At first glance, Adrienne DeBauche and Allison Olean seem like two pretty, bright-eyed, carefree 16-year-old girls.
When looking at the girls at Sky Sox stadium on Saturday, it was hard to believe that both Falcon High School students had been victims of months of vicious cyberbullying that drove both into a dangerous depression. Both girls had been spiraling downward, feeling more and more alone, when anonymous people reported their cases to Safe- 2Tell, an organization that intervenes with teens who need help.
After they got help, the girls became voices for Safe2Tell, and on Saturday, they were participating in a different kind of call to attention for anti-bullying: a concert at Security Service Field. About 200 people attended the concert, most of them high school kids and their families.
The concert was the brainchild of Mindy Quinn, a marketing and communications specialist for Falcon School District 49, who hopes that it will not only change the conversation about bullying, but amplify it as well. For Olean and DeBauche, a concert to target bullying is far more engaging than the typical spiel that most middle and high schoolers get about bullying.
Olean knew about bullying - it happens, and it's bad. But when she quit the high school's cheerleading team a year ago and was barraged with harassing text messages from former teammates, she never thought of that as bullying, she said.
"They did what they could to make me feel worthless, useless," she said.
After about a year of cruel treatment by girls who had been her friends, Olean left a vaguely suicidal message on Twitter. Soon afterward, a group of police officers showed up at her mom's house at 10 p.m. to talk to the teen. Her mother had no clue about what had been going on - she was heartbroken, Olean said.
With Facebook, Twitter and texting, bullying has entered into a new realm that most parents are unprepared for, Quinn said. Teenagers going through puberty can be prone to nastiness - everyone does it on some level, Olean said - but the Internet gives rumors and hateful comments a large audience.
DeBauche was bullied through Facebook, after a fellow middle schooler spread a slanderous rumor on the social networking site - a rumor so embarrassing that she couldn't talk about it Saturday.
For months, teachers, strangers at school and friends asked DeBauche if the rumor was true - although it wasn't, her confidence began to erode. She became depressed and suicidal, until another anonymous person called Safe2Tell, and a school counselor intervened. She spoke to the counselor every day for a long time, she said. Her parents also had no idea what she was going through, she said.
Talking about cyberbullying in between local acts is far better than just lecturing on it, DeBauche said.
"We're not just talking about it," she said.
Kids always hear things about "no bullying, no bullying," Olean added, "but it's nothing new. A concert makes it fun."
Contact Ryan Maye Handy: 636-0261