Victims address bullying at forum

More than 100 people attended an anti-bullying forum March 11 at Pelham High School, in which two victims spoke about their experiences with the increasingly violent trend.

The forum, which was sponsored by the Shelby County Schools System, featured Jessica Brookshire, a 22-year-old Auburn University graduate who will compete in the Miss Alabama pageant in June, and Tina Meier, whose daughter committed suicide in 2006 as a result of cyber-bullying.

Many school counselors and resource officers were also on hand for the forum, as well as current Miss Alabama and Pelham graduate Liz Cochran and Shelby County Schools Student Services Coordinator Donna Dickson.

“Tonight begins our effort to let the public know we take harassment very seriously,” Dickson said.

Pelham Principal Bob Lavett also spoke during the event, and he issued a challenge to those in attendance.

“I want to challenge all of us to take what you learn tonight, and use it to educate others,” Lavett said.

Brookshire opened the forum by addressing her platform as Miss Fountain City 2010 to end bullying in schools.

Her platform is called Kids Against Ridicule Meanness and Aggression (K.A.R.M.A.).

“We need to do something to take our schools back from bullies,” Brookshire said.

Despite being a cheerleader and a popular girl in school, Brookshire shared her experiences of being bullied in school and how it affected her.

“I’m lucky I made it out without breaking, cracking,” Brookshire said. “I like to say I’m a victor, not a victim of bullying.

“I’ve been there; I know how (kids) feel,” she added. “Bullying is not harassment; harassment is minute to bullying,”

Meier, the keynote speaker, knows all too well the dangers of bullying, as her daughter, Megan, hung herself Oct. 16, 2006, in an incident that made national headlines.

Megan, 14, killed herself after being bullied through her MySpace account by what turned out to be a neighbor’s mother, Lori Drew, and two other girls.

While Megan thought she had befriended a boy named Josh Evans on the Internet site, it turned out to be Drew and the other girls.

“She thought if she fit in the popular crowd, they wouldn’t bully her anymore,” Meier said. “She wanted to fit in so bad she couldn’t stand it.”

On that fateful day, Megan came home and got on MySpace to chat with the boy. When Tina had to leave the family home that day to pick up her other child, she told Megan to sign off the account, of which Tina had the password and tracking software to monitor Megan’s online activity. Megan did not sign off the account and the bullying ensued.

Within two hours, Megan was so emotionally shaken, she went to her bedroom and hung herself in her closet.

“My life completely turned inside out that day, and it has never been the same since,” said Meier as she fought back tears. “I don’t want another parent to feel like we felt.”

That’s why she travels from city to city to warn parents not only of the dangers of in-school bullying, but also the ever-changing technological world, which has opened up a whole new realm of bullying that most parents are unaware of.

“We have to take the reigns back and take control,” Meier said.