Maryville Public Safety and NorthwestCell have partnered to bring Allyson Pereira, anti-bullying and sexting awareness advocate, to Maryville to speak to students and the community.
Maryville Public Safety Detective Ryan Glidden stated that in the past few years, sexting and bullying have become a problem in all Nodaway County schools.
Students have been sending inappropriate messages and images in text messages, which are then being passed around, starting a chain of bullying events.
The events have been dealt with through the juvenile and prosecutor offices.
In the past, the prosecutor and law enforcement have visited schools talking about the dangers of sexting and bullying. Glidden stated their efforts do not seem to be working or making an impact on the students.
This year, law enforcement decided to try something different. They spent hours researching speakers and speaking with principals all over the nation trying to find a speaker who seemed to be making an impact in schools.
Pereira was hired to present to both students and community members in Nodaway County. When Pereira was 16, she was the victim of a sexting/bullying experience. Her ex-boyfriend sent naked photos of her to everyone in his contact list and the images went viral. In just a week, it made the rounds through 12 schools, including five elementary schools.
The harassment started instantly from name calling to vandalism of her home. She had teachers mention it in class and had her friends’ parents asking her out.
Since then, she strives to promote awareness of the danger of sexting. She travels the nation speaking to children and adults about the repercussions of bullying. She also has been working to change legislation in her home state of New Jersey with the hope of changing sexting laws nationwide.
“I feel like we owe it to our youth to better educate them on the consequences of sexting and bullying so they can make better life choices. My goal in seeking out a speaker the youth can relate to is to decrease the incidents in our local schools for a healthier learning environment,” Glidden said.
Because sexting involves texting and technology, NorthwestCell decided to sponsor the event.
“I didn’t realize how much of an issue it was until Glidden brought it to my attention. They didn’t have the funds to sponsor an event like this. It’s important to make sure young people know how to use phones correctly and they understand the effects. I’m glad we can support it,” NorthwestCell General Manager Roger Bundridge stated.
All the presentations will take place at the Lee and Nina Schneider Performing Arts Center at Maryville High School.
On Monday, August 21, all Maryville High School students will hear Pereira speak in the morning. Community members are invited to a presentation at 7 pm that night. All of the eighth and ninth graders from the county schools will attend the seminar on Tuesday, August 22.