Brian and Catherine Meshkin Bring Together National Leaders like Internet Company Yahoo! and Educational Leadership Organization ASCD, with Local Stakeholders, to Launch One-Howard-County — a New Digital Safety Initiative

Fulton, MD (Friday, August 24, 2012) – Starting this school year, Howard County School Board Member Brian Meshkin and his wife, Catherine, have joined with Internet company Yahoo!, the National School Climate Center, and others to launch One-Howard-County – a new initiative aimed at reducing cyberbullying and avoiding other digital dangers among youth and adults here in our community.

One-Howard-County recognizes the power of individuals and aims to inspire youth and adults alike to be “Upstanders” instead of just “Bystanders” to make a difference in Howard County. Unlike other programs that focus solely on youth bullying, One-Howard-County recognizes that adults can be just as much of a problem as kids, often setting poor examples for youth to follow. Examples of such “adult bullying” include bloggers that attack instead of discuss and individuals who post personal attacks on comment boards of online news articles, oftentimes under pseudonyms or false identities. This initiative will involve the following:

1) Educational Programs on Digital Safety – PTAs across the county are invited to host a Digital Safety workshop for parents. One-Howard-County will provide every school PTA with a presentation developed by Yahoo, and a Family Media Agreement to host local One-Howard-County Digital Safety programs at their schools for parents. This Digital Safety program will focus on the whole child and offer materials from ASCD’s Whole Child initiative.

2) Inspiring Book Discussions – School Board Member Brian Meshkin and his wife, Catherine, will be visiting schools across the county, to read Kathryn Otoshi’s book, One, and sharing some inspirational remarks with students and teachers to prevent bullying. One is an inspiring book about the courage to stand-up against bullying and reminds readers that everyone is important. One has received the E.B. White Read Aloud Honor Book, the Teacher’s Choice Award, Young Voices Foundation Award, Moonbeam Children’s Book Medalist, Mom’s Choice Award, Nautilus Gold Winner, IPPY Book Award, Hicklebee’s Book of the Year, NCIBA Best Illustrated Award, and Reader Views Best Children’s Book. Mr. and Mrs. Meshkin will also be donating a copy of the book to every elementary media center in our county.

3) Community Meetings – The Howard County Police Department will host community meetings to share the Yahoo! Digital Safety program and ASCD materials with citizens to educate adults and youth about responsible usage of new technologies, such as blogs, social media, and text messaging in order to reduce cyberbullying and other harmful behaviors. School Resource Officers will be trained in this program and One-Howard-County invites every middle and high school in Howard County to have a student assembly or other related forum to discuss this program.

4) One-Howard-County Family Nights – Over the upcoming school year, we will organize four (4) One-Howard-County Family Nights where families can join together to learn more about these important issues by listening to speakers and reinforce the concepts through games and hands-on activities. The first event will be held in October 2012.

5) Upstander Alliances – One-Howard-County will work with the National School Climate Center’s BullyBust campaign to create Upstander Alliances at every high school in Howard County. These alliances will promote the “I’m an Upstander” social media and t-shirt campaign to elevate awareness and model behavior among youth and adults. The kick-off for this campaign will occur on Friday, September 21, 2012 at the River Hill Student Leadership Conference.

The One-Howard-County initiative includes an ever-growing Steering Committee of National and Local Leaders, including:

• Yahoo! Trust and Safety Policy Manager, Connie Chung
• Author of the Award-Winning Children’s Book, One, Kathryn Otoshi
• National School Climate Center, Darlene Faster
• Educators School Safety Network, Amanda Klinger, Esq.
• Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety, Officer Holly Lawrence
• Howard County Police Department, Lt. Chris Neubauer
• Howard County Public School System Educator and SGA Advisor at River Hill High School, Kristin Mitchell
• Attorney, Mom of three and researcher on digital safety issues, Catherine Meshkin, Esq.
• Howard County School Board Member, Brian Meshkin

Yahoo! Policy Manager, Connie Chung explains that Yahoo!’s Digital Safety program, developed in conjunction with Holly Lawrence of the City of Sunnyvale Police Department, has offered teens the opportunity to make mistakes a learning experience. After its successful expansion across the State of California, the program creators look forward to bringing this solution to the youth and families of Howard County, Maryland.

Author Kathryn Otoshi states, “I am so touched by the way people across the country have embraced the meaning in “One”. I absolutely thrilled to join Brian Meshkin and his wife, Catherine, in their movement in Howard County – reminding both children and adults that everyone counts! It is my hope that this effort inspires those partaking in bullying to change their ways, and empower those who are being bullied to stand tall! We all have a choice to make… the choice to count! While it just takes one to start change, it is all of us together that will make change happen.”

Molly McCloskey, Managing Director, ASCD Whole Child Programs, explains “Each child deserves to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. The most important word in this list is ‘and’. I am pleased to participate in the One-Howard-County initiative because it recognizes a whole-child approach to education.”

Chief Operating Officer of the National School Climate Center, Darlene Faster, states, “I greatly appreciate the work One-Howard-County is doing to unify the community toward effective bully prevention, cyber safety, education, and action. All of our resources at the National School Climate Center (NSCC) are designed to support a comprehensive school climate improvement and pro-upstander effort, and we are pleased to bring our Upstander Alliance resources to Howard County schools. ”

Catherine Meshkin, Esq. states, “There are many digital dangers that threaten our communities, including cyberbullying and sexting. Sometimes all it requires is one person – one family – one community – to be courageous, stand up and say ‘No’. No one should ever feel badly because he/she is different – it is our differences that make us great. By standing up for one another and standing together, everyONE wins. We hope that One-Howard-County encourages everyone to become an Upstander instead of just a Bystander so that eventually, we will all stand up to the things that would otherwise pull us down.”

School Board Member Brian Meshkin states, “I am honored to work with my wife Catherine, and so many other local and national leaders to create One-Howard-County.” He goes onto explain, “As we learn in Ms. Otoshi’s book, ‘Sometimes it just takes One.’ One person can make a difference and stop cyberbullying. That’s what this is all about. I learned at a young age that we can find meaning in tragic events by working to prevent them from occurring again. Our community has seen the tragic consequences that can result – let us all commit to prevent such tragedies from ever happening again. Cyberbullying by youth and adults alike is destructive to our community and we must do more to educate and inspire.”

A 90-minute kick-off teleconference webinar will be held on Friday, August 24, 2012 at 12 noon (edt) featuring some members of the Steering Committee. Anyone is invited to participate. The webinar will be recorded and posted over the weekend at www.OneHowardCounty.org for further reference and training on the program, along with many other resources. Social media collaborators can use the twitter hashtag #1HoCo and visit the One-Howard-County facebook page.

One-Howard-County intends to begin holding community discussions, parent workshops, family nights, and school assemblies in October 2012. The goal of One-Howard-County is to increase awareness of these digital dangers, educate on ways to avoid or reduce the incidence of these behaviors, and inspire youth and adults to be Upstanders instead of Bystanders.

Please register for One-Howard-County Kick-Off Webinar on Aug 24, 2012 12:00 PM EDT at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4065258770741652992.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

For more information, please contact Catherine Meshkin at 301-725-4675 (catherinemeshkin@yahoo.com) or Brian Meshkin at 410-575-3070 (brian@brianmeshkin.com)

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