By Pat McGonigle
Creve Coeur, Mo (KSDK) -- Tina Meier stepped to the podium at Whitfield School in Creve Coeur on a recent morning and began her 90 minute program on cyber-bullying with the ease and polish you would expect from a professional speaker. Using a PowerPoint display and several multi-media resources, Meier explained the dangers of demonizing other teenagers and the psychological trauma from just a few simple words.
It's safe to assume some of the students in the crowded auditorium do not know Tina Meier's heartbreaking personal story, so there is a stunned silence when Meier makes the following announcement: "My daughter Megan passed away on October 17 of 2006. Megan was supposed to get her braces off the day she passed away."
In a story that made headlines all over the world, 13-year-old Megan Meier committed suicide after a neighbor played out a cruel hoax on the social networking website, MySpace. Megan Meier believed she had a new friendship with a boy named "Josh Evans". The boy's messages to Megan Meier on MySpace suddenly became mean-spirited and eventually left the 13-year-old devastated.
Megan Meier died never realizing that "Josh Evans" was a fake profile set up by the mother of one of Meier's friends.
It's a tragedy that could leave a parent paralyzed with grief. Instead, Tina Meier is using that story to prevent cyber-bullying all over the country. To date, Tina Meier has taken her program to 19 different states.
"When it comes from me, I think it's more non-threatening to them," Meier said. "Where I can get them to stop and realize the things they are doing."
In a recent interview at NewsChannel 5, Meier described how her program, and the Megan Meier Foundation, has been effective.
"I had a high school boy come up to me and he had tears rolling down his cheeks," Meier said. "And he said 'I was horrible, in middle school and I was mean and I was negative and I've realized all of things I've done. Hearing Megan's story, was so wrong, I realized what I've done, and now I don't know how to apologize. Tell me what I can do.'"
Tina Meier believes parents need to ask the hard questions and thinks many parents still are not aware of just how pervasive and dangerous cyber-bullying can be.
"Because we (parents) are in our own world, we're trying to make house payments, we're trying to do all of these things," Meier said. "We have to do all of the things, we have to do in this world. And we're looking at the things they're going through as such tiny, miniscule things and we're like; come on. Don't worry about those things."
Tina Meier says she feels her daughter's presence during every presentation.
"Oh, absolutely. I mean 100%. I truly believe that Megan is with me. I don't think there's anyway that I could do what I do without her being there. If I found out at the end of my days 'you saved one child, telling Megan's story', that would be it. That would make everything worth it."