By Amy L. Hatch
The tragic death by suicide last week of Ashlynn Conner, 10, hit very close to home. The Ridge Farm, Ill. fifth-grader allegedly told her mother she was being bullied at school and the family is saying that harassment from her schoolmates contributed to her death.
Ashlynn’s parents say their daughter was the victim of schoolyard taunting from a group of girls at school, and that the relentless teasing continued even after she told her teacher about it several times.
While we cannot claim to know exactly what happened between Ashlynn, those girls and her teacher, we do know that sometimes it can be easy to miss the signs of bullying, especially when it comes to the less physical bullying that can happen between girls.
But boys, too, are often the victim of bullies, as we saw when 13-year-old Asher Brown killed himself in 2010 after constantly being teased about being gay.
The scariest part of these stories is that the deaths of these children came as a surprise. That’s why parents absolutely must be alert for signs of bullying.
According to the website StopBullying.gov, the top signs to watch out for are:
- Coming home from with damaged or missing clothing or other items
- Reports losing items that are valuable (electronics, jewelry, etc.)
- Has trouble sleeping
- Coming home from school very hungry because they did not eat their lunch
- Has extreme personality changes
- Loses interest in school or has a steep drop in academic performance
- Child is quick to blame others
- Has frequent physical altercations
- Spends time with other children who are bullies
- Doesn’t accept responsibility for his or her actions
- Needs to win or be the best at everything
- Comes home from school with new possessions
And remember: Bullying doesn’t always happen on the playground. If your child is old enough to use the Internet and/or uses a mobile phone to text, monitor their usage of those items closely to avoid cyber-bullying.
Of course, every child is different and reacts differently to situations, especially social situations at school.
And all the lists in the world cannot replace simply being available for your child, listening and talking with them about their friends and letting them know they can confide in you about anything at all.
For more information about bullying, visit the StopBullying website.