"Sports give you a reason to open up about bullying. I have a friend who was bullied when we were kids, and he never talked about it to anybody. But when we got to the field, he could talk to us about it. He confided in our coach, and we were able to talk to him and help him. He's a college professor now."
Buxton was one of several speakers who addressed the issue of bullying at the Shred Hate school assembly on Tuesday. A multifaceted bullying prevention program that seeks to eliminate bullying by encouraging kids to choose kindness, Shred Hate was created by ESPN, and it has partnered with the X Games and MLB to help kids proactively eliminate bullying.
Tuesday's event welcomed children and faculty from Eastern Heights Elementary, Jennings Community School, Minnesota Excellence in Learning Academy and Washington Tech to tour Target Field and hear speeches from Buxton and well as X Games three-sport athlete Mike Schultz and ESPN X Games host and reporter Victoria Arlen. The Twins also provided tickets to the Tuesday night game vs. the Tigers for students in attendance, as well as 800 more students from all six "Shred Hate" schools in the Twin Cities.
Schultz and Arlen, each of whom also have won Paralympic gold medals during their careers, also discussed solutions to bullying.
"Instead of bullying somebody, we can learn about them. We can learn their story," Schultz said.
As part of the program, No Bully, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that trains and gives schools the tools to activate student compassion as a method for eradicating bullying and cyberbullying, provides innovative, bullying prevention curriculum, and works directly with local school districts and cooperating schools.
According to Shred Hate, schools that have gone through the curriculum had a 90 percent reduction in instances of bullying. More than 25,000 students across 42 schools participated in Shred Hate programming in the 2017-18 school year in Chicago, Colorado, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C.
Robin King, a restorative practices coordinator at Eastern Heights Elementary, praised the program for putting initiative upon the students to prevent bullying, rather than relying on teachers and supervisors.
"I think, really, the kids are the tools and become the most powerful," King said. "We just facilitate the conversations. The kids are the people that come up with the ideas about how they're going to improve a child's life; how they're going to step up when they see something happening and how they are going to invite a person to be a part of their community."
Former Major League outfielder and current vice president and special assistant to the Commissioner Billy Bean, who helped connect the program to baseball, said part of the reason why the Twin Cities region was one of the three inaugural areas chosen to host the program in their schools last summer because the X Games were taking place there, in addition to the Twins' overall commitment to making a difference in the community. He hopes to see the program continue to grow and eventually expand to all 30 Major League markets, which would see the No Bully curriculum be implemented in schools within those cities.
"It's just a great celebration that they can meet someone like Byron and get close and personal," Bean said. "It's a day of celebration for the work that has been going on for the past few weeks."
Jarrid Denney is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis.