Video Story is located here.
I was at Royal Oak Middle and granted an interview with Prince Fielder and Phil Coke as they talked about bullying as they grew up. For Phil Coke, it was extremely painful. My video story and interview links will be available over the weekend.
‘Strike Out Bullying’ event held at Royal Oak Middle School
ROYAL OAK — Phil Coke was just a little guy when he remembers getting a “pink belly,” but Prince Fielder was a big guy and he got bullied by the little kids.
“People tend to notice if you’re easy going — people have to pick on you,” Fielder told students at Royal Oak Middle School for the school district’s first ever “Strike Out Bullying” event on Thursday.
“It’s a tough thing to go through,” Fielder said as the crowd in the jam-packed school auditorium listened to its baseball heroes talk about when they were bullied.
“I was one of the little athletic kids,” Coke told the audience made up of students, teachers, parents and out-of-district students who won essay contests to be part of the event. “It was always words. Kids can be so cruel. It can be as bad as being punched in the face.”
Coke said the “pink belly” he received came from kids holding his arms and legs while other kids “slap your belly as hard as you can.”
“Let someone know,” Coke said. “They (bullies) like to pick on the big guy or the little guy.”
Fielder and Coke were joined on stage by Mario Impemba, the Fox Sports Detroit television broadcaster for the Tigers.
“Today these kids have their heroes telling them not to be a bystander when someone is getting bullied,” he said.
The former Sterling Heights Stevenson graduate said he was routinely bullied. “For me in high school it was mostly words,” Impemba said. “I decided to disarm them and just laugh at what they said.”
Zoe Marcus, principal at Royal Oak Middle School, said Thursday’s anti-bullying events reinforced what teachers in the Royal Oak Schools are preparing their students for.
“For the Royal Oak community, we have a huge focus on bullying in our schools,” she said. “We kick off an anti-bullying program called Olweus on Feb. 15.”
Royal Oak Middle School science teacher Debbie Taylor brought her 9-year-old son, Brennan, to the event. “There is a bullying presentation program we are going to be implementing called Olweus, which is named after a Swedish gentleman that helps kids become aware of bullying in their schools. I wanted to see today’s program and wanted to bring my son.”
The Tigers and school officials from Royal Oak, including Superintendent Lewis Lakin, were graced by the presence and presentation from U.S. Attorney General Barbara McQuade.
“I am also a mom,” McQuade told the overflow audience, then asked the crowd questions.
“Bullying is when someone is mean to you,” one young boy answered as McQuade had the crowd screaming in unison to stop bullying.
“You might be a bystander,” she said, “but if a bystander steps in then it helps.”
Robert Foley, a special agent for the FBI Detroit office, spoke briefly before the Tigers arrived to tell their stories.
“This is about taking the positive steps to create a positive environment,” Foley said. “Create a culture of support.”
The support was none more evident than with the children and students in the audience.
Hannah Hutton, 10, of Wilde Elementary School in Warren, and Isabella Johnson, 11, of Hunter Elementary School in Trenton, were both able to sit on stage with the players after they won essay contests at their schools.
“I wrote about a girl getting bullied: They told her she was pretty and they pranked her,” Hutton said. “She is truly an inspiration to me.”
Still, the inspiration on Thursday was Fielder and Coke telling their stories of being bullied and how to combat it.
“You and your friends can tell the bully to stop, but if that doesn’t work, tell an adult,” Fielder said. “If you don’t speak up, the bullying will go on.”
According to statistics, bullying can take place at school, on the playground or in your neighborhood.
Guest speakers also warned students that bullying is now taking the form of taunting and verbal abuse through electronic devices and the Internet.
Cellphones, smart phones, laptops and home computers have given kids ways to communicate that their parents could only have dreamed of. And increasingly, text messages, blogs and social websites such as Facebook are being used to embarrass, taunt, threaten or harass other students.
According to the Strike Out Bullying website, the problem has grown to the point that the nation’s Centers for Disease Control, which monitors health and social problems, released a package of materials to help students, parents and schools push back against what it calls “electronic aggression.”
As many as one in three adolescents may now be victims of electronic aggression each year, according to studies by the CDC and the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Electronic aggression is a bigger problem than what used to be called “cyber bullying” on the Internet, because it’s more than an Internet issue.
“If you see someone getting bullied, you know it’s not right,” Fielder said. “Help them out; tell someone; tell a teacher. Tell the bully what he’s doing is not nice.”