On Monday, May 14, Hyde School hosted the first annual student-led bullying conference on its Woodstock campus.
Joined by the Hyde School in Bath, ME, Marianapolis Preparatory School, Rectory School, Woodstock Academy, and Vermont Academy, the conference consisted of keynote speaker Tina Meier, a leading advocate for anti-bullying legislation and a nationally-noted speaker. Students also organized and led workshops and a thoughtful panel discussion.
Photos of the conference are below, and an archive of live coverage on Twitter (#hydeBC12) is at https://twitter.com/#!/search/realtime/%23hydeBC12.
“Most bullying conferences are led by adults,” said Laura D. Gauld, Hyde-Woodstock’s head of school. “However, if we are really going to tackle this issue, then students need to take the lead.”
Hyde Senior Danny Gill opened the day, welcoming participants with two students from Marianapolis and Hyde-Bath.
“We feel that the students living through this bullying epidemic are the experts,” Gill explained. “Though many adults are working on this issue, we want to send a message to our peers and help to resolve this problem by having this conference.”
“I am not here to lecture you guys; what I hope I can do is to open your eyes to the fact that what you say and do can seriously affect other people.”
Tina Meier set an energetic and intelligent tone for the day through her speech, sharing the story of her daughter Megan. Meier founded the Megan Meier Foundation in honor of her daughter, who tragically committed suicide after being cyberbullied by a neighboring parent and her child. “Some of you are very passionate about the issue of bullying and some of you may not be,” said Meier. “I am not here to lecture you guys; what I hope I can do is to open your eyes to the fact that what you say and do can seriously affect other people.”
The Foundation’s mission is “to bring awareness, education and promote positive change to children, parents and educators in response to the ongoing bullying and cyberbullying in our children’s daily environment.”
“This was not a chosen path for me. It started because of Megan,” said Meier.
Since founding the Megan Meier Foundation, Meier has worked closely with Missouri’s Internet Task Force to pass Senate Bill 818, appeared both nationally and internationally on television, and travelled throughout the United States to give presentations on bullying and cyberbullying.
Meier shared her story and spoke about different aspects of cyberbullying, including internet and mobile phones, to increase awareness about privacy issues and technology. “Bullying is across the world, no matter where you are,” said Meier. “But if I can get a couple of you, one of you, to think about the things you’ve done or said, or what other have done or said, then this speech is worth every minute to me.”
Meier’s speech was followed by a series of student-led workshops that included “Cyberbullying” led by Marianapolis Prep, “Suicide Prevention” by Woodstock Academy, “Personal Encounters” by Hyde-Bath, “Stereotypes in Bullying” by Hyde-Woodstock, “Pseudo Bullying” by Vermont Academy, and “Athletic Hazing” by Hyde-Woodstock.
“I’m going to try to help those who can’t stick up for themselves and stand against it.”
Students presented their ideas and involved their peers in discussions and in brainstorming ideas to help address this issue. “It is really important to me to raise awareness on this issue,” shared Katie Comeaux ’13 from Hyde-Bath. “At Hyde School, we’re working hard to address this issue and to end it.”
Blake Smaldone ’12 shared his perspective at the end of one of the workshops and his desire to help further address this issue. “I didn’t really take bullying seriously,” said Smaldone. “As I can see it affects a lot of my friends and family. I’m going to try to help those who can’t stick up for themselves and stand against it.”
The final panel discussion helped to summarize the day and give students an opportunity to voice their ideas and their needs from adults in dealing with this issue.
“We just need to have someone who is accessible to talk to and who will help come up with a plan to approach the bullying together with the student,” said Shannon Ludeke ’12. “Knowing that I have someone who has my back would help a lot.”
“As a faculty member, my reaction was often to run in and take control of the situation,” noted Bill Fabiano, a teacher at Hyde-Woodstock. “Hearing students’ feedback helped me to see that may not always be the best way—they may need to take the lead.”
2012 Bullying Conference