VIEWPOINT: Parents and Politicians Need to Take Care of Teens

Paramedics respond rapidly to Pacific Palisades residents in dire straits.

Medical students must take the Hippocratic Oath and one of the promises is “First, do no harm.”

On Saturday, Circling the News received an email from a reader: “Aid car called to picnic area below parking lot in rec area close to the library. Word I got in passing was a young man overdosed and his ‘friend’ ran away.”

Later, a resident posted on Nextdoor that the incident occurred at the Recreation Center around 6:15 p.m. and a 15-year-old, who had overdosed on drugs, was left by his friends.

“Thankfully two women from out of town saw him and called 911. Our local fire department arrived minutes later with an ambulance and fire truck. The boy was limp as a rag doll and vomiting as the paramedics put him on a stretcher. It was a very sad scene to witness. These boys need to realize that leaving a near-death scene is not right and their parents need to know about their actions as well. We have a great fire department and their response time and professionalism is outstanding.”

We have learned that the teen will recover.

Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs died by choking on vomit after using drugs and alcohol.

Every parent of a middle or high school student needs to sit down and discuss this story with them. They need to explain that if someone takes too many drugs or alcohol, that person can start vomiting and suffocate on their own vomit. Tell them about Tyler Skaggs (the L.A. Angels pitcher who died like this last year).

Explain you know they would never do anything like that—BUT if they ever see someone they think may be in trouble, call 911. Tell them there will be no blame and no one will get in trouble.

Then we need to get our kids back in school. I was raised in a farming community. Teenagers had lots of activities that included working with the animals and helping in the fields. The teens who played sports would go home after practice and do chores.  The kids who were in drama would go home and milk the cows and come back to play practice later.

Our Palisades youth rarely have this kind of physical rigor in their lives away from high school. They have no chores—gardeners and maids come to almost every house.

What we’ve done is substitute chores with extracurricular activities, such as clubs and sports. When we took away school this spring, we also took away those opportunities. We’ve taken away kids’ daily in-person interactions.

“First do no harm.”

Sitting at home with a computer and a teacher explaining a math theorem doesn’t present teens with social interaction, which is crucial to our youth.

The underground factory’s night club is a simple affair where some of the workers drink tea while others dance somewhere in England, April 11, 1944. (AP Photo)

I was shocked to learn in Erik Larson’s “The Splendid and the Vile” that teens and young adults went to dances and socialized in London amidst the German bombings during World War II.

It might be fine to stay home for those of us who are married and have raised our children, but we are damaging our young by forcing them into “retirement.” There is only so much porn they can download on the internet before they seek other excitement.

A few weeks ago, I noted that the Recreation Center has become a place for kids to drink and do drugs since no one is around using the ball fields. I don’t think sending more police to the site will fix it. We need to get our kids busy again, we need to give them activities. They need to interact.

How many people under the age of 17 have died from Covid-19 in California? One, as of August 13, and that person had underlying health conditions.

I’m not saying that teens won’t catch Covid-19, but for the majority, the virus is not a death sentence.

We don’t close our schools during flu season, and in 2019-2020 the CDC reported that the flu season was especially bad for children, with 170 pediatric deaths reported.

Nationwide, there were between 39-65 million cases of flu reported with 24,000 to 62,000 flu deaths (and that’s often despite having a flu shot). The CDC does not know the exact number of people who were sick with influenza last year because influenza is not a reportable disease in most areas of the U.S., unlike Covid-19.

What does kill teens? Drug use and suicide, and we almost saw that this weekend in Pacific Palisades. In 2017, there were more than 596 suicides in the 10-to-14-year-old group and 6,211 suicide deaths in the 15-to-24-year-old group. After unintentional injury, suicide was the leading cause of death, the highest it’s been since the government started collecting statistics in 1960. Doctors are worried that the trend will become even worse with the pandemic isolation.

An October 2019 Washington Post story quoted Lisa M. Horowitz, a pediatric psychologist at the National Institute of Mental Health: “Just looking at these [suicide] numbers, it’s hard not to find them completely disturbing. It should be a call to action. If you had kids suddenly dying at these rates from a new disease or infection, there would be a huge outcry. But most people don’t even know this is happening. It’s not recognized for the public health crisis it has become.”

“First do no harm.”

Open the schools, save our kids from something far worse than Covid-19.

Students wearing face masks in a classroom at the Marie Curie school in Hanoi, Vietnam, on May 4. Manan Vatsyanana/AFP

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6 Responses to VIEWPOINT: Parents and Politicians Need to Take Care of Teens

  1. John Schwartz says:

    Bravo, Sue! Brilliant and courageous.


  2. Sharon Agar says:

    I do understand your point, and agree it is a serious problem, but it bothers me that in all these discussions people comment only on numbers of child deaths—as though children live alone and have no contact with anyone who might be at greater risk. What happens when these children infect their parents, who then become too sick (or dead) to take care of them? Clearly many teachers will resign if forced to teach in person. I don’t have a sense of how rare the serious lingering problems are in children who don’t die, but are severely damaged; I would want more information on that. It seems that a way for children to meet and get physical activity under safe circumstances: perhaps opening the high school track in different shifts for distanced workouts; baseball at the rec center; and so on. Outdoor activity with distancing and/or masks should be workable, and we could see if Covid rates go up before doing something more risky.

  3. Denise DeSantis says:

    Excellent commentary Sue.

  4. Betsy Handler says:

    First, the issue isn’t only teens catching the virus, although their numbers are up. As the Mercury News reported, “An analysis released this week reveals that more than 44% of new diagnoses are in people age 34 or younger, up from 29% a month ago.” The second issue is that, even if these bids are asymptomatic, they can spread the disease. Third, look what happened in Georgia when schools opened too soon.

  5. Sue says:


    Testing goes up, cases go up. Death rates and hospitalizations are down. The people who must worry the most are those over 65 and those who have underlying health conditions–including obesity and diabetes. It is really that simple.

    I actually didn’t realize the CDC doesn’t follow flu cases and deaths–but maybe should. We’d have something to compare to Covid-19.

    How can I, sentence all these youth to a homebound prison?


  6. Bob says:

    ” Tell them there will be no blame and no one will get in trouble.” That’s not right. That’s not honest. Someone might might very well get in trouble, deep trouble, depending on the circumstances and the outcomes. Still, it’s the right thing to do, to call 911, and to administer first aid. But not get blamed or in trouble? The Penal Code and the Welfare and Institutions Code are full of trouble for these situations. Now, there might be some Palisades privilege beyond what I’m familiar with, but in most of the rest of the city, the firefighters are followed by the blue suits, and t r o u b l e.

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