Toward the end of August, a teenage Lexington girl posted on social media a video showing that she was trying to harm herself with a knife, “trying to cut herself on her arm,” said Alan Mayes, an associate principal at Frederick Douglass High School.
Two students at Douglass saw the video, which had been posted within the previous hour, and immediately confided in Mayes.
“I asked them if they knew who the student was, and they told me yes,” he said Monday. The student in the video didn’t attend Douglass, but Mayes said he found information in district records that allowed him “to contact family members to let them know I had seen this video ... and they were able to find the child and give them the help that they needed.”
“I’m just trying to keep a kid safe,” said Mayes, who was honored Monday night at the Fayette County Public Schools board meeting for his quick action. “I would hope that if someone saw my child doing something like that, I hope someone would do the same for me.”
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At the school board meeting, district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall gave Mayes what the district calls its 212 Degrees Award for exemplary service. Deffendall said that just before Mayes found the student’s family, Lexington police and district law enforcement officers “were alerted to a post on social media that led them to believe there was a teenager in distress who may be at risk for self-harm.”
As officers tried to identify the teen in the video, the two Douglass students told Mayes they were worried about her, Deffendall said.
She said a member of the student’s family later called district officials to say, “Thank that principal who called. It just shows his heart.”
“Today’s teenagers are hurting more than at any previous time in our history,” Deffendall said as she gave Mayes the award. “Our district has responded proactively with multiple initiatives to address the increasing prevalence of mental health challenges our students bring to school with them.
“For all the trainings we offer and programs we implement,” Deffendall said, “perhaps none is so important as the personal investments our employees make in building trusting relationships with the students we serve.”