An Open Letter to The Administrators at Wayzata High School

An open letter to The Wayzata High School Administrators, Faculty and Staff

June 5, 2014

EDITED 2/21/17.  This little blog post created quite an uproar when I wrote it almost 3 years ago.  I took my daughter out of the school district after the threats I received.  I was threatened and blackmailed to take this post down.  I eventually took it down.  But today, I’m making it public once again as a tribute to yet another life lost.    This is not to implicate Wayzata, we are far removed from the Wayzata Public School district.  This is not to blame anyone, but to implore EVERYONE to please, be aware of depression. Be aware of everyone around you and how they are doing.  Make them know they matter.  Make them know they are loved.   Put up with their moods and their depression and their inability to get out of bed.  Be there for them NO MATTER WHAT.  Stand beside them and walk beside them until they make it out the other side, till they make it out okay.    We need to stop losing young people to suicide.  WE NEED TO BE AWARE.

This letter is also intended as a public letter to the School District Superintendent, School Board, Wayzata Public Schools faculty and staff, all parents, students, family members, community members of the Wayzata Public School District. The purpose of this letter is to ask you this two-fold question:

How many more lives are you going to allow to be sacrificed before you do something about the suicide epidemic that has swept through Wayzata High School, and, what are you going to do about it?

I’m not asking this question as a knee-jerk reaction to the 2 suicides within 4 weeks, nor as a knee-jerk reaction to 4 suicides within 2 years. I’m asking as a concerned community member and parent of 4 Wayzata Public Schools students who have been in the district from kindergarten through graduation.© Cristina Bernhardsen | Dreamstime Stock Photos I come to you as someone who has more than average experience with suicide. I am a registered nurse, a former school nurse to a major Minnesota High School, and someone who has first-hand experience with suicide within my own family. My daughter is a sophomore at Wayzata High School. One of my other daughters recently graduated with the class of 2014. Each of these girls have now had fellow classmates commit suicide.

Yesterday, yet another Wayzata High School student took his own life. How many more lives need to be lost before you address this?

Today, my daughter and her classmates wanted to talk about it in class. I am appalled at what happened next. Her teacher did not even ask them if they needed anything or if they needed to talk. No, instead, her teacher silenced them, shut down the conversation and refused to address it. Basically, as my daughter described it, it was a perfect summation and reflection of the clueless denial that the administration has and its refusal to address this life and death problem. Today I received an email from the Wayzata Public Schools with a link on how to talk to adolescents about death. Are you serious? A link? Two suicides within a month and that’s all you’re going to do to address this epidemic? You’re going to send out a link? There are lives at stake here. People are dying. Do you acknowledge that? Have you asked the question of WHY? Have you asked the question of What is it about Wayzata Public Schools that has created this culture?

Clearly there is a cultural defect within Wayzata schools that has enough influence and impact as to drive these young people to the point of such desperation to conclude that their only option is to end their own lives. If you are honest, you might be able to see it. I can.

I urge you to ask yourselves about the culture at Wayzata Public Schools and Wayzata High School in particular. Take a moment to consider the pressure these young people are under: the stress to succeed—-not just to succeed, but to excel at beyond a college level, AP classes, Honors programs, academic competency tests, college entrance exams, honor roll, honor society, scholarships, financial implications, awards, letters, metals, accolades.

Yes, Wayzata has high academic standards-the best in the State. Yes, Wayzata is a leader in athletics. BUT AT WHAT COST?

In addition to academic and athletic pressure, there is the entirely new phenomenon of social media, in which a student has absolutely NO WAY to escape. There is no way for a student to avoid it, because it is an ONLINE world now. Yet, what is the school’s answer? Yes, it hands out Ipads to every student, just in case they don’t have enough online time, just give them more inability to escape it. More pressure. More stress.

 

I’m urging you–you’ve got to change something. You’ve got to do something about the culture at Wayzata High School. You’ve got to affect change. You’ve got to relieve the pressure, reduce the stress, and for once, let these kids just be kids. Stop killing them. Please stop letting them die.

Respectfully,
Penny Mueller
Wayzata Parent

ADDENDUM (6/12/14) 

To all readers, there has been an overwhelming response to this controversial blog post. Due to the nature of the comments, I’ve found it necessary to add some rules to keep all conversations on this blog civilized.

The rules for commenting:
1. First and last name are required. No screen names. No more hiding in anonymity.
2. Verifiable email address.
3. If you wish to protect your identity (if you’ve been a victim, attempted suicide, have a sensitive story to tell, etc.) leave your comment and I will privately contact you and discuss editing to protect you yet still share your story.
4. Reminder: this is a blog written by a private individual. Reading it is optional. Disagreements are welcome as long as they are constructive and respectful.
5. All comments published are at the discretion of the editor.

The next blog post will be about Bullying in Wayzata. If you have a story that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you. Again, all victims identities will be protected.

do not say anything in the dark that you wouldn’t say in the light

Comments

    • Hi Matthew. Are you related to David, by any chance? What would I do about it? Well, there aren’t any easy answers. There is no easy answer to suicide. My brother committed suicide when he was 25–years after high school, so I know a bit about suicide. But, if I were an administrator at Wayzata, the first thing I would do is acknowledge that there is a problem. I don’t think they’ve done that yet. I don’t think they see the dysfunction that prevails within the high school community at Wayzata. I think they are blinded by ambition and numbers. I think I’ll write an article about what I’d do to address the problem of suicide at Wayzata High School. Thanks for the idea.

      • here’s a thought Penny/ Like with any other tragedy / Bring in some grief counselors to help them process/ your Daughter should have been HEARD/ in fact the entire school/ all classrooms/ should have talked about this. Awareness, etc….at least your Daughter TRIED. It happened in the 80’s as well/ lost some friends/ not as rampant……Minnetonka HS has a great grief group/ my Niece spent time in it for all 3 years I believe as she lost Her Dad right before starting out there. Awful timing/ awful death/ another graduate of WHS. Not a suicide/ close enough. As far as my deal/ I was in the Learning Center/ then placed in an alternative school half days/ I was falling behind/ acting out/ etc….skipping a lot. Part of this falls on my own family. The staff in the LC were great/ apparently at 15/ 16, I was too defended to break through? Well/ you learn to do that/ so if they thought I was then/ add 30 years, I feel bad for my therapist now! I think they tried/ the school was so much smaller–did not feel that way/ but more manageable.. I think most teachers then cared/ it was the administration/ Principal at the time. He didn’t want to get his hands dirty/ an actual quote. No easy answers/ at least you have the GUTS to look into it. & you are a GREAT Mother for doing this. Thank you. I will cheer you on!!!

    • I think if friends and family or others want to do something in memory of these students NAMI is a good place to start. They can walk in honor or memory of someone. Greg Lind walks in memory of his son every year.

      http://www.namihelps.org/Landons-Light.pdf
      http://www.namihelps.org/about-nami/namiwalks.html

      NAMI works tirelessly to educate, support, and advocate for people living with mental illness like depression and anxiety and more.

      http://www.namihelps.org/about-nami.html
      http://www.namihelpsyouth.org/

    • Okay/ I will comment one more time> but realize( not directed at you Penny!) that I have tried to get people to hear me my entire life/ they chose not to. Then/ I will speak only to Penny as this is a total waste of time/ I lived it & am reliving it now in therapy. THIS goes back to Elementary School/ Widsten in my case. A former student/ that also had a Mother in the district started a Widsten Group. Or someone did. Alumni/ Wildcats. 1 / we had a 6th grade teacher that molested many Girls/ did not matter the age. 2 / We had a 4th grade teacher that bullied us/ hit us/ took our lunches/ etc. I did NOT bring any of it out. BUT some needed to. They were shut down instantly. The guy I’m referring to said/ THIS is a happy memory page only/ something like that. So? I dropped out. I was one of the victims too. So/ this IS some sense of entitlement/ a DARK issue that Penny is opening up/ YOU should THANK HER! OVER & DONE.

  1. Penny, thank you for writing this. Wayzata High School administrators need something like this to realize that there is indeed a problem. I think it’d be a great idea to write an article about what you’d do to address this problem. I’d like to add that every time there has been a suicide at Wayzata, the students are all told that their peer “died unexpectedly” rather than being told that he committed suicide. I feel like the administration is afraid of using the word suicide or afraid of acknowledging that there is a problem. However, we need to get over these fears and start openly discussing mental health issues more often. Again, thank you for bringing this to the attention of Wayzata High School, and I look forward to your future articles.

    • Thank you for your comment, Sarah. I have personal experience with suicide in my own family, so this topic is near and ear to my heart. It does nobody any good to deny what is going on. You are so right: we need to acknowledge that there is a problem and openly discuss mental health issues. Thanks again, Sarah.

    • Sarah,

      In the most recent case, the word “suicide” was not used because the family of the deceased asked the admin and staff not to.

  2. As part of the Wayzata class of 2014, I agree completely with this. My whole time as a student, I felt completely overwhelmed by the idea of succeeding, never feeling happy with my personal accomplishments. One teacher in this district convinced me early on that a C was a failing grade. Going into the counselor for help, whether academically, financially, or for personal reasons, I always felt brushed to the side and my concerns unheard.
    This school has driven so many students to depression and personally hurt me and so many of my friends…While I’m glad to be gone, I worry about the students that still have to put up with it.

    • I appreciate your concern and we all share it but I really do not believe that the administration or staff of Wayzata HS have anything to do with these suicides. I cannot speak for these boys but I did know two of them personally (David and Brady) and I know that school pressures were only a piece of the puzzle. I am a mother of two students at Wayzata HS (well, one just graduated) and my personal experience with the staff there in relation to deal with suicide and depression has been nothing but incredible. They have literally gone above and beyond to assist our family when our daughter became overwhelmed with depression and anxiety following David’s death and then went to incredible lengths to help us again after Brady. They made if VERY clear that it was much more important to take care of her health than to worry a bit about school.

      I am not sure your remember the emails that went out last year inviting all parents to a free training at the middle school to talk about teen suicide prevention. The link sent out yesterday was very appropriate considering all they are trying to juggle in these last days of school. If they had done nothing then parents would have also been up in arms.

      No one knows what to do. We do know that teen suicide has become an epidemic in schools all over this country and it can be “contagious” within one school. I agree we as a community need to start talking and I expect that the administration at Wayzata schools has plans for much more education on the subject for families. The problem is the families don’t want to talk about it and they fail to attend these trainings. It would probably be more effective if someone like me or you arranged a community meeting to discuss it and let the KIDS tell us what they are feeling.

      Yes, the pressure is high at Wayzata to achieve and the competition is fierce but this is what the country keeps asking all schools to do. How often do we hear about how low US schools rank in the world in education standards? How often do we hear that our students are ill equipped to compete for jobs in Math and Science in the modern world? We can’t fault these incredibly talented teachers for their dedication to bring out the best in our kids. I personally have seen the work ethic and care of the social work and counseling staff at WHS and it is truly remarkable. We all would love to point fingers but I don’t think the problem is that simple.

      • Thanks for commenting Liz. It’s a cultural dysfunction at Wayzata. The stakes are made to be too high. There is too much pressure to succeed. There is too much pressure to fit in. There is too much emphasis on rankings and GPA and numbers and image and scores. I have no doubt in the world that the culture at Wayzata has changed. I’ve watched it as my 4 kids have gone all the way from kindergarten through 12th grade. The sense of community, and looking after each other, and having each other’s backs, and compassion for your fellow person, and sanctity of life have been lost and have been replaced by numbers. Students are a number. Their test scores are a number. Their GPA is a number. But, they are kids. They are kids. And they are losing sight of how amazing, and special, and beautiful and valuable each and every one of them is because that’s not what is being emphasized and reinforced to them. The message they get is all about the conditional value they have based on their performance. The other thing that has been lost is the wonder of childhood, and how much fun being a kid used to be. They don’t even get to have fun anymore.

        • Wayzata does not do class rank. Seriously, did you look into this matter at all? You are throwing out guesses as facts and it’s disturbing.

        • As a teen myself I see te pressures that we have to go through. You are right that we have no time to ourselves during the school year. I spent this whole year either at school, or at home studying, every day. If you don’t have good grades your seen as no one and if something goes wrong your the one to blame. It’s too much to handle sometimes and you go to sleep crying. iPads are not going to help the situation either. I have talked to some freshmen and they all day that it complicates the learning experience evaluate you have to learn how to use them, taking away time to learn. I personally knew Bobby and he was so intelligent. I don’t want this to happen to any other person. Wayzata needs to step up and make a required group guidance or something. Maybe we could have an assemble, i dont know.

        • I agree with you about the pressures at WHS, and pretty much any top performing high school in our area. Look at Blake, Breck, Edina, Minnetonka-all demanding school districts and all at the top. I don’t know their suicide rates-probably much lower but I know these schools are at the top as well. Do you know for a fact that these suicides were in fact in response to the pressures these kids felt from being at that school? Did they leave notes or proof indicating this? I don’t think we can put this all on the pressures- unrealistic or not, from the demands of this high school and their desire for perfection. What about home life? Family life? Friends, bullies, drugs, alcohol, peer pressure or even mental illness? These all can contribute to the suicides, so why do you blame the school? Yes, the school needs to address it, let the kids process it-but is the school to blame? I can’t imagine that these teens took their own lives solely because of their pressures in school. I am curious to hear your response.

    • I agree. Approaching counselors results in referring you to a counselor for outside help like RESPECT. The children are disconnected. The school is big, there is not consistent classes, so children get “lost” “feel alone” and don’t have the same kids in the class. The school and teachers need to make sure the children are feeling connected. There are a lot of activities outside of school, but what about in school. When kids feel alone, they want to stay in there room. My 9th grade daughter forgot her Ipad the 2nd week of school for one day. The science teacher gave her an F and would not let her take the quiz so 2 F’s. I talked to both science teachers who felt this just and she would learn responsibility. It crushes kids self-esteem. The tests now are 70-80% of their grades. REALLY? This is tough and high pressure. I didn’t have this in college and I have a Master’s. The 1st 2 weeks of Math 2x my daughter was overwhelmed with the classes, got low grades (she always gets A’s and feels the pressure). The teacher never reached out to us as parents. I am glad I watch her grades. I would have to say, Wayzata has some amazing teachers. The ones who focus on small groups, connecting, less pressure on 70-80% test grade, the ones who know they are only 14-17 year old. They get it. Ipads are a support to teachers and learning, and I dont feel should be entirely on there. I just see my daughters always in front a computer. What about a required class talking about social etiquette, focusing on how to communicate, to connect? Or SAVE in all the bathrooms, or a small group like the DARE program for kids to get involved with. There are some ideas for the schools.

      • Thank you Frustrated Mom for your comments. I understand what you’re saying. It’s a pervasive cultural dysfunction that has raised the stakes to the point that breaks our kids. There is no question that Wayzata is an EXCELLENT school district. I’ve been proud to have my children graduate from Wayzata High School. But things are changing. Some don’t see it. Others, like you, do.

        • I do not know the circumstances leading up to these kid’s deaths. I went to Wayzata schools my entire childhood….including WHS. There’s a dark side/ a sense of entitlement/ Image is huge. A lot of abuse at the elementary school/ Widsten/ BUT/ we do not speak of such things/ also the Junior High/ west at that time. Rape is big/ I am finding out more & more about Girls that were/ me/ included. That sense of entitlement? I just don’t know/ maybe some friends can pop on here & add their own words. Dealing w/ my past now/ 30 years later & I just hope I make it/ several attempts at suicide/ I get it. I am so sorry for your losses…. Thanks for speaking your/ THE truth.

          • You’ve made it this far! That proves your strong. Your voice will be heard and you will help so many! Please continue to be strong and know that by speaking out, you’ve opened even more opportunities for conversation and calls to action. I applaud your courage to say the things you’ve said here. Thank you.

      • Agree so much with what you are saying!!! It is sad that testing has become so all consuming. Not what real life is about.

  3. “Stop killing them. Please stop letting them die.” Your use of language is shameful. Yeah, Pennysuemueller, they are all sipping coffee in their offices watching kids die. They’re slavedrivers pushing kids around in the hallways. I have been through the suicides of family and classmates. Unfortunately, high school students are impressionable, so when they see the attention and emotion that surrounds a suicide of a peer, some will start to fantasize about receiving that same attention. Students can be inspired to commit suicide.

    Have you met these 4 students? Did you interview them before their suicides? How do you know that it was the pressure of high school that drove them to suicide? Did you know that sometimes kids have personal issues, maybe family issues, that are unrelated to school? Have you heard of mental illnesses? Your blog is lacking these important factors, and I can’t help but believe that was intentional. Fingerpointing is the easiest thing to do though, isn’t it? You complain about the school’s high standards. Guess what, friend? It’s the parents that have wanted, encouraged, and bragged about the success of Wayzata. Instead of creating a poorly written, poorly thought out blog, get together with other PARENTS (you know, those people who are actually responsible for their children) to come up with solutions. It is likely that you were so upset by the link the school sent because it implies that parents need to be the ones taking initiative. I also understand that you were unsatisfied with the way your daughter’s teacher handled a conversation about suicide. Did you know that classes are comprised of 20+ students? How should she handle that situation to the satisfaction of 20+ sets of parents? Perhaps, that’s why parents exist. They know their children best and can answer those tough questions. . . but hopefully their answers will be more than just finger pointing.

    • Dear anonymous, you’ve missed the entire point and I’m not going to waste my energy on someone who won’t even leave their name. And for the record, it’s my blog, it’s my opinion, it’s not poorly written, nor am I ill informed. When you’ve had your own sibling commit suicide, feel free to call me ill informed. Until then, go bark somewhere else.

      • That is a bit of a hypocritical reply. Frustrated Mom and A Friend revealed no more of their identities than Anonymous. I see this as a large part of the problem. Unwillingness to discuss when someone does not agree with you – you specifically in this case and the general “you” for many such issues. If there is to be an open dialog, there needs to be willingness to listen to both sides. A healthy conversation about what can be and needs to be done does not start in an environment of blame and finger-pointing.

        Teen suicide is beyond tragic – as is any suicide – but it is not unique to Wayzata Schools. There is as much pressure among other schools. Suicide happens even in “under-performing” schools. You cannot blame the Wayzata administration and teachers for these tragedies any more than you can blame the other students, the families, counselors they may have been seeing or the suicide victim himself/herself. There are so many factors and sometimes it is the mental health of the individual and the pressure they instill on themselves – which might not involve school at all. It can be next to impossible for a suicidal individual to ask for help, yet help is what they need. Every case is unique and must be handled with great sensitivity. Yes, the schools need to help the students and families, but it is not on their shoulders alone. We ALL need to be listening to our kids.

        I am sorry for the loss of your brother. The impact of suicide never ends.

        • Agree. Open dialogue asking the kids and family to listen. Complex and each unique. This is only what I have seen in the school. I appreciate so much pressure in the world outside of school

        • That was exactly what I was saying as well. School can play a huge part in the mental health of a person-but there are certainly outside pressures that can bring on suicidal behaviors. I do not agree that WHS is the reason and should not be to blame. I understand these kids are pressured beyond belief, but it is not necessarily the reason behind their suicides.

          • Kids spend they majority of their waking energy for 9 months out of the year at school, yet it has no influence on the pressures? You said they are pressured beyond belief. From where does that pressure come?

      • exactly/ & I am so sorry about your Brother…..I will stay strong/ made it this far. Keep on going/ Ignorance is bliss until it catches up.

      • I agree Anonymous; parents need to look in the mirror. Are you kidding me? I am a WHS grad. I am the guy who did little to nothing and still graduated. I took every elective I could and went to Hennepin Tech. Life is all about choices and WHS gave options. If you want to be a ivy league student you have to be an above average student. Nobody can make you do anything.

  4. Shame on you for blaming the Wayzata Administration. You do not have all the facts! Some things to keep in mind – It is a very large high school. The pressure comes from the parents, not the teachers. The family of the latest young man specifically asked that their son’s situation not be discussed as a suicide, only that he “died unexpectedly”.

    Instead of flaming the administration, offer some constructive advice. My own child has faced her own struggles, and the counseling staff at Wayzata has gone above and beyond to help her. Without them, she may not have graduated on time, and most definitely would not be attending the U of M next fall.

    Yes, suicide is a tragedy. My own child was touched by the loss of David Ng (may his memory be a blessing). Many factors drive young people to the brink, and spouting off like you have does not help the situation, it only hurts.

    I would suggest that we tell our young people that the counseling staff at Wayzata will always listen, and is a “safe place to land”. Also, parents, talk to your children! Tell them “It will get better”. Offer to find someone for them to talk to if they are uncomfortable talking to mom and dad. Adolescence is a very trying time. Let them know how many people in your family and community are looking out for them.

    I have already offered some suggestions to the staff to try next year,and they are open to it. They will welcome constructive criticism from parents, They love these kids and want them to not only succeed academically, but emotionally as well. Be a partner in your child’s future.

    • Dear Margaret. Thank you for chiming in. I dare to blame the administration because they are the top of the food chain in the hierarchy of schools. I’m afraid that you’ve missed my entire point. When I used to breed and raise dogs, us as breeders sometimes came down with what was known in the business as “kennel blindness”. It was a ‘condition’ in which we were blind to the shortcomings of the bloodlines in our kennels, and because of our blindness, we often bred more of it instead of breeding the flaw out. That’s what the Wayzata culture is doing. There is no denying that Wayzata High School is an excellent place. But the culture is dysfunctional. Just like you yourself said…..”without them…..she most definitely would not be attending the U of M next fall.” That’s great that she’s going to the U of M…..but what about the people who aren’t. Would you believe that if a person from Wayzata chooses to go to a community college, they are looked down upon in disdain, as if they just stepped in dog doo-doo? Yeah, believe it or not, but it’s true. The U of M is the measuring stick upo which a lot of factors are based–students are told what their GPA must be to get into the U of M. And as far as my “spouting off” as you put it, I have every right to voice my opinion. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to. And for the record, my brother committed suicide. I’ve lived this first hand…..so, my opinion counts….probably more than yours does.

      • I am a student at Wayzata High School and while I see your point that some students would benefit from talking about it, this isn’t the case for every student. So to talk about it in every classroom wouldn’t be beneficial for everybody. There are counselors, small groups, and even teachers willing to talk and help. I do feel that Wayzata puts a lot of of pressure to succeed, succeed, succeed, but I don’t think you can put these suicides on the administration. There’s so much more going on in someone’s life that I don’t think it’s fair to say that it’s all the administration’s fault, or that it necessarily had anything to do what was going on at school.
        When my brother died by suicide 6 years ago, the teachers and administration were very supportive to me, my family, and his friends, (and had been to my brother as well while he was at school), and we in no way held them accountable for what happened.
        When something like this happens I think it is important to find more ways to make students feel more comfortable sharing their feelings and letting them know that they are valued, but to point the finger at one group as being solely responsible, doesn’t seem fair. Unfortunately, we can never truly know all the factors that contribute to someone taking their own life.

      • do NOT let comments like THIS stop you Penny/ they’re trying/ Ignore…you know the facts/ and not using your voice ends in disaster/ I need to stop reading these types of comments for now as they are damaging.. I have records/ quotes. Call on me if needed down the road. Peace to you & yes, I will work on my stuff. YOU GO!!!

    • Thank you! I agree 100%. I’m over parents blaming the schools for everything. TALK to your children. This isn’t a Wayzata problem, this is a nationwide problem. Rates are rising alarmingly all over.

      According to AAP ” 90% of suicidal teenagers believed their families did not understand them” How telling is that statistic?

    • The pressure does NOT only come from the home you are so wrong on that. The school puts standards on you and if you don’t meet them you are nothing, you aren’t even noticed.

  5. This is such a tough thing to deal with. Each child has a different story and one aspect of their life cannot be the reason for what they did. Addressing these events is incredibly difficult. Raising attention to suicide makes it look “glorified”, seeing how much attention someone gets after it happens, and often results in more than one (Logan after David, Bobby after Brady). But not talking about it isn’t appropriate because it is something that shouldn’t happen. It’s a careful subject to address, and as of right now no one seems to have a good way to deal with this, and I don’t think focusing solely on the school board will solve it. There isn’t a universal solution, especially with a large school like Wayzata, because each individual’s life is drastically different.

    • Thank you, A Friend, for commenting. I agree with you. This is a tough thing to deal with. My post was an open letter, an open question, attempting to address a difficult situation, and ask the tough questions that NEED to be asked and NEED to be addressed. At least the conversation is now taking place. That’s what we all need…..to have a conversation.

  6. Suicide happens unfortunately. Yes, it’s sad but at the same time Wayzata is a very large school. I’m not saying four suicides is normal but I’m also saying it is not unusual. I have been to other school’s where death happened more frequently. Before we play the blame game maybe the school and the community should get together and try to make the high school a better place. Pointing fingers is not the answer.

    • Andrew, Exactly my point! Let’s try to make the high school a better place. That’s the entire point of my letter. And, just for the record, even though Wayzata is a large school, 4 suicides in 2 years is actually quite unusual, it puts the school at the high end of statistics, and not a good statistic to have. Thank you so much for commenting. I appreciate your input.

  7. Penny – can you contact me so that I may forward you an email that I sent in to the school? I too am astonished at the culture and the way they have not suffciently addressed nor allowed expression of these issues with our children.

  8. The recent events involving students at Wayzata High School is tragic. I don’t think that there is anyone in our community who would disagree with that. The senseless loss of life – especially young life – brings out emotion and passion in all of us. It leaves us feeling scared and helpless as parents.

    It is our time now, as a community, to band together and work toward a solution. For us to say that it is one faction of a teen’s life that is to blame for a suicide is short sighted and unproductive. If we believe, and as a teacher I truly do, that it takes a village, we must also believe that it takes a village carefully and collaboratively look at what ails our community and provide not criticism, but suggestion for positive change moving forward.

    As parents, we hurt. We hurt when our students are hurting and questioning. We struggle to find the answers and explanations for them when we don’t really understand it for ourselves. These are hard times and hard issues. It is important that our children see our commitment to our community, to our schools, to them and to one another in an effort to move forward and create positive change.

    I can almost guarantee that the families of the students who have been lost at Wayzata High School are not interested in finger pointing and blaming. Instead, I am sure that their wish is that no other family ever has to suffer the same unimaginable loss that they are experiencing themselves. Let’s work together – families, schools, places of worship – to make that happen.

  9. “What is it about Wayzata Public Schools that has created this culture?” This is the thesis of your letter, so stop telling people they have “missed the point” when they tell you to stop blaming. Your entire letter is accusatory both in tone and in language toward Wayzata administration. Yet, once you see comments that bring you back down to Earth, you comment to Andrew, “Let’s try to make the high school a better place. That’s the entire point of my letter.” Yeah right! Did you read your own letter? You don’t want to do anything except blame administration for this societal problem. Where is the part where you take any action, or call on other members of the community to action?

  10. Hi Penny,
    I think you have made some very strong points and I agree with you and many of the comments. Unfortunately I feel that is an issue within our nation and community in general. I don’t have much more to say but I’m regards to your article about possible solutions I would suggest requiring every student to take pfam. I don’t know if your girls have experience with the class but it is a great experience for students to bond, open up to each other and truly discuss with their peers some of the issues they are facing in confidence. I also think that with so many students the school needs to hire more councilors to help the many students that need that assistance and advice. I also think actions need to be taken at a younger age. My little sister was bullied in first grade for having a Barbie thermos. And the middle school years are not a piece of cake.. If the district were to implement and enforce more at younger age I think that it with help the issue as well. I hope this helps you moving forward with your next article.

  11. Very disappointing post. As a former WHS student, this makes me cringe. An epidemic? Your sensationalized rhetoric totally undermines any point you are trying to make, or more importantly, any change you are trying to create. “Stop killing them.”? Did you really write that intentionally? No real change or constructive dialogue could possibly come from this. So grateful my mother had enough pragmatism to never behave in this childish manner while I was in high school. I would have never learned how to address tough life circumstances if I was being raised by someone who resorted to babbling theatrics.

  12. To Sarah. That is not true. The school has always been very open about the cause of death in the email unless the family has specifically requested that they not reveal this information.

  13. This is offensive. The administration loses sleep daily over this. How dare you imply that they don’t care! I personally know a few of them have shed many tears over this!

    The reason the staff member shut it down is because there are trained professionals that deal with things like this an they were all ON HAND at the school for days. The guidance counselors are always available as well. Penny, your daughter was wrong—the classroom is not the place for a talk like that when it may trigger yet another student to be overwhelmed. Teachers are not counselors, and are torn up themselves over it.

    If you are a concerned parent, try doing something instead of whining over it. Who says YOU can’t organize something to support the kids? I thought so…. You are more to blame than any administration.

    By the way, have you talked to the administration at all, or are these all assumptions? My guess is the latter. Try making a phone call instead of assuming things like they are doing nothing.

  14. You have the right to your opinion, of course. You have enabled comments, so we have a right to critique your (very flawed) arguments and voice our own opinions. And no, your opinion doesn’t count more than anyone else’s, even if your brother committed suicide, because you don’t know the true reason these kids committed suicide.

  15. I have a suggestion for those concerned.

    When suicide rates skyrocketed at Anoka Hennepin things were so bad that the CDC regarded the situation as a major public health hazard. This, by the way, is how one might address the “privacy concerns of the parents” issue. If there is a situation (and I know nothing of the details) that is emerging or getting worse, the concerns of as yet unaffected families are paramount, just as though this was a spreading disease.

    So, my suggestion is to contact the state department of health and the CDC (they have a major suicide prevention program) to see if you can get some of those resources moved in place.

    A few emails from concerned folks to those organizations may have a helpful result.

  16. As a graduate of Wayzata as well as the brother of David, I think that it is hard to say for certain what his mental state was at the time and how his interpersonal relationships with friends and peers at Wayzata really affected him. I am still puzzled by all of it to this day. I did not really learn about everything that happened and I don’t really understand why it all happened, and believe me when I say I have tried to understand the situation. I have really tried, since then, to come to terms with is.

    With that said, I can only speculate… but I think that school stress definitely could be something that pushed my brother over the edge. I remember the nights where he struggled to do his math homework (like me, all of my siblings and step family), I remember how many times he told me how shallow and isolated his peers were. I clearly remember how hard it was for him to really have any fun in school and I think I agree with you that students at wayzata are really pushed to go above and beyond what is required of the typical high school student (if there is a “typical high school student”).

    Now, I clearly remember my own Wayzata High School days. I remember leaving West St. Paul, and then going to West Middle School, and going to the high school. To me, it was all a completely different world. Having a cellphone in high school back in 2003 – 2007 was something only a minority of privileged students had. Furthermore, driving a car was also something that I never did just because I couldn’t afford it.

    Moreover, I will admit that I lived in Wayzata, but my mother and step dad were not extremely affluent and a lot of the time, they struggled to keep the mortgage paid and feed all five children. Additionally, I never was given money for driver’s ed or sports. I just didn’t do a lot of the things that the kids driving BMW’s got to do. I am not bitter about it, but the whole atmosphere there, in my opinion any way, was that if you could not pay, you could not play. It kind of made things really hard for me and as a result, I often spent time at my house instead of with my peers. It was not boring though, I taught myself art and music when I was not slaving over my mo pro assignment, or completely misunderstanding the math program.

    For example, one of the things that I really was involved in was concert choir, madrigals, music, and theater. I remember it being extremely competitive and turning more into something akin to an American Idol event. I can not really confirm this, but sometimes I felt like the kids that always hosted the parties at their giant “mansionesque” homes were the ones taking the lead roles in the musicals, and singing the solos in choir. Again, I can not confirm, but I do remember a few of the people that sounded like frogs, but ended up singing lead solos because their parents were on the school board… or maybe… just maybe… happened to drop a rather large check off to one of the performing arts departments.

    One other thing, to the people that think that my brother’s suicide inspired other kids to commit suicide because of the attention and sympathy surrounding the event, I tend to disagree. I think that people who commit suicide tend to do it because they are not receiving the support and attention, and are just not willing to be a part of something that they can not adapt to. I think that their reasoning and thought process is skewed.

    I really do not want to think of my brother as someone that is inspiring other students to commit such an atrocity… A horrendous, ghastly, and horrible act that leaves family, friends, and members of the community completely broken.

    Finally, I want to thank you for saying something about this. I think that it is an inconvenient truth. I think that certain changes need to be made to try and create a better atmosphere at Wayzata. There definitely is something rotten. There definitely is something that could be fixed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFk8RFK2yA4 <— this girl doesn't put it very eloquently, but she kind of sums it up.

    If you want my opinion of what this school needs to do, I think that it needs to use technology (such as Ipads) to create an anonymous forum where students can talk with a school counselor. I also think that it ought to be mandatory, if it already is not, for each student to have at least one talk with the counselors at school. I also think that Wayzata needs to tone it down a bit. When I went to college ( I am still attending btw) I found that Wayzata was a lot harder, that there were waaay more expectations, and it was way more stressful. Further recommendations would also be keeping an open dialog on the subject of suicide as well as good mental health habits. Another recommendation would be to start an anonymous interactive screening program where students could take an online questionnaire which would evaluate them and help them get in touch with the resources they need, if they need them.

    This is a tough issue nonetheless and I hope that I don't piss off too may people, but what I really hope is that we can have a friendlier atmosphere at Wayzata as well as help and support for all students to prevent more suicides from happening in the future.

    • Matthew,I am weeping. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for writing this. I was getting ready to delete my blog, because I have receive numerous mean-spirited, hateful comments with personal attacks against my kids, myself, my character, and my intellect. I was so down about the negative comments that I almost deleted the whole thing. I can’t publish many of them because they are so hurtful….all from parents of Wayzata students……hmmmm….the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree? But when I read your comment here, you lifted me up again, and your words have made this all worth it.

      My brother committed suicide in 1985, I know that’s a very long time ago…..but would you believe that I still think about him every day? And now, every time another student takes his own life, I relive my brother’s suicide. When your brother died, you may not know it, but I felt your pain. I felt Logan’s family’s pain, I felt Brady’s family’s pain, and I feel Bobby’s family’s pain. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your unique perspective. I am quite shocked at the backlash that I am receiving from my blog post. I have learned over all my years here on earth, that when a topic is uncomfortable and when a nerve is struck, the first reaction of people is to get on the defensive and attack the messenger personally instead of thinking deeper and trying to answer some tough questions. I realized how controversial my comments were when the principal at Wayzata High School called me on the phone to discuss my post. Clearly I did strike a nerve, and hopefully awareness is being raised. I don’t believe that what you have said here could possibly piss off people,but I know I have pissed off a lot of people by what I’ve said. I, for one, love your suggestions and ideas and believe your viewpoint is unique, heartfelt, and spot on.

      By the way, my oldest daughter was in the same class as your sister, and my daughter who graduated this year was in David’s class. That oldest daughter just graduated with her Master’s, and she said the same thing that you mentioned—-Wayzata was much harder and the expectations were higher than college was…..and that was 5 years ago. Expectations today are even higher than they were then.

      Again, Matthew, thank you. If there is ever anything you need, if there is anything I can do for you, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.

      • Well thanks again! Don’t delete your blog! It’s awesome and I am having a pleasant time reading it. Just remember that – haters gonna hate – and at the very least, someone’s saying something about this.

        I think that Wayzata needs to stand up to common core and all that no child left behind malarkey. With all of its resources and generous donors it could set a standard for what other schools could do if they did not have these things in place.

        I would suggest you use the unkind words of these parents and “students” that write waaay too much like adults (that never went to HS at Wayzata) in your next blog post. I’ll definitely be monitoring this blog in the future.

        Thanks for your support as well. I really appreciate it and if you want to reach me, the best way, that I tell everyone, is through email.

  17. Hello, Mrs. Mueller. I’m happy to finally see a reaction to the grotesque cycle we’ve been building up, but I disagree as to where you’re directing it.

    I’m one of about 4,000 people who spends nine months of the year trudging over the hill each morning to Wayzata High School. I’m involved in enough activities so that I know a solid quarter of those people, and the struggles are definitely genuine. With 3,600 students, too many of my peers slide through the cracks in the system and you’re right that there’s a problem here we have to talk about. But I don’t think you can blame that culture as squarely on the faculty and staff as you do here.

    You say that the administration is “blinded by ambition and numbers”, but I don’t think they’ve chosen their blindness or that they’ve blinded themselves. Aren’t you forgetting about the common core and the entire standardized testing system the state has put in place to rate schools against each other? What happens to the district if those blinding numbers begin to slide? They haven’t chosen their motivations, and while it seems petty to pit human life against funding and prestige, if you’re talking about administrative actions, it’s that funding and prestige that keeps the district alive.

    Furthermore, the school’s hands are bound just as tightly by parents as by anyone else. I walked in on one of my AP teachers this year pleading with her fellow staff members that there should be a limit placed on the number of AP classes a student could take. Slacken the pressure and so on. Just what you’re talking about. But of course it won’t happen, and not because it wouldn’t be healthy (it would), or because there’s no exigence for it (there is), but can you imagine the parent outrage that would be unleashed in so doing? I’m sorry about your daughter’s teacher refusing to open a class discussion on the subject, but I’m taken aback by your assumption that this is some sort of pseudo-policy. Dozens of teachers I’m around show only concern and a desire to help, and in many of my classes that sort of discussion has taken place. To judge an entire class of people as guilty based on that one example is as inconsiderate as it is unfair.

    It’s possible that as a student and you being a parent, we approach this in different mindsets. We students are your children, your responsibility, and since the school is supposed to care for us in loco parentis, it’s their fault that something’s gone wrong. As a parent, you see that. As a student walking the floor each day, I see instead the influence that we have on each other and the exclusion and the pain and the slow crawl towards graduation that not all of us finish, and I don’t think our youth absolves us of the suffering we put upon each other. We are just as responsible as everyone else in causing that pressure and causing the anguish that leads to the tragedies surrounding us. And while it’s tempting to have at the authority figures in question, we are the living body of the school, sentient, rash, and just as culpable as you.

    You acknowledge that this is a nationwide “epidemic”, and yet you ask “What is it about Wayzata Public Schools that has created this culture?” And I get it, that you start working where you are, but in this case I don’t think that works. Until the state stops using cold numbers to rate the schools, the schools will be blinded by them. Until the colleges stop looking for your honor rolls, letters, and accolades, parents will scream at an attempt to take them away. We share the knee-jerk reaction of “something must be done!” but I don’t see where you explain what. All that you’ve done is concentrated blame on one set of people, whereas this is really a failure of a much broader society comprised of students, teachers, parents, and governments. And, well, I think that’s unfair.

    But really, it’s the last thing you said that did it for me. “Stop killing them,” you say, as if these teachers, who have touched us and helped us and worked the most thankless of all jobs for us, had pulled each trigger themselves. “You’ve got to change something,” you tell them. But it’s not that simple, because you and I and everyone else will have to change, too. And if your idea of doing “something” is trying to bloody their hands, which are only as guilty as ours, then you’re part of the problem.

  18. Penny –

    I completely agree with you about the social media issue. I’m 43, and I can tell you one thing without doubt or hesitation: at the level of bullying I received way back in the ’80s, had there been texts and Facebook and Twitter and — God forbid — Snapchat, there is no theory under which I would have lived to see fourteen. Not a chance.

    But I also agree that the problem goes FAR beyond schools and deep into our culture. Most PARENTS these days, much less faculty, have an extremely limited ability to identify, much less cope with, their emotions. Every technological advance seems to make our individual worlds SMALLER.

    I have suffered from Major Depressive Disorder for most of my life. I spent THIRTY YEARS considering suicide at least once a day. After involuntary hospitalizations, I was hooked up with a DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) program, and it changed my life. There are four units: Mindfulness, Interpersonal Communication, Emotion Regulation, and Distress Tolerance. The focus is NOT on who’s at fault for your issues or what’s gone wrong in the past — it’s about replacing maladaptive skills and approaches with effective ones. It’s about equipping people with tangible tools to help them navigate their social and emotional landscapes.

    I believe this curriculum should be taught at somewhere in the late middle-school to early high-school as a Life Skills class. One in which there’s a parental component involved. Until we learn how to empathize rather than blame, be flexible instead of towing the party line, engage directly instead of through electronic mediation, maybe even LISTEN to our kids without having prejudged what the problem is or the validity of their emotions — kids will continue to believe that they are entirely alone, that nobody understands, and that there is no future worth living for. Kids will continue to die. And though their conclusions are gut-wrenching and tragic, I cannot judge them harshly for simply BELIEVING what they have EXPERIENCED.

    • Dear Jeff, thank you so much for sharing! I really appreciate your viewpoint and you make great points!

  19. As a student of wayzata i can clearly tell you this “pressure” is self implemented. These standards arent forced upon students and.plenty of students do just fine taking their normal classes without AP, NHS etc. I feel that you are somewhat pompous in your knowledge of suicide. You seem to act like you know all the answers because it happened to somebody near you. Now let me be clear, i’m sorry for your loss and i understand its a horrific thing to go through but every suicide is different. To try to generalize these suicides without knowing details as to why is frankly unnecessary. If this was truly an issue dont you think the parents of the family would have spoken out? The issue isnt grades, the issue isnt access to the internet. This culture war your raging is riling up people over something you hold up with such pride. Take it from a student who suffers from deprssion, there are a million factors that play into ones urge to die and those you have stated are such minor things in the big picture of such a decision as suicide. Now i say this in the most respectful way i simply strive to show you that suicide is a much more complex issue than grades. One more thing i must add in the defense of wayzata teachers while your daughter may have had a bad experience with a teacher who didnt want to discuss the suicides with her students that teacher does no represent the majority of the wayzata teaching community. I can speak from first hand experience vouching for the quality teaching at wayzata. This year my childhood best friend disappeared in the mountains in Colorado and still hasnt been found. The day after he was pronounced dead my counselor called me in and wrote me a note making sure i could see who i needed if i felt upset in class. I had two teachers that i chose to visit and had many more who would have embraced me with open arms. These teachers have been instrumental in my mental well being and my development into the person i am today. So please do not generalize the teachers of wayzata based on one bad experience. If you’re daughter needs the name of teachers she can talk to let me know I’ll send you a list.

  20. As a 2010 alum of Wayzata, I was blessed to have not been affected by any “unexpected deaths” of students, as the district would call it. However, I would like to address another part of this phenomenon. While I agree that at Wayzata, staff and administrators seem to only value you if you are smart and/or athletic (neither of which I was ENOUGH at, so I knew that indifference firsthand), many of out students are feeling the pressure from parents and other peers. For many within these schools, parents have decided that success is measured by the college acceptance letters that you receive or the number of extra curriculars that you are a part of. We can’t take the blame off of the schools for perpetuating this frigid idea of success and division within students, but they are also not the only who have the power.

    On the note of suicide (or any hard issue that teens need to learn about, really), you are absolutely right- Wayzata takes zero care to address it. I struggled with depression as well as an eating disorder throughout most of high school, but the stigma surrounding not being absolutely perfect was so high that I just kept it to myself. Many affluent, suburban schools face these problems of the perfect image, where success can be gauged by how perfectly you can present yourself, which is absolutely irritating and dysfunctional.

    Thank you for writing this- it rings so true, especially to a woman who’s brother has told her many a time that he was stupid and hated school because his teachers have made him feel like his best isn’t good enough and that being in the average class was actually code for “idiot”. It rings true to a soon-to-be college graduate that, four years ago, assumed she couldn’t do anything but slide by in college because she was made to feel below average in high school (despite being enrolled in AP and Honors classes and working 40 hours a week), but has gone on to be honored as a top senior at Mizzou and will be working in one of the most competitive organizations in the nation post-grad. I don’t, by any means, want our high schoolers to be coddled or treated like children. On the contrary, if you raise the standards reasonably, students will rise to them. But what is the benefit in raising the standards so high that students fall?

  21. I’m not sure how I feel about this – as a parent of two Wayzata public school students, and as a teacher in the district for the past decade, it’s easy to blame the teachers and the school, but the fact of the matter is that my children feel way more pressure from ME and what is happening in their lives than the district.

    Today I had a discussion with my children first, and then my students, about suicide – I told each one of them that I love the unequivocally and that no problem is ever big enough to solve by killing themselves, but I also had to shut down a couple of other conversations because the rumor mill was churning fast and it was my best judgement call to not continue the conversations. I probably left a few kids thinking that I didn’t care, which could not be further from the truth.

    I agree that the high school is obligated to address what has happened, and figure out how to support our students to the best of our collective ability, but to state that the district is killing students is an incredible disservice to the hundreds of people who give of themselves above and beyond every single day.

  22. When I first read your letter, it made me think: “Wow, you make some great points!” But the more I thought about it, the more upset it made me. Something wasn’t sitting right with me. I finally figured out what it was… Why is Wayzata High School solely to blame for the recent “suicide epidemic”?

    I, too, am a concerned parent as I have a 10th grader and a 7th grader that also attend Wayzata schools. So, yes, I realize that Wayzata is known for its push to do well in academics, sports, and other activities. But, let’s not forget that there’s more to a teenager’s life besides school. What about what goes on at home: divorce, marriage, financial troubles, pressure to do well, fear of disappointment, health problems? How about relationships with family, friends, and boyfriends/girlfriends? What about jobs, driving, dating, extracurricular activities outside school, drugs and alcohol, church? And the list goes on… What about an individual’s ability to handle stress? Two different people under the same stress will react very differently. Some people thrive under pressure; some do not. How can the high school possibly be held responsible for all these other factors over which it has no control?

    I agree that your daughter’s teacher didn’t handle the situation well at all. Maybe that teacher should have called in a counselor or asked them if they wanted to go talk with a counselor. Maybe the high school needs to train all of its teachers to be more ready to handle these types of conversations when they come up rather than sweeping them under the rug? Maybe the high school needs to provide more in-your-face, personal counseling besides just stating that counselors are available or providing online resources? I agree that they need to be part of the solution but to blame them for it is unreasonable. I commend the high school for trying to give parents and guardians resources so that they (the parents and guardians) can also help their kids – and maybe even their kids’ friends.

    Any poor soul lost is one too many. As a parent it makes me stop and think about what I can do so that I can keep my own children from facing such a desperate decision. I don’t know these kids who died so I certainly don’t know why they did what they did. But did you know any of these kids and their situations well enough to make the assumption that they all decided to end their lives because of pressure from school?

    You make some VERY strong accusations. Suicide happens everywhere – not just in Wayzata. If you are so distraught about the atmosphere, why do you continue to send your own kids there?

  23. I read Sauls comment and it did not come off to me as bellitling you or being very discrespectful. I believe he made some valid observations based on personal experiences of going to WHS and of dealing with depression. Also anytime it seemed like Saul was becoming disrespectful he made sure to pause and apologize for coming that way e.g. when he was talking about you being “pompous” but then took the time to empathize with your personal experience of suicide in your family. It seems to me that you are not being very open to other peoples ideas and opinions that aren’t the same as yours. An open forum should be one where different beliefs are shared and people gain insight from others opinions to get a better understanding of the issue at hand. For instance, we have gotten many responses about students attended WHS and even though some opinions were different then yours, they helped provide insight into the issue that adds more insight into the nature of the suicide issue itself. I appreciate that you have set up this discussion so that many different ideas can be brought up, but even though you may not agree with some of them you should still try and address why you disagree with them since you started the discussion in the first place. I sincerely apologize if I come off as disrespectul or condescending, I am just trying to inspire a discussion where many opinions are heard.

  24. Finally. Someone had the guts to say what everyone’s been thinking. I left Wayzata and switched to Hopkins a year and a half ago. I used to be in the position of those six kids. Luckily, my attempts at suicide failed and I can actually be here to talk about how wayzata dealed with me. I was tortured and alone in that school. Everyday was a new challenge to either fit in or adjust people’s awful opinions of me. I had no friends. Administration gave me multiple coping methods to deal with my problems. ARE YOU JOKING? A coping method? They pushed me right back out of the office. They only care about maintaining a “perfect” reputation. The worst part is that no one knows about this and now we’ve voted on expanding the school. It’s sickening and I do not stand behind Wayzata and their decisions one bit.

  25. Why are you weeping and lifting up those who agree with you, but casting down and ignoring those who don’t agree with you? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, eh?

  26. Well stated, Luke. Teachers in this district are hurt just as much by this news as anyone else. This is devastating for all. I noticed a pattern of you, Penny, only reaffirming those who agreed entirely with your comments. There are too many pressures in this world for everyone…I don’t think it starts and ends with any administrator or school. We all just want to fix it.

    • Dear Teacher, you should see how many comments I haven’t approved. And, let’s not forget, this Blog is my own personal internet real estate…and I get to choose who I will invite in, and with whom I will engage in conversation. Maybe you’d like to start you own blog?

  27. Ms, Mueller,
    I invite you to contact our Superintendent, our Administration, School Board members and other concerned parents, teachers, students and community leaders to have a face-to-face, open conversation about your concerns. I share your concerns about our students. I am a veteran Wayzata teacher, educational leader, and parent of two high school students in Wayzata.

    I respect that you have your opinion and use your blog to express it, however, using social media is not only ineffective and inappropriate, but unprofessional, and the very platform that you have criticized students of using to contribute to the problem. I invite you to use it to raise the concern and then to effectively encourage change.

    If you feel that your point is not being understood or that some have not received it the way you had intended, I encourage you to express it clearly at the beginning of your blog so that readers don’t misinterpret it.

    I also ask you to consider the words of the Wayzata students that have commented. They spend a majority of their time in the school and are sharing their opinions and comments about their experiences of being there. These young adults are poised, highly respected and accurate to our experiences within our school.

    If you organize an opportunity for us all to share our concerns about our students, enlist the help of professionals who specialize in adolescence, I am happy and look forward to participating. Our Superintendent consistently communicates that he invites members of our community to contact him at any time. I’m sure that you will find him to be compassionate and caring as I have. He is a parent of Wayzata children too.

    Additionally, please know that the family of the young man that we recently lost explicitly asked the school district for privacy and we respect that.

    • Dear Wayzata Teacher, thank you for your input. In fact, I had a lovely conversation with The principal yesterday and he was quite gracious.

    • Blah blah & more BLAH at Wayzata Teacher/ Pfffft…..we are not children at that point/ or I was never one….I’m PRETTY sure the Parents of the latest victims realize you do not keep secrets in Wayzata/ they all know! Died of natural causes at 15/16? Please/ we are not as stupid as you think/ thought we were. GROW up.

  28. “And, let’s not forget, this Blog is my own personal internet real estate…and I get to choose who I will invite in, and with whom I will engage in conversation.” You have enabled comments, so now it becomes a discussion where everyone gets to state their opinion. Perhaps you’d like to disable comments since you can’t handle other commenter’s sensible, down-to earth refutations?

  29. I am appalled by this post! The truth is suicide rates are at their highest levels statewide and are especially high for teen males. http://www.mndaily.com/opinion/editorials/2014/03/03/minnesota-needs-more-awareness-suicide-issue

    It is easy for you to sit at home and blame the people who are tirelessly working day after day to help students succeed in life. Watch students die? ARE YOU SERIOUS?! Are you actually blaming the high school for holding kids to the highest standard and helping them strive to their greatest potential?

    If this issue is so near to your heart, start a suicide prevention parents group. Have meetings, start campaigns, sponsor events. Get out there and do something about it. We live in a culture that blames the school for everything that is wrong with our society.

    Do you have any idea how hard these teachers and administrators work? Do you know how many hours they put in beyond their scheduled work day because they love students? Do you know how stressful working in a school can be, especially when parents blame you at every turn?

    Thank you for having a heart for this issue and for your concern around the tragic losses that this school has experienced but stop playing the blame game, and get out their and help make a difference!!!

  30. Address this issue, yes. Change Wayzata’s competitive culture that breeds academic and athletic success? Seriously? Turn WHS into another mediocre, everyone gets an ‘A’ high school? Dumb idea. Stop trying to shelter kids from pressure. I don’t know any of these suicide victims, so I won’t pretend to know anything about their individual situations, but changing a culture of success is NOT the answer.

    I am a firm believer that mental health and being able to handle pressure starts in the home. It starts with parents being able to let their children go through hard times without trying to shelter them from anything that might make them upset. The real world is not fair. The real world is tough. The challenges and pressures I faced at Wayzata were not even comparable to what I faced as an athlete at a prestigious Division 1 university. I am so thankful that I was pushed the way I was in high school so that I was ready for the challenges of college. Stop blaming an administration for promoting excellence.

    • Success at what cost, that was the question. I have children who graduated in the Class of 2009, 2011, 2014 and will be graduating in 2016. You may, or may not be aware that things have changed. The competitive culture that you highly regard has changed. The stakes are higher. The implications are higher in terms of Common Core and Federal funding. My 2009 grad currently has a Master’s degree. She’s no dummmie. She ‘got through’ high school. My 2014 and 2016 took all ‘regular’ courses and the amount of work they devoted to them this year was more than my 2 college kids. Being looked down on for getting a 91% on a test in a class for one of my daughters is not a nice feeling. Telling someone that you’re going to a college in North Dakota and getting looked down on is not a nice feeling. My kids have gone through a lot of hard times. More than their fair share. Clearly not everyone can handle the pressure-as evidenced by 4 suicides in 2 years. I’m not asking to take from the Wayzata excellence. I’m proud of the Wayzata School District for the most part. I’m asking to look at the culture. Look at the pressure. Look at the constant pressure to be the best, to drive the best, to wear the best, to get into the best college. Stop looking down on people who go to community college. Stop telling people that a “c” is a bad grade. Stop telling someone that “you’ll never get into ‘that’ college with a GPA like that…” Be nicer, be more compassionate, be more tolerant. Have more respect for life. Have more respect for people. Let high school go back to being a fun time of life. That’s what needs to change.

  31. Bravo for starting this conversation. I agree the last two lines were a little harsh but maybe they needed to be said for others to take it seriously. We personally, were lucky enough to have Ms. Nesbit, who was understanding, caring and recognized that after these suicides, kids that had compassion and cared about these boys, were going to struggle and would check in with Jake. In a school of that size, so many kids just simply slip through the cracks. I could go on and on but David Ng’s brother, Matthew said it best in his reply. Great blog, thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Robyn. I agree, my last two lines were a bit harsh. But so is suicide, so I chose those words with intent.

  32. I also agree a lot of the parents do not help the situation. It’s obnoxious and pathetic how competitive they are with their own children and what’s really important in life. Getting a C isn’t acceptable and doing anything other than going to a four year college (preferably Ivy League) makes you unworthy. The yearbook itself is a prime example how obnoxious it is. There are full pages of students traveling the country, who were the most popular or other family non related school activities but if your child was in choir or cross country, try and find which kids face is theirs in the pinpoint dot of a photo they have in the yearbook. There’s an actual yearbook “class” that students take to produce this 500 page, popularity book. Looking through my own HS yearbook (1/3 of it’s size) there wasn’t a lot of unnecessary, unrelated material in it. We didn’t learn about other families vacations and whatnot. If you were actually in an activity you could see everyone’s faces and could recognize them all. It really is more proof as to what is important and what Wayzata values as a school. Just open the book, it’s all there.

  33. My heart is heavy for the students and parents at Wayzata High right now. Suicide is so devastating.

    I am a 1987 Wayzata alum. I follow the Wayzata High memorial page on Facebook and have noticed the number of suicides throughout the years. I am also someone that attempted suicide my senior year. I can easily say that Wayzata High had nothing to do with my suicide attempt. No person, place or thing had anything to do with my actions. My undiagnosed and untreated mental illness was the cause of my suicide attempt.

    At that time, I don’t know if teachers were knowledgeable about the signs of depression. My parents definitely weren’t and I was too scared to ask for help. And there lies the problem. So here we are, 27 years later and mental illness is still not being talked about! Meanwhile, teens (and adults) are dying because they don’t understand what’s happening to them and they want the pain to stop. They are still too afraid to ask for help.

    If you want to reduce the suicides in your community, start by advocating for mental health awareness. Help erase the stigma of mental illness by getting information out into the public. Get mental health services in the schools so the kids can easily access it. In fact, I just went to NAMI* to get their web link and their top story is about Minnesota and how “we” have an innovative program that connects mental health providers with schools. Brilliant idea! There has to be some mental health intervention here or the suicides will continue.

    These are really sick kids. They may not look or act sick, but they are most definitely sick. And they need our help. Don’t wait until they are gone to try and notice the signs.

    Go to *National Alliance on Mental Illness at http://www.nami.org/

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/after-woodson-high-suicides-a-search-for-solace-and-answers/2014/04/11/a394dc64-b069-11e3-a49e-76adc9210f19_story.html

  34. Hello Mrs. Mueller, I apologize if it offends you, but i would like to remain anonymous. I am currently a junior at Wayzata, and i could not agree more with Luke. I will not pretend to personally know the students that we have lost to suicide in the last few years, but i do know our school, and i completely agree that there must be a change. We must change. We have been raised in this challenging school, but i believe that the drive of Wayzata is a good thing. Our selfishness as a student body is not. This past year i started dealing with panic attacks–to the point of hospitalization. But i can tell you that they were not triggered from my AP classes, clubs, sports, fine arts, or (God forbid) my teachers who had the audacity to treat me like the young adult I am, but instead from a nasty break up that left me without close friends that i could confide in, and the added stress of sick family members. I, and many of my fellow classmates that you have not replied to, stand behind our teachers and administrators 100%. pointing fingers at these loving and extremely hardworking adults is not the answer. We must work together as parents, staff, and especially students, to create a more welcoming environment. Perhaps by using the advisory time each month to learn more about suicide prevention, attend seminars, or even just to have time to talk about what can be changed in how we interact. Asking for more of a challenge from these teachers, and then painting their hands red when you think they may have pushed too hard, is cruel. It is the student body that needs to do the changing.

    • Dear Wayzata Junior. I agree with you. It is the student body that needs to do the changing. But lets not forget that you are, as you said, young adults……you all need guidance. You need direction. This comes from the top. The culture maybe wasn’t created at the top, but it is facilitated. It is still allowed to exist and even thrive. The student body cannot change itself unless the administration is there leading the way. Otherwise, we wouldn’t need them.

  35. I have been reading all of these comments and I to was taken back by your comments at 1st. Then when I read Matthew’s reply it really hit home. I graduated from Wayzata before it became the Central middle school. We did not have a lot of money and it was hard to keep up with the other kids. I always wanted the latest style and wanted to be like the other kids. I was fortunate enough to have the ability around 9th grade to realize I really only cared about who I was and would be friends with anyone that would be friends with me. But before that, I clearly remember the pressure of wanting to fit in.

    I have also over the years now moved back to the area and have 2 children in Wayzata schools. To this point we have had nothing but positive things to say about the schools. My youngest can be a bit of a challenge and there have been teachers that have been amazingly patient with him and helped him along with his time in school. My other kid is the exact opposite and has excelled at his studies, the staff has done a wonderful job helping him reach his potential. Even with the 2 different behaviors of my kids, I feel as though we have gotten wonderful support from the staff at the Wayzata schools we have had our kids attend.

    The point that him home with me is the activities that are within the school district. Matthew, your comments have me scared to death. I have one boy sitting on the bench too often as most of his team are together in another sport and they tend to play those boys all together. He is not in this other sport and he has come home recently complaining that he is being singled out and is not getting playing time. I have been telling him that his time will come and they certainly can’t be singling him out, but now I am not so sure.

    That is disturbing enough, but your comment about the music hit home hard. I put my other son in every uniform possible as he has shown in his playing sports around with other boys to have a lot of talent. This talent never showed it self on the field. He is not the same player in an organized sport as he is playing with his friends. He finally told me that while he loves hanging with the guys on the teams, the coaches and parents are too serious and it is no fun. I am sorry to ramble, but it gets to my point. During all these years I never noticed that how well he could sing. He is always singing, and at times I had been telling him he needed to be quiet as I need to hear a phone conversation or the last bit of a TV show I was watching. We decided he should try his talents in music. He joined both the choir programs. We received messages from teachers stating he was very talented and should be encouraged to sing as much as possible. We then encouraged him to try out for the school play. Matthew, almost word for word, it appeared to go down as you wrote.

    I have a bit of a different view going forward. I realize now that my young son wanting an iPhone because “everyone” else has one, is just the tip of the iceberg. I will have to work hard to make sure they find the value in who they are and not so much of status and percentages.

    • Dear Wayzata Grad Long Ago, Thank you for commenting. I’d like to go on the record that I have really loved that my kids have attended Wayzata schools. With that said, things have changed. And, yes, your child’s iPhone is just the tip of the iceberg, so brace yourself. Thank you for reading Matthew’s comment, too. He is an amazing young man.

  36. Hmmm, with all this dialogue I’d love to read some point by point, specific ideas on how to be preventative and change the culture for the better.

    • Dear I walk these halls everyday…..people are accusing me of placing blame, pointing fingers, being an ill-informed childish pompous offensive sensationalist. I don’t recall anywhere in my open letter that I blamed anyone for the deaths of these students. I did ask some tough questions, mainly, what are administrators going to do about it. I have received overwhelming feedback on this topic that clearly struck a nerve. I will be writing many, many more blog posts concerning this, and there will be ideas on how to affect change for the better. Finally, the conversation has started. For now, I am enabling comments from everyone, all of which I approve before they are published. I welcome all constructive, respectful input, and I’d love to hear your ideas as a student. Thank you!

      • Sorry, but you clearly say the administration is “letting” them die.

        I wanted to mention something about how maybe you should suggest that parents look inside themselves, and maybe students too, to see how they put pressure on themselves and each other. When I went to Wayzata, it didn’t seem like quite as much of an academic pressure-cooker as people are now describing, but it certainly was a social and status pressure-cooker. So much vanity, is what it seemed like to some of us as 8th graders. Kind of got used to it eventually. What is it about people that need to always prove things, through being cool, through having your kid be the star on the team, through being the star, through being smart, through whatever. There seemed to be lots of exclusive clubs. I was in and out of them at various times.

        Anyway, I just wanted to say that maybe it goes beyond the administration to the citizens, to the people who elect the school board, to the people who define what they want…how important is success? Just thoughts.

        But, then I started reading your responses to people who were questioning your viewpoint. It kind of seems like you’re peacocking over this. Which would be pretty vain, considering it’s life and death. I hope you’re not, and you too are thinking about this with some depth and open-mindedness, not just defining the solution on your own or drumming up business for your blog.

  37. I was not insinuating any blame, fingers, ignorance, offensiveness, or sensationalism. I teach the 1st amendment. Just curious if some energy could be put forth for solutions.

  38. I think it needs to start at home. I’ve witnessed parents saying teachers should be fired because “How can an AP teacher teach that class if they didn’t go to an Ivy league school?” (Yes, from multiple parents I’ve heard this exact comment).

    The teachers and admin are being pushed by the parents and as easy as you think it might be to just say “No, I’m done pushing them.” it’s not. They have a job to keep, and the parents are the ones that have total control here. They elect their school board, who hires the superintendent and other administrators, who hire the teachers.

    The district is going in the right direction. They are laying off the intensity, and Mike Trewick is proof of that. He cares deeply for his students, and gets push back from parents like you wouldn’t believe. There are parents that REFUSE to talk to him years and years after their child didn’t get into NHS, or get Blue and Gold honors at graduation, etc. It’s disgusting what I’ve heard parents say to him personally. And when I try to reason with these parents, they respond with “I pay higher taxes to live here, and I expect my children to be accepted to _____________________ (insert Stanford, Harvard, MIT, West Point, etc).

    As a parent, we have to start laying off of our kids. We need to be around more, talk to them more, support them better.

    So, solutions. I think we the parents need to call a meeting. We control what happens at our schools, so let’s start taking ownership of it. Invite the school board, the superintendent (who is also incredibly nice and concerned) the principals, and the teachers. And let’s face it, Wayzata is a leader in the state. If we can change things here, other districts would follow.

    I did notice that in your “open letter” you did not address the parents, which I think was your biggest misstep.

      • Matthew – you are right it is an argument fallacy, but it is an Ad Hominen: This is an attack on the character of a person rather than his or her opinions or arguments. Straw Man oversimplifies an opponent’s viewpoint and then attacks that hollow argument.

  39. I don’t think this has been brought up but Wayzata should definitely improve their health classes. If people want to stop mental illness in students, we have to actually talk about it and understand what it is. Wayzata doesn’t talk about it, not even at an educational level really.

    I’m a former Wayzata student and I became depressed during high school and I definitely can say Wayzata played a huge role in my depression. I won’t go through details but it was honestly a struggle even to the last three months before graduation. I didn’t think I was going to “make it”.

    I’m not sure if it’s still the standard, but I remember we all took health class in sophomore year. I think that’s the only year people take it. There are some other classes that may touch on health topics but those classes didn’t have to be taken by every single student.

    Anyway, our mental health education probably consisted between one to three weeks. We did projects like PowerPoints within groups, presented them, and then watched a movie called Life After -some guy’s name- which was about a family’s struggles after a son commits suicide.

    This was our education. In my four years going there, this was our mental health education. That’s it.

    Most people will forget this information immediately and what we end up with are students that don’t realize they’re depressed because they don’t know the signs, students that can’t recognize depression so don’t know their friends are depressed, teachers that can’t recognize depression, etc.

    There should be better health classes, more health classes students have to take before graduation over the years so they won’t be able to forget the seriousness of illnesses, and comfortable open health forums.

    Side note: Just a random, lovely, memory of mine from 9th grade. My science teacher made speeches about how we were the computer generation so we had to be smarter than everyone else or we’d end up working at McDonald’s or Burger King.

    Oh, but yeah, the teachers definitely have no blame in this, right…

  40. I think the concern my be that many comments on this blog are inaccurate. I looked over the suggestions and am happy to provide further information.

    1) when staff gets an email regarding a death the cause is shared depending on data privacy and the wishes of the family. Of the four your mentioned, we were encouraged to address it briefly with classes and make sure students had access to our support system of a quiet place where they could meet with counselors, social workers, and administration.

    2) the word “suicide” has been used, and acknowledged when appropriate.

    3) we do openly discuss mental health issues. For example, for the last eleven years our Social Workers Alec Albee and Becky Halverson produce a video with students and teachers that have shared personal struggles with chemicals, depression, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, loss of a parent/sibling. This is the one video shown every year where you could hear a pin drop with student’s attentiveness. They also outline how they have dealt with these issues and resources available.

    4) there is no policy or norm for 70-80% of a course grade to be test scores. In my Social Studies class, grades are split 1/3, 1/3, 1/3, tests, projects, and participation/homework to support the strengths of students somewhat equally.

    5) reaching out to parents is a two way process. 96 students enter my room each day. On top of teaching, planning lessons, grading, and having a personal life, parents need to be the driver to be on top of how their students are doing. More importantly, at the HS level, it’s primarily the student’s responsibility.

    6) I pads are a valuable learning tool. However students in my class average 10 min. Per day using them. They are only one part of our learning tool kit, so they are not “entirely on there.”

    7) business classes are very popular along with their extra curriclulars and offer instruction in social ediquette and communication.

    8) for over a decade we have had a club called Trojan Leadership Council that promote leadership and a chemically free lifestyle like DARE. In addition to National Honor Society an Student Council, over the last seven years we added the Wayzata Leadership Academy that is working to infuse core values into our culture, based on feedback from staff and students.

    9) I have never heard of the University of MN being a “measuring stick” for one’s success. One glance at our seniors newspaper issue shows students attending the big ten, Ivy League, Normandale, Avada Institute, the Military, etc. a former Wayzata Math Teacher Judi Stucki is an instructor at Normandale and is a Presidential Scholar thanks to George W. Bush.

    Hope this helps.

  41. Penny – thank you for initiating this conversation. There clearly are a lot of emotions surrounding these difficult topics. The response (supportive or not) to your blog post indicates there is a great need for some kind of ongoing forum for our parents, students, admin and teachers to unite, discuss and collaborate. Whether a blog post is appropriate or inappropriate, I don’t know…but at this point it’s the only place I have found where people are sincerely discussing thoughts that I (and many other parents I know) have been having since my daughter entered WHS.

    I didn’t read your post as solely directed at the school administration, but to the Wayzata community at large. As it should be. We are all responsible for this destructive climate. I don’t know what directly led to these 4 suicides. I can only imagine it was a multitude of factors, mental health playing a huge role. I think what is important is that this is hopefully facilitating a movement bringing to light this unhealthy atmosphere of despair and low self worth due to ever increasing demands for achievement. We are teaching our children that the path to success and happiness is through perfection – High GPA’s, AP courses, playing varsity, Ivy league college… Don’t we adults all know already, that none of this will eventually bring us peace, happiness, acceptance … or whatever you want to call the ultimate goal in life? Why are we feeding this crap to our kids? Let’s not be mistaken, we start them early in life, enrolling them in sports and cheering and pushing them to win. Sports are no longer a recreational activity, but a life commitment beginning at age 3. Parents are enrolling their elementary kids in Kumon to give them an edge. We forego family dinners for piano, soccer, dance and hockey. This mentality starts early and we parents are guilty. It’s only when they hit late middle school/high school that they really start taking responsibility for their own self worth and that is when they truly internalize the pressure. Penny, I did not see you blaming anyone in particular. But I see our society in general trying to find the blame in someone else and make it someone else’s responsibility. We parents are first to blame. We coddle our children, make excuses for them, bring them their homework when they forget it at home, exempt them from doing any chores around the house, give them iPhones in 3rd grade (yes, I’ve seen it!), give them brand new expensive cars, get them limos for their birthdays, take them on fancy vacations for graduation, etc, etc…we baby them, we entitle them and hand everything to them on a platter. No wonder they have no idea who they are and can’t handle the pressure in high school.
    And yes I agree, there is a problem in the high school. My daughter, who just finished her sophomore year, is also a victim of this self-loathing. She is a beautiful, talented young lady…but she is not “the best” and suddenly this is not good enough for her. She has never given me any indication that this pressure was coming from the teachers or administration, but more so inadvertently from her peers and upper classman.

  42. This is about working towards the greater good.
    When My son was in choir his first year as a freshman his science teacher, I kid you not, told me the only reason boys take choir was because it was an easy A. I was floored. The fact that he actually enjoyed it and excelled at it meant nothing. Getting an A in a class really wasn’t even on his radar when his choir teacher wanted him to audition for the HS. That same teacher said he needed to take Bio X the following year because if he didn’t, he would be in regular bio with the underachievers and trouble makers. I brought this to the principals attention although I don’t remember anything being done besides saying he would address the issue with the teacher. His AVID teacher in 10th grade said he needed to choose an honors class over choir because it wasn’t likely he’d be the next Justin Beiber also floored me. Maybe, just maybe enjoying that small amount of time and feeling like you were a part of something was more important to me as a parent, than that honors lit class, I know, shocker. No one wants to talk about or admit the problems at the HS level because that would mean WHS isn’t the perfect school everyone portrays it to be. It truly takes a village. The purpose of this, is to create an awareness where there is none. Hopefully by doing this, those parents and staff guilty of promoting this type of environment may think about how it may affect or influence others. But then again, maybe not.

  43. Can you provide more backstory on the kids that committed suicide? Is there evidence that their studies were a driving force behind their suicides? I’m concerned that the reason you are singling out WHS as the culprit is because Wayzata a High School is a big, tangible entity that they attended everyday.

  44. With all due respect, how is this the fault of the school and the district? I’m sincerely interested in understanding the reasons you blame the schools for these suicides?

  45. How can you blame the administration for 100% of this? How do you know what drove our classmates to suicide?

    You raise some really good points, but are not in a position to make some of the statements that you did.

  46. Wayzata grad of 2011 here.

    First off, there is a social stigma about mental health as being taboo to talk about. And as someone who was in a mental health facility for teenagers before going to Wayzata. The open environment to talk about your problems helped me a lot to become more comfortable in my own skin. My first year at Wayzata I did well because of the structure in place. But in my junior and senior years, it was made quite clear to me that personal issues of any sort should not be discussed. I was in my AP Psych course in my senior year where I disclosed about some details of my life and received a relatively scathing posting on a social media site about disclosing this, even though it had been inquired about by my teacher.

    The key for the school to help address this is to allow various social groups or activities to form so that a student can develop a secure environment to disclose issues in a matter that is supportive. It should not have to be after so many deaths (there were 2 prior suicides to the ones you mentioned during my time in school). This shouldn’t happen as often as it has.

  47. I have been following the responses to your post. Although I still disagree that the district is in anyway culpable, I do like that a lot of solutions are being posted here. As someone mentioned, this is the only place we have had the opportunity to “talk” about this as a community so far. I expect the district may already have ideas about suicide prevention going forward so forgive me if I speak out of turn. I do think a task force of sorts that includes students, alumni, parents, teachers, district personnel, mental health professionals, people effected my suicide of friends or family (such as you Penny), etc is definitely called for. I do worry that if too much time passes this might get swept under the rug as we all are consumed by summer activities. I would like to ask the district (if you are reading this) so consider using your resources to arrange for such a group to meet on a monthly basis to brainstorm ideas. I am happy to volunteer. Maybe this is already in the works? If not, I think it is important that we all share in our responsibility to prevent this horrible, horrible thing from happening again.

    • Dear Mother of two WHS students, thanks for your comment. Yesterday a teacher brought my post to the attention of the High School Principal, and Mr. Trewick called me on the phone to discuss my post that “reflects Wayzata High School negatively.” Although I think 4 suicides reflect Wayzata Schools far more negatively than my little blog post, I am glad to have opened the conversation and provided the opportunity for the community to talk about this.

  48. What a tragedy! I grieve for these families and students along with everyone in the community. I believe that the schools can certainly be a valuable resource for all on this issue. The letter’s implication of the school administration, however, to me merely exhibits our own culture of blame. A “dialog starter”, if that really was the intent of the letter, should not read as an indictment.

  49. “Stop killing them. Please stop letting them die.” Seriously, you’re going to lay the blame on the school for these deaths by suicide? I wish it were that easy.

    This is not a Wayzata High School problem; its a national epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2011 Youth Risk Behavioral Survey over ONE out of every THIRTEEN young people in our nation attempted suicide in the previous 12 months.

    Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 10-24. (2010 CDC WISQARS)

    Suicide is the THIRD leading cause of death for college-age youth and ages 12-18. (2010 CDC WISQARS)

    More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.

    Each day in our nation there are an average of over 5,400 attempts by young people grades 7-12.

    Instead of pointing fingers at each other let’s educate ourselves and our children about the warning signs, lets remove the stigma of mental illness and understand that it knows no social, racial or economic barriers. Let’s talk with our children openly and honestly about suicide and provide them with reassurance. Acknowledge their fear, sadness, and other emotions, and let them know we care about them and want to help them.

    HOW TO GET HELP

    — Crisis Connection, 612-379-6363, is the suicide hotline for Minnesota, managed by Canvas Health of Oakdale. It is staffed 24 hours a day.

    — Volunteers to answer calls are always needed. To volunteer, call 612-852 2200.

    For more information about preventing suicides, visit:

    — Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, save.org

    — Minnesota Department of Health Suicide Prevention, health.state.mn.us/divs/cfh/connect/index.cfm?article=suicideprevention.welcome

    — Suicide Prevention Resource Center, sprc.org/states/minnesota

    • Dear MNBrandywine, thank you very much for your comments and resources provided. They are very helpful. All of your suggestions are wonderful suggestions. We have to start at the root. We have to create an environment, where these kids spend a whole lot of time, that is is not so hostile, not so competitive, not so stressful, not so aimed at success at all costs. I’m not saying that the bar needs to be lowered. I’m saying that the culture, the environment needs to be more accepting, more loving, more compassionate, more fun. You’ve read the comments here from high schoolers…..they are living it. The non-ivy leaguers, the non AP takers, the average kids—the ones who get “c”s, the ones who didn’t letter, the ones who don’t have gobs of money to help them fit in. The culture at the high school needs to stop telling these kids that plain biology class is for underachievers and troublemakers. The culture needs to stop telling kids that a C equals failure. The culture needs to stop telling kids that taking an enjoyable class over an honors class is a mistake.

  50. As the Parent of Logan Bauer, I have to say that all the staff members at WHS that I have encountered have been wonderful and caring. This was true from the day Logan transferred to Wayzata and every day since. My youngest transferred to WHS late in this school year and again they have been wonderful, caring and very understanding.

    I can only hope that the teacher your daughter encountered was an exception. Was that the correct way to handle it, I would say no but I also don’t expect every teacher to be prepared or able to handle such a discussion. The teacher could have politely said as such and directed the students on where such a conversation could be had.

    Another Mother’s response (June 7 @ 2:23) is very well stated and I wholeheartedly agree with her. We, as a society, have created this culture of perfection, overindulgence, entitlement and lack of accountability.

    Logan battled kidney disease since he was 2.5 years old. He also, as with many chronically ill children, battled depression on top of all of the other standard teen pressures. At the time of his death, Logan was in a DBT program. Adolescent DBT is a parent(s) and child program and I attended it with him. I think most adults would learn something from DBT today, I know I did. “Over in Roseville” has it right in DBT should be part of the educational curriculum. In fact, I mentioned it again in a meeting with a few of the WHS staff on Thursday.

    I for one would be happy to participate in further discussions on how we as a community can help our children. It takes a village but it starts with us as parents.

    • Thank you, Mr. Bauer, so very much for your most gracious and insightful input. Much appreciated. I agree that it takes a village and starts with us as parents. It also has to take place at school. I will never back down from my position that the school MUST lighten up on the success stress. They have to get with the program.

  51. If every parent took care of their own children, and stopped stressing and pushing their OWN kids—it wouldn’t matter what the school did, am I right? You may believe it’s the school, but the school is the way it is, in response to the parental demands. If you want to “get to the root of the problem” it needs to start at HOME.

    This also isn’t about pressures at school—it’s about mental illness. In one of the links provided above it stated that 90-95% of teens that commit suicide have mental illnesses.

    • If you were to ask 100 random Wayzata High School students about the pressures at school, I believe that your perspective of what they experience every day would change. What’s the saying……walk a mile in their shoes……

      • My daughter and her friends sitting in my living room, along with my son and 4 of his own friends say they don’t feel pressure to anything but pass their classes, and that pressure comes from me. If your children say differently, maybe take a look in the mirror.

        I don’t mean to point fingers, because as I stated before, mental health is everyone’s concern, but no one’s fault.

  52. Your letter is quite eloquent. I’d suggest that what you point out is not just a cultural flaw at Wayzata, but how mental illness and suicide are treated by our greater society: ignore it, try not to talk about it or justify/lay blame.

    I grieve along with these students, not only did I lose my sister-in-law to suicide, but have tried several times myself. The support I’ve had varies, but most often the people around me would prefer to ignore what is happening.

    Suicidal feelings come from a variety of factors, and where the letter misses the mark is writing as if it comes from the pressures of the school alone. While I deeply respect your concern, trying to justify it or lay the blame on one institution diminishes the complexity. Absolutely call for change-in all areas of our society.

    Please, please, please, if your readers have any concerns about anyone they love, they should start with the National Alliance on Mental Illness-MN website, http://www.namihelps.org or The Suicide Awareness Voices of Education website, http://www.save.org .

    • Thank you, Elise. I am absolutely calling for change. But it’s got to start somewhere, so why not start at the place where for 9 months every year these kids spend most of their waking hours and expend most of their energy? Thank you, also, for the resources you included.

  53. As someone who teaches at WHS I can tell you the past few weeks have been very difficult because of the tragic loss of two students. The administration and support staff have handled both tragedies quite well- there is no handbook for these situations. Admin. made support staff available to students AND staff and directed staff that if anyone needed to excuse themselves from class to seek support to let them do so. I addition, please consider that the parents whose children died from suicide experienced an unimaginable tragedy and each chose to disclose information and publicize what they were comfortable with. Moreover, you do not know what support the students who died were receiving. I understand from an outsider’s perspective, especially someone who lost a loved one to suicide, that things seem to be at an “epidemic.” In the future, please consider contacting the principal or superintendent before posting something that has the potential to cause even more anger and hurt, or if you do feel the need to begin a dialogue think about how it can be framed in a more respectful manner.

    • Dear Teacher, thank you for your input. The past few weeks must have been extremely difficult for you. I don’t consider myself an “outsider” as a WHS parent of 4 who have gone through Wayzata Public Schools from kindergarten to graduation. I am addressing the culture at Wayzata High School. I know how that perfection mentality wears on a soul. It brings these kids down. I did speak with Mr. Trewick yesterday, he called me after he read my post. I didn’t think to check in with him before before I wrote my blog, however. I was simply writing in my blog. While it may sound sensational, 4 suicides is epidemic. It’s too many.

  54. I believe you are grasping at straws. You seem to blame the school. Our schools cannot solve all problems for kids and families. Teachers are their to teach…..not raise our children. Let them teach. That us their charter.

  55. As a former wayzata high school student as well as someone who has had depression, I can see where this is all coming from. When I was in wayZata, I felt as if mental illnesses were treated as shameful and if you’re depressed, you gotta get over it. there is a stigma attached to it, no one wants to talk about suicide or depression.. I struggled with suicidal thoughts my junior and senior year, and when the school eventually found out about it, no action was took.. My parents were never told. I received counseling but felt it was very mediocre and did not help. I felt as if my depression was treated as a problem that they needed to find the quickest solution as possible to Get rid of it. I do think that the school needs to take this more seriously and find a way to properly address it. The simple thing is people need to talk about it, we need to bring our community together and help one another get through these things and share our stories. I feel if the school can help erase some of that stigma by talking about it more and expanding their resources, more kids would be Willing to receive help. In my case, I was extremely afraid to get help in the first place because I thought that I would be seen. As unstable and crazy. It took. Me almost two years to finally go to counseling, and I didn’t do that until is went to college. As someone who has. Been there, it breaks my heart that this is happening within our community. The solution lies at home with our families, sure, but also in schools. We spend all of our years there, from the time we are six to eighteen, and if given the chance, we can address these issues head on once and for all. This is going to keep happening if we don’t do something about it, because clearly things aren’t okay being the way they are.

  56. “I’ve lived this first hand…..so, my opinion counts….probably more than yours does.”

    I am embarrassed for you for saying that, Penny. I get that you may feel attacked but what were you expecting from this blog post? You sound like a 13 year-old girl, not an adult.

    One of the things that makes Wayzata so great is that there is so much passion for the school from so many of the students and their families. When you deliberately attack the school, you’re going to get some backlash.

    I hope you have the guts to show this comment on your blog but I definitely won’t be surprised if you don’t.

    • There you go Ally, I posted your comment. I course I have the ‘guts’ to post it. But not for the reason you think. I posted it so that people can understand why we have the problem that we do. Look in the mirror.

  57. This is so accurate. As a 2011 grad I felt all of these pressures and the awful culture that you’re talking about. I was never good “enough” by the Wayzata standards athletically or academically, even though I graduated Wayzata with a 3.76 GPA and am on the deans list in college. My parents have even told me that if they could change anything about my up bringing it is that they would have never sent me to Wayzata. One of the bigger issues I see is also the cliques and entitlement many students think they have, which in talking with friends recently graduating only seems to be a growing problem.

  58. You are talking about my son, whom I lost on Wednesday, as if his death has caused your poor students some kind of undue stress. Your insensitive rant is beyond despicable and arrogant. How he died is none of your, or the school’s business.
    How bout inviting God back to school?

    • Dear Mrs. Pettis, I come to you with nothing but respect, reverence, and sympathy. My brother committed suicide, so I know the pain. I’m sorry that I offended you. I hope that one day you’ll see that I am angry that kids keep dying. Change needs to happen in our schools and in our society. I agree with you……”how bout inviting God back to school?” is an excellent place to start.

  59. You said up top that Wayzata is an excellent place. If they are fostering this culture, how is it an excellent place? I went there and had a pretty bad experience, I know of them mistreating students with eating and mental health disorders in the last 10 years. I live in District and send my daughter to Hopkins just cuz I know it can’t be worse than the Wayzata experience. Again, how can it be an excellent place yet be responsible for what you claim?

    • Ryan, thanks for your comments. It seems that no matter what I say, the haters jump down my throat. Wayzata is an excellent place, but it is RIDDLED with bullying, peer pressure, horrifically mean people, every day the students are judged and measured by what they wear, what they drive, what their score was on a test, what AP class they are in. The expectation every day is to be perfect. But, if I were to say these things in the blog, I will get 2 dozen embarrassingly mean comments from parents, from parents posing as students, or from the perfect students. My sophomore had a fellow classmate walk up to her the other day, look her straight in the face and say “you don’t have any friends because nobody likes you”. My daughter was hopefully thinking it was some sarcastic attempt at being funny, but she realized this girl was not kidding. To be told by a teacher that a c is a bad grade….? To be told “you only got 92%?” To be told by an advisor that your grades are good enough to even try to get into such and such college. To not be able to join the track team because after 3 missed practices you’re kicked off the team…….but how do you attend practice every day when you have 5 hours of homework every night? You see, Ryan, these are the every day things of the culture that many of the people chiming in here don’t see. You saw it. My kids live with it every day. Where to start to change this? Do people really think that starting at home is 100% of the answer when parents have no idea how mean their own children are to other students? What if home is where its coming from? That’s why it needs to start at school as well. I’m finding it odd that suddenly the naysayers are claiming that school has no influence on the pressure whatsoever…….How can a place where students spend the majority of their waking energy through classes and homework suddenly not have the influence to drive someone to mental illness, or worse, suicide?

  60. As the mother of three homeschooled children, I am reading this blog with deep sadness. We started homeschooling our kids after my oldest was being bullied in grade school. We could have chosen to deal with this within the school setting, but chose another path. For us, homeschooling gave us the better way. Once we started, we never looked back. As a parent I thought I knew my children prior to homeschooling. We were always a close family. But once homeschooling became an option, they opened up to me and shared the reality of everyday life at school. I was shocked to learn what I didn’t know regarding the bullying and other problems. And this was just grade school. They are now all doing well in adulthood. They are happy well adjusted adults who all tell me they are glad for the time we spent together.

    Suicide is a frightening wake up call to our entire society. What do we really want from our kids? Why are we so driven to “be the best”? The best for whom? Our entire society, including our schools have to be responsible. Students are expected to spend the better part of their young lives in the classroom, so the schools become their second home. Those same schools then become responsible for their well being. Our family believes with all our heart that each child is born into this world with a purpose. It is our job as parents and educators to help uncover that purpose. With all the blind clamoring to “be the best”, the individual purpose gets lost. No wonder kids feel lost, misunderstood and alone.

    The close family ties we forged through homeschooling were not without sacrifice and some really bad days. But when our youngest came to us with a WebMD list of all the symptoms of depression, stating she had all of them, that got our attention. We got her into the doctors office immediately and it was confirmed that she was suffering from depression. Had we not been a truly connected family at that time in her life, she said we never would have been told. God only knows what could have happened.

    Penny, thank you for starting this conversation. Parents, please love your kids for who they are, even if that means they aren’t going to Harvard and might want to sing instead of play football. Love them where they are, stay close even when they don’t want you near, but also give them the encouragement to go out on their own to try the things they dream of trying. Let them live their own dreams and not yours.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the lost ones. May you find the source of peace we are all desiring.

  61. I am not a resident of Wayzata, but I am a nurse. And also have been touched by early deaths. Acknowledgement is one thing- for schools. But honestly, no school district is responsible to raise your children. You are the parent. Do you think Wayzata is so different then an Indian reservation? An Inner city school? A first ring suburb? It is only because some people in Wayzata have come to believe they are untouchable and perhaps, these young people are reminding them of their frailty- humanity- This misguided illusion that schools are responsible to provide services will not deter further suicides. Sure, it might make peers able to identify depressive symptoms- but then again, in my profession, we have psychologists and psychiatrists who are unable to identify the seriously depressed who go on to suicide. Adding another burden to survivors will not address the problem.
    Also, I think school based programs which “train” people to believe they will now know how to stop depressive symptoms and suicides leads to further feelings of failure- my peer died and I didn’t know how to stop them. Because, after all, I live in Wayzata (or the res or inner city- apolis) and I should have known.
    Schools are for learning. They should not be the community center where we go to get our mental health services and meals, our clothing and our adult social status egos patted. Yes, learning includes discussion- and in a classroom with more mature students, this might work. But to expect all teachers to be ready and comfortable with the discussion is absurd. Perhaps the teacher experienced the same feelings of his/her students and also needed time to digest and process- let’s give the adult in the room time for their own grief.
    And if you are a parent, step up- look at your kid. Ask if they are OK. Get them to talk. Be the adult. And take them to a counselor if needed. On your time. On your dime. Waste some time with the person who is your child. Let’s stop holding the school hostage to poor parenting, neglectful parenting, co-parenting.

  62. I have followed your blog since this discussion since you wrote your letter. You only respond to the people who agree with you. You say this in your real estate but you are not allowing an open discussion, which you started, but not approving every comment.

    Bobby’s mom posted on your blog and you have no response for her. How about follow her advice and enough is enough. Allow people to heal and work through this and start developing a plan to address this issue by working with the school, not against it. If it is such a bad place why have you put four kids through this district.

    Did your students receive the services they needed by the school counselor? Did they have good teachers. If the answers are no, why are you still sending your kids to what you consider to be such an awful place?

    • If you truly have followed this blog from the beginning, you’d have realized that I don’t just respond to the people who agree with me. Also, you’d have read that when my daughter and her classmates needed to talk about it, they were shut down….silenced. Not even offered the opportunity to get to the counselors. Did she have a good teacher? I would say an enthusiastic “NO”. And you ask why I am still sending my kids to ‘such an awful place’. I’m questioning that myself. 5 years ago when my oldest graduated, it wasn’t so ‘awful’. Today I still have one more child in high school. Things have changed and they have changed fast and for the worst. Behind the scenes of this blog are a dozen comments that I can’t post. They are written by parents. The comments are hateful. They do make me understand a little bit about what our kids go through every day in bullying, though.

  63. You have given one example and are using the one teacher to define your whole experience with the high school. I have waited for more but you don’t give any. This is one teacher who may not have felt equipped to handle this type of discussion. I feel bad he didn’t allow the kids to go see a counselor as I know that they had the library or some other room open for kids to go to if they needed to.
    Many teachers cancelled finals to help kids. Most teachers did a great job.
    And you still have not commented on mrs Pettis telling you enough is enough.

    • So one example isn’t enough. Maybe after 6 experiences that would be enough. How about 1 is too many? Okay, here’s another example. NOT ONE teacher throughout the entire 2 days offered help. My child, at least, still looks up to her elders for guidance. Maybe she should have sought out help on her own…..but I happen to remember that she’s still a kid. And sometimes it’s the adults who need to take the initiative.

  64. This is not just Wayzata. Students in both Buffalo High School and Blaine High Schools committed suicide this year as well. Two years ago it was St Michael. It happened twice when I was in high school in the 80’s too. It doesn’t make news so if you don’t go to school there you wouldn’t ever know. This is not new, but is still extremely troubling. It’s not just that the pressures are higher in Wayzata though. Heck, at least you got a link. We didn’t receive any sort of communication from Buffalo.

  65. Bullying happens at every school. No school is immune to bullying and there is no perfect high school.
    You have great passion and I hope you will start to direct it to good and help the high school figure out a next step instead of being defensive every time someone challenges you.

    • Bullying does happen at every school. But frankly, I don’t care about any other school right now but our own. Our own back yard needs work! I plan on writing more about this, but I’m getting so much hate mail that I need to let things simmer down, let people take a breath, and then I’ll move on to solutions. However, judging from the haters, I’m pretty sure that whatever I suggest will be attacked.

  66. Wow. This needs to move on to action vs. accusations. I simply do not understand how you are sure the school is “RIDDLED with bullying, peer pressure, horrifically mean people.” This is NOT our reality. I gave you nine specific examples of preventions already used to address the few solutions that have been posted. You’ve asked the tough questions. You’ve gotten through to the administration. You’ve started a dialogue. You’ve upset the Pettis family in their grief. Shut it down and DO something vs. blog.

    • Because my kids walk these halls every day, too. This IS OUR reality. The sooner the school accepts that, the better.

  67. To Jenni Pettis–I am truly sorry for the loss of your dear son, Bobby. I lost my son, Patrick, to suicide 6 years ago, and if a blog like this had appeared at that time, especially by someone who didn’t know him, I would have been infuriated.

    While I feel it is perfectly valid and beneficial to have an open discussion regarding the high standards and pressure put on our kids, linking it to a family’s personal tragedy when you don’t know them or have all the facts of the situation is insensitive and despicable.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this difficult time.

    • Dear Mrs. Blake and Mrs. Pettis, I have always felt that saying “I’m sorry for your loss” was an empty statement, but I’ll say it anyway. I am so sorry for your losses. During this time, there really are no words that offer comfort. I lost my brother. In 1985. Now while that may seem like ancient history, I still live with it today. Each time I hear that a young person has taken his life, I am taken right back to the day my brother killed himself. The same pain, the same anguish bubbles to the surface again. I understand the fury of both of you by this blog post. In no way have I meant any disrespect and I truly apologize for offending or hurting either of you, your families, or the other families. When my brother died, my parents did the best they could. Their best was to not deal with it. Even at the funeral, many people never were told what happened to my brother…..just that he died, and the people that did know were asked not to discuss it. That kinda messed me up. I’d get together with my friends and my brother’s friends for months afterward, and we’d talk about it. I always felt better about things after those talks. Then I’d go back home to the denial of my family. I wish to God there would have been a forum like this where the conversation could have taken place. You see, this was before the internet. There really wasn’t a good way to open up a discussion except for some support groups that consisted of people who lost loved ones to suicide and were really hurting. They talked about their loved one in language that made me think their loss was quite recent. I later found out that many of them lost their loved ones over a decade ago, and they still hadn’t been able to move past the initial grief.

      My heart goes out to both of you. I am mad. I don’t want to see any more lives lost. I want change. I will do everything that I can to affect change. I believe that opening the conversation is the best way to start. I would like to say one more thing. I hope you notice that I did not once blame parents. I never blamed my parents. And I would never, blame a parent. Many here say that this kind of thing starts at home. Maybe true. But school has a much greater influence on our childrens’ lives than many who have commented are willing to admit…….unless it has to do with their kids’ high GPA, ACT score, or prestige college to which they were accepted. I’m here to affect change. Many don’t like the way I went about it. I stand behind what I’ve said. In no way did I ever mean to exploit your grief. I only want the conversation to start now…..not sometime down the road. Our society is really good at denial and sweeping things under the rug. Lets not sweep under the rug anymore. My heart is breaking with you right now. Please know that my thoughts and prayers will be with you for a very, very long time.

  68. I think people will respect you more and your beliefs when it turns to action and moving forward. You were brave to start this conversation but people are unhappy with how you chose to address it.

    • People are mad because I struck a nerve. Look at these comments here on this blog. And if only you could see the ones I didn’t post. I had no idea, in a million years, that to criticize Wayzata High School was such a cardinal sin. Some of the people chiming in seem to think that there is ABSOLUTELY no problem within the walls at WHS. They are delusional. I struck a nerve, I’m glad the conversation has started. And soon as things simmer down, I will address the problem. But for now, my time is being spent fielding the haters. Sometimes the truth hurts and when confronted with the truth, people’s natural reaction is to respond defensively and then to last out and attack the messenger.

  69. I’m sorry your four children have experienced such strife at WHS. I wish them peace and work to provide that each and everyday. I am offended by your sweeping generalizations upon 3200 students based on the experiences of your family. I will continue to support the requests of the Pettis family that this directive take another turn. Move on. DO something about it.

    • I will do something about it. But doesn’t the conversation have to start somewhere? I’m damned because I started the conversation. Who knows how many people are reading this blog. As of yesterday there were over 13,000 hits on this page alone. Clearly there is interest. Clearly people are hungry for discussion. And you know what? Matthew Ng has made this entire blog worthwhile. He, and my brother, are why I will keep calling out. Sweeping generalizations are exactly what’s needed. People will say things like “this happens in every school”. Well you know what? I don’t care what happens in another school. I care about our school. AND I KNOW THAT BULLYING happens…and so yes, I will make a sweeping generalization that EVERY SINGLE person at WHS needs to do better with how we treat one another. From Superintendent to administrators to faculty and staff to parents to students.

    • I’m not quite sure what your point is, Ryan. I came out and criticized WHS and was short of asked to shut down my blog from the principal. I didn’t know that to say anything less than complimentary about Wayzata Public Schools was taboo. I do think it’s a great school district. But it needs to address a sickness that has swept through. And it has to start, like I’ve said over and over again, at the top. The administrators, the district level, the teachers, the staff…..filtering down from there. The simple answer is to say that it starts at home. That argument then conveys that school doesn’t have that much influence on kids…….well, how can that be? Proud to tout their kids high GPA, their high SAT score, their acceptance into Ivy League schools….and happy to attribute the success to the fine High School, but when the shoe is on the other foot, to be critical of a social, cultural dysfunction that is pervasive within those walls is suddenly shut down. I don’t think Wayzata is all bad. But I want to see real change. I want people to respect one another, to respect life, to be kinder, to be nicer, to have more compassion, to stop caring so much about winning at all costs, to stop the drive to perfection, to stop being so worried about being the best.

  70. I understand this is a touchy subject and a fresh one for the family but to get angry about having the subject addressed is only adding to the problem. Let’s sweep it under the rug, pretend it didn’t happen and God forbid, possibly help another family or child that may be going through a similar situation in our community. Would it be less shameful if a child died from a cancer? Would it be okay if people talked about it then? People are going to talk about it, people have, prior to this blog post. My sympathies are with all of the families involved but to lash out at Penny for addressing the elephant in the room is simply sad. What’s done about it in the community in terms of prevention is what’s important. Silencing it doesn’t make it go away, it only makes it worse. In no way do I believe this blog was meant to be hurtful. I agree all schools are dealing with these issues but it doesn’t make it okay. If this community is so proud of being a school of excellence start being a leader in compassion and doing the right thing. That will produce excellent kids. Open your eyes people.

  71. Maybe we could sit down and understand each other better. Really? Bullying happens? Are you aware that five years ago three students and three faculty members went to a National Character School of Excellence in Hinsdale, IL, to learn how they have made great strides to address and compress bullying? Are you aware the knowledge and experiences gained were used to create advisory committees, one specifically to address the issue of bullying. Are you aware that for the last three years this committee meets bi-monthly to get this issue out in the forefront via various activities and efforts of awareness? Are you aware that there have been several times where students wear orange to correlate with. Nat’l Anti-Bullying campaign? A logo for the shirt was created by a student and the clearly printed message is “The End to Bullying Begins With Me.” You’ve started the conversation, yet your awareness is atrocious. Dear Mathews statements are significant, yet what truly matters right now at this very moment is the comment by Ms. Pettis.

    • Thank you for staying with this discussion, but your argument is circular and your defensiveness is atrocious.

  72. I hope that you will take this blog down out of respect for this grieving family who has not yet buried their child. Irrespective of how many readers agree or disagree with the blog–It’s not the appropriate messaging right now. Use your voice & influence to work positively with others in the community in the future.

    • Dear Jenny, I mean no disrespect, but I have no intention of taking this blog down. I’ve offered my condolences to the families. My heart grieves for them. All of them, not just the most recent. When would the right time be to talk about this? In a month, maybe with the short memories that everyone has, it could just go away so that we don’t have to discuss something so distasteful. Maybe we could talk about it between suicides…..a little before the next one. Or, we could take the elephant in the room and sweep it under the rug like so many are expert at doing. But I think if we did that, all we’d end up with is a lumpy rug. No, there is no perfect time to talk about suicide. If we wait for the perfect time, we won’t ever talk about it.

  73. I’m curious—you’ve mentioned your brother several times. Did you blame his school for his suicide?

    Blaming anyone—a school, a community, a teacher, or other students is INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS! It means you are essentially saying that someone caused a mental illness. This is the reason people don’t get help—because they think that someone can do or undo mental illness.

    Ms. Pettis, I am so sorry this is all happening. All I can do is offer my sincere condolences and I think about your and your family every day. God bless all of you. Your son was and is an amazing amazing person who affected hundreds of lives in a very positive way. I can only hope my own son grows up to be just like Bobby .

    • Did I blame my brother’s school for his suicide. That’s a good question. Well, let’s see. My brother was bullied all of his life. You see, he had this physical flaw. He didn’t look just like everyone else. His problem was that he was short. Yup. He was one of the shortest boys in his class all through school. Hey Shorty. Hey Shortstuff. Stand up….oh wait, you are standing. Yeah, that can wear on a soul after a while. So, his self confidence pretty much became non-existent. Now, this all happened in the 70’s and 80’s. Ancient history by some standards. When he took his life in 1985, it was an ENTIRELY different world. There was no internet. We didn’t have cable. VCRs had just been invented. We didn’t have cellphones. Heck, caller i.d. hadn’t even been invented. We had an old fashioned land line with a cord. There was no such thing as call screening. You couldn’t be tempted to check who was calling before answering. You either took your chances and answered, or you hung up if you didn’t want to talk to whoever was on the other end. My brother graduated from high school. He went on to graduate from the U of M. First one in my family to get a college degree. We were proud of him. But he didn’t like himself all that much. He still carried around that self-consiousness even after all those years. So, he decided to do something to help him feel better about his looks. He took up body building and started pumping iron. He was looking really good–good enough to compete in a body building competition if he’d have stuck around. But, what we didn’t know was that he was injecting with steroids at the gym where he worked out. Of course, this is an entirely other conversation, and I WILL be addressing drugs, legal and illegal, and the pill pushing society that we have become, but that is for another time. I take the bullying that my brother endured and multiply it by 10—-20—–maybe 100 to reach the level of where we are in this world today.

      Do you want to know who I blamed for the first several years after my brother’s death? Myself. I blamed myself.

      I named my son after my brother. I see my brother in his eyes, and so sometimes I feel like my brother is still around. I hope my son DOESN’T grow up to be just like his uncle, because his uncle is dead. His uncle, my brother, got to such a dark place in his life that he believed the only solution was to take his own life. That’s not what I want for my son. That’s not what I want for anyone’s son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandson, granddaughter, friend, student, neighbor, acquaintance, anyone. I just wish my brother would have stuck around, I would give anything for him to still be here today, and to be able to see his nephew.

      • I am so sorry Penny, am I the first to say this? Your Brother did what many do, at some point, we’ll do anything to feel different….drugs, inject, pills…and as a nurse I know you see this first hand with patients, possibly co-workers…I was in treatment with many Nurses. So, bullying did NOT help your Brother at all. You are right, addiction is a whole other topic, but has wiped out as many or more in Wayzata. Intentionally? Tough call. I can’t BELIEVE, wait, I can, how little empathy you are shown. It almost makes me want to switch states sooner than later….avoid suburbs like this. Although, I have to say, Wayzata is in a league of it’s own. NOT a compliment. Yuck. I typically just say I’m from Minnetonka even, but FB sort of blows your cover. Love to you. This was not your fault, I know you know that now, your Brother’s death. Suicide. The pain became intolerable. The drugs did not help. PEACE ( I imagine you know first hand about the pill epidemic, but like how much can 2 people take on? )

  74. I believe Penny states in her opening statement she is addressing EVERYONE, parents and students as well. When she asks what will YOU do, she means just that. Each and every one of us is a piece of the puzzle. It’s not JUST the HS that needs to take a look at themselves and what they deem important but the entire community. She is passionate about this obviously because she seems to be a caring and concerned parent. To brush her off as a 13 year old girl is exactly what part of the problem is. Shhhh, don’t make waves or create attention. Everyone is so worried about appearance and what someone else is doing, they lose sight of what’s important. Get busy looking in the mirror and take a good long look. Are you a contributing factor to the grossly competitive, egocentric environment? I’m glad someone feels they can rank, on importance level whose feelings most accurately speak for all others. And which ones are most important. Of course, it coincides with the ones that believe in shutting the blog down. Matthew has a different more mature take on this blog. If it helps one person or one family move forward to make a change, it is worth it. Bashing is not helpful. The first piece of acceptance is admitting there is a problem. I wonder if some of these parents are incapable of admitting that for fear of change. We can’t possibly have an award winning school and also contribute to the mental health of the students, that’s absurd. God works in mysterious ways, sometimes we experience pain and tragedy in life in order to help others in need. Wake up and take a good look at what is being said. Stop acting like Wayzata Schools couldn’t possibly make improvements in these areas. My sincere thanks for posting this blog and hopefully moving forward towards a better community in the near future.

  75. I am an uncle to a newphew who lost his life at Wyzata HS. Thank you, Mrs. Mueller for publishing your thoughts. I’m sure they are thoughts many parents have had at one time or another during their child’s difficult tenure at WHS, wondering if there wasn’t something more than “it’s mental illness” or “a nationwide epidemic”. Really? A high number of suicides with the only (verifiable) common thread linking them is where they went to school…it’s a little obvious where to begin.

    When my nephew died members of his family interviewed staff and faculty at Wayzata. Each teacher carefully avoided the question of bullying. “Not in my classroom” was the same cautiously-worded response from each teacher, with only one helpfully suggesting, “but I don’t monitor everything that goes on in the hallways.” To say the deniability or deliberate blindness was strong is an understatement.

    Also, I get a kick out of everyone who responds with how supportive the faculty and administration has been–after there has been an incident. We should be much more interested in what happens before an incident than after.

    School psychologists and counselors agree that every school should have a policy of procedure for suicide prevention as part of any safe-schools initiative–it’s the lawyers who caution against any definitively-worded policy. Quite simply, schools are afraid of getting sued, so there’s nothing on the books. If you can’t admit to a problem you can’t be blamed for it.

    …But they’re more than willing to be there to hold your hand afterwards.

    The school board’s attorney should be approached for help in drafting suicide-prevention policy to minize the risk of lawsuit. It’s a simple enough procedure that would involve everyone, from parents to teachers to administration alike; starting the conversation and actually producing something tangible.

    I would hope that saving a kid’s life is more important than the chance of getting sued.

  76. Hi, Penny.

    Unfortunately, you are asking the wrong people. Not one school employee, with the exception of Licensed School Psychologists, are trained to handle most horrific things that can happen, much less suicides. So, do not blame the teacher for not being experienced with suicide and not wanting to talk about it. Did you or your daughter bother to think about her?? What’s HER background? A child; a sibling; a parent or some other family member who took their own life and she is having her own difficulties coming to terms with that? The “cultural defect” of which you speak is not the responsibility of the school…that’s at home. There is more to someone wanting to die than school…there are typically MANY more aspects about life and thinking they are not able to deal with it, than school. Again, you must look at the home and surrounding environments. What is going on outside of school (and may be influenced by school) that had led young ones to this terrible and permanent solution? Students are in school 900 +- hours and out 7000 +-; so you have put a disproportionate amount of blame on the schools. School isn’t meant to be easy; it’s to get students prepared for the next step whether it’s middle school, high school, college, work, or the military. In addition, competition is a huge portion of the human condition, and students (and parents) compete for GPAs, class rank, college acceptance, and so on. So let’s look at this from the other direction. What tools could the parents have given these students to deal with stressful situations? How hard are they pushing their children to be successful (a doctor, a lawyer, you must go to that college because that’s where I went -mentality)? Are they the type of parents who believe there are no losers and everyone deserves a trophy?? That teaches students nothing except entitlements and does absolutely nothing for self esteem. Children of these parents have no self esteem because they did nothing to earn their accolade. Consequently, when they don’t receive their trophy because the outside world doesn’t care about them, they don’t understand and they become stressed; and they realize they don’t have the tools they need for their own success.
    I AM SORRY for the loss these parents and families have endured. However, to solely blame the schools is to wear blinders. Mental health is a much more complicated subject than the blame game.

    • I work in a profession where I can’t carry my baggage with me to work. I have to set aside my personal feelings and go to work and deal with a lot of bad stuff in the medical field. I also am an adult, equipped to handle messy situations. My child is a CHILD.

      “So, do not blame the teacher for not being experienced with suicide and not wanting to talk about it. Did you or your daughter bother to think about her?? What’s HER background?”

      HELLO? Did you really just say that? Really?

  77. It seems as it you are trying to exercise your personal demons, whatever they may be, by lashing out at a School District that has done nothing wrong. If the district has done something explicitly wrong please list them and provide supporting evidence. (no, I am not employed by the district)

    • Please tell that to Matthew Ng, or Uncle Goodman who commented on this blog. Tell that to the students who had to leave our district because they couldn’t take it anymore. Tell that to the kids who have been considering suicide. Get their input then come back to me and we’ll talk about my demons.

      The school district did nothing wrong? A place where students spend the majority of their waking energy for 9 months of the year has no influence whatsoever? Please take off your rose-colored glasses.

      • You keep saying they are culpable but offer no tangible evidence of culpability. Please provide fact soul evidence rather than emotion.

  78. You are very brave. Your post is being shared by Wayzata graduates across the country and around the world (I graduated from WHS, but have not lived in MN for years).

    I do not know those who are so personally suffering right now and don’t know how they feel (can’t begin to imagine), but see your letter posted in many places, for example (it is a public post, but you need to log in to fb to see it): (to protect some one’s privacy, this FB link has not been shown)

  79. Hi Penny,

    I am so saddened when ever I hear that yet another young life has been lost to suicide. It is heartbreaking, devastating, frustrating, and senseless to say the least!!

    I happened to read your letter and could not agree more! (it was shared via FB) and I am so glad that I happened upon it.

    Have you ever heard of the “Race To No Where” documentary?? I have included the link below. I only learned of it recently via a friend in Atlanta who’s community brought it to their school. I am looking to bring it to our school as well as I think that every parent, teacher and student should see this.

    I hope you take a look at it and find that it is something that you want to bring to the Wayzata community.

    Race To No Where Link

  80. Bravo to you! Thank you for having the courage to write such an eloquent letter. I am a parent who has a daughter that attends in a different school district. We too are experiencing the same thing at our school. 6 weeks ago we had a student commit suicide. The school sent out a letter asking us to tell our child. 8 days ago another student did the same thing. No notification, nothing. One of the students in my daughters class had to tell her teacher. The staff wasn’t even told! Now I have been told the family of this student asked to be private while they deal with it .
    So despite my ramblings this certainly could have been written by one of us at our school. I would love to hear what your school is doing.
    Thank you for writing your letter. 2 children is way too many!

  81. Ms. Mueller,

    I’m not sure how old you are (I suspect we are somewhat close in age – I’m in my early 40’s), or where you attended high school, but I can tell you that if you think any of what you are seeing in Wayzata today is new, or isolated to WHS, you are mistaken, and possibly quite naive.

    I attended a large suburban high school in the late 80’s – early 90’s, and nearly every single thing that you and the other readers have commented on was true then, with the exception of social media.

    In my graduating class of about 500, I can name six students that committed suicide between ninth grade and senior year. Since WHS has classes of over 1000, that’s over 200% more instances of suicide by population.

    Teachers looking down on kids for not taking AP or advanced classes? Yep. Happened to me multiple times. I knew where I would be going to college, and I knew that AP classes weren’t going to make a difference, so I saw no reason to do the extra work for no benefit. I took a couple, because the topic interested me, but turned down many more.

    Getting shamed for attending a state college? Yep. Happened many times. I went to a state university here in MN and the kids who were attending St. Thomas, Gustavus, St. Olaf etc. definitely made snide comments. I had a teacher who more or less said I was going to a bad school and that it was beneath me. (this happened – really). My ACT numbers were in the top 1%, and I graduated in the top 20 in my class. I was in band and lettered in two sports. I could have gone to college just about anywhere. I chose to go where I did because of the program offered, and because I graduated with no school loans, in four years.
    And I had a lot of fun in college – those people are my best friends today. I rarely speak to anyone from high school.

    Dealing with cliques? Oh yes. My high school was horrible with cliques. I never went to parties or on trips with the cool kids, though I would have loved to, but I wasn’t cool enough to even know what those things were. The girls were particularly awful about trashing on others. There was a girl who was interested in me, and her friends told her I “wasn’t good enough” for her, so that was that. She never spoke to me again. (oh well…)

    I could go on. What you’ve described isn’t isolated to Wayzata, and it isn’t isolated to 2014. What you’re describing is high school life in a large suburban school. I live in the district, and my child will attend Wayzata schools. I have some concerns with the school, but not because of any of these things, but simply because of the size of the high school. That they won’t split the district into multiple high schools when the district isn’t close to built out is a huge mistake. It’s not the cause of the problems, but I suspect it magnifies them more than would exist in a smaller school. My friends who attended smaller or more rural schools had virtually none of these things go on.

    As for the comment about God in the schools, send your kids to Providence or some other closed-minded doctrinaire factory.

    • Sid, thanks for your comments. You make some very valid points. What I would add is that while I agree that these things are not new to 2014 and they’ve been around for decades, they are worse now. They are amplified multiple times due to the online cyber world high stakes win at all cost world in which we live. I would argue that what you and I experienced in high school would be magnified 10-fold to equal today’s stuff.

      “As for the comment about God in the schools, send your kids to Providence or some other closed-minded doctrinaire factory.” It was Mrs. Pettis who first mentioned God in this blog. She is the mother of the student who just committed suicide this past week. I’m sure she’d love to send her kid to one of the “closed minded doctrinaire factories” of which you speak—-but she can’t because her kid is dead! Ready to take your foot out of your mouth yet?

  82. I went to Wayzata for my 4 years of high school. Before that I went to all Mpls Public Schools. I came into Wayzata as a poor black kid from the hood with a education level of an average high schooler (Mpls standards). I didn’t know as much as everyone else but Wayzata made sure I had the resources to get that level, which I did. Sure it was stressful because Wayzata does have high standards (academically and socially) and of course most students want to fit in but I’ve never once felt out of place. Even when I was the only black kid in the class. Nobody is at fault for these death. Parents definitely need to respond to by addressing their child and making sure that they aren’t overwhelmed or feeling left out in some kind of way. A lot of morals and self esteem are installed at home. The outside world is where they put those installments to work. Wayzata should figure out a way to speak on this situation as well. It is a pretty touchy subject for all. My heart goes out to the families dealing with their lost!

  83. It’s always been a win at all cost world. It was when I was in school and nothing has changed. People were stepping on each other and stepping over each other to get ahead then and that hasn’t changed. Just because that atmosphere didn’t exist wherever you went to school doesn’t mean it hasn’t been around for a very long time.

    Re: The comment about God in schools. I know who said it, and you agreed with it. No foot in mouth here.

    And it holds true even more. While her loss is tragic, if she thinks God in the schools would have done something to prevent what happened, then there’s probably no reasoning to be done.

  84. Penny, I was a teacher to two of the four students who died tragically. I really enjoyed both of these students and had many conversations with both of them. They were both good caring people.

    One of the students had about as much adult guidance, friendship, counseling, and support as any student could ever possibly ask for and that wasn’t enough to prevent him from killing himself. I’m confident that the pressures and stresses of WHS played zero role in his death. If anything the relationships and time spent at WHS was a HUGE POSITIVE in his life. This particular student had a lot of tough stuff in his life that had nothing to do with WHS.

    The other student I taught was completely disillusioned with society as a whole. He like to argue and debate big ideas with other students. He was definitely was influenced by an atheistic and communistic worldview. However, he was usually pleasant in his demeanor and I never picked up on any clues that his life would end in suicide. In my opinion, the stress of thinking about life after WHS was much greater than the stress of actually being at WHS.

    I’m deeply saddened and shed many tears of the loss of these kids. However, I think WHS does a tremendous job trying to create a healthy culture at the school. Is there more they could do? I’m sure and hopefully conversations like these will help us to find more interventions. However, even if WHS did everything possible to help every student, would it still be possible to have 4 suicides in 2 years? Absolutely. There will always be pain, suffering, tragedy, and loss in this world. Also, WHS is one influence for each student. But these students are also influenced by many other things such as Family, Church, Media, Health, Friends, Sex, and Drugs. Those other influences could be the main reason somebody decides to take their life.

    Each of these suicides is it’s own complex case. It’s simplistic to say the High School could have prevented any one of these. So overall, these are just some observations and thoughts that I have. I truly hope that your article, though over the top in rhetoric, turns out to have a positive impact on the community.

  85. I went to that school 40 years ago and my son is a Senior this coming fall, I think this letter is nothing but a whine. Children commit suicide at the same rate In most of the metro schools, they are just smaller. Perhaps take a Wayzata math class or two. The do let the wealthiest kids start on the Varsity sports teams, which is why the basketball team sucked last year but that’s politics and the kids didn’t kill themselves. Several times suicides in schools cause a ripple affect of more suicides…

    • A whine. I guess I’d call it a rant, not a whine, but let’s not split hairs. Apparently I’m a whiner because I’m concerned that 4 kids have committed suicide and they all have one thing in common: their high school. Yeah maybe I should take a math class or two. Maybe political science as well. I clearly could use an economics class while I’m at it. But, I have to hand it to Anonymous. He/she just made my argument without even trying. It was like taking candy from a baby actually. The reason the basketball team sucked is because the rich kids started and that’s just politics. That means that the middle class and poor kids didn’t get to start. Hear that basketball team? You suck……and just think, if your parents made more money, you’d get to start in Varsity sports too! Hold on a minute……..they let poor kids on the Varsity teams??? Whoa. What’s this world coming to…..

  86. One of the Wayzata H.S. suicide victims was my nephew. For you to say stop killing our kids was like a punch in the gut. Mental illness is the issue here, not schools. School is simply a microcosm of the society around us. I’m not saying its right, just saying it is.

    Suicide leaves everyone shattered and confused. It is really easy to place blame in a lot of places. However, there are a lot of sad people that don’t succumb to suicide. It is depression, it is hard to know how serious it is. Stop blaming.

  87. Penny,

    Although I am as mortified of the suidcide rate in teenagers, pre-teens, and adults as you, I cannot help but look at myself straight in the mirror as the main advocate and protector of my children. No one is forcing you to send your children to Wayzata Schools. That is simply your choice. If I were you, instead of getting mad at the school district in general, etc., etc. I would do something about it as far as you have the control to do. Clearly your children are/have been in harm’s way if this is how the school is dealing with the massive suicide epidemic it clearly has. I simply have never sent my children to the school district they are supposed to be in for a multitude of reasons – this being one fo them. We have educated elsewhere. You are responsibilty for your own children first and foremost. I suggest taking them out of harm’s way if what you describe is actually occurring. To send them back into that type of environment for another school year simply doesn’t seem wise.

    Parental Responsibilty Advocate

  88. Wow? There you go/ sums it up. That thinking is scary Anonymous/ use your real name. Thinking back Penny/ there were many suicides/ either during or after/ WHY? WE both know. As for the others? Denial saves lives in their cases’ – not the kids’…..Wake up Sheeple. Anonymous? Take a class in reality/ People my age are STILL battling it out…..oh and you have a couple grammatical errors? Just saying?

  89. Penny:

    Given today is the day parents are laying to rest their beloved son I think it would be sensitive of you to stop posting & give people the space they need to grieve & process (to think you alone are the only one who can provide that for people is narsacistic). Your blog has had the intended impact of starting a dialogue but now is the time to give space & connect one-on-one with people who can have impact at the district level.

    • Now you’re being narcissistic too? BTW teacher, you spelled the word wrong, red line under that word! She is so not that, read her comments, you may be, as you look away I imagine, wouldn’t want to make waves?? Oh Dear. The District level? Well, we don’t trust it? So how can that happen. It will NOT. We all know.

  90. I suggest we stop adding to this blog at the moment, to respect the Pettis family and other grieving families. Our district WILL address this issue further, we can be sure. I would hate to see this evolve into how to improve our struggling basketball team…

    Let’s is if THIS idea gets posted.

    PS Dear “Teacher” YOU are spot on. Glad to have you as a colleague.

  91. I’ve continued to keep up with this page and can I just say, I find it super rich that so many parents/teachers are acting like they truly know what is happening in this school as if they are or were students here themselves.

    If anyone actually read these comments, correctly, they would see other students (including former graduates) have literally admitted that Wayzata needs to change and was part of the reason they became depressed, anxious, or uncomfortable and insecure.

    If you’ve never experienced depression, I don’t see why you should be talking about what does and doesn’t make a person depressed because you don’t know and I don’t see why you’re making up excuses to shield this school.

    Stop talking over voices and start listening for once, especially to students and not just the students you personally know or are your children and using them as evidence that everything is alright.

    Over 3,000 teenagers spend seven hours a day here, five days a week, for nine months and this doesn’t include time outside of school where they’re still thinking about school because of homework or school related activities.

    Obviously, there can be other contributing factors to someone’s depression but the stress of school shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s sad that at a school this large, where there should be someone to talk to with confidence at every corner, considering the large faculty, students still feel lonely and helpless and talk to no one.

    If you think “this blog was a good discussion, now it’s time to move on to something bigger” well, create something bigger first. Don’t just talk, create that bigger something because right now it just feels like you’re pretending there’s going to be a bigger discussion so this one will cease and you can go back to thinking everything’s fine.

    It is possible to grieve and discuss at the same time so we won’t have to grieve more in the future. I’m so ashamed of the adults in this community.

    • I echo your words WHS class of 2012. Talking is easy, especially on here/ walk the walk. I know, I have always been ashamed of the adults/ or MOST, in this community. The district is losing sleep? Hmm? I’m still up… I was class of 1986. Technically an adult/ in denial. I relate more to you. They still don’t hear us. They don’t pick on us, although I was WARNED, they bicker among themselves. It’s like us raising them. NO way. Did that. Wow/ sad for you younger people that have to watch this play out. Penny is asking a valid question and it’s turned into a 3 ringed circus. Read OUR comments Adults!Tap in….we know more than you think…Gosh/ Who are the bullies? & if kids become them/ how can you blame them watching this garbage. THINK. I know it’s scary, TRY. WE are there/ you are not/ or most. We see it/ live it/ give us some credit please.

  92. This email came to my personal email inbox, because the author probably was too scared to post it in the comment section of this blog post. I’d like to generously share with you her email to me, as well as her name and email address. I don’t take threats lightly. This email comes from E. J.
    I don’t know her, but this is what she wrote to me:

    “I’m afraid you have made many many people angry with you, including the family of one of the students. It was THEM who REQUESTED the administration call it an unexpected death. Who are you??? If you are a Christian, you wouldn’t be pointing fingers in the wake of these tragedies. You are going to BLAME a school with 3000+ students in it? Many of these faculty and staff members work tirelessly for kids that are NOT theirs. Who are you to judge? Shame on you.

    Sincerely,
    Parent of 4 kids NOT in the Wayzata Dist. And very appalled at your blog. If your intentions were to get your name out there….mission accomplished – but the cost to you dear Penny Sue, I’m afraid for your days ahead.”

    E.J.

    That certainly sounds like a threat to me……and to think…..we don’t have a bully problem……This is supposedly from an adult. Can you imagine life as a teenager dealing with this?

    • I will not get into a character debate with you, I will not and am not threatening you. You are a child. I am not the one looking for press on this as it is obviously your intent. I do have teenagers and 4 well-adjusted children. This is not a threat when I just say STOP. STOP this insane rant and let it go. You are making more and more enemies the longer this goes on. That’s a promise. And further more….I sent you a personal message as to not call you out in your blog….how childish is it to post that email??? I feel sorry for your daughter. She’ll be the one who will more than likely get the fall out from your big, insensitive, arrogant mouth next year when school starts. BTW…erase my information.

    • huh, I missed this one. ” dear Penny Sue, I’m afraid for your days ahead. ” Oh and the cost. Wow. Actually E. J. I’m more afraid for you, unless you look great in orange, depending on the Prison. Orange IS the NEW black they say. This didn’t have to wind up in Police hands, you took it there. WHO are you covering for? Your kids( feel bad for them ) Don’t even go to Wayzata schools? Why so bothered? Our future is in the hands of parents like you. Because of the FALLOUT that will come from being raised by you….scary. THIS is criminal. The fallout? Everybody says that. I think it happened in my case. That can mean many things to different people, but aimed like this? Sounds like a hit of some type. Eww, made many people angry, it’s about time. Go worry about your own kids’, get them in therapy NOW. I imagine there are some great therapists in Wayzata, oh right, you don’t live there. Well, wherever you are, you, your family will need it. A Mom of 4 says THIS? Don’t let them see it please. Karma….. You claim to be a Christian? YIKES.

  93. You are treading on dangerous territory publishing teacher names and others names and email addresses.

    (this is not to post, this is just for you—you should remove the names)

    • I do not take lightly to threats. When people people start threatening me or my family, I take it seriously. Last I checked, this is a country that still has free speech. If anyone thinks its okay to threaten someone who is writing about teen suicide and bullying, then you are sadly mistaken. My rights don’t stop where your ‘offense’ begins. And if you choose to email me privately with threats, that automatically becomes open on my blog…..or to the police…you choose.

      • Well, then the same can be done with you. You are guilty of slander by including the names.

        Handle your issues privately. You are taking something that could be good and turning it into a circus show. It’s unnecessary. By all means, turn it in the police, but by publishing it, you are not doing anything but making yourself appear attention-seeking.

        • This blog service does not have the ability to message you privately, and you didn’t leave your email address, so the only way to contact you is to approve and comment. Slander is when you say something that is not true. I cut and pasted the email……it’s a direct quote. I could forward it to you, if you’d like. There is no lie, there is no slander. What’s unnecessary is people bullying me. Ironically, these are the same people who say there isn’t a bullying problem at Wayzata. Can you imagine if you were a teenager in the situation I am in? At least I’m an adult and have some experience on how to handle this type of thing. What is being displayed here, right now, for all the world to see, is the exact thing that they NAYSAYERS are saying DOES NOT happen at Wayzata. Well, if it happens to me because of a little blog post, it happens also in those walls of Wayzata High School. I DID NOT turn this into a circus show. Nobody’s twisting anyone’s arms to read this blog or comment on it. If anyone is going to threaten me over a blog that is about teen suicide and bullying, then they are truly sick.

          • exactly…. I am Erica Johnson and not afraid to comment on your petty blog. I was emailing you privately on purpose. You, my friend, just opened a slander case.

          • It’s not slander. It was a direct quote and it was a threat. I felt threatened.

      • I DARE YOU TO TURN ME IN! I was not threatening you. You just have to know what fall out you are creating for yourself. In no way did I ever threaten you or your child. Blessing to you dear Penny. I ask that you find help and peace with this. SO SO sad. AND in case you didn’t read it the first time….BRING…THIS….TO….THE…POLICE….Please! Maybe they can get you help. Godspeed.

        • well – is that a dare? I double dare YOU to turn her in over freedom of speech/ ” slander?” I am quite certain if this was & most likely will go to the police, you’d be the first to go, You are making real threats ( Anonymous ) A fallout? Doesn’t sound good to me. Wow, I sense rage? Are you worried about your kids or more what your friends or relatives may think if they stumble upon this. All CAPS!? You are worked up for some reason. Always up for a dare! You DO realize when in police hands. they can track you, correct? Here’s a thought, print it out and bring it to the Police?

    • Ha! Really? OH I have names! And I will gladly start name dropping if need be/ THAT falls on you for sending threats? Have fun in prison/ I hear it’s awesome. Or perhaps You’ll plead AFFLUENZA Syndrome….But just remember I have all kinds of documents/ Signatures & all. Threaten ME? I will take you down someplace you can ONLY imagine in your worst nightmares. I had to get pretty tough through the years. DO NOT mess with us. Decades of rage can cause damage to you/ NO weapon needed. Ignorance is Bliss I hear? Until it gets you or God FORBID one of your own/ ARE YOU sure your kids are okay/ we are taught some sick code of silence. Ponder that? Time will tell…….

    • ha~ guess it’s public now. Treading on dangerous territory? Explain that. What about the threats we’ve received by merely commenting? Names, whatever. It all comes out eventually I guess. Dang it for you. Slander vs.Terror? I’ll go with slander any day. And stating facts we can back up with legal documents hardly qualifies under slander. FYI. Man, I called this out way early, like 5 years old. Imagine being a kid there? I Know? Triple yikes. & I was k-10th, they couldn’t DEAL with the truth. I had to make myself get kicked out, took a bit, but oh I did it. STOP, you are so uninformed. Grow UP already, please and thank you.

  94. This is a terrible situation, Penny Sue, but I think that your anger is misdirected. It’s time to look inward. Who elects the school board? Parents. Who demands high performing schools? Parents. Who continues to choose to live in Wayzata? Parents.

    You have several choices:
    a) Continue to live in Wayzata and allow your child to go to school there.
    b) Sell your house and move to a district that doesn’t demand high achievement in academics and sports.
    c) Homeschool and hire high achieving tutors to educate your child at YOUR behest.
    d) Send your child to a private school.
    e) Complain.

    Wayzata is a high income town with high achieving parents who want high achieving kids. That’s the culture. If it concerns you, make a change. This is a problem all over the country in high income towns. For some reason, these highly educated parents are missing one crucial piece of the puzzle. PARENTS can control what happens in their home, where they live and how their children are educated. It’s up to YOU, not the school district, to make sure your child’s emotional and mental health are protected. YOU CAN TAKE CONTROL. Don’t blame it on others. We just see it as a rich white lady problem. Think outside the box and you’ll find the answers.

    • That’s what this blog is all about, An Empowered Parent. Thinking outside the box! And who knew that to think outside the box would amount to threats. All this blog is about is ASKING THE TOUGH QUESTIONS. This blog has only been up for 4 days.

  95. You’re asking a tough question of others, but like the response blog to this one asks, where’s the tough question of yourself?

    Penny, honest question—have you contributed to this “culture” at all? Pushed your kids a little too hard? Told them to “suck it up”? Made them take harder classes to better prepare them for college? Allowed to have access to social media without seriously monitoring it? Have you had multiple open conversations about suicide, depression, drugs, drinking and peer pressure along with a trained professional?

    The problem is, you’re wrong either way.

    If you say “Yes” then you are a part of the problem, and have contributed to this “culture” yet blame others, all the while perpetuating what you have to see before you.

    If you say “No” then people will know you are in denial of “Not on MY watch, but I can’t control what goes on in school or in the hallways.” (sound familiar?).

  96. and this proves to me that I stayed silent for a reason…. REALLY?! I was like 15? Can you imagine? & these People are threatening you/ intimidating you? WOW/ maybe I should have called people out/ Hey! I too have names/ quotes/ etc/ SO? Am I next? BRING it on. The worst has happened. And this is me FILTERED now….Don’t make threats/ or I’ll start airing REALLY dirty laundry & JUST MAYBE you’ll wake up/ ?? OH/ I carry a weapon by the way/ DO NOT make threats on this Lady’s life or anyone else’s…..I am not playing around here. Maybe we should get restraining orders on all of you bullies? This is freedom of speech/ CHILL out. Penny/ get the police involved ASAP/ show them those & there you are…..I thought MAYBE “it” had gotten better? OMG. Sad/ beyond sad and I was a kid. Well/ once arrested there goes that image. A PAST student.

  97. While I understand the argument you’re trying to make, your argument is extremely flawed. First, we are NOT going to get into a discussion about gun control on this blog. Second, what you said is akin to asking if the other teen would still be alive if there hadn’t been a bridge around.

      • Dear Liz, I don’t have the ability to make you physically ill. You are physically ill because you lost a dear friend in a horrific, tragic way. You are physically ill because you are reading a blog that is forcing you to ponder tough questions. You are physically ill because you are seeing the ugly side of Wayzata that you may or may not have known existed. I didn’t realize the extent of depravity in Wayzata. You are physically ill because you are learning the way things really are….and they aren’t what you thought. You are seeing how horrible people can be. If a person has an opinion that the ruling class doesn’t like, they will do everything in their power to shut that person down…..insults, name calling, cowardly anonymous comments, even physical threats and threats against the family. What you are seeing is the real heart of much of Wayzata, probably people you rub elbows with and seem to be the nicest people, but are content to cowardly hide in the shadows of cyberspace where they believe they have the freedom to bully others and attack from a distance but all they are doing is revealing the sickness in their hearts while cloaked in anonymity. No, Liz, I didn’t make you physically ill. I merely wrote a blog that voiced my opinion….that’s what most blogs are…..private individuals opinions. Nobody is ever forced to read a blog. It’s all free will. You are free to read it, I am free to write it. That’s how things work. But some people would like to take away our freedoms. Some people want silence. But there can be silence no more. Their tactics actually are working against them and what was just a little blog has become a public conversation that is not going to go away. People are now talking about bullying and pressure and stress and anxiety and suicide. And tough questions will be addressed and hopefully answered. There can’t be silence anymore. The truth is coming out. That’s making a lot of people ill.

        • Oh Liz – take off those rose colored glasses. How old are you? Don’t disrespect PSM. But Liz, we aren’t supposed to tell names? Remember? Even though most likely anyone that dies at a young age is thought to have Od’d or similar. I also have suicide in my Family/ most though came from OUR HS. Yes/ true stuff. I am NOT blaming the entire district/ this is like a debate class, which you may or may not have taken. You should in college/ teaches you to fight fair. Have some Class/ Manners. We are all physically ill/ I look at this as deeper than most topics touched on here. Maybe your School experience has been great, not all had such luck or fate. Do not shoot the messenger/ look deeper/ look at the ADULTS. Who are the bullies? I too was threatened. But after watching over your back so long, it really has no effect on me. Partly because these people don’t have the nerve to do this like we’ve said unless hiding behind their masks. YOU know how big image is. For that reason alone, no fear, the worst happened, what more is there to fear, You become pretty un – phased my scare tactics…. cowards, they are…The adults/ and as you get older you’ll realize most are just not all that Liz. I am sorry you have to witness bad behavior because I did too & it does not go away. I am sorry you lost your friend. I get that pain and feel for all of you, especially their families. Remember everyone is fighting a battle, have heart. I’m guessing you’re a teen? I hope.

        • Also on your comment to Liz, stop acting like you wrote this blog just to write a personal blog. “AN OPEN LETTER TO WAYZATA STAFF/ADMINISTRATION”
          That is inviting everyone involved to comment and rip apart your opinion. I am actually stunned by the fact you say that “you are free to write it and we are free to read it” yet we aren’t allowed to comment and voice our disagreement? If your intent was just to get the discussion rolling you did it possibly one of the worst ways possible. Maybe just write a blog asking how we can improve this situation and prevent people from committing suicide or even contemplating it. You are so hypocritical it baffles me and I can’t believe you haven’t realized your idiotic and ridiculous accusations and your method of conveying them is 100% your fault and you should realize that in todays society (ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD) that if you post something controversial you should be prepared to face the consequences because its inevitable. Not saying thats a good thing or acceptable, but it is the reality of keeping your identity hidden and being able to say whatever you want.

          • This will be the last anonymous post here on this blog, but I thought it fitting.

          • the sad part? IF you went back to anonymity, it would continue, the sick comments, threats, shutting us down. They do like anonymity! I am SO glad I do not have to visit the town again, cut off ties that bind and gag and kill. Gosh, my old therapist must be getting tons of business, she was into that…… A Wayzata lady. Hence the OLD part.

  98. Dear PSM,

    I respect your opinion and certainly share your concern on the emotional well being of our kids. I myself, have 4 children in, or graduated from Wayzata schools. My wife herself is a Wayzata graduate. I think you have a bit of a slippery slope when you blame Chase Anderson et. al. for the acts of individual students. We as parents need to be engaged with our kids and provide support and more importantly…TALK TO OUR KIDS.

    Are Wayzata academics competitive… Yes. I believe that’s why most of us live here and approve bond referendums to keep it that way. Is Wayzata a big school? Yes! But there are plenty of activities to engage those that choose to be engaged.

    My son went to the funeral of the latest student to pass away today. His comments were profound. Dad, I don’t understand how someone who had so many friends and was apparently getting good grades (in your so-called evil AP classes) could let things get to this point. This kid by all accounts had friends, was active in school activities, what more do you want a school to do.

    No one will ever understand why things like this happen. But the blame game is counterproductive.

  99. This sort of thing has been going on longer than just a month or just 4 years. I attempted suicide inside the high school about 6 years ago and went into a coma, died and was brought back inside the ambulance on the way to the hospital, and spent the next foggy days in intensive care. Within a week I was back at school and no one seemed to notice or care, though I did overhear students talk about the ambulance and my limp body being carried out on a stretcher.

    • I am also glad you made it! I unintentionally landed on life support in 2009/ I too pulled through. I had had 14 years of sobriety. Started EARLY13/ quit Early 22. I never dealt w/ my past. It caught up. So/ even when we leave, the damage remains. It took a stay of commitment to FORCE me to reopen all of it… This person now? I have no idea who I am. I blocked most to just go on in some form & I did really well considering. I could go ON & ON. I will talk to you Penny & you can use anything you need that I have or can tell you. They pass the buck/ send you to alternative schools/ Treatment Centers & no one gets that this is NOT typical behavior for a 14/ 15/16 yo? Really? They don’t want to. Crazy stuff & now I get to deal? Great! Ha~ Hang in there FHE!! & you too Penny! I sense less nastiness? Image perhaps?

    • FHE/ DECADES…..we lost many while there or after. Parker’s Dad is wrong. NOT everyone is a millionaire there By the way! My Husband is a Realtor/ often his clients want Wayzata schools? I just have to roll my eyes & wish for the best. THIS did not start out as a blame game/ open topic. Why be so defensive? IMAGE. Believe me/ I get it! My Parents are up there in age/ It’s STILL all about image. I learned the eye roll thing there. Ha~

    • I wish more people like you would speak out and educate the community about your experience. What factors do you feel led you to a suicide attempt? What was the response from family, school admin, students, health professionals? In hindsight, what have you learned about yourself or life in general?
      I feel PM was more angry about the school’s response. I had to roll my eyes at the cookie cutter ‘insert name here’ email we received. Clearly these suicides had way more to do than the pressure to succeed, otherwise we would be seeing a lot more suicides. I think her post could have been more effective had she not linked the suicides to the pressures and life at school. But I am disgusted at the tone some people have taken with her, nothing gets accomplished by this.
      With that said, I fear this too will get swept under the rug. It takes time and courage, but I wish the families of these children would speak out more in order to help others. I am sure many appreciated hearing from Logan and David’s family members here. I think a lot of parents are scared, they see their own children stressed out, frustrated, and emotional. Of course our children are not your problem, and your private life is none of our business, but the only way we are going to grow is by talking, sharing and listening to each other with compassion.

      • You should be scared. It does not have to end this way. There is a division of class in Wayzata for starters. Do I have to spell it out? Have your kids’ talked to you recently? Do you ask them questions/ Teachers–Our Parents’ money or moods scare you enough to look away. I know too much/ I know money means a lot/ you can pretty much be bought / silenced to look away, But at what cost> you are not aware of the people I know that have taken their lives. ( I’m guessing.) Why? Many factors/ assault/ physical/ sexual/ addiction/ eating d/o’s/ you get the idea. Sometimes we do it years later as we’ve just had enough. THIS proves there is a huge problem./ The reactions from ADULTS scare me….Not the students as they are telling you their perception. The adults threaten/ get defensive & bully. GREAT. Who’s reading this? Students/ & you are our role models at the time. & a lot of the abuse happened to us in that district/ even adults involved. Give Penny a break/ Do you get her own Brother took his life? Have Heart. She thinks of him daily. I have lost too many in the district/ it’s a problem. 99% of bad behavior trickles down from the top/ meaning the ” Village.” We watch you, count on you, Parents/ teachers to hear us out even if we can’t verbalize it, clue in. All I got. So sorry to the Parents’ of the latest. Bless you all. Read the Wayzata Memorial Page……

  100. I’m astonished that you are trying to defend your post and its intent. I go to the U of M and am glad that my parents strived to give me a great education. Also was involved in sports, but in no-way did the administration put ANY pressure on me nor did any teachers. My parents did and I’m glad they did because I wouldnt be where I am now without them. You have no idea what caused these students to do this and I’m sure that the stress of school didnt help, but I think that some stress in inevitable. I’m shocked you havent deleted this post yet especially after parents of the deceased have commented and expressed their disappointment and disagreement with this post. Mental illness is the only thing that ahould be blamed. Adminstration, teachers, students, friends, family, and anyone else is not to blame. I am deeply saddened by the suicides at wayzata and have lost 2 of my peers to it, so I don’t want to come off as insincere with this post. I think its outrageous that you think that because Wayzata excels academically and athletically that it “comes at a cost” of students lives. I honestly could go on and on about the flaws of your post amd your dozens of comments, but I think my point has been made(along with the opinions of the majority of commenters). So Penny, will you do yourself a favor and take this blog down? Maybe post a new one asking for suggestions to help rix this problem instead of putting the blame on people who are just as saddened by these deaths as you are

  101. I heard about this letter and was impelled to check it out. I am deeply saddened by hearing about the loss of any student. Life is hard for many people. Unfortunately, hopelessness, suffering and pain can result in a successful suicide. Suicide Prevention training has changed drastically and is accessible to everyone.

    A great deal has been said during this post. Many emotions, misunderstandings, misinterpretations, accusations, assumptions, blaming, etc. Bascially, many “healthy responses” to grief, tragedy, shock, fear according to how you interpret the Kubler-Ross grief model. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kübler-Ross_model

    Unfortunately, compassion, empathy, reflective listening skills, respect, understanding, patience, peace, perspective taking, coping skills, low frustration tolerance skills, acceptance, social skills and unconditional love are not being taught as subjects in the school environment at any academic level. In addition, resilience, is expected to be automatic and it is something that is really should be nurtured and fostered at every age.

    If these “qualities/subjects” were taught in schools as a mandatory class; this blogger would be treated with dignity and respect as well. This blogger would be understood as a survivor of suicide, a voice of suicide, a hyper vigilant person with possible post traumatic stress syndrome related to the violent and tragic death of her brother. She would not be criticized, silenced, questioned, threatened and bullied for being a concerned parent making a statement on her own blog.

    Unfortunately, we are a society with many flaws. It is equally disturbing that people are threatening this blogger’s family, which is a form of harassment and violence. Really? It is true that as a society, we don’t praise our children for poor organizational skills, inability to be self sufficient and their ability to admit they feel overwhelmed. We are all responsible and we are all victims/survivors. This blog did get people talking, thinking, feeling, searching, questioning and motivated to change the situation. We need to treat each other the way we want to be treated. Peace to everyone.

    • Dear WTB- Not just the blogger.The People that comment as well. Good points in your post, but the link deal goes unnoticed. I DID check it out, but My guess is most will not. We are so disconnected as a society. Links are great, but this needs to go down/ play out live. Not sure about healthy responses on here/ mine included. The students show more impulse control than the adults, in my opinion…. No, we don’t get praised for feeling overwhelmed. We suck it up until we can’t anymore. As for the subjects you mention being taught, great idea. I just don’t know if that will happen. We were shown videos on anything even a bit out of the comfort zone. I imagine they use Power point presentations now. You know/ that personal touch. Agree that PSM probably takes this to heart/ Maybe has some PTSD, I do not know this, She’s an RN, I imagine she has gotten some help through the years. At least you’re Nice/ informative. I now have well?- PTSD symptoms opening emails. Not afraid/ just don’t need ugliness/ hatred aimed towards a voice/ that’s all I am. Thank God you opened this up Penny, are we allowed to say God? Just know that friends have called to tell me they’re switching districts. You have made changes already…..Everyone’s talking about it/ how to help/ change it. Peace to ALL & relax a bit.

      • RH, I knew it wouldn’t take long, but they are now attacking you. Their “attack the victim” comments won’t be published and I won’t give them any screen time, but I do have their fake email addresses and the IP address. They also are denying that they are bullies. Just wanted you to know that I’ve got your back. Who knows what these people are capable of.

        • I won’t give it screen time either & Right about the fake email addresses… Why, we’ll blow their cover. I have watched over my back alone for 30 years. But thanks! It does not hurt to have you on my side. Considering the facts, I am SO not worried. I just saw a topic on Bullying and how they felt it was being overused, Ha~ They should check THIS out. Of course it was pertaining to kids, not ADULTS! Actually I know what they’re capable of. NO worries Penny unless you are a Teen. I would so publicly like to name call– call them out but my logic stops me. Then? WHO knows? It was never me I was worried too much about, more my loved ones. etc…I did not really care much to go on in a world that has such a dark side. Now, I think rage alone could cause harm if anybody tried to silence us AGAIN. I TOO have YOUR back. All meant to be, I got past records to write a book & bam! There it all was again, new things? Old news. As for the book on many issues, postponed. We could go to the next Pow Wow I suppose? Think they’ll address this topic? My Head says no. My heart wants to think so. Oh we aren’t the victims Penny…..They are powerless and Po’d, Image. Denial is HUGE. But we know they’re BULLIES. Only on here would they have the guts. Never in person. If your Daughter does go back, I can go with her. Knowledge is power, they say? PEACE, your heart is big and in the right place. I’ll have her back!

  102. Penny,

    I can tell you’ve been backed into a corner. Your aggressive, panicked, I-am-right-no-matter-how-disproved-I-am defense is pretty pathetic. Stop protecting your argument and start taking real action as a parent to your children.

    • Due to the high number of illegitimate and cowardly anonymous comments, anyone who would like to leave a comment must now include their name and email address. PennyIsGod created an insulting screen name and the bogus email address of pennyisgod@god.com. Anyone still think that Wayzata High School doesn’t have a bullying problem?

  103. “Stop killing them, stop letting them die” Yeah you are TOTALLY right Penny, your intent of this post was just to start a discussion. If you’re going to have the audacity to post something this accusatory then you should be willing to take the backlash that follows. You would think a grown woman would have the maturity to realize this but I guess it takes a college student to attempt to set you straight (which will fail since you fail to recognize any flaws of your argument and only attempt to sadly defend your ridiculous post. Anything you disagree with on my 2 posts?

    • When did bullying become an okay thing to do? I should be willing to take the backlash? I should be willing to have threats against my life? I should be willing to get bullied because I had the guts to voice my opinion? Are you saying that if people don’t like my opinion, it’s okay for them to bully and threaten me? Bullying is okay in certain instances? Us adults used to call it a conversation, even a heated debate. But we don’t have those anymore. We have bullies If you don’t like what I say, you feel its okay to attack me. There aren’t discussions anymore. Today’s society thinks its okay to JUST SHUT DOWN anyone they don’t agree with. What my little blog proved to me was how deeply entrenched the bullying problem is in Wayzata.

  104. Penny:
    I have been following your post for several days & while I may have disagreements with your approach & comments on how WHS deals with mental health issues, I am unsettled that this blog has devolved into calling out teachers by name. I am respectfully asking you to cease mentioning any teachers by name & block any threads that do so as well.

    Thank You,
    Adam Tillotson
    President
    Wayzata Education Association

    • Dear Adam, thank you very much for your respectful comment and input. One teacher’s name was mentioned by myself and that name has been removed. I will not allow anyone to call out or name teachers or staff by specific name, however, there are many people commenting to this blog who are teachers or are posing as such. I have no way of knowing, and as such, once a contributor identifies him or herself, they have forfeited any expectation of privacy on this blog and discussion threads. A name and email addersress is required to comment, but there are some who I believe are teachers or Wayzata parents who have created fake names and bogus emails so they can continue to devolve and putrify this conversation. Are you as appalled as I am at the behavior of these people of Wayzata?

      Even though you don’t agree with me, you were respectful of me. I appreciate that.

    • OH MY? Huh….. He’s the president/ so I guess we don’t mention names. Keeps it sicker. This has been shared/ read by many early on. We got the names….I have documents from the mid 80’s, want to check them out sometime? We could meet for coffee or such. I am more than willing Mr. Tillotson.

  105. To all readers, there has been an overwhelming response to this controversial blog post. Due to the nature of the comments, I’ve found it necessary to add some rules to keep all conversations on this blog civilized.

    The rules for commenting:
    1. First and last name are required. No screen names. No more hiding in anonymity.
    2. Verifiable email address.
    3. If you wish to protect your identity (if you’ve been a victim, attempted suicide, have a sensitive story to tell, etc.) leave your comment and I will privately contact you and discuss editing to protect you yet still share your story.
    4. Reminder: this is a blog written by a private individual. Reading it is optional. Disagreements are welcome as long as they are constructive and respectful.
    5. All comments published are at the discretion of the editor.

    The next blog post will be about Bullying in Wayzata. If you have a story that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you. Again, all victims identities will be protected.

    “Do not say anything in the dark that you wouldn’t say in the light”

  106. dear ” Wayzata Grad.”- Stunned? Astonished? Appalled? Shocked? Gosh, you are a Local. Um, who’s hiding behind a mask? You are. PSM? Not at all. Oops, BAFFLES, too. Really? Last I checked we are in the USA, correct? Freedom of speech. Explain it to me like I’m a 5 year old when you say ” consequences?” Sounds like a threat. Kind of like “Fallout” used in previous comment/s. I am guessing you are a RECENT Grad. just reading your post. THIS is controversial? Oh my, just wait, only because of where we grew up. THIS is nothing compared to life lessons. Thank God PSM had the guts to do what 99% of people there would never do. What rattles you so much about this? Back up your statements. Your comment is just lost on me.

  107. Very fitting. Where is everyone? Huh. I guess anonymity is HUGE! This is so sad. It makes me sick, truly. I had hoped things had improved. I do not have kids. My Sisters’ kids went to different school districts. I do have friends that have kids in the Wayzata District, some with ISSUES even? Uh oh….I imagine they’re bailing too. I am so glad you opened it up, I needed to see it for personal reasons, but I am feeling so hopeless as for change there. I do send my Love & Prayers to the most recent Boys’ families. I am so sorry.

      • No. And THAT is what it’s all about. Hiding in their glass houses’, judging, threatening, and if something ever happened to you or myself, here we go. But believe me, image is so big there, it’s not going to happen. Just your blog has caused near heart failure in some? Imagine if the police showed up, they’ll stop Bullying now, you outed them, good job. Silence them, they were the ones that took this to some insane level. See how it would be hard as a Teen to express yourself, FORGET that idea. Proof is in the blog in this case.

        • Exactly. Could you imagine being a teen who wanted to express him or herself and some people didn’t agree? I can take the heat. I’m an adult, I’ve learned how to handle these kinds of situations. Kids don’t have the experience or the maturity to deal with this kind of thing. No wonder so many feel there is only one way out. The attacks that I’ve experienced and the threats that I’ve received are concerning, to say the least. I would never wish that on a kid. Yet, they experience this kind of grief every day. While I was hoping to write more posts on my suggestions to change things—-so many people have pointed their fingers at me and said “It’s easy for you to sit there at your computer and point fingers……why don’t you do something about it instead of blaming and accusing????” One person even said they went to a forum, and they talked about it, and had bullet points that they are going to address at some point, and asked me what I’m doing other than sitting at my computer. My post has only been up for a week. I’ve spent the past week fielding hundreds of comments. And in the process, I learned that the first thing that needs to address is bullying…..the type of bullying that SO MANY who commented here on this post deny exists. Or they claim that bullying happens everywhere (as that makes it more palatable). I don’t care if it happens everywhere. That’s not the discussion. I’ve learned how deeply infected Wayzata is with it. I care about my own back yard, my own kids, our kids at Wayzata, not that it happens everywhere.

          • I can? Well, now that this has turned into something civil and where we are not being attacked, maybe it’s time to start suggestions. Rather than having to defend our every comment. First off, your Daughter should have never been silenced, tell her not to lose her voice over this, I remember a lot of assemblies in school, if something like this happens, tragic, I would hope they’d gather all and let people speak. As much as the families want to protect their loved ones tragic deaths, it’s all over the grapevine sadly. It just played out with a former classmate of mine, people wanted details, I said NO. I’m pretty sure they all know what happened. But wow, it brought me right back. You know those fliers we see all over public places re; sensitive topics, have those in the bathrooms, etc. Ditch cellphones if allowed, or limit use. Have your kids tell you their passwords, check often, we are so as a society in general, disconnected. Limit after school requirements, school is enough with high standards and pressures, if they LOVE one thing, you’re lucky enough. TALK. Teachers, you claim to be part of the village, this applies to you as well, never silence them about things of this nature. PSM, you opened this up for a good reason, but this falls on them now. You work, have to find a new school for your Daughter, your hands are full. This is an eyeopener as far as bullying goes. I had NO idea. I do think it happens most anyplace, BUT, this is a problem in Wayzata, I saw it I’m guessing? – mainly with adults, but who are the kids’ role models, Parents and teachers. STOP. It’s so ingrained there, what’s most important to you, one kid’s life or if your friends with kids in another district happen upon this letter? Yes, Wayzata schools are great if you fall into place, some don’t or can’t for different reasons, we are all individuals, not cookie cutter images. Not every boy loves football, not every girl wants to be a cheerleader. So what. Let them be kids, you know how fast that goes. Find balance. Too much of anything is not good. A healthy balance. Start opening up sensitive topics at home and in schools. Peace to all, now let’s make a change, a START. Again, Penny you have done a great thing, but this truly falls on the district now. I will try to help, but I think this has raised enough concern, you can own that. A GREAT thing, you are rare, I wish there were more of YOU, and your Daughter, a great Mom. Peace to you and yours, very brave, and you did not back down, almost unheard of. You are a friend. Let’s ROLL!

          • I love your ideas about getting less disconnected. You are so right! It’s time to unplug! The more I think about it, the more I like the non-anonymous angle, too. It’s quite interesting how the attacks have stopped when I started required first and last name, and a verifiable email address. Clearly the internet has SO much to do with bullying in our culture and has contributed to the disconnect that is so common.

  108. As Alumni, a parent of a k-12 student in the district, and multiple family members as staff, including a sister whom claimed she would send ’emotional, hormonal’ girls to the counselor, before letting them into class, as well as one of the most well known people of WHS, my father, Roger Lipelt, I know 1st 2nd & 3rd hand how prevalent a situation is prominently displayed in the high school, and the community!!! IT saddens me, to hear, years later, this mentality exists to such an extent. My child expressed concerns, early on, yet I, overlooked thinking it’s Wayzata, what better education could I provide for MY child!? wrong answer, should have known better! In no manner do I desire to diminish my fathers work nor contribution to society, but, I must now take it on, as its TOO easy to keep turning the same cheek, when you are confronted with a stiff neck your whole life! the turned cheek is CONDITIONAL!! & if you don’t meet, you can’t compete!!! BTW 2 of my daughter’s friends committed suicide, shortly after graduating in 2011. don’t know if they are a part of the ‘statistics’ or not! tremendously misunderstood, invalidated people!!! (:

    • Thank you, Heidi. I’m sorry for your child’s friends. My son graduated in 2011 and I don’t think he knows about these suicides. So, the answer is no, they are not part of the statistics. Oh my God. This is bigger than I ever thought. People are starting to speak out.

      • in response to both Heidi & you Penny, thanks Heidi for telling the truth, hard I know….Penny, we have lost a ton of people to addiction as well that were Wayzata alumni, I can’t, won’t blame any one thing for that….Some in recovery too, thank God. I will say WHS had a great C/D dept./ staff. West Junior high as well. As far as their Special ed.? staff, I had my mouth and hands duct taped, speaking of silencing people, was bruised by a teacher in math class ?, unequipped, low tolerance. I know names, but Golly gee, I won’t name drop. And Heidi, I know a flock of us Girls at the time would have been sent to the ” counselor’s office” if your Sister was in charge then, really? Who taught her that. We aren’t supposed to have emotions, cry ever, and that has stuck. Go back to school, some staff. Any abuse done to me was in Wayzata. The ” village.” And again, there were some great Parents and teachers there, more the exception, rather than the rule at that time. This brought up old memories for me as well, I became good at blocking to survive that insanity. And it’s not like I’m doing great these days, it’s daily, a struggle and this world only seems to be getting darker, and they still want to silence people. They clearly do not care about the impact they had on us, we’re out of their hair now. Thank GOD! Lots of lost dreams, potential for some. But okay, we hear you loud and clear. Image is bigger. GOT it. ~~ Humility is not a bad thing, FYI. I played your games up until JUST recently, and what a Effen cost…..Stunned, astonished, shocked, appalled……really?~~Drama…look at the big picture & maybe you won’t be so SHOCKED next time one of us dies tragically.

  109. It does, look what it’s done to us, as ” adults? ” I am so ready to unplug all social media as it can be damaging STILL. I was encouraged to join Facebook in 2010, and I’m glad I did, for the most part, it taught me things I needed to see, learn again, it had to play out, but after this Circus? Not so sure I want to be a part of it, on many levels. Maybe if I was through my own stuff, it would be different. USE my name, they all know. It’s fine. I KNEW they’d stop once you required authenticity. Scary stuff. Sad. We are so disconnected, this hardly counts for real contact. How do you learn the very basic social skills this way. AND, to think after school you can’t get away. I can really see where People become desperate enough to end their pain. I get it. No one would selfishly do this sort of thing to their loved ones if not in dire straights. Last resort for them, heartbreaking stuff & as YOU know, you never get over it, how could you. You are a voice for your Brother’s memory and so many, already you’ve changed things. BULLYING needs to be addressed. Adult bullies? I guess I’m not shocked, just disheartened….. This world does scare me more and more. NO empathy=sociopaths I believe, and you were shown very little. And we get to coexist with them. Ha, great. Thank God for people like you. Get some well deserved REST.

    • Look at you Rachelle! Using your name. I’m proud of you for speaking out. You have a story to tell. And I am just learning the depth of what is going on at Wayzata. Adult bullies………unbelievable. I never could have predicted that.

      • Ha! I am certain they ALL know what RH means, you called it, it’s layered, deeper, sadly than suicide. It’s a mentality, this has got them PONDERING, worried. Ugliness. I may have predicted some, this level? No….I have stories to tell at some point. Names, Mr. President of? – Wayzata schools will eventually come out, you can’t silence us FOREVER. I have found out a lot through the last FEW years. And we’re talking classes of 86/ 87, etc….so going back. But remember? Some of these ” adult?” bullies are possibly in their 40’s NOW. OR? Teachers posing as anonymous until you ended that. Great move, btw. You are making people THINK back, uh oh! You rocked the boat/s, well, we did….the few, the brave, the ones that can’t be silenced now, dang, we grew up!

        • That’s what I thought…..I rocked the boat. I just couldn’t understand the vitriole…..the demand that I STOP, the anger directed toward me for speaking out…..it just didn’t make sense. Why would anyone be so mad at me, to that degree, because I asked about what is being done about suicide? Then it occurred to me that this is so much deeper, so much more than just suicide.

          • It really is… Layered. Sick, Deep. With my deepest sympathy and respect to one of the recent victim’s Uncles-I have to say this much. THIS has brought it all back. I was a teen there too. And again, some staff were great, we ALL agree, but look at this. We go unheard for only so long. To be invalidated by so many forever catches up. That can mean depression/ anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, cutting, and suicide sadly. It starts at home, but we do spend a lot of time with educators that should be able to clue/ tap in more. I think many turn away, the town, the money, fear of backlash, lawsuits, etc….trying to be understood, validated on here?-brings me right back. And I was most likely your Nephew’s age then. We can’t articulate words, or most can’t, at that age and we have already learned on some level what speaking up may result in. It’s as if time has stood still. Penny, you got it, I knew it went deeper than suicide, and THAT is sad enough. You are opening up old wounds, making people THINK and scaring the ____ out of them. We just do not scratch below the surface, we play it safe, even at the cost of many lives. It’s INGRAINED. Infected as you said earlier. THIS is depressing as a person who is trying to get through stuff now. It’s like there’s no hope of that mentality ever changing. Timing is everything though, I needed to see it now, and thank you for being brave, it’s costly! And yes, you’re an adult, so really, like we EVER had a chance as kids. We did not. People are on attack, again, the students are giving their stories, good, bad. It’s the adults that make my heart black and heavy. Here it all is, the way it was, the way it is and dammit( I know, I swear?) the way it will remain until someone wakes the ___ up. Peace to you Penny.

  110. Something needs to be done at wayzata. I am a 2011 graduate from WHS. i was bullied all through school–administrators did nothing. I began cutting at the age of 12 because of. then the anorexia developed. then came the two very serious suicide attempts(1 landed me on a ventilator in the ICU). and of course the multiple hospital stays, psych wards, residentials.

    • Carly, thank you for sharing! How terrible and sad. Yes, I am afraid it is a huge, horrible problem at Wayzata. I’m so sorry it happened to you. How are you doing now?

      • Penny, have you heard a word from the ” district? ” My guess? Probably not….Well, it’s Summer! Who cares….fun to be had. There’s a ton of them, few of us speaking. My name means LAMB, ironically. “Silence of the lambs” was never lost on me, the title…I imagine they’re catching up on all the sleep they lost. Actually, THIS is typical, they THINK if they stay silent, we will, well guess again.

        • Not a word. Anonymity is like power to them. I would like, however, to reiterate, that if anyone would like to remain anonymous if they fear too much repercussion or fallout from a story they have to tell, or if they have an ugly story and don’t want their name out there, I will protect identities. I am afraid that many want to speak out but are afraid to. I promise to keep identities of the victims private.

          • you shut them down! Ha~ Image is so big. I think there are many stories, but FALLOUT doesn’t sound great…..but, trust me, these ” People ” are wimps, I mean, look? I have NEVER been more ashamed to have lived there, been born there…..where are the ideas on what to do? People with stories, SPEAK! You are not helping matters either….Trust me, the fallout they refer to will catch up, although hard to know what they mean by that…They are too worried about ending up in the Lake shore weekly to do _____!!! It would have happened to me or others…..Blaaaaah. How sick.

    • So sorry Carly. Overreacted? Yet you see the comments on here coming from adults. NO, you did not overreact…God forbid we show emotion and you are a recent grad. I did all the things you did too. Yes, let us know how you are. Consider where your peers learned their BULLY techniques after reading this BS. You are way bigger and have been heard, validated by US. Love to you. I also was there, mid-80’s, so no progress. I am sorry, I guessed it had IMPROVED, clearly not the case. Peace to you. CONSIDER the SOURCE here, it’s a sickness there.

  111. As Bobby’s sister, I am just now seeing this. I urge you to take this down as you did not follow through with the family before posting this. This had absolutely nothing to do with wayzata. Please take this down and stop using my brother for your angry letters.

    • Dear Allie, I do understand your pain, as I have lived through what you are living through. This is not an article about your brother. This goes much deeper than just one person. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  112. Dear Penny, I’m a grandmother of a Wayzata High school student. I applaud your boldness these past years in speaking out on this subject. I’m not sure if you still have any children in the school now, but I’d like to encourage you to continue, one person CAN make a difference. Thank you.

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