Caltrain fatality identified as Palo Alto teen

School district to provide counseling and support to students districtwide

By Elena Kadvany

A 15-year-old Palo Alto student was killed by a train on the railroad tracks south of Churchill Avenue in Palo Alto at about 6:25 a.m. Monday, Caltrain officials have confirmed.

The student was a male Palo Alto High School sophomore, Superintendent Max McGee said. Principal Kim Diorio sent an email message to parents this morning to let them know of the incident, and the district plans to send a more detailed message later, McGee said.

The school's crisis-response team was immediately activated Monday morning, with support services to be provided by the district's mental-health partners: Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS), grief nonprofit Kara, Acknowledge Alliance (formerly Cleo Eulau Center), Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI), Family & Children Services and Counseling Support Services for Youth (CASSY).

The preliminary investigation indicates that the death was an intentional act, Caltrain officials said.

The fatality initially shut down Caltrain service in both directions with delays of up to an hour and a half, Caltrain officials said. At about 7:15 a.m. the southbound train tracks were reopened and trains began single-tracking through the area. At about 9 a.m., the northbound tracks were reopened. Efforts are currently underway to restore normal service, Caltrain officials said.

All the passengers onboard the train got off at the Stanford station. The northbound train, #309, was an express baby bullet train that left the San Jose Diridon station at 6:09 a.m.

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority provided a bus bridge from Palo Alto, California Avenue and San Antonio stations. SamTrans is also providing a bus bridge between Palo Alto and Menlo Park stations. SamTrans and VTA vehicles will accept Caltrain tickets, agency officials said.


Help is available

Any person who is feeling depressed, troubled or suicidal is urged to call 1-800-784-2433 to speak with a crisis counselor. People in Santa Clara County can also call 1-855-278-4204.

A list of school and community resources are also available on the school district's Health Services page and the Counseling Services page.

A list of local mental health resources is also available here.

Read more: How to help those in crisis

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12 people like this
Posted by Rachel
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 9, 2015 at 10:42 am

This is heartbreaking. What a terrible loss. My heart goes out to the family and friends. We must do more as a community.

3 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 1:00 pm

This is tragic. Condolences to the child's family.

Rachel, what more can the "community" do? Schools, mental health centers, churches and some non-profit orgs provide information, help, counseling & referral to medical services when appropriate. Who can best identify & seek help for a depressed child? Usually those who know the child best, including knowledge of personal & family problems the child encounters.

Grade separation at train crossings would help too. Belmont & San Carlos, with separated grades, don't seem to have this sad problem.

14 people like this
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

San Carlos has not had a pedestrian fatality since they finished the grade separation. Many suicides are opportunistic in nature and if you remove the opportunity you will prevent many deaths. A follow up study of people stopped from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge found that the vast majority of them were either still alive or dead of natural causes 25 years later.

Grade separations save lives.

9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 9, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Caltrain averages about 14 fatalities on the tracks a year, 90 percent of which are later ruled suicides.

Don't forget the silent victims of these tragic deaths:

Web Link

[Portion removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Grade separation will not prevent suicides. Unfortunately it will actually result in trains moving at higher speeds in those areas.
Too bad the tunneling option has been taken off the table.
Less noise, no divided communities, no train vs vehicle and a lot fewer suicides.

2 people like this
Posted by Larry
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2015 at 3:14 pm

People who want to harm themselves will find a way, no matter what effort is made to police the rail system. What is needed is education. There are warning signs in most cases that someone is in hopeless despair and cannot envision a solution. Recognizing this, and intervening in the correct way is the pathway to change the future. Teachers, parents, students, clergy all need this awareness training.

10 people like this
Posted by PS
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2015 at 4:15 pm

Devastating news! My heart goes out to the family, friends of this young man and the entire community in pain.

Here's a video from a 16 year old Gunn student on suicides. Please watch: Web Link

Something is not working and we need to identify and fix his for younger generation. The school system, parents, teachers we are adults. We are missing something from a child's point of view, that is really very very significant.

Something needs to change, and sooner than later! The school and the system needs to hear the voice of these children. Make every student feel his/her voice is being heard! And then implement the change. What good is it if it is the top most school district academically while we have high rate of suicides where kids are taking life?

41 people like this
Posted by PALY Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2015 at 4:19 pm

Nothing is going to change until the parental culture in Palo Alto changes. Many of those parents push the kids so hard with enrichment everyday and 4-6 hours of studying every night. No down time. No time for being a kid. No time to hang out and make friends. No time to make mistakes. Just perfection. These kids are so isolated. I understand the Feb. CalTrain suicide was romance related. No one lets these kids be normal. Talk to your kids about sex and affairs of the heart. Prepare them for normal pains. Do not go ballistic if they smoke pot or get a fricken B - or god forbid they get a C. The earth will not swallow them up whole. Let them experience life - safely. All my kids have grown up in the Palo Alto school system and some of those kids are scared of life and know nothing about being human. Not every kid will be a doctor or grow up to marry a doctor. I hear mother's telling their super skinny daughters not to eat or they'll get fat. Who to marry in college, marry money, etc. They tell their sons who they can and cannot be friends with. its ridiculous. You cannot learn to cope, if you cannot learn to live and make mistakes. its like plastic land. Everyone is so phony and class conscious. Not everyone with money has to teach their kids that climbing the social ladder is the most important virtue in life. These kids are in for a rude awaking when they join the rest of the human race.

3 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 4:28 pm

@PS - Parents need to pay attention!

Teachers spend their time with 120-135 students per week, 50 minutes per day maximum in a full classroom and no weekend contact. Schools also provide counseling, peer panels, and other assistance. Unfortunately for kids, in-home behaviors (excess drinking, drug use, serious parental conflicts, violence, abuse, etc.) which occur off campus, fall outside of school responsibility, which is primarily to teach.

11 people like this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 9, 2015 at 5:02 pm

pogo is a registered user.

PALY Member said it perfectly.

Nothing is going to change until the parental culture in Palo Alto changes. Many of those parents push the kids so hard with enrichment everyday and 4-6 hours of studying every night. No down time. No time for being a kid. No time to hang out and make friends. No time to make mistakes. Just perfection.

7 people like this
Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 9, 2015 at 6:06 pm

My heart breaks for that poor dear boy's family and friends and for the Caltrain engineer and crew and all the first responders.

PALY Member -----
I agree with every single word you wrote!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for saying what needed to be said, and so well. Your words need to be posted everywhere, and be mandatory reading for all parents -- and students, too, so those students will know that there is someone out there who really understands them and respects their need to just be kids, and to not be put under undue pressure while in school.

Far too many people just accept the status quo as OK and even good, but we all need to realize that these suicides are just the tip of the iceberg. For every student who commits suicide, how many others are there whose humanity has been destroyed and who have been turned into test-passing robots, concerned only about accumulating a lot of money as their definition of "success". Perhaps asking people to realize that there are far better values to have than that is like asking fish to become aware of the water they are swimming in. It is way, way, way past time for adults here in PAMPA to stop equating accumulation of wealth with success, and to stop pressuring our kids so much.

There are islands of sanity and health within PAMPA, and those who are involved with schoolchildren and teens absolutely must help these students -- who are quite vulnerable and impressionable -- to find them.

Peter Carpenter ----
I thank you for pointing out how horrible it is to be a locomotive engineer when they hit people. The train crew are hurting a lot, too, but few people ever realize that. Thank you again for reminding us of their pain.

10 people like this
Posted by Paula Knuden
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Mar 9, 2015 at 10:49 pm

First, deepest condolences to the family and friends of the 15-year old. Most of us cannot begin to imagine your loss.

Re: pushing kids too hard. As others have mentioned, there are numerous community resources available for parents and students if they see the warning signs.

I feel like a big part of the problem is that parents may want to buy into the notion that a B isn't the end of the world, and your child does not in fact have to make the junior Olympics, but the reality in Palo Alto is quite different. If your child doesn't have a 4.0 or higher, isn't on the Ivy League track, and isn't in the top 0.001% of athletes, musicians, dancers, performers or hasn't bootstrapped their own non-profit and raised $40k, then somehow they are not enough. Not intelligent enough, fast enough, talented enough, hard-working enough, or gifted enough. I am concerned that there is so much pressure to have a super star child, that 90% of the students in this area feel they are falling short of adult expectations. And that is not just scary. It's a crisis.

2 people like this
Posted by Unconditional love
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 10, 2015 at 12:20 am

I love my children as individuals who are not me.
Tho' I may appear to be a high achiever on the surface, my high school in PA (Pennsyltucky, not Palo Alto) was far easier than what my kids are experiencing. I would be a hippocrite to judge them on their grades. We need to love our children unconditionally. May they all grow up to be happy, free and productive citizens.

9 people like this
Posted by Menlo Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 10, 2015 at 1:30 am

I've heard having a child is like having your heart outside your body, and I feel that way about my son. I can't imagine the pain this child's parents are experiencing. I don't want to jump to a conclusion without the facts in this matter, but with regard to the scholastic pressure on kids these days, enough is enough. I hear too many platitudes from administrators, too many crisis hotline messages as if treating the symptoms is a cure for the disease, too often "what can we do?" I challenge the PAUSD administration and staff to take a real stand for our kids. Cap GPA at 4.0. Cap the combined total number of AP and honors classes a student may take. Cap the number of AP exams the school will administer to any student. Remove the incentives in this race to the bottom and give our kids back their childhood.

2 people like this
Posted by SKR
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2015 at 6:55 am

As parents, We are equal partners in this crime! Knowingly or unknowingly, we constantly compare overachievers to underachievers, even between our own children! Sometimes expressing that you wish one could be like the other. It may have worked in the past or some other geographical area but it's so much worse in the Bay Area! The kids have insurmountable pressures, some of which we don't even know exist! They constantly swim upstream! There are so many times that I apologize to my kids for raising them in this double edged environment, one that is so high level, cutting edge and competitive but also so destructive and cutthroat! The most important thing is to remember that your child is not a TROPHY to be displayed in a cabinet!

12 people like this
Posted by Rich Slater
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 10, 2015 at 8:22 am

I tried suicide when I was 15. I swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills after disappointing my parents with a bad grade. They were so upset about the grade and my behavior. They wouldn't let me have friends, or do anything but study. When I got a "B" they called the Menlo Park Police to send a cop over to talk about my belligerence. The cop couldn't have been nicer, and took me out by his car at the curb to chat. He urged me to just do my best. I was so upset and didn't know how I could face tomorrow with my parents. I just wanted to disappear from this Earth. I took the pills, all of them. I saw no other way to face tomorrow. I woke up vomiting and you guessed the rest of the story. I didn't die. My 'tomorrow' wasn't so bad. We never, ever discussed my parents' disgust for me, and I don't think they knew I tried to 'off' myself.

My message to kids thinking of suicide: Your problems may seem so awful that you don't know how you're going to face tomorrow, or the next week. That will pass! Your problems today seem huge and insurmountable. They will fade somewhat and you'll have many, many great days again! You can't see it at the moment you want to escape. But KNOW this is true. Suicide is only a permanent solution (a bad one) to a temporary problem! Talk to a counselor before deciding to end it all. Take just a day to think and talk. Don't be rash! Here I am in my 60's. Think how much fun I'd have missed if those sleeping pills had worked that night! Don't do it!

9 people like this
Posted by lessons learned
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 10, 2015 at 12:45 pm

lessons learned is a registered user.

My child's soccer team played a Palo Alto team on Sunday. The parents were verbally abusive to the (volunteer parent) referees throughout the game. They were trying to pick fights with the Menlo Park parents. The team plays all over the Bay Area, but with Palo Alto, there are always issues that you just don't see in other cities. I left the game feeling very grateful not to be part of that parent community. I don't know what is leading to the suicide epidemic, but have to wonder if it's related to the parental lack of approval and support.

6 people like this
Posted by Peter
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 10, 2015 at 4:15 pm

One thing I'd like to see change is the practice of parents putting stickers on their cars proclaiming, "My student is an honor student at ..." This is a not so subtle pressure on other parents and kids to get honor student stickers. For those who don't know the facts about success, there is no real grade correlation to being successful in business or in life. My brother in law, a B graduate from San Jose University, is a happy and successful multi-millionaire. My neighbor is CEO of a Fortune Five Hundred company and he did not graduate top of his class. What he does have is a great personality. So, parents, relax, grades are not the be all and end all of success, nor is attending the 'right' university. Happy people are the successful people.

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