Since March, four students at Palo Alto's Henry M. Gunn High School have committed suicide by throwing themselves in front of speeding trains at a nearby crossing.
A fifth student attempted to end his own life, but was pulled from the tracks by his mother and a bystander before a train rushed by, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The suicides have left teachers, students and administrators at the high school distraught, and searching for answers.
"There's a sense of hopelessness and social depression," Phillipe Rey, the executive director of Adolescent Counseling Services, a group that has provided psychological services to the school, told the Times.
To date, William Dickens, 16, Jean-Paul Blanchard, 17, Sonya Raymakers, 17, and Catrina Holmes, 13, have all committed suicide by stepping in front of a train where East Meadow Drive intersects the Caltrain tracks.
According to statistics, suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens in the United States. Still, it is the cluster of deaths that has officials puzzled and concerned.
Psychiatric experts told the newspaper that shrines for the students tended to glamorize their deaths, perhaps enticing others to follow suit. Numerous theories have arisen as to why the Palo Alto teens decided to end their lives, ranging from stress to depression to the desire for posthumous attention.
To cope with the loss of their classmates, the Times said that some students have started Web sites and Facebook groups where others can go and express their feelings. At a blog titled HMGGMH (Henry M. Gunn Gives Me Hope), a teacher at the high school recently left the following comment:
"As I write this, there are tears running down my face for the students I have lost. But I also remember with distinct clarity how I am privy to the growth of my students and how they truly make me laugh and smile."