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Riel would emphasize services for students

She calls for innovation 'without dipping into the pocketbooks of families.'

October 23, 2013|By Tiffany Kelly, tiffany.kelly@latimes.com
  • Karyn Riel, 29 of La Canada Flintridge, is one of eight candidates running for the La Canada Unified School District board of directors, shown at Memorial Park in La Canada Flintridge on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013.
Karyn Riel, 29 of La Canada Flintridge, is one of eight… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

Karyn Riel was raised in the westernmost part of the city, known as the Sagebrush area, before her family moved into an area of the city that feeds into the La Cañada Unified School District.

She graduated from La Cañada High School before heading to San Francisco State University to study psychology. Now a doctorate student at Pepperdine University and a counselor at multiple sites, the 29-year-old school board candidate is heading a campaign focused on addressing student needs. Riel chatted with the Valley Sun one recent afternoon in Memorial Park.

Valley Sun: What is your motivation for running? Earlier this year, you mentioned the suicide at La Cañada High School had a big impact on you.

Riel: At the time of the suicide, I was actually working with a girl in high school who was also suicidal. I was going there a couple of days a week just to make sure that she had the support and the services that she needed. I remember coming home that day and hearing that there had been a lot of police at the school. I looked into what happened and found out that there had been a suicide.

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I know there are a lot of kids who grapple with the idea of taking their own lives and it’s due to a lack of resources or due to a lack of support. After seeing that happen in La Cañada, I just felt like this is something that could have been avoided here if there were the right services set up and if teachers were trained about the warning signs.

Any other initiatives you’d bring to the board?

The reason mental health is so important to me is I think a lot of people think it exists in a vacuum, [and they think] “well, my child isn’t clinically depressed or isn’t on the autism spectrum, so it doesn’t apply to me.”

If there’s one student who is easily distracted, a lot of times that can impact the whole classroom and teachers have said that one of the hardest aspects of teaching is handling behavioral and emotional problems that are not related to the classroom.

They are not trained for that; they don’t have the resources to handle that. By bringing in counseling services, it could actually help reduce the stress level of the teachers and give them more opportunities to be teaching the materials that they need to be teaching, rather than behavioral management or focusing on conflicts among peers.

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