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Cool to be kind: MLB joins anti-bullying platform

Shred Hate initiative to launch in 3 markets in 2017-18, then expand
MLB.com @Marathoner

More than 10 million students report being bullied each year in the U.S., according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Education, and those are just the ones who report it. That translates to nearly one in every four students, meaning someone's child is being bullied right now at a school somewhere near you.

"Young people should be able to enjoy a positive and formative time in school and in sports," Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "Students who are experiencing anything less deserve our support."

More than 10 million students report being bullied each year in the U.S., according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Education, and those are just the ones who report it. That translates to nearly one in every four students, meaning someone's child is being bullied right now at a school somewhere near you.

"Young people should be able to enjoy a positive and formative time in school and in sports," Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "Students who are experiencing anything less deserve our support."

To that end, MLB is adding a significant active bully-prevention role to its overall youth character education programming, one day after using its platform to stand in solidarity with youth through the inaugural Little League Classic. MLB announced on Monday that it will work with ESPN on its initiative called Shred Hate, an innovative program created to put an end to bullying in schools and to help youth choose kindness.

No Bully, a nonprofit group that trains schools how to activate student compassion to eradicate bullying and cyberbullying, will work directly with local school districts through this program. Shred Hate was launched in January at the X Games Aspen, Colo., and the program was able to reduce 94 percent of bullying cases in the Colorado schools that implemented the No Bully system.

Shred Hate will be active during the 2017-18 academic year in schools within three MLB markets -- Chicago, Washington and Minneapolis -- and will expand to additional cities following the initial launch year. MLB and ESPN will collaborate with No Bully on its curriculum and will support the initiative through various multimedia platforms and other promotional activities.

"Major League Baseball and our clubs believe in creating respectful, non-discriminatory and anti-harassment environments in our ballparks, clubhouses and front offices," Manfred said. "We are proud to extend that approach through Shred Hate as we work with our partners at ESPN and No Bully to make a meaningful impact on the development of our society's future leaders."

"Bullying has become an epidemic across our country, and the timing couldn't be more critical to take action," said ESPN president John Skipper. "We're thrilled that MLB has joined ESPN and X Games to eradicate bullying through Shred Hate. With our combined resources and reach, our impact will be tangible."

Many of the programs listed at MLBCommunity.org include character education programming, so Shred Hate's practices become part of a broader year-round effort off the field that allows MLB to reach youth who need a helping hand. Some of the many other examples would include Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life; Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI); the MLB Urban Youth Academy in ever-increasing locations; and Boys & Girls Clubs of America events to foster safe learning environments.

MLB will apply best practices and share key learnings from Shred Hate through its various youth initiatives. Additionally, No Bully will work with both MLB and ESPN to integrate baseball themed-components into curricula after the initial launch year.

"Schools trained in the No Bully system are solving over 90 percent of bullying incidents," said Nicholas Carlisle, the founder of No Bully. "This initiative will prevent students from suffering from what so many of us endured when we were in school."

One of those who endured bullying in school was Hall of Famer Johnny Bench. Last fall, he unveiled an unrelated program using an app made available to more than 5,000 schools nationwide, so that bullying is reported. Bench said he still remembers two boys who bullied him when he was in eighth grade more than 50 years ago.

"There is way too much bullying going on in schools these days, and cyberbullying is the No. 3 cause of teen suicide in our country," Bench said. "I have school-age kids, and I want every child protected as much as possible."

Through the Shred Hate program, cooperating schools will utilize the No Bully system, an innovative non-disciplinary model that guides K-12 school leaders and teachers through an integrated series of leadership coaching sessions, teacher trainings and parent workshops to create and sustain a bully-free culture for the long term. The system provides schools with an alternative to suspension and promotes an environment revolving around cooperation and respect to ensure compliance with state and federal anti-bullying laws.

A No Bully facilitator, who will be assigned to each participating school, will travel to administer trainings around the No Bully coaching leadership team guide and be available throughout the program for support.

Program monitoring and evaluation will play a central role in Shred Hate. Key performance indicators will include reduced solution of incidents of bullying, reduction of severity and incidents of bullying, active student engagement in solutions, active parent/guardian and community engagement in bullying resolution, and additional positive shifts in behavior.

For more information about MLB's outreach programs, please visit MLBCommunity.org.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Follow him @Marathoner and read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com/blogs hub.