Child's death discussed at school board meeting

GEORGETOWN -- Family members of Ashlynn Conner and local school officials both expressed a desire to move forward at a meeting on Monday.

There were about 60 people in the audience of the regular Georgetown-Ridge Farm School Board meeting on Monday night.  Some said that they came to the meeting to discuss the weekend death of Ashlynn Conner, who had been a fifth-grade student at Ridge Farm Elementary School.

During the portion of the meeting set aside for public comments, two members of Ashlynn's family spoke.

Heidi Paree, who identified herself as a cousin of Ashlynn, said she came not to point fingers, but because her heart was heavy and she wanted to move forward.

"Ashlynn will be missed by so many," Paree said, tearfully.  "If you see a child being bulied, reach out to them and let them know that it will be okay."

Lucas Conner, who identified himself as Ashlynn's uncle, said he was hurting, but that the family felt they had to do something with their sadness.

"Steps have to be taken to get kids the help they need," he said.  "Both at schools and in the home."

Georgetown-Ridge Farm School Board President Cheryl Kestufskie said in a prepared statement that the board was terribly saddened by the loss of one of the children in the district.

"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 some light on this matter," Kestufskie said.  "The Board of Education, the administration and the faculty work extraordinarily hard to ensure that all our children feel safe at school.  We will continue in those efforts and ask the community to assist us."

No one else from the public asked questions or made comments about Ashlynn during the public session of the meeting.

Afterwards, Kestufskie said that she was surprised by the lack of comments from the public.  She said that some of the people in the audience may have gotten their concerns addressed by what the family members and the school board members said, and that others may have had their questions answered by school administrators during the day.

Two counselors from Dialogue Advisor LLC were at Ridge Farm Elementary on Monday to talk with students, teachers and parents.  They will be in the district Tuesday and on Friday, as well.

The district also has four social workers, and Kestufskie said some other districts lent their counselors to the Georgetown-Ridge Farm schools on Monday.

There will be no classes at Ridge Farm Elementary on Wednesday, to allow students and staff to attend Ms. Conner's funeral, if they wish.  Kestufskie said any student or staff member who wishes to attend the funeral on Wednesday will be excused from school for that.

Lisa Hackler, the Georgetown-Ridge Farm Education Association President, thanked the school board members and Kevin Tate, the interim superintendent, for being at Ridge Farm Elementary to lend their support on Monday morning.

Kathy Atwood, a Georgetown resident whose grandchildren attend school in the district, said she expected the board to spend more time discussing bullying issues, and thought there would be more of a question-and-answer session at the meeting.

Amy Haussy, a Georgetown resident whose children go to school in the district, said she expected that more of the meeting would be devoted to Ms. Conner and the district's anti-bullying policies.  

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