Official Student Newspaper of Henry M. Gunn High School

The Oracle

Official Student Newspaper of Henry M. Gunn High School

The Oracle

Official Student Newspaper of Henry M. Gunn High School

The Oracle

Breaking News: Students skip SELF, Study Hall to participate in walkout

On Friday, Feb. 23, students skipped SELF and Study Hall to participate in a walkout, gathering on the football field to discuss student mental health in the aftermath of Tuesday’s student death. 

During the meeting, student organizers freshman Aya Gurevich and sophomore Milcah Morrison directed students to sit at the center of the field, where they proceeded to speak about Gunn and district wellness measures. Students were then invited to come up and speak about their own thoughts and frustrations. Toward the end of the meeting, Principal Wendy Stratton brought three boxes of pizza for the participants, part of a Parent Teacher Student Association gift for all Gunn students.

Attendees learned about the event through social media. According to Gurevich, Morrison proposed coordinating a walkout after seeing his Instagram story suggesting that students “boycott SELF.” As the word spread, students were encouraged to show up in green, a color symbolizing mental health awareness. 

“It’s just kind of to get teachers and staff and the administration to notice that what they’re doing isn’t working, and kids aren’t happy with it,” Gurevich told The Oracle. “At 15 years old, I experienced, in my school, somebody died. That’s something that shouldn’t happen.”

Although the event was promoted as a boycott, Morrison cautioned against using such labeling: The event’s goal wasn’t to condemn the school, but rather to foster discourse. 

“You can’t blame staff, you can’t blame the Board,” she told The Oracle. “You can’t blame the people that are just here from their nine to five … I’m sure it’s great that we have activities out there to help people, but we really need to sit down and just talk about it.”

According to Stratton, conversations with the crisis response team — including counselors and therapists — made it evident that students needed an outlet, and the walkout seemed like a peaceful way for them to express their emotions. 

“We know that we need a community response, and we don’t want to inhibit students who have a need right now — especially coming into the weekend on a Friday — to connect and work through whatever they’re going through,” she said. “So my feeling — and our feeling — was to give them space to do that.” 

After Morrison and Gurevich spoke, the attendees were invited to come up and share their perspectives. Those present expressed wide-ranging frustrations — critiquing Gunn’s academic culture alongside Wellness Center guidelines and SELF lessons — and shared their experiences, both in speeches to the rest of the group and in interviews with The Oracle.

“SELF is more of a Band-Aid solution,” freshman Dante Chung told The Oracle. “It’s generalized mental health care, and that’s not what mental health care support is supposed to be about.” 

While SELF Coordinator Kathryn Catalano anticipates that the SELF program will continue to adapt based on feedback, she added that mental-health guidance and resources may not be within the program’s purview: It was established in 2017 to address California’s social-emotional learning standards.

“It’s important to note that the SELF program, it focuses on social emotional skills,” she said. “While there is, of course, a lot of overlap between that and having strong mental health resources and things of that nature, that’s not what the SELF program was established for.”

Other students, including sophomore Noam Morris, addressed Gunn’s academic culture, telling The Oracle that offhand comments — such as saying “I’m going to kill myself” after getting a bad grade on a test — trivialize mental health struggles.

“I think we as a community really need to come together and start working towards giving those topics the respect they deserve, talking about them in a more healthy way,” he said.

Some speakers requested a day to memorialize the student who died. While current district policy doesn’t ban memorials, it does prioritize protecting vulnerable students. “Suicide contagion can be instigated with the death of an individual, even if the death is not due to suicide,” the policy reads. “Therefore, schools must respond to all school community deaths in a thoughtful and similar manner that maximizes safety and carefully considers the impact of memorialization on participants and the broader community.”

To bolster student voice, Stratton called several students to her office this morning — ASB President senior Nathan Levy; SEC Special Events Commissioner senior Ruth Jaquette; School Board Representative senior Chris Lee (who is also a managing editor for The Oracle); SEC Wellness Commissioner senior Daniel van Schewick; Reach Out, Care, Know Club President junior Beverly Lamis; and ROCK board member junior Grace Missett — to arrange a Listening Session Event. The event will take place during an extended lunch on Tuesday, Feb. 27, in the Acorn Lounge, next to the library. 

During the session, students will have an opportunity to share thoughts, concerns and suggestions in the wake of the student death. Students can submit input, concerns and questions that they want administrators to address to this form

The goal of administrators and students alike, however, is to provide robust support systems during this time. 

“Be there for your friends first and foremost — that is what matters,” junior Gene Chumakov, who attended the walkout, told The Oracle. “Because this isn’t just an issue of admin not doing enough. This is an issue of students not caring for each other, and having such a lack of faith in the resources and the therapists that we’ve been provided.”

The Oracle has since conducted investigations into wellness measures at Gunn in a continuation of its 2019 In Pursuit of Wellness” series. Part I, an investigation into SELF, can be found here.

If you are worried about yourself or a friend, contact the National Suicide Prevention lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-8255, the Wellness Center, suicidepreventionlifeline.org, a therapist, a doctor or a school counselor. If the threat is immediate, call 911.

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About the Contributors
Amann Mahajan, Editor-in-Chief
Senior Amann Mahajan is the editor-in-chief of The Oracle and has been on staff since January 2022. When she’s not reporting, she enjoys solving crosswords, doing terrible British accents and playing the piano.
Kaylee Cheng, Features Editor
Sophomore Kaylee Cheng is a features editor for The Oracle and has been on staff since January 2023. In her free time, she likes to make jewelry, read and play with her cat, Meow.
Fenton Zarlengo, Reporter
Fenton Zarlengo is a sophomore and reporter. He enjoys all subjects, and is eager to learn about others.
Freshman Chloe Wu is a freelance photographer for The Oracle. When her schedule allows, she enjoys cross-country running, pondering philosophical questions, and reading various indictment papers.
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