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Child Suicide and One School District's Character Program

Ten-year-old Ashlynn Conner of Ridge Farm, Ill., committed suicide in November 2011 due to bullying. Oswego District 308 participates in "Character Counts!" to help create a bully-free zone.

Last fall, right before Thanksgiving, 10-year-old Ashlynn Conner, of Ridge Farm, Ill., took her own life.

That is not a misprint. Ashlynn was only 10 years old when she made the biggest and last decision of her life. What would cause a child to go to such extremes? One word. BULLYING.

I know what some of you are already thinking ... everyone gets bullied in school. Yes, I believe there is some real truth to that. But how and when do we draw the line between harmless schoolyard banter and harmful, torturous and hateful behavior?

For Ashlynn's full story, please read this link:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/courts-police-and-fire/2011-11-14/girl-was-teased-and-taunted-family-says.html

When I read this article last year, it literally sickened me. This hit close to home as this is near my hometown. This felt like it happened in the backyard of my own heart. I couldn't imagine the pain this little girl went through. Now her mother, sister, grandmother, family and friends have to find a way to move on in a world without Ashlynn.

On the tragic flipside of Ashlynn's death, not all will be lost in vain. Tony Garrison created a foundation and page on Facebook to remind and educate us about the pitfalls of bullying:

https://www.facebook.com/Ashlynn.Conner.Anti.Bullying.Foundation

What can we do, what should we do, how can we prevent this from happening again?

I feel Oswego Community Unit School District 308 is on the right path. One of my favorite things about this district is its Character Counts! program. This program is centered on The Six Pillars of Character:

  • Trustworthiness
  • Respect
  • Responsibility
  • Fairness
  • Caring
  • Citizenship

Character Counts! is a non-profit, non-religious, non-political organization dedicated to character awareness through the education and training of schools, communities, non-profit organizations, and public agencies.

http://charactercounts.org/

Throughout the school year, teachers take time to teach the kids about those six pillars. One of the best parts of the program are the tickets kids receive when they have been "caught" red-handed doing something GOOD! My boys love hanging these on our refrigerator!

These pillars then spill over into their home life with more ease. When they are not making good choices, their behavior almost always fits into one of those six categories. So we can ask, "Do you think what you are doing shows respect right now?" It really works! I can see them look back inside their mind to what they learned at school about this particular pillar. How can you not love that?

I can only hope that soon all school districts nationwide will have similar programs in place to help educate our kids about the harm words CAN and DO have on others. I know no program is 100 percent. But, again, I feel this is a good start.

Ashlynn Conner's death is too heavy of a price for any child or family to have to pay. This beautiful, smart, sweet, lovable girl is suffering no more. May Ashlynn Conner rest in peace.

Additional information:

Officer shares tips about bullying:

http://illinoishomepage.net/fulltext?nxd_id=341852

Ashlynn's Foundation/Facebook page and how it has already saved ONE life:

http://illinoishomepage.net/fulltext/?nxd_id=339262

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Kelly L Karthik February 23, 2012 at 02:39 PM
http://www.thebullyproject.com/
Ame Bible February 26, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Why act after the fact? All schools should by now be aware of the "Bullying" situation that is occuring in every school through out the country!! What of the offenders? What of the parents of the offenders? Sure their darling child is alive but have blood on their hands. Why are these bullys so mean spirited ? I of course, do not have the answer. Speculation is not an answer. I would like to suggest that each school district contact "The Southern Povery Law Center" Their mission is dedicated to fighting hate & bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. One of their programs is "Teaching Tolerance'. It is free to schools district and teachers upon request. Go to www.splcenter.org. Parents, do yourselves a favor and check them out. You would be very please with their record of success. Ask yourselves? Do I want my child to be responsible for the loss of life of another child?
Wendi Mckenzie February 27, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Kelly would you be interested in doing another article about Suicide Prevention Servies. The link is www.spsamerica.org. Today, Suicide Prevention Services of America is expanding its reach to advance the cause for suicide prevention. In fact, Suicide Prevention Services of America is one of only seven organizations in the United States devoted to saving lives and restoring hope through prevention, intervention and postvention.Ashlynn was a beautifuly young girl thank you for sharing her story.
Kelly L Karthik February 28, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Ame Bible: Thank you for the additional information. I agree, there needs to be something set in place in every school, in every district, nationwide. Education is the key.
Kelly L Karthik February 28, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Ms. Mckenzie: Thank you for the article suggestion. I will definitely keep that in mind. Right now I have a couple other stories in mind...but I will keep your suggestion on my list. Thank you, again~

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