Students hear from mom whose daughter was cyberbullied to death

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IVINS — A presentation at Tuacahn High School for the Performing Arts Tuesday engaged the students with a discussion of internet safety, bullying and cyberbullying.

The message was made more personal when the mother of a girl who took her own life after being relentlessly bullied online shared her family’s story.

Principal Drew Williams welcomed the students to Hafen Auditorium and introduced them to Summit New Jersey Police Sgt. Tom Rich, who is also the cyber safety expert of STOPit, a nationwide alert system that allows anyone signed up with the service to report bullying.

“The best part about it is they can report anonymously,” said Williams. “So a lot of times students get scared because they don’t want to be snitches. If something happens to a friend or they see something happen to a friend, they don’t want to be the person that reports it, turns it in, because they don’t want to get bullied in turn because they’re snitches. So this creates this anonymous reporting system, we can handle it and it’s all documented. It’s a great program.”

Rich spoke with the students about online privacy and why it’s important. He then introduced the students to Carol Todd, whose daughter Amanda committed suicide as a result of online bullying in October 2012.

Todd told the students the story of Amanda and how she was the victim of extortion and bullying for over three years by a 32-year-old man from the Netherlands. Amanda Todd created an online video sharing her experiences being bullied in September 2012 that went viral, garnering over 200 million views.

Todd took the snowflake as a symbol of her daughter and all others who have been bullied. Todd stated the reason was simple: Snowflakes are beautiful and no two are alike.

“I have created the Amanda Todd Legacy in memory of my daughter and have surrounded her and the world with snowflakes,” said Todd on the website honoring her daughter. “The mission is that when others see snowflakes, they can see how beautiful they are and how a simple snowflake can relate to people.”

The Amanda Todd Legacy is a nonprofit society that focuses on awareness and the well-being of individuals with respect to prevention and awareness relating to bullying, cyber abuse and internet safety, as well as resources and education that encourage mental wellness and healthy living, according to the website’s mission statement.

Rich then showed the students the iPhone and Android app STOPit. This app allows students to anonymously report bullying and cyberattacks to the administration of their school or organization.

While the app is free to the students, the school pays for the use of the app. Williams said Tuacahn originally was going to use cyberbullying funds provided by the Utah State Board of Education, however, STOPit has agreed to provide the program at no charge to the Titans as it is the first school in Utah to adopt the program.

“It’s saving lives, one student at a time,” Rich said. “It’s really great.”

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