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nextTalk, sponsored by nextTalk.org, contains content of a mature nature. Parental guidance is advised upbeat music playing. Welcome to nextTalk Radio with Mandy and Kim.
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Welcome to nextTalk Radio with Mandy and Kim every Saturday at 10 am on AM 630, the Word. Mandy is the author of Talk and I’m the director of nextTalk, a nonprofit organization helping parents’ cyberparent. Follow us on Facebook, instagram and Twitter, find videos and subscribe to our weekly podcast at nextTalk.org. Are you ready for the next?
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talk. We have a very special guest in the studio today, maureen Mollack, and we’re going to be talking about cyberbullying. If you guys remember and heard our podcast from last week, we talked about suicide, how to talk to your kids about suicide, and some conversation, starting talking points to get you so you can really talk to them. If they say what is suicide or my friend committed suicide we want you to be able to pour some truth into your kids about what that is. But today we really want to zone in on cyberbullying because, if you remember correctly, we had a statistic that we shared last week kids who are cyberbullied are two times more likely to commit suicide. So, maureen, we’re glad to have you here today. Why don’t you give us a short introduction of who you are?
0:01:18 – Speaker 1
Well. Thanks, mandy and Kim. I appreciate you all having me this morning. I’m from San Antonio and my husband, matt. We’ve been married for 30 years and he is also from San Antonio, and we have three boys Cliff, chris, and David is our child, who is in heaven. We have formed David’s Legacy Foundation after my son, david died, and as a family we are working to try to find solutions and help schools with this issue of cyberbullying. Over the last year and a half, we were working on legislation and were very successful in getting a law passed in my son’s name, called David’s Law, which helps schools address the issue of cyberbullying.
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Awesome and we want to dive into the law and to everything that you have available through David’s Legacy Foundation. Tell us a little bit about David and his story and how this all came about, because he is a special young man, yeah he is a very special young man.
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David was 16 years old and he was a sophomore in high school, and he was just like every other kid he played on the basketball team, he was an Eagle Scout, he loved fantasy football, he played Clash of Kent Clans and he was a Waterburger fanatic.
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This is his favorite place.
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Good taste yeah and he became the victim of cyberbullying in the fall semester of his sophomore year and it had been going on for some time before we found out about it. He didn’t share that with us. I think he felt like either we were going to take his phone away from him or we were going to restrict him in some way, or he felt like he was going to be able to handle it himself. The night that we found out about it was there was an Instagram post that occurred and he became the subject of being attacked by a cyber mob what we call a cyber mob and there were kids that were making fun of his personal appearance, threatening him, telling him he shouldn’t go to school, saying things like put him in a body bag, put him six feet under.
If I were David Moalak, I wouldn’t go back to school. Can I see a fight? He’s going to get wrecked. On and on and on. They were making a lot of references to his personal appearance in, comparing him to a monkey and saying things like ooh-ah-ah, his translator broke, david has AIDS and things like that, and he came down into our room and he was just distraught, almost despondent, and I’d never seen him like that.
He said he was never going to be able to go back to school, that everybody hated him, and so I took screenshots and I went to the school and the school even though they felt like it was a very serious incident, but because it happened after school hours they pretty much felt like their hands were tied, because there’s a lot of parents out there that believe the school day, schools can only have jurisdiction during the school day and what happens outside of the school hour, they don’t want the school to be involved, and I’ll get back to that in a little bit about, because some of that is what we thought about when we were working on the law.
But so we worked with the school and we moved David to the alternative school while I worked to get him into a private school because he was not gonna go back to school there. He was too afraid to go to school there, and while we started digging into what had happened to him, we realized that this was not an isolated issue. That’s when we found out it had been going on and they had used other ways and there were many more kids involved. They had used regular text videos, dms, probably.
Yeah, they used after school lots of different social media apps Facebook, so it wasn’t just Instagram it was several different other social media and really and there was actually the physical that went along with it I mean, kids would take screenshots and walk up to him at school and show him the screenshots. So you know, there was just a lot of different ways that they hid him. And so we moved him to a private school and his mental health just plummeted at that time and it really created a serious mental health crisis in our home, Not just with him, but for the rest of us, because we hospitalized him, we sent him to counselors, he had doctors, therapists, and he was on medication and we just nothing seemed to work and he spiraled out of control and he took his life in January of 2016. I’m so sorry, Thank you.
I don’t know that I would be sitting here today if it wouldn’t be for this community of San Antonio and the people that I knew that were thinking about us, praying for us, lifting us up and carrying us through those months, those early months of the suffering. And it was at that point, when we sort of the fog cleared a little bit, that we realized that David’s situation was not an isolated issue, Because we had so many other parents and kids reach out to us to tell us their similar stories. We knew that we just couldn’t sit by. We had to do something about it.
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Yeah Well, first of all, I wanna say to you I think it’s amazing that through all of this, you’re helping other families. I think that’s just incredible and speaks to your integrity and character, and so thank you for what you’re doing and all the hard work that you’re doing. You know, the one thing that I take from your story is y’all are just a typical family. You’re like my family, You’re like the typical middle class, stable mom and dad, siblings, family and what I want our listeners to know is this can happen to any of us. Absolutely right, and it is happening to many of us. It’s already happening to our kids and they’re suffering in silence. That’s right.
And what we really wanna raise awareness is to talk early, and often Even before your kids get a phone. Talk to them about if anybody’s ever mean to you online. Tell me immediately. Do not ever be unkind to anyone online. Just if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. These are little, great little nuggets that we can pour into our kids when they’re three and four and five years old, even you know, before they get away, before they get a phone Right.
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One of the things that we tell students is you know, think before you send. Is it true, Is it necessary, Is it kind If it doesn’t meet that criteria?
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then don’t send it.
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It’s not necessary. And a lot of people will say, well, it’s a First Amendment, right to say whatever it is that you feel or whatever you believe. Well, yeah, we do have a First Amendment right and you can, but should you? Yeah?
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Well, and you can be. You can disagree with someone and be nice about it, absolutely. I mean we, our kids, have got to learn this skill, because I think adults are failing at it miserably. I agree with you like if we disagree, we’re fighting.
How is this? We got to model this for our kids? You know, I really saw it during the political election. I mean it was. I was like no wonder our kids are struggling with cyberbullying. We’re doing this right like we. It’s okay to disagree, but we can love each other through it absolutely.
0:09:04 – Speaker 1
Yeah, I think you know parents, kids are watching and we’re modeling for them and we set the example. And when we choose to be unkind online, the kids are saying that yeah.
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You know more and I know it’s never it never gets easy to share a story, so thank you for sharing yours. I know that it will mean a lot to a lot of people, as it already has. And, as you said, going through this process and you You’re trying to deal with it and you’re trying to move forward as a family, and you said, the fog kind of lifted and at that point what did you feel compelled to do? What did the Lord put on your heart? And where does that bring us to today?
0:09:40 – Speaker 1
Well, early on, senator Jose Menendez reached out to my family and he was already working with another family here With their son who was the target of cyberbullying. He had cancer. This young boy had cancer and his cyberbullying would go and take pictures of his Balled head and posted on another Facebook account With just horrible, derogatory comments. They would say you know, god made a mistake when he made you. Hitler was more loved than you. Why don’t you kill yourself? And they were very prescriptive and told him how the hell he should kill himself.
And so Senator Menendez and this family were already working on Trying to figure out was there’s anything they could do legislatively. And so it was at this time that David had passed and they reached out to us and said would you like to join what we’re doing here? Mm-hmm, and my husband and my sons were very involved with that early on. I Was not able to be involved at that, for my took me months to be able to even Get off of my sofa, yeah, and to be able to get through a day without being a complete wreck, yeah. And Once that fog did clear for me, I was able to join the effort. And you know, a lot of people said. You know that being able to hear from the mom Because I was the one that was so involved in what was going on with him and I saw what it did to him and I saw what it did to me I mean I was a mess through Working with him, through all of this.
0:11:22 – Speaker 3
Well, that’s your baby kind of lose your faith in humanity you do kids are doing this to your baby and then you’re trying to get help and moving schools and and right, it was like a big tornado it was.
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I describe it just like that that it was a tornado and I couldn’t move fast enough, yeah.
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So they’re working, working with senator Menendez, and then you kind of stepped in to join the effort. Is that when you began the nonprofit?
0:11:49 – Speaker 1
Well, the nonprofit actually started pretty soon after David died. My oldest son is in medical school here in San Antonio and his med school they started a GoFundMe and so they raised about $75,000 to work on this issue and we took that money and we started the nonprofit and so the money was sitting there and we were trying to figure out okay, what programs can we do? What can we do with this, that we can help other schools. And that’s when we started the nonprofit and realized that we knew that we wanted to concentrate on legislation. We wanted to work with schools and we wanted to help educate about this issue and teach kids that it’s basically cool to be kind and then also to be able to help legally with cases that maybe needed some pro bono lawyers that could help with some issues with parents when they kind of hit a roadblock and the criminal piece wasn’t working, the schools couldn’t do anything about it, then maybe they could step in and help, and that’s what we call the DBM project.
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And I love that, and you can find out more at davidslegacyorg. Right, that’s correct. But just in a nutshell, if, for some reason, your kid is being cyber bullied and you’ve tried all the avenues and nothing is working, you can contact these attorneys and, for free, they will look at your case and see if there’s anything they can do to help your child. That’s exactly right. That is a fantastic resource. So that’s called the DBM project.
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DBM project, so I’m sure don’t bully me but, it’s also my son David’s initials David Bartlett-Molak.
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That’s my word, yeah, that’s amazing, so that’s at davidslegacyorg.
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You know, the other thing you’re doing is the pledge right now which I have a sticker on the back of my phone. I love this concept.
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Tell us about David’s pledge, so the David’s Law Anti-Cyber Bullying Pledge. On one side of it it’s a sticker and it says David’s law is now cyber bullying is a crime in Texas and that you will take this pledge that I will never use my device as a weapon. And then you can stick it on your phone or your computer or your iPad. And on the side that you can see the sticker is actually the texting ellipsis bubble with the little red dots and it just symbolizes sort of a time of waiting, thinking before you send, and just remembering that there’s a soul on the other side of every screen and you never know what kind of a day or battle that person is fighting when you decide to say something mean. And so we’re using that as just an opportunity for kids to say the pledge and to be able to use that as a conversation tool, and really there’s a lot of kids that are talking about it out there from what I’ve heard.
0:14:46 – Speaker 3
Yeah, and schools, churches. If you wanna get these stickers, they are also on the website davidslegacyorg and you can go there and they’re free. Your foundation is underwriting this expense. Your school can take the pledge, your church whatever, youth group, whatever, and it’s a great reminder. My team looks at it on my phone all the time and I like that. It’s the little comment.
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waiting on that comment, it’s a great reminder If you’re just now tuning in, this is nextTalk Radio with Mandy and Kim every Saturday at 10 am on AM 630, the word nextTalk Radio is listener supported. Everything we do at our nonprofit to keep kids safe online is accomplished through donations To support our organization. Go to wwwnextTalk.org and click on give you know. I have this sticker also on my phone.
My husband has one on his phone also, and one of the great things about the symbol that you’ve chosen is it’s not so obvious that it requires people to ask. So people ask me all the time I set my phone down and they’re like, what does that mean? And it gives me a chance to explain. The sticker talk about David and your foundation. So it’s just a great tool to educate people and also a reminder for me. Everything that I write, everything that I say to take a minute, put it through that filter. Is this truly what I’m trying to communicate? Will this bless someone, encourage, or is it truth? I really love that about what you’re doing.
0:16:10 – Speaker 1
We think it’s a great conversation starter like you said and I think it will grow and we’ve sent out anywhere from one sticker to 12,000 stickers. Wow, awesome. We’ve sent out over 150,000 stickers in total.
0:16:24 – Speaker 3
I was gonna say did you just tell me you had to place in order for 100,000 more?
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stickers. Yeah, yeah, so awesome. That’s a great problem to have.
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It is a great problem to have. So if I’m a principal or I’m a mom or I’m in charge of a mop’s group or any person at all, what do I do? If I is it paperwork I need to fill out? What do I do when I go to the website?
0:16:42 – Speaker 1
So on the website there’s just a form that you fill out. It lets us know how many stickers you want and where you want them mailed. We’ve got just a few different colors that you can choose from and we’ll send you that We’ll. If you’re at a school and you want a poster, we’ll send you a poster as well. We’re trying to give every school at least one poster and you know it’s, you know it’s, you know it’s.
You know interesting that we’ve had entire school districts reach out and they want they’re doing this as a group effort and having pledge events at their schools and sort of turning it almost into like a pep rally where everybody is just getting on board and taking the pledge and putting it on their phone. And, if you know, if a child chooses not to put it on their phone, that’s okay. For me personally, if they’ve taken that pledge and they’re going to put it on their water bottle or their folder, I, you know, I’d love to see it on the phone, but it’s okay as long the the real meaning behind it is that they’re gonna think before they send.
0:17:39 – Speaker 3
Yeah well, and didn’t. Recently, the mayor, you were on the steps of city council right and the city took the pledge they did yeah mayor Nirenberg and several city council members took the pledge with us.
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Senator Menendez was with us. Chief McManus and lots of other folks were down there taking the pledge, and so it was a great opportunity.
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It was sort of a pep rally on the steps we live in a great community and I love seeing people rally around you and your family and you know, just supporting you in your mission, that you’re trying to get out to kids.
0:18:12 – Speaker 1
I mean to literally save kids lives well, we certainly couldn’t do that without the partners that we’ve had. We’ve had some amazing groups reach out to us and want to help support us by giving us services and pro bono work and really just taking this to the next level. We would not be where we are today. That wouldn’t be for those partners that we have out there.
And you know, one of the things that you know we really want to concentrate on is making a big impact in the state of Texas and then hopefully maybe taking this nationally and everybody needs this absolutely and my one of my personal goals is to really work in San Antonio and just create a culture of kindness here in San Antonio and then be able to work through other cities and have people be able to get on board and be able to say, I want my city to be the kindest city in Texas and then we can work on Texas being the kindest state in the nation. I love that idea.
0:19:12 – Speaker 3
David is leaving behind a major legacy, which is really cool.
0:19:16 – Speaker 2
Yes, so I’m a mama sitting at home listening to your story and hearing about David’s law. Maybe I even have a sticker and maybe I’ve just kind of found out that my child is being bullied. What would you say to that mama?
0:19:30 – Speaker 1
I would say the first thing that you need to do is make sure that your child is safe and okay and if they’re not, then get them some counseling, get them some help and work with the school, and I and I think that schools, even before this law passed I really do feel like schools really want to help with this issue, but it’s pervasive and there’s only so many hours in a day and administrators and teachers are are overworked, yeah, and they get very little funding, yeah and so, but they really do, their hearts are really good and they really do want to help make a difference, yeah, and so I think, partnering with your school and working with your school, and then you know if you need to take it, you know if there needs to be some legal recourse, reach out to an attorney, reach out to our foundation, reach out to the San Antonio police department or the sheriff’s department and and be able to be your child’s advocate.
But clearly, through all of this, the most important thing is the safety of your child and making sure that the mental health of that child is being addressed yeah.
0:20:42 – Speaker 2
I’m glad you said that, because I have heard more than once a mom or a dad say it’s, it’s probably not that big of a deal, and I think we really have to change that mindset, because under the rug not sweet, but under the rug, and we’re also in a different day and age. You know, someone may be making a comment on the playground 20 years ago is very different than being bullied online, right it’s? The scope is so huge.
0:21:06 – Speaker 1
We have to parent this differently and so, like you’re saying, keep your child safe, recognize it as important right steps necessary yeah, what we found is that what makes cyberbullying so different than physical bullying is that not only do the words themselves hurt, but the child’s entire social circles circle sees those words, the humiliation starts, and then it gets shared over and over and over again. And they know that and they live in constant fear and anxiety that it could resurface at any moment and that if it’s screen-shotted, it’s out there forever.
0:21:46 – Speaker 3
Well, and it doesn’t end. You know you go home at the end of your school day and they can be sitting across from you at the kitchen island and they’re being cyber bullied right in your kitchen, Right there in front of you, and so it’s relentless. It never ends. That’s right? Yeah, Tell us a little bit. We’ve only got a few minutes left and there’s so much valuable information that you have for us. Tell us a little bit about the law and exactly what it does.
0:22:09 – Speaker 1
So David’s law. There’s three parts to it. There’s the education code, there’s the civil remedies and practice and the criminal code. So, on the education code, what is the most important parts of that are with a cyber bullying incident, it follows the child off campus and that was one of the main things for us that we wanted to have in the law. And it got confusing, because how do you really we’re talking about the internet how do you really know when something occurs?
We felt like schools could spend hours trying to just figure out when that actually occurred, when they could just be addressing the issue, because if you’ve got a hurting child or a child that doesn’t wanna go to school, don’t we owe it to that child to investigate what is happening and not spend so much time trying to figure out if it happened on campus or off campus?
So that’s huge for us to have that in there. And then the couple of other things that are really important is that it requires school districts to have a way for students to anonymously report bullying incidents, and then it gives administrators an option it’s not a mandate, it is an option to send an aggressor a very, very serious bullying, to expel them or send them to disciplinary alternative school and that is like I said, that’s for very serious bullying incidents and we left it open. We left it for school districts to determine what their policy was gonna be. We didn’t tell them what that policy, we didn’t tell them what the consequences needed to be. We just gave them the tools that they needed to be able to put a policy into place.
0:23:51 – Speaker 3
There’s a law in place now that can back up what they’re doing Absolutely that’s absolutely Now.
0:23:56 – Speaker 1
On the criminal side. We just did a little bit of updating to the harassment code and it is now a Class B misdemeanor. We worked on the language a little bit. It was kind of antiquated. It talked about pagers and fax machines. We had it include social media and then it is a Class B misdemeanor to cyber bully a student, a minor, and then it can be ratcheted up to a Class A misdemeanor if there is suicide baiting involved and that child acts on it.
0:24:25 – Speaker 3
And then there’s a couple of other things that ratchet up to it Class A Again giving authorities laws to be able to do something in the event of a severe situation like with David’s we did we worked with principals, superintendents, lawmakers, DA’s lawyers, mental health providers on this bill.
0:24:44 – Speaker 1
We tried to reach out to anybody who would have a stake in this law and get their feedback on this. The last little piece about David’s law is the civil side of it, and this was really an important piece because this gives parents an opportunity to be able to get an injunction against a cyber bully if their child is the victim without using an attorney, and so the forms are gonna be up on the website on the attorney general’s website and they’re gonna be in both English and.
0:25:13 – Speaker 3
Spanish. So that takes some of the red tape out of it. Well, you can just protect your child more easily.
0:25:18 – Speaker 1
You can protect your child. They’re gonna make it a lot easier for parents and be able to do it without having to use an attorney.
0:25:25 – Speaker 2
Maureen, the work you have done is incredible, Incredible. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for spending time with us. Thank you for David’s law. Thank you for having me. Yes, thank you.
0:25:34 – Speaker 3
It’s great to be with y’all. Thanks for joining us on nextTalk Radio with Mandy and Kim every Saturday at 10 am on AM 630, the word. You are not alone, trying to figure out how to parent in this digital world. We are here with practical solutions to help you. Follow us on Facebook, instagram and Twitter, find videos and subscribe to our weekly podcast at nextTalk.org. Are you ready for the nextTalk? Thank you.
Transcribed by https://podium.page