I watched the memorial services for 10-year-old Ashlynn Conner on the mid-day news. I stared at the screen for the few seconds the story ran and thought, “She could be one of my girls.”
According to news reports Ashlynn killed herself after the teasing and bullying from her classmates became unbearable. When you see her photo, it’s hard to believe anyone could bully her. She’s looks like the all-American girl. She was a lovely girl who made the honor roll and was involved in different activities. Her death has received coverage from local Chicago media to the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail.
I don’t know Ashlynn’s family, but I still grieve for them. As the mother of eight-year-old twin girls, I see how mean children are to each other. Our school spends a lot of time discussing bullying with the kids, yet it still goes on and on and on. It’s not the over-the-top type of bullying you see on television dramas where a group of kids gang up on one child and beat-up the victim. The type of bullying I witness — and apparently the type Ashlynn endured — is more subtle. They call each other names and push each other on the playground when no one is looking. They pull hair or pinch another student when walking through the halls.
One of our girls spent first grade dealing with hurtful words from other children simply because she is tall. Actually, she’s really tall when compared to the rest of her first grade class. She was at least a head taller than every other student, except her twin sister. Why was she the target? She’s about an inch taller than her twin.
She was called an elephant, giraffe, dinasaur, giant and whale. While adults might think this is innocent, these words were quite hurtful to a first grader. The other students waited until the teacher wasn’t listening or in the room to say things like, “I don’t want to sit near the giant.” or “Who is going to get stuck with the giraffe on their team?” As soon as she told me, I contacted the teacher who put a stop to it. It’s hard to continue to make fun of a student for being tall when your teacher is 6 feet tall. She also spent a lot of time talking to our daughter about how wonderful it was to be tall. I will be forever grateful for her response.
I only wish all teachers and adults would take bullying this seriously. Yes, there’s a lot of lip service, but if we’ve learned anything from Ashlynn’s death, it should be that there is still work to be done.