Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson visited J.O. Wilson Elementary School in Washington, D.C., to lecture about bullying prevention to students.
Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson visited J.O. Wilson Elementary School in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to discuss ways to prevent bullying to students.
DeSean Jackson hushed the room of enthusiastic J.O. Wilson Elementary students. Then, after giving a brief introduction, he made an odd request.
"Raise your hand if you're a bully," he said, inviting those brave and honest enough to stand beside him in front of their peers.
Twelve kids were willing to join the Redskins wide receiver, who continued his efforts to promote and assist with Playworks Bullying Prevention programs and activities, teaching children effective ways to handle potentially harmful social interactions.
"When you have kids and they're all around each other, there are certain dominant forces that kids are scared of," Jackson said after he spoke to the students. "I wanted to call out the bullies to let them be the example first, let everybody in the crowd see that these are the people that are supposed to be the bullies and the tough people, so let's see if they are really bold enough and willing to admit they're bullies."
That's where Jackson believes it's important to start: admission. Once kids are able to reflect on their aggression and the reasons they hurt others, he says, that's when change begins to occur.
"I grew up in the inner city and [those] were the obstacles that I had to face," Jackson said. "I've never really been a bully or got bullied, but I was around it and I understood and saw what it led to… It's a huge topic."
As he went down the row, students described what frustrated them, what caused them to start fights and bully others. Jackson then intervened, offering advice for future scenarios – using a game like "rock, paper, scissors" to sort out conflicts.
"I've been doing this going on eight years and it's something I love to do, I'm never forced to do it," Jackson said. "I feel like I can relate to them. I'm not the biggest guy out there but I play a big man's game. So I want to be able to come and just relate to them."
Following Jackson's bullying lecture was a Q&A, in which the three-time Pro Bowler answered questions both serious and lighthearted about his athleticism and his personal history.
"They always kind of keep me on the edge," Jackson said. "They always catch me off guard. I love the energy these kids give."
Some of the relationships Jackson has made throughout his years of service continue to develop, transcending his brief lectures. One of these kids – Nadin Khoury, whom Jackson met while a member of the Eagles – was attacked by several classmates a few years ago. He continues to use Jackson for guidance.
"To this day, me and him continue to talk. I've changed his life in a dramatic way," said Jackson, who made sure to distinguish methods of protecting yourself from someone and instigating with others.
"It's just the positive influence, having somebody care," he said. "A lot of times there's things that go on and it's not heard about. To be able to put it on that bigger scale…so it doesn't go unnoticed… I want people to understand that this is what we have to deal with in the community."