Mother of cyber bullying victim speaks to Smithton, Gentry students

Tuesday, January 10, 2012 | 6:38 p.m. CST; updated 8:12 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Smithton Middle School students raise their hands in response to a question that Tina Meier asked Tuesday afternoon during a presentation at the middle school. Meier, whose daughter Megan Meier committed suicide at age 13, spoke to over 900 Smithton Middle School students about bullying.

COLUMBIA — When Tina Meier asked the students of Smithton Middle School how many of them had a Facebook profile, nearly everyone raised their hands.

The same response was given when Meier asked who had a cellphone with picture messaging. The Internet. Or knew someone with a fake social media page.

Meier, whose daughter Megan killed herself after being bullied on the Internet, spoke to students at Smithton Middle School Tuesday afternoon. Meier also gave a presentation at Gentry Middle School on Tuesday morning.

Megan Meier, 13, killed herself in 2006 after another mother, pretending to be a boy, sent Megan hurtful messages on the social networking site, Myspace.

Meier started the Megan Meier Foundation in 2007. The foundation is headquartered in Chesterfield, Mo., and aims to promote awareness about the dangers of bullying, particularly on the Internet.

She gave her first presentation in January 2008 at Troy Middle School in Troy, Mo. She said there were 900 kids, and she had no clue what she was going to do during the presentation. She just wanted to tell Megan's story.

"I wanted to make sure kids understood the words that they say, the things that they do, can truly have an effect on another person," Meier said after her presentation Tuesday.

She started receiving phone calls from other schools and it just "snowballed" from there. In the 2010-2011 academic year, Meier visited 17 states and 33 communities.

Jean Selby, principal of Smithton Middle School, said Meier's presentation gives students a sense of how what they say and do can impact others. 

"This is a very valid presentation that's personalized by who is presenting it," Selby said.

Meier said that regardless of the income level of the community she speaks to, she finds that the children still have cellphones. And they have to be reminded on how to use technology the right way.

"You can't think that you tell your child one time and they're going to get it," Meier said.  "We have to repeatedly tell them."

Meier has different presentations for elementary school, middle school and high school students. She said she focuses on what bullying is and the different forms that it can take.

She hopes students learn something from her presentation.

"If they grasp the small, little things, we're a huge step ahead," Meier said.

Ann Baker, outreach counselor for Gentry and Smithton middle schools, said superintendent Chris Belcher was supportive of Meier returning for a second year, and had her speak to even more students. She said character development and academic development are important.

Meier's was impressed with the Columbia school district's proactive approach to bullying.

"When you have a school district that has everybody behind the movement, it's extremely impressive," Meier said.

Meier is currently working on workshop materials for high school and middle school students. The workshops are to help train students to take more action when bullying occurs in their schools.

Baker said Columbia schools will be sending students to Meier's middle school workshop at the St. Charles Convention Center in March.

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