COQUILLE – Toneata Morgan, Miss Oregon USA 2018, gave presentations at two Oregon middle school assemblies last week about the dangers of cyberbullying and how to report and prevent it.
On Jan. 3, Morgan spoke at Harbor Lights Middle School in Bandon. On Jan. 5, she made her presentation to students at Coffenberry Middle School in Myrtle Creek.
Morgan emphasized that encouraging kindness starts with everyone, from avoiding gossip to re-thinking a message before posting. She asked the students to consider being responsible and kind and standing up for others.
After her talks, she met with the students, answered questions, signed autographs and posed for photographs with them. Her presentations were well received, with students posting favorable comments on her Facebook (www.facebook.com/missoregon usa) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/missorusa) such as:
“It was so amazing seeing you thank u so much for come in to our school.”
“i was there. it was truly remarkable and touched my heart :,). i’m so glad you decided to do this. you are truly a blessing :)”
“It was a honer to have u at our school,”
“I got a picture with you you are so inspiring.”
“It was great meeting you today it meant a lot considering there are so many things in life that nobody wants to talk about. You are truly an inspiration thank you for coming.”
“I was there and I loved to speech and you are a beautiful and smart woman !! Thank you.”
“It actually made me think a lot.”
Morgan has two platforms that she is promoting during her reign as Miss Oregon USA 2018: Honoring and supporting veterans, and increasing awareness of cyberbullying and its devastating impact on Oregon’s youth.
Morgan said she has a close connection with each of these issues. Her late father was a recipient of the Purple Heart Award, and she personally has experienced cyberbullying as a student and in her professional life.
She attended the assemblies with her mother, who is also named Toneata, but who goes by Toni.
“I thought maybe it would be too hard for the students to hear about cyberbullying and suicide,” Morgan said after the Bandon assembly. “It’s scary that kids their age are committing suicide, but then I thought that maybe they should be scared a little. It’s very serious and we need to talk about it and maybe someone will come forth and report cyberbullying if they see it going on.”
HLMS Principal Deirdre Pearson said she was impressed with Morgan's presentation.
"We take bullying and harassment very seriously," Pearson said.
The following paragraph is from the school's handbook, located online at the HLMS website:
("Harassment and/or bullying of others will not be tolerated ... Students who feel they are being harassed are encouraged to tell the aggressor that their behavior is unacceptable and that they need to stop. However, if the harassment continues, students need to seek help from a school official.")
“We were so pleased to welcome Miss Toneata Morgan to HLMS,” Pearson said. “She is a gracious and accomplished young lady and her message about cyberbullying is timely and relevant."
Pearson said she and other staff members have seen evidence of cyberbullying among HLMS students and are working diligently to educate kids about the dangers and how to prevent it.
“This assembly with Miss Oregon USA builds on a grade 7th-12th assembly we held last year in conjunction with Bandon High School about staying safe on social media," Pearson said. "I was glad that we were able to involve our entire student body (5th-8th grades). They loved meeting Miss Morgan and her message really seemed to resonate.”
At HLMS, teachers and staff build on the lessons learned at the elementary level about the difference between bullying and conflict, and how to address both. In the school’s 5th and 6th grade classrooms, school counselor Craig Anderson leads a series of structured discussions about conflict management. Conflict is a normal part of growing up, and students can learn skills to manage it appropriately, Anderson said, including getting an adult if needed.
Bullying has specific elements that go beyond normal conflict: It is one-sided, targeted, reflects a power differential, happens over time and happens after adult intervention.
“The assembly was one event associated with Harbor Lights’ ongoing anti-bullying and harassment campaign, which includes staff trainings, targeted responses to bullying incidents and classroom presentations and discussions by the counselor,” Anderson said. “These discussions focus on educating students about what bullying is and is not, the rules and expectations at school and options they have for dealing with it if it does happen.”
Morgan will be speaking to students in the Portland/Salem area next. She will give talks about kindness and stopping cyberbullying at schools throughout the state and intends to spread her message nationwide when she represents Oregon in the Miss USA competition this summer.
For more images and video clips of her talks, visit the Miss Oregon USA Facebook and Instagram pages.