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Detroit students will take a stand against bullying on May 3 in Campus Martius

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An old English children’s rhyme we’re all familiar with says, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.” Back in 1862 when this was written, there was no Internet or cyber-bullying. Today, bullying is on the rise in schools and neighborhoods here and across the globe.

profile-imageOn Friday, May 3 in metro Detroit and around the world, several million people will gather to take a stand against bullying during STAND4CHANGE Against Bullying Day. In Detroit the event takes place in Campus Martius.

Organizers from Bloomfield Hills-based Defeat the Label say young people are under more pressure than ever, resorting to viscous retaliation or even harming themselves to try to get some relief.

Defeat the Label was started two years ago by Jeff Sakwa and partner Kevin Goldman in response to what they say is an alarming trend.

“There is probably no school that hasn’t been affected by bullying in some form,” Sakwa said. “The three biggest challenges any school faces are funding, drugs and bullying.”

According to website BullyingStatistics.com, about 71-percent of students report bullying as an ongoing problem. By all indications, these 2010 figures are tending even higher as students become increasingly more connected at younger and younger ages.

Here are some additional statistics:

  • Every 7 minutes a child is bullied. (The U.S. Department of Justice)
  • 1 in 7 students is either a bully or a victim of bullying. (www.education.com)
  • 160,000 students stay home from school every day for fear of bullying. (National Association of School Psychologists)

Defeat the Label has organized STAND4CHANGE Against Bullying Day on May 3 to take a collective stand against bullying in schools and communities across the globe. The international call to action rally will happen in Campus Martius Park as well as in more than 3,500 schools on every continent.

Matt Epling

Matt Epling

Local businesses, educators, students and area residents will gather from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm. Rally attendees will hear from students, local celebrities and speakers like Kevin Epling, father of Matt Epling. Matt ended his life in 2002 after being bullied. Following his Bullycide (The act of killing oneself as the direct result of bullying) his father helped enact, “Matt’s Safe School Law” or Michigan Act 451, which was effective as of December 6, 2011.

Out of the horrible loss the Epling family experienced, Matt’s father and mother, Kevin and Tammy, have continuously worked to bring light to this issue, which causes one in ten students to either drop out or change schools.

“We lost our only son and the world lost a bright star that faded far too soon,” they say on their website. “We have dedicated ourselves to making sure that no child goes through what Matt did and no family goes through what we have.”

Kevin and Tammy Epling

Kevin and Tammy Epling

Last year, the Michigan Senate delivered a proclamation making the first Friday of May an official “Stand 4 Change” day, and with the support of the National Educational Association, the initiative has become an international movement, with 170 countries and 30 million teachers worldwide invited to participate.

Sakwa says the goals for the rally are awareness, action and to raise funds for Defeat the Label, a 501(c)3 organization, which up to this point has been funded by Sakwa and Goldman.

Among supporters of the rally are the Detroit Red Wings, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. While the big names are nice to have, Sakwa encourages everyone to get involved. Raised funds will support the programs’ expansion into additional schools as well as the development of a mobile app that will give students a tool to report bullying as it happens.

Defeat the Label offers these three tips for students facing bullying:

  1. Make sure you tell an adult about the abuse
  2. Know that you are not the only one experiencing this
  3. Don’t plan to retaliate

Event details:

WHAT:                   STAND4CHANGE Against Bullying Day 

WHEN:                   Friday, May 3, 2013; 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

WHERE:                 Campus Martius Park, 800 Woodward Ave. in Detroit             

DETAILS:               The event is free

For more information, please visit the Defeat the Label website at http://defeatthelabel.com/, follow them on Facebook or on Twitter.

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