Kirk Smalley brings anti-bullying message to the Clerc Center community
"No more." If Kirk Smalley from Perkins, Okla., had his way, not one more of our "babies," as he refers to the children and teens in our nation, would be bullied ever again. Smalley was the featured speaker of the Bullying Awareness Week activities, held October 24-28. The week's events were coordinated by counselors from Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (KDES) and the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD).
The school counselors engaged the KDES and MSSD students in age-appropriate activities related to bullying and discussed bullying with the students in their classrooms. The students in the early elementary grades participated in read-aloud stories like the Berenstain Bears book, Bullying, while the middle school students and the students from MSSD attended separate presentations given by Smalley on October 27 in MSSD's Theatre Malz. Smalley also gave a community meeting open to the public for parents and adults.
A tall and lanky man dressed in a cap, t-shirt, jeans, and boots, Smalley says he is a private person, not a trained public speaker. Regardless, his presentation is direct and forceful, personal and heart-wrenching. Smalley's 11-year-old son Ty, after two years of bullying at school, finally physically retaliated against his tormenter on May 13, 2010. He was caught and suspended from school. Sadly, he shot and killed himself at home that afternoon.
Smalley now travels the country with his wife, Laura, to honor a promise he made on the first Father's Day after his son's death. He promised, in memory of his son, to stop bullying in the world. Since then, Smalley has brought his message to over 90 schools and community organizations reaching over 100,000 youths and adults. His visit to KDES and MSSD was his first encounter with schools for deaf and hard of hearing children.
On the stage during each presentation, on a row of chairs, were large photographs of children who had committed suicide. Smalley told their stories as well as his son's. He emphasized the need for awareness of the effects of bullying, even in children as young as six. Studies have shown, he said, that 25% of children have contemplated suicide and many have a plan on how to carry it out.
The power of the presentation touched many in the audiences. Counselors were on hand to support students during the presentation, and they were available for the rest of the evening for MSSD students who reside on campus. "The students expressed that they were sad about those kids who had killed themselves," said Lisa Montolvo, MSSD school counselor. "It led them to apologize to each other after the presentation for hurts they may have caused others. They signed the poster against bullying." Montolvo said that the positive effects of the presentation will be long-lasting. She said the school plans to start a support group for anti-bullying and a chapter of "Stand for the Silent," an anti-bullying club for students.
Smalley urged the students in the audience to reach out for help, and to sign the pledge to not be a bully or to support bullying. He encouraged the students in his audiences that if they remember one thing from his talk, they should remember, "I am somebody." He passed out blue bracelets to remind them of this message, and said, "Together, we can stop bullying."
"We know our message is working," said Laura Smalley. "Children have told us there is less bullying in their schools after our visit. We have gotten messages from children who have heard our talk and decided to stop being bullies themselves."