Bullying Awareness: StompOutBullying.org · Pacer National Bullying Prevention
Helplines: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) · GBLT 1-800-246-PRIDE (7743) · Online Chat
Eric and Jessie Decker (NY Jets) · Signs of Suicidal Behavior · NJ Bullying Prevention Coalition
Source: USA Today
On Sept. 24, 2003, freshman John Jason McLaughlin brought a gun into Rocori High School in Cold Spring, Minnesota, and shot 14-year-old Seth Bartell and 17-year-old Aaron Rollins. McLaughlin was found guilty of first- and second-degree murder. During his trial, the issue of whether McLaughlin had been teased — or bullied — by Bartell about his severe acne was often mentioned as a possible motive.
New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker remembers being in the school lunchroom when the “Code Red” ominously blared over the intercom. As teachers frantically tried to move students to safety, Decker headed to the library with 10 other kids who piled into a closet and locked the door behind them.
“For about two years after that, I was just on edge always, just with people around me and in certain settings. It was definitely tough.”
Bullying is an issue also hits home for his wife, country music star Jesse James Decker. As a self-described “military kid,” moving 12 times and always trying to fit in, things were worst in Newnan, Georgia, from seventh through 11th grades.
“I was tortured, pretty much, by these kids,” she said during a phone interview. “I think it messed with me so much that I still to this day can’t drive by a school without some anxiety or just feeling sick to my stomach.”
At one sleepover, a girl she had never met poured what she called “a huge bucket of slop” over her head — “It was like something out of the movie ‘Carrie,'” she said.
Decker was also voted to the homecoming court by her choir peers, then was booed by many students when her name was announced. She remembers being chased between classes by girls with scissors wanting to cut her waist-length hair. There was also the “I Hate Jessie James Club” website that someone started.
Those experiences drove the Deckers to partner with STOMP Out Bullying, along with his wife Jessie, to educate students, teachers and parents.
The Jets launched an anti-bullying campaign by donating 1,000 prevention toolkits to area schools, and the Deckers wanted to be ambassadors to the program through their foundation.
Decker, the father of two young children. “I think it starts, obviously, at home with proper communication and just not holding things in. That sort of escalates some situations.”
The NFL experienced a bullying scandal in 2013, when then-Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin accused teammates Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey of harassing him. That incident sparked debate about the culture of sports, whether athletes go too far with hazing young players.
Eric Decker acknowledged there’s a “macho man” mentality to sports, but thinks the line is crossed when things get too personal — no matter how old people are.
“I always just want to ask the question, ‘Why? What makes you want to tease someone else?'” he said. “I understand, obviously, there’s always little jabs and even at our age, we’ll tease our good friends. But it’s about when it becomes very personal and whether it’s their appearance or learning ability — things that might be really sensitive. Unless you really know the person, why would you ever do that?”
“I think the message needs to be put across that it feels a lot better to be nice to people than it does to be mean,” Jessie Decker said. “Hurting people maybe lasts a few seconds for you, but to do something really great for somebody, that lasts forever.”