Friday, December 21, 2012

January Site Council Agenda

Submitted by Rene Hart

January 7, 2013  3:55pm Staff Lounge

CALL TO ORDER                                                                                   Tina Nesberg

OPEN FORUM:  Members of the public may address the Council on non-agenda
                            Items.  (LIMIT of FIVE MINUTES per person.)


Approval of December 3, 2012 Meeting Minutes (five minutes)

Technology at Gunn                                                                               Ronen Habib
Challenge to Success                                                                            Trinity Klein
Agenda Lightening Round - List of Critical Topics not on the Agenda
    (To add to end of agenda or for future agendas or follow up)
Constituency Representatives’ Reports
§  Principal’s Report                                                                       Katya Villalobos
   Update on Guidance Advisory Committee
             Facilities                                                                                       Kim Cowell
                  Update Facilities
§  Board of Education                                                                     Katya Villalobos    
§  PTSA                                                          Becky Thomas
§  Parent Report                                                       Linda Lingg
§  SEC                                                                                               Kathleen DeCoste
§  Site Council                                                                                  Rene' Hart
                    Evaluation reminders
             Next meeting February 4 at 3:55pm – Geoff Butner will chair
                  Wonhee Park and Josh Paley will bring refreshments 
              Call for Parent Reps in February – two spots will be open (Linda Lingg will complete     
                   her two terms of service and Monica Malamud is eligible to run again.)
              Round Robin - questions or concerns

Light refreshments provided by Tina Nesberg and Gabriela Garger at 3:45

Friday, December 14, 2012

Cutting As Pain Relief-Adolescent Counseling Services

Cutting As Pain Relief? Understanding and Helping Teens Who Self Harm
By Jennifer Jones, LCSW Site Director, Palo Alto High School

This article is intended to educate parents and the general public about an increasingly common behavior among adolescents called self-harm. Although brief, I hope to shed some light on some of the emotional issues and neurophysiology behind the behavior and to help families be able to talk to their teens about it and get them the help they need. 

“I feel relieved and less anxious after I cut.” “I feel like a wave of calmness.” “It makes me numb which is better than the pain I feel inside.” These are some of the reasons I’ve heard from the high school students we counsel for why they repeatedly hurt themselves.  Sometimes called "deliberate self-harm," "self-injury," "self-mutilation," "cutting," or "non-suicidal self-injury," self-harm typically refers to a variety of behaviors in which an individual intentionally inflicts harm to his or her body for purposes not socially recognized or sanctioned and without suicidal intent (Favazza, 1996).  Burning oneself, pinching to point of bleeding, hitting, punching, bruising, ripping/pulling skin or hair, interfering with healing (picking at scabs), and embedding objects under the skin are all ways that people self- harm.  But cutting, using any kind of sharp object to scratch or cut open the skin, is by far the most commonly seen and reported type.  The cuts are usually on the arms and wrists or torso, hips and upper legs.

Maybe one of the most ironic features of self-harm is that most of those who do it say it’s to relieve pain, or to feel something rather than nothing:  in other words, to control overwhelming/painful emotions.  It’s really important to understand that hurting themselves does make those who do it repeatedly feel better.  Attributing it to merely attention-seeking behavior or attempts at manipulating those around them may exacerbate the problem and increase the desire to cut.  Most youth who cut carry around a lot of shame and have difficulty expressing emotions for whatever reasons.  They need to learn alternative methods of coping with painful emotions and how to express those emotions to get their needs met in a healthy manner. There is also an addictive quality to self-harm behaviors.  Endorphins are released that create a sense of well-being as in drug use.  Over time a tolerance builds and the person needs more to get the same result.  Identifying this behavior early and seeking help immediately is critical for successful treatment.

Things to look out for:

·       Unexplained burns, scars, cuts, scratches on hands/wrists, arms, legs or torso
·       Long sleeves in warm weather or lots of bracelets
·       Avoiding activities that expose their bodies (such as swimming or PE)
·       Frequent bandages, odd/unexplainable paraphernalia (e.g. razor blades or other implements which could be used to cut)
·       Signs of depression or anxiety such as withdrawal, changes in sleep or appetite, loss of interest in pleasurable activities
·       Concerned friends or reports of friends who are engaging in self harm behavior

Self-harm can be contagious in school settings.  This behavior among groups of youth can be a means of bonding and belonging.  They feel a lot of empathy for one another and therefore want to care for each other.  However doing so then triggers the negative coping response to the stress of their friend in pain.  It can create a domino effect. Parents may be tempted to blame their teen’s friends.  Attempting to keep your teen from spending time with their friend typically will backfire.  Instead it’s better to set healthy boundaries around when, where, and what time they spend together, and to teach the teen how to care for themselves by setting boundaries with those friends who trigger stress and unhealthy responses.

Parents may also blame themselves, which then tends to increase the shame the teen already feels.   Kids feel bad when their parent feels bad which reinforces the self-harm behavior.  Shock, pity, or reassurance may also reinforce the behavior.  They usually already distrust and think parents don’t understand.  It’s better to just listen and to validate the child’s experience and feelings before trying to problem solve. It’s equally important for parents to self-validate: acknowledge their own feelings in order to be able to move forward and learn how best to help their child. 

Although suicide is not the intention of the person who self-harms, the relationship between self-harm and suicide is complex, and self-harming behavior can potentially be life-threatening, depending on the method and severity. There is an increased risk of suicide in individuals who self-harm.  Recent studies show that individuals with a history of self-harm were over nine times more likely to report suicide attempts (, Cornell Research Program).  Some sufferers have suicidal thoughts and hurt themselves, while some hurt themselves as a type of suicide prevention (it makes them feel better). If they didn’t do it and feel better, they might actually think of killing themselves.  So it is critical that anyone who self-injures undergo a suicide assessment by a qualified mental health professional.

When seeking professional help, parents can start with their family doctor or child’s pediatrician.  Guidance counselors at the school will also be able to refer families to the appropriate professional for help.  One could also go directly to a therapist in the community, mental health clinic, or the local hospital adolescent psychiatry department.  If a parent or anyone ever feels that a child is in immediate danger they can take them directly to the nearest emergency room or call 911.

Janis Whitlock, Ph.D., MPH, Amanda Purington, MPS, B.S., John Eckenrode, Ph.D., and Jane Powers, Ph.D. wrote the information below from the Cornell Research Program.  It has some really helpful tips for parents about how to talk to their teens about self-harm.

Excerpt from The Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior in Adolescents and Young Adults,, Copyright 2012.

How should I talk to my child about his/her self-injury?

Address the issue as soon as possible. Don’t presume that your- child will simply ''outgrow'' the behavior and that it will go away on its own. (Though keep in mind this can and does happen for some young people – some do mention "outgrowing" their self-injury.   This typically occurs because they learn more adaptive ways of coping).

Try to use your concern in a constructive way by helping your child realize the impact of his/her self-injury on themselves and others.

It is most important to validate your child’s feelings. Remember that this is different from validating the behavior:
·      Parents must first make eye contact and be respectful listeners before offering their opinion
·      Speak in calm and comforting tones
·      Offer reassurance
·             Consider what was helpful to you as an adolescent when experiencing emotional distress.

If your Child does not want to talk, do not pressure him/her. Self-injury is a very emotional subject and the behavior itself is often an indication that your child has difficulty verbalizing his/her emotions.

What  are  some  helpful  questions  I   can  ask  my  child  to  better  understand  his/her  self-injury?

Recognize that direct questions may feel invasive and frightening at first-particularly when coming from someone known and cared for, like you. It is most productive to focus first on helping your child to acknowledge the problem and the need for help. Here are some examples of what you might say:

·      "How do you feel before you self-injure? How do you feel after you self-injure?"
Retrace the steps leading up to an incident of self-injury - the events, thoughts, and feelings, which led to it.
·      "How does self-injury help you feel better?”
·      ''What is it like for you to talk with me about hurting yourself?"
·      Is there anything that is really stressing you out right now that I can help you with?”
·      "Is there anything missing in our relationship, that if it were present, would make a difference?"
·      "If you don't wish to talk to me about this now, I understand. I just want you to know that I am here for you when you decide you are ready to talk. Is it okay if I check in with you about this or would you prefer to come to me?"

What are some things I should AVOID saying or doing?

The following behaviors can actually increase your child's self-injurious behaviors:
·      Yelling
·      Lecturing
·      Put downs
·      Harsh and lengthy punishments
·      Invasions of privacy (i.e., going through your child's bedroom without his/her presence)
·      Ultimatums
·      Threats

Avoid power struggles. You cannot control another person's behavior and demanding that your loved one stop the self­-injurious behavior is generally unproductive. 

The following are examples of unhelpful things to say:

·      "I know how you feel." This can make your child feel as if "their problems are trivialized.
·      "How can you be so crazy to do this to yourself?"
·      "You are doing this to make me feel guilty."
·      Take your child seriously. One individual who struggles with self-injury described her disclosure to her parents in the following way: “they freaked and made me promise not to do it again. I said yes just to make them feel better though. That settled everything for them. I felt hurt that they did not take me seriously and get me help.

Adolescent Counseling Services is a community non-profit, which provides vital counseling services on eight secondary campuses at no charge to students and their families. To learn more about our services please visit the ACS website at or call Sabrina Geshay, LMFT Site Director at Gunn (650) 849-7919.  ACS relies on the generosity of community members to continue offering individual, family, and group counseling to over 1,500 individuals annually.  ACS provides critical interventions and mental health services, building a better future for tomorrow. If you are interested in helping to support our efforts, do not hesitate to call to make a donation. It goes a long way in helping teenagers find their way!

Cold Flu Season Is Here

Notes from the Nurse—The FLU/COLD SEASON is here!!
Submitted by Linda Lenoir R.N. MSN

The flu/cold season is upon us.  This means we should be vigilant about taking care of our loved ones and ourselves.  Remember that cold symptoms tend to be milder and flu symptoms more severe, including high temperature, severe aches and pains, extreme exhaustion and dry cough, nausea and vomiting.

A child should not be in school when he/she has:
·      Temperature greater than 100 degrees.  If a child has had a fever, he/she may not return to school until it has been normal for 24 hours (without taking medications to reduce fever)
·      Frequent coughing or sneezing
·      Sore throat
·      A new cold or generally feels bad
·      Extreme exhaustion
·      Vomiting during the night or diarrhea

Tips for Staying Healthy and Preventing Colds/Flu:
·      Get plenty of rest
·      WASH YOUR HANDS!!!! Use warm water and soap and wash for at least 10 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
·      Avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose.
·      REMEMBER to cough/sneeze into your elbow, not your hand!! (Or cover with a tissue and then wash your hands)
·      Consult your Dr. for advice on receiving a flu shot.  It is not too late to get a flu shot this year

We believe that your fellow students and teachers will understand if you are ill and unable to attend school.  Check with the teacher regarding making up work according to school policy.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

SELPA1CAC Romantic Relationships parent ed event

Submitted By Karen Mueller

Romantic Relationships   If your child is impulsive, na├»ve, or unrealistic, how does this affect their ability to enjoy appropriate romantic relationships?  What can you do to help?  Dr. Marci Schwartz has been providing counseling services for parents of children with autistic spectrum disorders, nonverbal learning disorders, and attention deficit disorders. The emphasis of her work is focused on helping parents better understand their children’s unique way of learning and interacting with their environment.  She helps parents implement concrete strategies for their families that incorporate the specific learning styles of all the members of the family. She also focuses on helping parents address their emotional needs, such as issues around frustration, anger, sadness and worry regarding their children.

Wednesday, Jan 16, 2013 – meeting is 7 to 9 pm.  Hospitality begins at 6:45pm.  Covington Elementary School Multi, 205 Covington, Los Altos 94024.
This parent education event is sponsored by the SELPA 1 CAC (  All of our events are free and open to anyone who feels they might benefit.  No registration is necessary.

December's Asset of the Month

December's Asset of the Month is Asset #1: Family life provides high levels of love and support.

Family support refers to the ways that parents, siblings, and extended family show love, encouragement, and comfort to each other — families are the cornerstone of the social support system for youth.  The 2011 survey of Palo Alto youth reveals that while younger youth generally experience and are aware of family support, teenagers do so much less often:  89% of PAUSD elementary school students, 84% of our middle school students, and 66% of our high school students reported this asset, based on their responses to:

            • I get along well with my parents
            • My parents give me help and support when I need it.
            • My parents often tell me they love me.

Because adolescents require greater autonomy and independence than younger children, effective family support for older youth takes a different form than in earlier years; however, their need for their families is still strong. Adults are challenged to find a balance between giving youth the love and support they need to navigate their adolescence and the independence they need to develop as individuals. 

The following discussion topics can be used to open a dialogue with young people about the ways that they experience family support: 

            • Does your family provide support in a way that’s meaningful and easy for you to recognize? Why or why not? 
            • Do you and your parents treat each other with the same kindness and dignity that you’d expect from your friends? 
            • Does your family do things together on a regular basis? Are there any activities that you’d like to share (or be willing to share) with your family? 

Winter break provides families with a chance to spend more time together.  We hope you enjoy your time together and let them know you love and support them.  For some resources and activities to try together, click on the December Asset resource kit link below.

This content is based on Project Cornerstone’s Asset-a-Month program resource kit. For more information, visit:
December Asset resource kit: 

To get involved in the Palo Alto Developmental Assets Initiative of Project Safety Net, contact s at:

Thank you for your ongoing support!

Linda van Gelder

Empowering Our Youth Through Developmental Assets.
  Palo Alto Developmental Assets     
  Initiative/Project Safety Net