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Speaker, Mamaroneck Staff, Confront Cyber-Bullying

MAMARONECK, N.Y. – Tim Nelson and Jaime Holzer want to help the Mamaroneck students they counsel become more accountable for their actions online, and took some suggestions on how to do so during a lecture on cyber-bullying in the McLain Auditorium Wednesday afternoon.

Nelson, a counselor at Hommocks Middle School, helped write the $15,000 Mamaroneck Schools Foundation grant to hire Cyber Smarts and national speaker Katie Koestner, who gave about 250 staff members from the middle school and high school a crash course in cyber-bullying and the keys to safe online behavior."Cyber bullying will end when we have to author it, take responsibility for it and have the courage to speak what we think and take responsibility for our good thoughts and our bad thoughts," Koestner said.

Accountability, Koestner said, can help reduce the act of cyber-bullying, but more importantly the unintended consequences for both the bully and victim.

Koestner told the story of a student who spun into a state of depression and attempted suicide after classmates posted an embarrassing video of him online. Those students were sued for $250,000 each to offset the emotional stress the caused the victim, who survived, but was placed in a psychiatric treatment facility and never finished high school.

"Can you and your students push pause instead of send?" Koestner asked.

Wednesday night, she will also address parents in another lecture, and then host workshops for students Thursday.

Koestner, who has been featured on the cover of TIME Magazine and other media outlets, encouraged the staff to reinforce the message of accountability. "Nothing helps bullying be squashed faster than thinking, 'I may be caught'," Koestner said. "Knowing they may be caught is going to help so much."

Nelson, who said students are reporting incidents of cyber-bullying every day at Hommocks, hopes the workshops on Thursday will reinforce the message to the kids that the schools are aware.

Similarly, Holzer, a counselor at Mamaroneck High School, believes parents will play a pivotal role. "A key point we keep coming back to is parent involvement and awareness," she said.

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