The Times-News is withholding the location of the student’s school to protect her identity.
Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Matt Johnson, who works as student resource officer at multiple Hawkins County schools, was contacted by an assistant principal last Wednesday afternoon that a guidance counselor had found a suicide letter on her desk.
“The student expresses anger about various situations in her family and at school — typical teenager issues — but what she said at the end of the letter was what raised the red flags for myself and the school officials,” Johnson said. “At the very end of the letter it says, ‘Suicide is wonderful. I’m going to try it.’ Obviously, that’s what had us concerned.”
School officials located the student, and when Johnson arrived on campus they told the student she would have to be evaluated.
Johnson said he and the guidance counselor were careful to explain to the student she wasn’t in trouble, and they weren’t mad at her, but in light of what she said in her note they had no choice but to seek professional help for her.
They notified the student’s mother to meet them at Holston Valley Medical Center. Johnson stayed with the student and mother for three hours waiting for the doctor, but he had to leave before the student was examined.
He later called the mother and found out the student had been transferred to another facility for treatment.
Johnson said he is familiar with this student, and much of the student’s anger and frustration centers around the divorce of her parents and missing her father, who lives a long distance away.
“She’s very intelligent, but she does have low self-esteem, and she wants to move (to her father’s home),” Johnson said. “The last time I spoke to the mother the child was going to be receiving treatment five to 10 days. Students are out for fall break right now, and hopefully she’ll be back in school next week with a brighter outlook.
“I know the school personnel are very concerned, and it’s a situation I’m going to be monitoring as the school year progresses.”
Director of Schools Charlotte Britton said she couldn’t discuss issues related to a specific student. She added, however, that school faculty and administrators are trained to deal with these type situations when they arise.
“School counselors at all schools have been trained for many situations that can occur at a school, and in addition all school personnel have annual training on school safety,” Britton said. “I feel confident our well-trained staff have followed all procedures for the safety and security for every student and staff member.”
Britton added, “A team of school counselors and central office staff met in September and reviewed protocol for issues which can occur on school campuses. Additional training has been scheduled on November 6, 2012, for all school counselors. I am confident our highly qualified staff are trained for whatever situation may occur on our school campuses.”