COLUMBIA — Columbia Public Schools "gained a lot of momentum" for anti-cyberbullying efforts after Tina Meier, the mother of a teenage girl who committed suicide, spoke to students last February, said district spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark.
Health classes at Gentry Middle School had a T-shirt design contest to create a positive message to stand up to bullying. As a result, every student and faculty member received a shirt in their schools' colors.
What: Tina Meier's parent and community presentation on bullying and cyberbullying
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Launer Auditorium, Columbia College, 1001 Rogers St.
"It's been a positive way to spread the anti-bullying message and to encourage students to be good bystanders and report bullying," Baumstark said.
For the second year, Meier will speak to the Columbia community about the dangers of bullying and cyberbullying. This year, Meier will extend her visit to two days of presentations. She will be in Columbia on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Meier is dedicated to educating others across the country on the potentially severe effects of bullying and cyberbullying. Meier's daughter, 13-year-old Megan, committed suicide after being harassed on Myspace in October 2006.
"This time we are able to reach out to more schools," Baumstark said.
On Tuesday, Meier will make presentations to students at Gentry and Smithton middle schools.
On Wednesday, Meier will speak to students at Jefferson and Oakland junior high schools and Lange Middle School. Baumstark said students from other schools, including Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools, have the opportunity to attend the presentations.
Baumstark said parents and community members appreciated Meier's community presentation at Rock Bridge High School in February 2011.
Because Meier is from the St. Louis area, Baumstark said her presentations make a closer connection to the community.
"Sometimes the impact gets lost with a national connection," Baumstark said.
Columbia College is co-sponsoring Meier's visit. Also involved is U Matter, a district campaign for substance abuse prevention and positive, healthy choices started in 2006. The campaign reports data from schools and the district's Safe and Drug Free Schools Survey results.
Each year, U Matter creates new messages for its campaign. This year, it is focusing messages on cyberbullying, bullying and being a "good digital citizen."
Baumstark said some of this year's messages include:
- Be a friend: Nine out of 10 students surveyed say it's wrong to post hurtful messages about others on the Internet.
Laugh with your classmates, not at them: Eight out of 10 students say they have never spread a rumor or embarrassing pictures using the Internet, cell phone or text message.
- Think before you post: If you wouldn't say it in person, don't say it online.
A constant struggle is getting students to realize that once they post something online it's out there forever, Baumstark said.
"We want students to be responsible users of technology," she said.