Woodside High grieves over death of freshman
• Leyla Beban, 14, killed in bicycle accident on way to school.
Sadness pervaded Woodside High School last week as students and teachers remembered Leyla Beban. The 14-year-old Redwood City freshman died Nov. 26 at Stanford Hospital after a bicycle accident involving a collision with an SUV around 8:30 a.m. at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Alameda de las Pulgas, according to the Redwood City Police Department. She was on her way to school.
Students wore blue, Leyla's favorite color, in her memory the day after the accident, Woodside High Principal Diane Burbank told the Almanac. Leyla attended elementary and middle school in Redwood City and was well known in the school community, police said.
Ms. Burbank said she learned of the accident on the day it happened but refrained from a public announcement at school until after she had spoken with Leyla's family. She spoke over the public address system the next morning.
"Listening to any news over a PA system can seem removed and easily ignored, and more often, you hear announcements over this PA about dance tickets or testing," Ms. Burbank told the school, according to a copy of her remarks. "But today's announcement is different. I have sad news to share. Please don't ignore my voice or the news. I first want you to know that your teachers will spend time following my message to help you."
"It was a horrible accident," she said in her remarks. "We are so sorry for Leyla's family." Leyla, she added in the interview, was described by one teacher as "open minded, kind, articulate, intellectually curious, and competent yet humble."
At one point during her PA announcement, Ms. Burbank handed the microphone to freshman class president Bianca Gabriel, who called for a moment of silence.
The school established a temporary "grief room" where students and teachers could go to express and talk about their feelings, Ms. Burbank said. To help students in that endeavor, the school had 12 counselors on the campus the day after the accident — six from the Palo Alto-based Adolescent Counseling Service and six Woodside High employees, with more available from the Sequoia Union High School District if needed, Ms. Burbank said.
"It's always tough," Ms. Burbank said. "Kids have to be OK about being sad. Everybody's at a different spot."
If the school is to arrange an organized memorial in the near future, it will occur after Leyla's family has gone through its own grief and ceremonies, Ms. Burbank said. "We really want to respect the family. The family gets to go first. We need to very much respect their wishes and their timeline."
The accident happened while both Leyla and the driver were turning right from eastbound Jefferson Avenue onto southbound Alameda de las Pulgas, police said. The accident appears not to have involved any traffic violations.
Medics had taken Leyla to Stanford Hospital, where she died from her injuries, police said. She was wearing a bike helmet.
The cause of the accident is under investigation, police said. The driver of the vehicle involved stayed on the scene and was cooperative, police said.
Witnesses are being asked to contact Officer Peter Cang at 780-7100 ext. 5021, or Detective Dave Cirina at 780-7607.