A little 10-year-old Irish American girl in Illinois has taken her own life in a story so reminiscent of the Phoebe Prince case.
Ashlynn Conner allegedly committed suicide last week after she was bullied about her weight at school and in her local Ridge Farm neighbourhood.
Mum Stacy told local TV station WCIA3 News that Ashlynn came home in tears a fortnight ago and complained that she was being bullied repeatedly because she was overweight.
Her story is so similar to that of Phoebe Prince, the 15-year-old from Ireland who took her life in January of last year after she was the victim of cyber-bullying in South Hadley, Massachusetts.
The Conner family held a vigil for their departed daughter on Monday as they tried to come to terms with her loss and sought an explanation for the bullying that killed her.
“They’d call her a slut,” said a tearful Conner,” Stacy Conner told the TV station. “Ashlynn’s ugly. She’s fat.”
Just last Thursday Ashlynn asked her mother to remove her from the fifth grade at Ridge Farm Elementary and home school her. Single mum Stacy said she would discuss it with the principal on Monday and less than 24 hours later, Ashlynn’s sister Michaila found her dead in a closet.
“The taunting has been happening for years, I didn’t know what to do. We had spoken about bullying but she never told her how bad it was.
“I thought my kids were strong. That my words to them for guidance and advice would have more weight than what these kids were saying. I was wrong.”
The state of Illinois passed an anti-bullying law in 2001 but that wasn’t enough to save Ashlynn.
“I don’t know what it’s going to take to stop it,” added Stacy Conner. “No child should ever have to feel like they have to kill themselves to stop that kind of pain.”
Illinois’s Board of Education told local media that it is saddened by the loss and has instructed counselors to speak with students and family.
Vermilion County Coroner Peggy Johnson told the local News Gazette that they are still investigating Ashlynn’s cause of death.
“There are all kinds of aspects of this death to look into,” Johnson told the paper. “Bullying was brought up to us as a piece of the investigation, and we are still finding out information.”
Vermilion Sheriff Pat Hartshorn said: “We are not ruling out bullying, but we don’t have any firm evidence to support bullying.”
Ashlynn lived with her grandmother Lory Hackney. “She just loved the holidays and any occasion where there would be a big family gathering,” said her grieving grandmother. “I don’t know what was so bad she couldn’t wait.
“She liked school. When she got home from school, she would go straight to the kitchen table, sit down and do her homework. We didn’t even have to ask her.”
Hackney also said that she’s determined to do all she can to raise awareness about bullying.
“We have to prevent it so there won’t be other Ashlynns,” she said “I want to see a law that will hold parents accountable and to a degree, the kids, depending on their age. This cannot continue to happen.”