By Danielle McCartan (@CoachMcCartan)
FLORHAM PARK, NJ- The New York Jets are doing their part to tackle an off-the-field epidemic: bullying. On any given day, 8% of students, afraid of being bullied, stay home from school (STOMP Out Bullying).
On August 22, 2016, the Jets invited 150 Tri-State area educators, bullying coordinators, and administrators to an inaugural anti-bullying conference at the Atlantic Health Center in Florham Park, New Jersey. Hosted by CBS NY’s sports anchor Otis Livingston, panel discussions were followed by Question and Answer sessions with experts, including: “America’s Psychologist” Dr. Jeffrey Gardere, Ross Ellis, founder of STOMP Out Bullying, Nick DeMauro, founder of L.E.A.D. (Law Enforcement Against Drugs), and Bruce Harper, former Jets running back and founder of Heroes and Cool Kids, a school-based mentorship program.
Ellis, founder of the largest anti-bullying group in the country, citing their celebrity, called the NFL players’ involvement “critically important”. WR Eric Decker, taking time out of his practice routine, surprised the educators in attendance. Decker, through PSAs and visits to local schools, has been at the forefront of the Jets’ anti-bullying movement. Today, he shared a story of how, when he was a student, he experienced a school shooting at Rocori High School in Minnesota.
He explained that the student, a freshman, was bullied by a senior, and shot two classmates, fatally wounding one of them. After offering his gratitude to those combatting the epidemic on the front lines, Decker ran off to begin today’s practice, after which he stayed and signed autographs and posed for photos with every educator.
Most notable were the discussions about students being taught to be an “Upstander”, rather than a bystander, when bullying happens. Livingston called for change, citing the videos of bullying that exist online while most onlookers film instead of intervene. By building empathy and self-esteem, teachers can empower their students to stand up against a bully, thus, becoming an upstander. In fact, the Jets Tackle Bullying, for the 2016-2017 school year, have launched an “Upstander of the Week ” program, where they will feature, on their social media accounts and on the video boards at MetLife Stadium, an student who exhibits this characteristic. Students must be nominated by a teacher. In this manner, they hope to create an internal cultural movement in an attempt to eradicate an issue that plagues thousands of students world-wide. For more information, search #JetsTackleBullying on social media or click here.
Thanks to the 150+ educators at our anti-bullying symposium!#JetsTackleBullying 📷➡️ https://t.co/sXaskv9qGz pic.twitter.com/UzKoyYUwh0
— New York Jets (@nyjets) August 22, 2016