Teen suicide talk roils forum

The seven candidates competing for three seats on the Glendale Unified school board addressed district issues before dozens of people Thursday night at the La Crescenta Library in the final candidates forum of this election season.

Hosted by the Crescenta Valley Community Assn., the candidates discussed how they would include students' opinions in school board plans and how Glendale Unified could better collaborate with Glendale Community College.

But it was a question about what could be done to intervene with suicidal students — following public suicides at Crescenta Valley High and, most recently, La Cañada High, which is outside the district — that stirred the forum the most.

Incumbent Joylene Wagner said schools have more responsibility for student mental health needs than ever, but don't have the funds once allotted for such programs by Los Angeles County.

"Our schools simply can't do it all. We don't have the funding," she said. "We have to be as alert as we can."

Incumbent Christine Walters said the district actively addresses student needs, citing confidential files of students who are a threat to themselves or others, she said.

"I can tell you, they happen all the time," she said. "There are protocols. Sometimes our students have to be hospitalized because they are in significant crisis."

Candidate Daniel Cabrera, who taught at Glendale High from 2001 through 2010, recalled students who drank alcohol at lunch or used drugs, noting that these are avenues students can take when they are depressed, he said.

He added it was important for teachers to recognize signs, such as dull or hyperactive behavior in students.

Candidate Jennifer Freemon said parents should cooperate with school staff "as they see things" in students, adding that it would take the community to assert that "we are not going to let any more of our kids do this to themselves."

Candidate Ali Sadri said it was important to listen to general student input, because they have knowledge of the actions and behavior of their peers.

Armina Gharpetian pointed to the responsibility of parents in speaking to their children daily to solve issues "just by talking."

"We can't generalize it, but I think prevention and intervention is key," she said.

Incumbent Greg Krikorian said pressure on today's students to succeed is too great.

"At the end of the day, it's a community approach," he said. "We're growing up our kids too fast in this country. We've got to slow things down."


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