One day I opened the door to a student accompanied by the school nurse, who felt the young man needed a conference with a fellow student. We introduced ourselves. Upon observing his behavior, I knew he was not ready to conference with anyone. He appeared very aggravated, frustrated, angry and depressed all at the same time. I shared that I didn’t think he was in the right frame of mind to conference, and he agreed. He had thought about erasing the fellow student and had the means to do it. When asked why he felt that way, he stated he was tired of the young man talking about him.
I learned he had begged his mother for a year to come to this high school to be with his friends, and the young man he spoke about was one of them. Feeling that the group of friends had changed and that he was nobody to them, he felt that his life had no real value so he might as well kill the other young man and get it over with. If he couldn’t be friends with the other young man and the group, his life was worthless.
I listened and then I did some reality testing. He repeated time and time again how he wanted to kill the other young man and if he said one more thing he didn’t like, he would. He stated he knew where a gun was and could easily get his hands on it. I asked him if he didn’t care about anything and wanted the other young man dead so bad, why hadn’t he killed him yet? He looked up at me in shock. I told him I believed he did care about something because based on everything he had said, if he didn’t care he would have already done away with the other young man.
He shared that his father had been to prison before and did not want that life for his son. I asked the young man what he wanted for himself. Did he want to be a future ex con when he had his whole life in front of him? I asked what he thought his actions would do to his mom and if belonging to a group that doesn’t appreciate you, was worth taking the life of someone else and also destroying his own life? He looked up, and from the expression on his face, I could tell he had not thought about the consequences of making that type of decision. He replied that he didn’t want to be an ex con. When I asked about making new friends and putting distance between himself and the other young man, he responded he had come to this school to be with them and didn’t want new friends. I asked him if he could continue to feel the way he does without someone getting hurt and he stated no. I told him he really needed to think about his choices and consequences and do what’s best for him. I asked him to consider if these young men were really his friends.
The following day I gave a list of students who had used our services to our contact at the school. She saw the young man’s name and asked when I talked to him. I told her the day before. She asked if he talked at all and I told her about our talk. She had worried about him killing someone. I asked if he told her that and she stated no. She said that multiple people, including a therapist his mom had hired, had tried to get him to talk, and he wouldn’t talk to anyone.
I met with the student a week later, and learned to hear he had actually sought me out on a day I wasn’t there. I wasn’t sure if he had listened to anything I said when we first met, but asked how things were going. He shared that he had put distance between himself and the group, and the young man he wanted to kill tried to shake his hand the day before. He couldn’t believe how everyone in the group responded to him putting distance between them. They were all coming to him now trying to get his attention. I could see the excitement in his eyes and how powerful he felt. He looked different, too. I almost didn’t recognize him.
He was a new young man–no longer angry and depressed, and had talked with his therapist and told him about me. He asked if we could do a conference with the young man he wanted to kill. I told him we most certainly could. During the conference he told the other young man how he had felt about him and also shared how he could not handle being teased about the shoes he wore, because his mother had made a lot of sacrifices to buy the shoes and he didn’t have a different pair for everyday of the week. He shared that there were many times the family had no running water, and he often came to school to get peace. The other young man had no idea how his “friend” had felt about him or about his living situation.
When my school contact asked me how the conference went, I explained and shared with her the “no running water” story. A few days later she asked if I thought the student would want a summer job. So I asked him, and he responded “yes” with a large smile on his face. I put him in touch with my contact to get an application. It felt great to be able to offer him a bit of sunshine and the opportunity for a job.