Fighting Bullying With Kindness

10/20/2017
By: Todd Martin
In slow, measured statements, a father shared his story of deep personal loss, while delivering a powerful message of hope.

With a promotional video that high school students made, as well as personal testimony, Matt Molak explained Friday to middle school and high school students how his 16-year-old son sank into depression and last year took his own life.

Matt and his wife Maurine and other supporters began the David’s Legacy Foundation to raise awareness of the devastating effects of cyber-bullying and bigotry.

Their efforts pushed into law this year state legislation known as David’s Law that provides guidelines for investigating, reporting and enforcing cyber-bullying.

At Killeen ISD’s Early College High School and Audie Murphy Middle School, Molak provided stickers bearing the ellipsis symbol that appears on cellular devices while awaiting a text message response.

Those stickers, and the speaker’s poignant message, are reminders to think before you send a message through texting or social media.

David Molak was a 16-year-old sophomore at Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio. He loved sports, hunting and Whataburger, according to his dad. He was a regular kid with lots of friends.

Social media messages began suggesting jealousy regarding David and his girlfriend. The messages proliferated and grew threatening. Hundreds of comments poured in, mostly from people unknown to the young man.

“He felt like the whole school was against him,” Molak said, explaining how his son became despondent. His parents put him in a different school and sought out therapy and other treatment.

After a failed attempt, David took his own life in January 2016. His family pledged to do something in response to the tragedy. Their foundation builds awareness of bullying and awards scholarships based on strong character.

Along with distributing stickers, which many students placed on their phone, the speaker led students in a pledge promising not to use their device as a weapon.

“It is an important message,” Early College High School freshman Sulay Smith said, noting that she has known peers who wrestled with depression. “We should think more about what we do.”

The speaker pointed out that bullying is everywhere, but that there is now a state law that addresses it and that students play a huge role in stopping it from happening.

Merely telling a sad story and urging students to avoid bullying is not enough, Molak said, charging students to change the culture of their communities.

“You are on the frontlines and you have to use your moral courage,” he said, “and create up-standers and not bystanders.”

Those who stand by and do nothing are part of the problem, while those who stand up to those who bully can make a positive change. “Get one or two of your buddies to help and you can stop it even without the laws and the authorities.”

The speaker also addressed the importance of a positive digital footprint, explaining how online posts indicate ones character and in some cases are difficult to change.

A simple rule to follow, he said, is to consider if a potential message or post is truthful, helpful and kind and if not, to avoid it. “Think before you send,” he said.

“It hurts me and it hurts everyone,” Smith said. She and several other students spontaneously lined up and hugged their speaker when he finished.

“I like that we can learn more about what to do. It makes me happy and sad at the same time. Hopefully this will bring out the compassion in people.”

The new law requires parent notification when a child is a victim or aggressor of bullying. It also allows for investigation of an off-campus incident, provides an anonymous reporting tool and possibility of expulsion and criminal charges.

The David’s Legacy Foundation provides resources, seeks out heroes of kindness and sponsors character-based scholarships. Information is available at www.davidslegacy.org
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