Tigers bench bullying in rally to support kids

Kyla Smith
The Detroit News
Dylan Farina, left, 13, and Nick Robinson, second from left, 12, both of LaSalle, Ontario, stand with other students and adults as they take a pledge to stop bullying Wednesday.

Five rows up from the baseball diamond at Comerica Park, Maya Henton nodded her in agreement as FBI special agent David Gelios challenged a group of more than 400 students and teachers to show courage in the face of bullying.

While the 12-year-old herself has not been bullied, she has helped take up for her classmates in the past.

“It’s not right, and I don’t like to see it,” said Maya, who attends Plymouth Educational Center in Detroit. “Not too much bullying goes on now at my school, but me and my friends always try to stick up for others.”

Before the Detroit Tigers geared up for their game against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday, the Tigers organization partnered up with Defeat the Label, a Michigan-based nonprofit that helps empower students to stand up against bullying, to host a Strike Out Bullying rally.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade addresses the crowd at a Strike Out Bullying rally at Comerica Park Wednesday.

Schools from Michigan and Canada were invited to take part in the event as guest speakers included U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade; Anthony Ianni, a former MSU basketball player and Michigan Department of Civil Rights motivational speaker; Kevin Epling, co-director of Bully Police USA; and Mary Drew, Michigan Attorney General administrator for programs and administrator for OK2SAY, a program for students to confidentially report bullying or threatening behavior.

Wayne Hall, of LaSalle, Ontario, stumbled upon the rally while taking his seventh-grade class on a field trip to the ballpark.

“Before the game, we wanted to go on a tour of Ford Field, but we found out about the rally and thought this would be a better idea,” said Hall, teacher at Sacred Heart Catholic School. “Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with any bullying with my class, but we will continue to keep an open dialogue about this subject.”

In 2015, 1 in 4 students report being bullied during the school year, while only 36 percent of students who are bullied report it, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

Ianni talked about celebrities who were bullied while growing up to help students who face similar situations.

“They didn’t let bullying get them down. The same people that you may look up to today had to go through the same thing in school,” Ianni said. “No matter where you come from or what neighborhood you live in, respect everyone. We are a part of a family and the same team.”

Ed Bellaire, of Windsor, Ontario, took his sixth- and seventh-grade class to the event as a way to stress the importance of taking a proactive approach.

“As the expression goes, a hurt person hurts others, but it’s just as important for bystanders to speak up when bullying is going on,” said Bellaire, teacher at St. John’s Catholic School. “It can be tough to say something, but individuals that are not afraid to do so help make the world and society a better place.”

Tamelia Matthews, 12, of Detroit admitted to being bullied when she was younger.

“I was bullied in the fourth grade, and it caused me to have to fight,” said Tamelia, a seventh-grader at Plymouth Educational Center. “I’m glad that the Tigers have programs like this to help students that may be in the same situation that I was once in. This teaches people that there are other ways to solve bullying and to speak up.”

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