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The Teacher Who Listened

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Rachel spent as much time as she could with Amy, even inviting the young girl home for dinner. Her devotion earned not only Amy’s friendship and respect, but also her trust. But at the same time, unbeknownst to Rachel, Amy was getting involved with a tough crowd at school. It all started out fairly innocuously. She began meeting these friends—a group of fellow misfits and loners—at a nearby hangout after school, where they would smoke, gossip, and just let their hair down.

But one day Amy’s relationship with the group would take a darker turn when 15-year-old Ducky invited Amy back to his house to smoke pot with his mom and several of the others. The illegal drug use was actually comforting to Amy who desperately wanted to fit in: “You’re 17, confused, and looking for your place in the world,” says Amy. “I really needed to belong somewhere, and they made me feel like I was OK.”

But Amy soon found herself on the inside track of a very disturbed group with a terrifying plan in the making. “Ducky had all these Trench Coat Mafia posters on the wall,” Amy says. “And then Michael, one of the boys in the group, said there was something big that was going to happen, but he couldn’t talk about it yet.”

In case you’ve forgotten, Trench Coat Mafia was a term coined for loners and gamers in Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. The gang wore long trench coats to distinguish themselves proudly from the popular kids. The signature look became infamous after the senseless mass murder at Columbine.

A few weeks later, Eric, the group’s 18-year-old leader, told Amy she was now officially in their “inner circle”; they could trust her, and that’s when he revealed the whole plan to her, in all its grizzly details. They wanted Amy to help them sneak guns and ammunition into an old tunnel that ran under New Bedford High. On the morning of the siege, they would retrieve the deadly arsenal and each lead an attack on a different “house” or section of the school. Then they would meet on the roof, where they would all smoke pot and commit suicide. “We were supposed to shoot as many people as possible,” recalls Amy.

Terrified, confused, in over her head, and not knowing where to turn, Amy decided to reach out to Rachel. But instead of simply speaking her mind, she told Rachel she wanted to go to church with her. Rachel happily agreed but was shocked at how Amy arrived. “She showed up with her head shaved,” recalls Rachel. “That’s when I knew something was really wrong.”

For the next several weeks, Amy seemed a nervous wreck, according to Rachel. Then something in Amy just snapped. Standing in her kitchen, Rachel recalls Amy broke down in tears and said, “I have to tell you something, and you may not like me anymore after this.”

Amy told the teacher about the planned massacre at the school of 3,250 students. “It was going to be just like Columbine,” recalls Rachel, “but only ‘bigger and better,’ as Amy put it. Somehow they convinced themselves that they could earn the respect of the world this way. But Amy told me that she didn’t want me to get hurt.”

Rachel hugged a shaking, sobbing Amy and reassured her: “This is not going to happen. Nobody is going to get hurt.” After confiding in Rachel, Amy says she knew she had to confess to authorities and mustered up the courage to tell them everything she knew. Rachel did the same. Together their efforts helped the FBI round up the suspects, and thwarted what would have been a deadly and traumatic event.

Amy was initially arrested for her involvement. But the court agreed to house arrest when Rachel agreed to let her live with her family. This was not easy. Amy was a troubled girl. “She kept breaking the rules by sneaking out or smoking in the house,” recalls Rachel.

Eventually Amy received probation and was allowed to move on with her life. She earned her high school diploma and became an EMT. Today she is the proud mother of a 9-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter—whom she never fails to listen to.

“There are so many confused kids out there who really aren’t being parented properly,” says Amy. “They need someone to talk to, someone to listen and love them. Hopefully, I can help them to see a better way.” And Rachel continues to listen as a teacher at New Bedford High School.

“Every year I meet another Amy,” says Rachel. “We can prevent a lot of big problems if we take the time to hear what our children are telling us they need. We just need to listen.”

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