inside. We need to stop and ask our children how they are doing on the inside and are they happy. Many people assume good grades, being on a team sport and being popular is a sign of success and happiness. Having raised a daughter to college I saw the stress of getting into college and what pressure she endured. In the end they are only kids and let them have some fun. There needs to be a balance, and as parents we need to make sure they achieve that.


Posted by Looking in, a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2009 at 2:45 pm

I agree with Mother of Three but you also have to look at the way you as parents treat other people. I see too many adults who treat other people with less respect because they see someone working at a not a so-called affluent job and they look down on them. Have you ever thought maybe there is a reason someone is say working at McDonalds or a supper market? It's not because they're not smart it's probably because their parents belittled them or may be society has. Money doesn't make you happy. No one has respect for one another. I laugh at people who just don't get it. Just show respect towards people and stop belittling people just because of their so-called job title or lack there of and you'll see a change. Stop pretending to be better then anyone else because you have more money or a bigger house because you're not.


Posted by Bill, a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2009 at 10:00 pm

We'll miss you Will


If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Palo Alto quietly gets new evening food truck market
By Elena Kadvany | 3 comments | 3,123 views

On Tour - The Highly Selective Liberal Arts Colleges: Occidental, Pitzer, and Scripps
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 1 comment | 1,885 views

See Me. Hear Me. Donít Fix Me.
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,601 views

Questions for Council Candidates--Housing
By Steve Levy | 24 comments | 1,324 views

Anglo Menlo Park
By Paul Bendix | 0 comments | 275 views