Bullying not just “harmless teasing”

The good nature of humanity is something I would like to believe in, but at this point my faith is faltering.
Ten-year-old Ashlynn Conner earned a spot on the honor roll and was looking forward to her upcoming birthday on December 2nd. A good student with a happy demeanor, Ashlynn did her homework without being asked and aspired to become a veterinarian. The fifth-grader enjoyed being a cheerleader for youth football and she also played the trumpet.
Unfortunately, this is where the positivity ends. Not even old enough to be considered a pre-teen, the presumed innocence of her age group didn’t stop Ashlynn from being bullied at school. Although she adored her teacher, she was upset by how some of the girls would tease her. Ashlynn was called a slut, fat, ugly, and who knows what other awful names she had whipped at her. What on God’s green Earth would possess fifth-graders to call one of their own a slut?  This kind of foul language is never acceptable, but unfortunately it is rather prevalent in teens. The fact that students in grade school are already talking this way to each other is disheartening. If children talk like this now, what will they be saying when they enter high school? That’s a terrifying thought.
Bullying is disgusting and degrading. As much as I would love to say that we live in a world where everyone loves each other and we all fly around on unicorns while eating cotton candy, I am simply not that ignorant. Bullying happens all the time and bullying happens to everyone. The familiarity of such cruel treatment is all too real for many people.
People often forget that what they say can significantly impact the recipient. Just because you say “no offense” or “just kidding” does NOT make the insult hurt less. I truly believe that bullies feed off things they dislike about themselves in addition to their victims’ insecurities. Some people feel better about themselves once they have made another feel inferior. It is an upsetting and inconsiderate behavior, and we have all witnessed it happening. I want you to promise me right now that you will not tolerate bullying. Think before you speak.  Words do hurt. You are an intelligent, thoughtful person. If you have been demeaning to people in the past, consider this your wake-up call. Don’t let rude remarks define your character. You are better than that and the people you are mistreating are hurting more than you may realize. Also, being bullied sucks. It is the worst, most degrading feeling. If you are being bullied, do NOT hesitate to talk to someone. You deserve to be happy and you are not defined by the names you are called. You are a genuine, remarkable person. Reach out to a parent, friend, counselor, or someone from church. Do not be afraid to let people help you.
Ashlynn committed suicide on Friday. While officials have not made any final assessments, bullying is believed to have played a role in this tragedy.
Remember the impact words can have. Do not speak poorly of someone else to make yourself feel better. Treat others how you want to be treated. If someone is bullying you, do not be afraid to ask for help. It doesn’t make you a tattletale. It actually makes you a strong, confident human being. If you witness someone else being bullied, I trust you to not join in on the harassment but instead to alert a parent or teacher.
Ashlynn’s story, like many others, ended much too soon. Suicide claimed the life of another beautiful person. 4 out 5 people who attempt suicide give clear warning signs. It’s time for us to Open Our Eyes. Bullying is not just “harmless teasing.” It can destroy a person, and we all need to make a conscious effort to treat others with kindness and respect. Let’s help spread Ashlynn’s story so that other lives can be saved. Who’s with me?

Rest in Peace Ashlynn. You are missed.

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