Sometimes help comes from the most unlikely of places — even from over a thousand miles away.
It was a typical morning at Ashley Elementary school in Frisco, Texas. School administrators Kim Frankson, Jess Johnson, and Laurie Ortel were in a meeting when one of them got a text alert from an app called “Stop It,” which allows students to anonymously report bullying.
Assistant principal Jess Johnson says a hush fell over the room as they read the cry for help. “She was telling me about a situation that was happening with her and some other girls at the school and how it was making her feel,” said Jess. It seemed like a typical problem that required a conversation with an adult, but when the student admitted that she was considering taking her own life things turned more serious in a hurry.
“There was no doubt this was a serious situation,” said Laurie Ortel, a school counselor.
The administrators instantly put their training to the test, working quickly to find out the girl’s name and send help to her home. When they didn’t recognize her name they asked a few more questions and discovered that the student wasn’t in their school district at all. In fact, she wasn’t even in the same state — she was over a thousand miles away in Waynesboro, Virginia.
“I don’t really know if you can describe that feeling. It is something that’s very surreal. The urgency to help this child that you don’t know, that you know she needs help now,” said Kim Frankson, the school principal.
The school immediately contacted the Waynesboro police department and continued to talk to the student. About forty-five minutes into the conversation, things went from bad to worse. The student admitted that she had taken pills, and her responses were coming in slower and slower. “At that point, I was really nervous,” Kim said.
Thankfully Waynseboro police officer Alison Willis had arrived at the student’s home by then. “I’m just thankful that she opened the door,” said Officer Willis. The officer says the girl was alert but distressed. She was also home alone. She was quickly transported to the hospital and she is okay.
Miles away the administrators at Ashley waited anxiously to hear that the girl was in good hands. Once the call from police came in the relief was palpable, and the enormity of the situation sunk into the team.
“I think we all just looked at each other and it was like we could take a deep breath that we had helped this girl,” Kim said. Counselor Laurie said this is another example of how insidious bullying really is. “Every single thing, every single action, every single word that kids say to each other, it’s so important to be kind,” she said.
No one is exactly sure why the suicidal student’s message went to the Ashley school instead of her own, but thankfully it’s a reminder for young people everywhere that there are always people out there who care about them. Even people who are halfway across the country care! Suicide is never the answer — asking for help, is.
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