On a cool October evening in 2012, Samantha Trimble walked into the lobby of Millwood Hospital, a low-slung brick building on the side of a road in Arlington, Texas, seeking a free mental health assessment.
A few weeks earlier in the AP world history class Trimble taught, after a kid started acting childish, she put a diaper on his head — something she admits was a bad idea. When administrators heard about it, she was escorted off the property. Worried for her job and her ability as a single mother to support her daughter, she visited her doctor’s office in tears. A physician assistant asked if she wanted to talk to someone at Millwood.
Just after 8 p.m. that evening, a counselor at Millwood asked Trimble if she was having suicidal thoughts. With her pastor beside her for moral support, she replied, “Well, who hasn’t had suicidal thoughts?” She said she had no intention to kill herself but joked, “It’s Texas, it isn’t that hard to get a gun.” They all laughed, she recalled. She said she had no idea that the counselor characterized the line as a plan to commit suicide.
Nor did she know, she later testified in a deposition, that the dozen or so forms he gave her were anything other than standard doctor’s-office paperwork. She signed them and waited for her counseling session.