SHARE
Daugherty, shown here with her daughter, believes that if she had not intervened, she could have been held responsible if one of her students harmed herself.

Late on a recent Friday afternoon, Cailin Daugherty heard the words every public-school educator dreads.

“I’m thinking of killing myself,” Daugherty said the student confided to her in private on school grounds.

The teenager, whose identity we are protecting because she is under 18, was a straight-A pupil who never appeared depressed, Daugherty said. The timing of the confession couldn’t have been worse for the teacher, though. Daugherty, who is in her first year at the Cleburne school district after working for several years in the Fort Worth school district, was on her way to pick up her three children after school, and it was now the weekend. The two exchanged numbers.

TCU_Bass-Hall-300x250-Digital-Ad-Final-Proof

The next day, Daugherty texted her principal, notifying her of what had happened. The teacher then made a decision that resulted in the school district’s decision not to renew her contract. In violation of the school district’s policy prohibiting private electronic communication between teachers and students, Daugherty called the student that Saturday (with the permission of the teenager’s parents) to talk at length about the suicidal ideations.

Having fought through bouts of serious depression herself, Daugherty consoled the girl by describing her experiences. She detailed coping mechanisms that had helped her and offered general advice on mental health resources. By the end of the hour-long conversation, Daugherty believed the girl was in better spirits. That Monday, Daugherty described the situation to her principal. The following day, Daugherty was notified that her contract was under review because she had violated school policy. Two weeks later, the human resources department told Daugherty that her contract would not be renewed.

Daugherty admits to violating the school policy, but she stands by her decision.

If the girl had hurt herself that weekend, Daugherty said she “would have been fired and probably sued.”

The parents, she added, “are upset” about her contract cancellation.

The ordeal, she added, “makes me mad because I’m a good teacher. I’ve had parents even email my principal saying how glad they are that I am there.”

The teenager could not be reached for comment by press time.

Lisa Magers, spokesperson for the Cleburne school district, told me in an email that privacy laws restrict her from discussing the Daugherty case directly, but she did confirm the electronic communication policy while commenting on the district’s preferred course of action when a student confides suicidal thoughts to any school district employee.

“The recommended procedures for teachers and staff are to make immediate notification to the school counselor, who is trained and experienced in dealing with these situations,” she said. “We do not recommend teachers take matters such as this on themselves without having the specific training and certification. We do want our teachers to establish positive relationships and trust with their students and to be an approachable and trustworthy connection in times of personal crisis.”

Suicide, along with homicide and automobile accidents, regularly appear among the top causes of death among teenagers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Three years ago, suicide rates among teen girls reached a 40-year high. In the 15 years before that, suicide rates doubled among teen girls. The crisis has spurred a nationwide training program, Mental Health First Aid, that is administered locally by the mental health nonprofit MHMR of Tarrant County. The certification program is open to anyone and provides training on how to spot “potential warning signs and risk factors for depression, anxiety disorders, trauma, psychotic disorders, eating disorders, and substance use disorders,” according to MHMR’s website.

Additionally, MHMR partners with the Fort Worth school district and other public schools to provide the certification program, Youth Mental Health First Aid, to teachers and counselors for free. MHMR offers a 24-hour crisis hotline (817-335-3022 or 1-800-866-2465) that can also be reached via text at 817-335-3022.

While Daugherty knows that filing a grievance or even suing the school district are options, she has chosen to focus on her next career instead. She said she will continue to work with the physically and mentally disabled and distressed children through an equine therapy program she is developing. Through the use of three specially trained horses, she will introduce children coping with depression or learning disabilities to horses. As the kids groom, feed, and interact with the large animals, Daugherty will observe them and engage in constructive conversations, much like a therapist or counselor would. At the moment, Daugherty is finalizing efforts to form a nonprofit for the venture.

“Horses give back,” she said. “They are very therapeutic. They’ve helped me through hard times. I might as well use that to help other people.”

Already, one teenage girl is ready to sign up, Daugherty said. It was the one who confided in her initially.

8 COMMENTS

  1. This teacher was and is 100% in the wrong.
    I can understand she is frustrated- let’s go down and alternative ending. When she exchanged numbers to continue to talk to this young girl; if conversation and conversation failed and the young girl commit suicide. Where would the weight and responsibility of this teacher lay? What if this were a male student? This would be an incredibly offering article if this were a male teacher contacting a female. Exactly where did this teacher get her lines crossed that it was acceptable to contact a student in a personal context over such a tumultuous topic?!
    This article does a fantastic job of outlining proper agencies to seek the appropriate help, yet does not answer the root problem of this whole situation! Did the girl get help? No.
    This teacher went a step further to contact the parents and get “permission”?! What if there was abuse, mental sexual or other involved within the family?
    This teacher neglected a LARGE responsibility to seek professional help for this young girl rather took matters into her own hands. She failed this young girl.
    This article portrays this teacher as the victim in this situation; to say she is going to work with horses because they give back.
    Teaching and being a resource and a safe place for young adults and children by no means is easy, however she could have saved a life, and perhaps provided this student with the proper counseling and tools to handle what she was struggling with- rewarding.
    I would like to add that this woman has taken things a step further by pruning and handing out this article to the kids in her class- making them read and discuss! With the young girl seeking help in the class!!! She has done more harm to this child by discouraging her from ever seeking help again. She is humiliating and and shaming this girl in the classroom!
    Let’s not portray this teacher as a victim.
    She had a duty to help with the proper protection an mental health resources and NEGLECTED this student. A very far cry from caught in the middle.

  2. You have the incorrect information. It’s obvious you don’t not have the facts. Noone never handed anything out to kids in class. It’s obvious who this is. The child is obviously lying. I can prove that too. So next time you want to pint fingers, make sure u have the facts. No one humiliated anyone on the classroom. Thats rediculous. Thanks!!!

  3. Would u like to battle this out in the public eye because I will win. I’ve got all the proof I need. So I can say whatever it is that u want.

  4. Wow Anonymous you do realize that your message has an IP address attached and you can be sued for slander and defamation? The teacher did the right thing and turned the kid over to the counselor as stated in the article. Sounds like you have a personal issue with this teacher that you are too chicken to face yourself. You have to hide behind a keyboard.

  5. It’s not obvious who this is- you are wrong.
    Sued for defamation of character? I think not. I’m not putting my name because I do NOT want my child approached or involved.
    I am simply a mother with a student at this school.
    My child is not in the classroom yet came home and passed on the information, had the link and showed it to me- I apologize, the article was not printed yet apparently discussed and link provided so students could read. And as I’ve been told by my child the young girl remains in this classroom.
    I have never met this teacher and have no opinion of her. Our family takes depression and suicidal ideation seriously- with personal experiences. My child came home and was very- very upset about the situation. Again, NO personal relation or hate for the teacher- and you have NO idea who I am- name calling threats and hate is not necessary.
    I will stand by my and my opinion that this situation was handled unprofessionally and inappropriately. I believe that the teacher contacting this student personally outside of school was highly inappropriate. You can threaten leagal recourse if you wish but wrong is wrong. The facts remain- a student was contacted outside of school by this teacher on a personal level violated a contract. If this were a male teacher contacting a female- this would be a much different story.
    To make matters worse this article- portraying the teacher as a victim without the ability to own up to her inappropriate course of action…? Honestly, blew my mind!
    My child came home saying that this girl was crying, saying she got the teacher fired and feels horrible- that she may be going to court because the school is going to get sued by this teacher. She what wil happen to her grades because of it…
    Again, my child came home incredibly upset and worried.
    I understand the teacher meant well, I understand there were only good intentions… but the actions were wrong and consequences could have been MUCH more severe. We are all fortunate that it was not. I applaud her going to work with horses-feeling that it will be better; teaching and working with these young preteens and teens CAN be rewarding and give back. It’s not easy.
    If you have my information then please feel free to contact me.

  6. Like I’ve said, you have no idea what took place so pointing fingers at me is the wrong course of action. If a child decided to run her mouth to her own friends, that is what kids do, that is NOT on me. This entire thing was anonymous on my end 100% so if someone was upset, that’s not my problem simply because this has been anonymous, on my end, from day 1. Don’t start saying I’m in the wrong for helping a kid that decided to run her own mouth about what took place and then blame the teacher after the fact. I did nothing wrong. Legal action regarding this issue will not be talked about publicly. If I didn’t have a case then I wouldn’t waste my time with it. I can’t control what kids are gonna run their mouths about and if the child wanted to remain anonymous then she should have kept her business to herself. Honestly, I have moved forward from this and I’m excited to leave the district to persue my dream of equine therapy. At this point, I could careless about what anyone has to say. I did the right thing and if the child or parent has an issue now, well then maybe that child should be talked to about keeping her business to herself to prevent this from happening in the future. Thanks.

  7. Mrs Daugherty,
    Based on this article- the fact that you contacted the student yourself, attempting to guide her base on your personal struggles, as well intended as they were, were HIGHLY inappropriate and unprofessional for a person in your position. Those are the facts outlined in this article. You have taken these facts and framed yourself as the victim. I am thankful that CISD took their situation seriously; the way you talk about his young girl on here, calling her a liar, talking, and such- has also left me disappointed you were not removed sooner. You are an adult, name calling a child publicly that is in your classroom and in your care. I can only imagine how you have treated her in the classroom. It is sad you cannot own up to your mistakes and move on. Good luck, and we can only hope if ever faced with this situation again you have learned a valuable lesson- get the child the appropriate help through the appropriate channels and means.

LEAVE A REPLY