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The CDC Cavalry Ride In (on donkeys)

Original post made by Marc Vincenti, Barron Park, on Feb 19, 2016

Suddenly all the media outlets in the Bay Area--not to mention Newsweek, The Washington Post, and ABC News Nightline--are announcing the "good news" of the CDC coming to Palo Alto like U.S cavalry coming west, at last, to save the day.

But these particular cavalry, I'm afraid, don't merit the bugle-call and are mounted on donkeys.

On the CDC study's severe limitations, those touting it have been silent.

It's going to come as a shock and a great disappointment to Palo Altans when they find out that the CDC's epidemiological review will be based on not a single interview with a single Palo Alto teenager.

(Last year, droves of teenagers came to speak to our Board and Superintendent, insisting they be listened to on important matters.)

This CDC review will not be based on a single interview with any of the hundreds of adults who are actually present with our teens for most of the day: their teachers.

The CDC experts will not be talking with the loved ones, family, or friends of any of the ten dead children.

The CDC will be doing a handful of focus groups with parents, and will be interviewing our two high-school principals. Other than that, the CDC will not be talking with any campus personnel--not coaches, not guidance counselors, not even the two new therapists that our school board hired last year at a cost of tens of thousands.

The CDC will be applying no objective criteria for what is or isn't a healthy "school climate." For example, if they were doing a similar study on hospitals, say--as opposed to public schools--they seek measurable data on nurse-patient ratios, infections rates, etc.

But here, with our schools, the CDC will not be considering teacher-student ratios (class size), nor our schools' rates of cheating, AP enrollment, or minutes of nightly homework.

The CDC is mostly simply collecting data (on hospital admissions, teen alcohol rates, etc.) from the local files of local agencies. "The focus of this Epi-Aid will be the use and analysis of existing quantitative datasets," I'm told by spokesperson Joy Alexiou at the county office of public health.

My facts come either from her or from the 2014 CDC Epi-Aid report from Virginia.

Our District has preferred not to mention the study's tremendous limitations. Whether this approach is in the best interests of Palo Alto's parents and teenagers, we don't yet know.


Marc Vincenti
Gunn English Dept. (1995-2010)
Campaign Coordinator
Save the 2,008 — bringing hope to Palo Alto's high-schoolers


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