High school English teacher Brittni Darras did something really special for her students just before they started their summer break.
When students at Rampart High School finished their finals last week, they received a personalized, handwritten, heartfelt note from Darras, highlighting things she liked best about them.
The act of kindness was not random—it was influenced by a conversation she had with a parent during a parent-teacher conference.
A student Darras had taught for two years had been absent for a few weeks. The student’s mother came to speak to Darras carrying a list of teachers’ names. Next to each teacher’s name was the word “yes” or the word “no.”
“She had asked her daughter if she felt comfortable sharing the story and sharing why she’d been absent,” Darras told KOAA, “That was the ‘yes’ and the ‘no.’ Teachers that you can tell, and teachers that you probably shouldn’t say something to.”
“My name had a “yes” next to it, so she proceeded to explain to me the reason for her daughter’s extended absence,” Darras wrote on her Facebook page.
The student’s mother told Darras that her daughter had been found in the act of committing suicide. Police had received a tip through Safe2Tell, a hotline where students, parents, school staff, and community members can anonymously report concerns regarding the safety of themselves or others. Police promptly responded, and stopped her in time.
“She was ready to leave the world,” Darras wrote, before adding that the girl had deleted her social media accounts and left goodbye letters.
Darras said she and the student’s mother both had “tears streaming down” their faces when the story was recalled.
Darras then asked the mother for permission to write a letter to her daughter. The mother agreed. When the student received the letter, she was flabbergasted.
The girl “turned to her mom and said, ‘How could somebody say such nice things about me? I didn’t think anybody would miss me if I was gone,'” Darras wrote.
Darras was deeply affected by the student’s reaction. She didn’t want any more of her students taking that same route, so she prepared handwritten, personal letters to all 130 of her students over the next two months, telling each one what was “special and unique about them.”
Darras, who believes that suicide among children and teenagers is becoming very common, said that it is due to the “pressure we put on these kids—to be successful, to fit in, to be the best in their class/sport/etc,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
Her post has been shared more than 170,000 times.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.