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Mother shares her daughter’s cyberbullying story with teens

Tina Meier speaks to JCHS students about the dangers of cyberbullying during a presentation on Monday.

Tina Meier speaks to JCHS students about the dangers of cyberbullying during a presentation on Monday. Hannah Baldwin/News Tribune

Tina Meier — the mother of a 13-year-old Missouri girl who committed suicide after being bullied online — spoke to sophomores at Jefferson City High School on Monday afternoon.

At a time when life for American teens is moving further and further into cyberspace, Meier’s mission, by telling her daughter’s story, was to open students’ hearts before they hurt one another with cruel remarks.

Even as a kindergartner, Megan Meier didn’t quite feel like she fit in at school, her mother told listeners gathered in Fleming Fieldhouse.

Taller than the other kids and a bit too big, her gawkiness made her a target for the other students’ teasing.

“Honey, you’re beautiful, from the inside out,” her mother, Tina Meier, assured her.

But by the third grade, her lovely daughter with the beautiful smile was crying every day and her parents were beside themselves with worry. The family turned to doctors for answers. A diagnosis of depression and attention-deficit disorder was made.

Although life improved slightly through the rest of elementary school, the situation was unbearable again by middle school.

“Megan would stick up for others, but not for herself,” Tina Meier said.

Injecting herself into other people’s situations didn’t endear her to her teachers. Tina Meier pleaded with her daughter to “worry about herself” and “focus on your schoolwork.” She told her daughter to just ignore her tormentors. When she offered to go to the school to talk to personnel, Megan pleaded with her mother to stay out of it.

“I look back at what I told Megan, and it was pitiful,” Tina Meier said. “We need bystanders to stand up for us. I should have empowered her.”

To cope, the family enrolled Megan in a new private school.

It was a fresh start, and Megan was making new friends.

And when a boy by the name of “Josh Evans” befriended her on the social networking site, MySpace, her mother was skeptical, but allowed the two to communicate, if not meet. The two enjoyed an online friendship for a few weeks until one day “Josh” broke it off with cruel words.

Ultimately, it was revealed that the account — and the cruel messages — was a hoax perpetrated by a neighbor woman and her daughter. Other cyberstalkers piled on.

The spiteful words sent an already fragile girl into a tailspin. On Oct. 17, 2006, Megan hung herself in her closet.

For Meier, losing her daughter was the most painful experience of her life.

“Everything was gone,” she said. “I’m not the same person I was. I don’t care about the same things I used to. Now, I care about: ‘What can I do about this?’ and ‘How can I make a difference?’”

She exhorted her listeners to learn from the tragedy. And she tried to give the listening students some insight into their own parents’ over-protective behavior.

“There is no greater fear than that something will happen to you. They don’t want to be me,” she explained.

Meier travels to schools to tell her daughter’s story with the hope of preventing other cyberbullying attacks. She reminded them that sometimes kids who are a bit different — perhaps too hyperactive or inappropriate — become targets for harassment.

Her message seemed to resonate with some students, but was rebuffed by others.

Natalie Koelling, 15, said bullying online is “definitely happening.” She appreciated Meier’s message.

“I’ve seen people make false accounts and insult someone else,” Koelling said. “I think it creates awareness. It’s sad, what happened.”

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