BY KIM LUTTRELL
Lucas Conner, uncle of Ashlynn Conner, spoke Monday night to the Georgetown-Ridgefarm School Board that he was not pointing a finger of blame at anyone but hopes that there will be change in identifying and dealing with bullying in schools.
Ashlynn, 10, committed suicide Friday night, according to the Vermilion County Sheriff's Department. Her family has cited bullying at school as the reason.
“No one knew how Ashlynn felt,” said an emotional Conner. “She is giving us all strength to move forward and help stop this problem.”
Conner urged other children who feel they are being bullied to talk to step forward and talk to an adult…to seek help.
“We have to do something with this, we cannot let her life be in vain, this is an opening to help others,” continued Conner. “This was not an isolated incident, it has been going on for years.”
Conner said he hoped the school board would take action to implement new programs to identify and deal with bullying.
School board president Cheryl Kestufskie read a prepared statement to the audience.
“We are terribly saddened by the loss of one of our children. We have made counselors available to our children, our faculty and our staff and will continue to do so. We have cooperated fully with law enforcement officials and are awaiting the results of their investigation,” read Kestufskie. “We know there is a great deal of discussion about what role “bullying” may have played in this tragedy. We are confident that the police will shed light on this matter.
“The Board of Education, the administration and the faculty work extraordinarily hard to ensure that all of our children feel safe at school. We will continue those efforts and ask the community to assist us,” continued Kestufskie. “If any child feels that he or she is being harassed, bullied or intimidated they should talk with his or her principal. If the child is not comfortable doing so, the child should tell a parent and the parent should contact the principal.”
The school board did decide to cancel classes for Ridgefarm Elementary School on Wednesday so that students, teachers and staff may attend the funeral services for Ashlynn Conner.