Friday, November 18, 2011

Be Part of the Solution

Today's post isn't about writing, it's about kids and it's about life. If you're looking for writing, I'm sure that'll be back tomorrow or Monday. For today though, this matters more.

On Thursday, a news report came up on my twitter feed--another tale of suicide likely caused by bullying. This time it was a ten-year-old little girl from a small town in Illinois. Most of the time when tales of bullying come out, the victim was homosexual or something that people can look at and say "my kid's not". They are still angry over the bullying, but they feel like it won't ever happen to their kid.

Ashlynn Conner wasn't gay, and from what I can tell, she wasn't handicapped or special ed or any of those other things that make parents think this shit only happens to other kids. The bullying reportedly started when she got a short haircut and some other girls started calling her a boy. Regarding interviews with the kids reportedly involved, even the police said, "We haven't uncovered anything so severe that it would result in someone taking their own life."

Surprise, assholes, unless someone killed her, she did take her own life. People need to wake up and realize that all bullying is wrong. All bullying has the potential to kill.
Rest in Peace, Ashlynn.

I'm sitting her bawling while I try to write this. You see, once upon a time, I was a lot like that little girl. I was the one whose mom cut her hair short and wouldn't buy her the clothes that were in style. I was also the one who hit puberty early, which meant I developed way before my peers. I was the one who wasn't pretty or thin enough. Who was too tall and too smart. As much as I loved school, there were days I dreaded going because of the teasing and bullying. Had home schooling been an option back then, like Ashlynn, I might have begged for it.

I was one of the lucky ones. I made it through, but I will tell you, that little girl? The one who had every popular kid making fun of her for years? She's still inside me, and she still hurts. There is no real healing for long-term victims of bullying. Those scars last forever. So I'm lucky in that I'm still around to carry them. I'm still here to show my own kids that it is possible to come out the other side and be strong and happy. Because it does get better. But I'm also here to do my damnedest to make sure they don't give those kinds of scars to anyone else.

As parents, teachers... as human beings, we need to step up and start protecting all kids. And sometimes that's going to mean we have to punish the ones who live in our homes for their behavior. We don't get the option of writing it off as "kids'll be kids" because kids are dying.

Ashlynn Conner was smart. She was pretty. She wanted to "become a veterinarian because 'people hurt animals, and she wanted to protect them.'" That's the life that the bullies took this time. That's what all those girls are going to have to live with now--that they had a hand in killing her. Had the adults around them stood up and collectively said "No. This is not okay." and put a stop to it and punished the bullies, Ashlynn Conner would still be rescuing stray cats, and the others wouldn't have to live the rest of their lives with blood on their hands.

We're the adults. We need to be part of the solution.

(Read this now or later or never, but all quotes came from this article.)


Janelle Alexander said...


i was that kid too... i got my hair cut really short in fourth grade, and i was so embarrassed to go to school like that... i walked into the classroom that first day, and the entire class laughed. i wanted to sink into a hole and disappear...

and yes, that little girl is still in there. she still wonders if she's good enough--if she's worth it. she still has trouble believing that there are people out there who actually genuinely like her and want to be around her... she still second guesses herself all the time. she still thinks she's not pretty or thin enough, that she's not beautiful...

i am lucky i am still alive because believe me, there were times...

Mardel said...

Wow - it's heartbreaking and a little weird for me to think that something as simple as a haircut could cause children to make fun of others so much that a 10 year old kills herself. How in the hell did she even know HOW to do something so drastic?

And since when is it horrible to have short hair? I work in a school and there are girls here with so many different haircuts - so far, everyone seems accepting of all the differing styles. It's horrific that in 2011, the 21st century that kids are still being so cruel over things like hair, clothes, any kind of difference.

How horrific, and if I ever catch my granddaughter teasing someone like that I'll pop her one in the butt. I wish parents would be uber careful about how they talk and tease, because a lot of it comes down the line through their kids' mouths.

Seleste deLaney/Julie Particka said...

*hugs* Janelle.

Mardel, as far as it being horrible to have short hair, it isn't. My daughter cut her own hair and now has it quite short. She loves it. But had she gone to school nervous about it, not sure if she liked it, and some bully had been looking for a target... That's all it takes is for a bully to be looking for a target. It could be a hair cut, or the wrong color shirt, or the wrong brand of shoes, or liking the wrong movie or band or ... anything. In the case of Ashlynn it may have started with a haircut, but from that point on, the bullies knew they had a target. From then on it could have been anything. That's what is so scary.

Kimber An said...

Bullies are everywhere and the worst ones are within the family itself. A child who is bullied by parents or siblings, those who are supposed to and claim to love them is groomed to be a *victim* her entire life. Bullies at school single her out because they intuitively know they can treat her like crap and get away with it. She has little chance of living happily ever after.

But, miracles do happen.

"Love is a safe place." - Oprah Winfrey.

Anonymous said...

The more posts like this the better. I think we've all been that little girl or boy at one time. Bullying is heartbreaking, but I also think, the more aware parents and teachers the better. We can't always stop the bullies, so we must be proactive. The more we stand against it, the more children will hear the message, and hopefully, together we'll all save lives. Heartbreaking issue. :(

Imajicasnow said...

Well said. Parents need to be involved!
Yes my kids get annoyed and aggravated because I seem to know everything they don't want me to know, but that's my job. I want to know everything they are doing and everything their friends are doing. When a child asks for help, listen! Most of the time they don't want you involved because its embarrassing, if they want you to help, you should already have it done. Listen to what your kids say, more importantly listen to what they are NOT saying. There is danger all around them, you have to be alert.

J.A. Campbell said...

I got made fun of a lot too... It sucks.

Thanks for sharing this Julie.