Scott Ball / Rivard Report
With the $10,000 contribution, donated by AT&T to the Hidalgo Foundation, Bibliotech will implement a two-pronged approach to prevent cyberbullying and provide resources to young people and parents who have been affected by it, Bibliotech Special Projects Coordinator Laura Cole told County Commissioners Tuesday.
Through the effort, Bibliotech will provide resources to direct cyberbullying victims to crisis intervention professionals. It will host periodic open houses with public health professionals so students and parents can learn how to effectively process emotions and deal with cyberbullying on their own. The programming will be featured at each of the four Bibliotech branches across the county, including the new Eastside location in the Wheatley Heights Choice Neighborhood that will open this year.
Such an endeavor, Cole said, aligns with the mission of Bibliotech, the first all-digital public library in the United States: "to enhance education and literacy, promote reading as recreation, and equip all members of our community with necessary tools to thrive as citizens of the digital age."
"[Cyberbullying] is alarmingly common among adolescents and teens," said Tracy Wolff, Hidalgo Foundation founder and president and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff's wife. "In order to combat this problem we need to learn to better help and manage teenage emotions that will effectively help them to make better decisions online."
Tracy founded the Hidalgo Foundation as a vehicle to implement "charitable, literary, historical, and educational" efforts for the benefit of all of Bexar County's residents. She has been a staunch, longtime advocate for children and, with Wolff, led a public-private fundraising effort to implement the Bexar County Children's Court, which focuses on the needs of abused and neglected children.
The Hidalgo Foundation's new collaboration with Bibliotech and AT&T coincides with her passion to ensure the wellbeing of all children as it will allow the community to "help young people with this potentially damaging issue.
"Cyberbullying can lead to depression and low self-esteem and even something as horrible as suicide," she said. Just a little more than a year ago, Tracy said, local 16-year-old David Molak, who was a sophomore at Alamo Heights High School, took his own life after months of cyberbullying.
Sen. José Menéndez (D-26) is leading an effort in the Texas Legislature to pass David's Law, a bill aimed at combating cyberbullying, offering more legal resources to victims and their families to investigate cases, and providing additional counseling and rehabilitation services to victims and aggressors.
To read more about David's Law, click here.
Tracy encouraged County Commissioners to use their influence to help get the legislation passed.
"We’ve had several students and parents who have come to us because of cyberbullying their kids have gone through," said Minnie Sanchez, District 26 director. "We look forward to working with Bexar County and Bibliotech and our continued partnership with AT&T."
AT&T made the donation as part of its Aspire Program, which is meant to enhance innovative educational opportunities for students and communities across the nation.
"This contribution underscores AT&T's commitment to helping students graduate high school and stay on track to bright futures," said AT&T Inc. executive and San Antonio Chamber of Commerce chairwoman Renée Flores. "... We believe when we invest in education we’re making our communities stronger and safer and better."
Tracy is confident that the anti-cyberbullying programming will have a broad effect in Bexar County. Since Bibliotech's implementation in 2013, she said, it has received 400,000 onsite hits and an "innumerable" amount of families and children have signed up for their free Bibliotech library cards.
"All Bibliotechs will be able to benefit from this program for kids and parents," she said.