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The lasting effects of the Stand for the Silent message

Image: For the Mr. and Miss Deaf Teen Pageant held February 24, Maggie Hangstorfer and Robert Parcells made a presentation on bullying. They were inspired by Kirk Smalley's talk on Stand for the Silent last fall.

For the Mr. and Miss Deaf Teen Pageant held February 24, Maggie Hangstorfer and Robert Parcells made a presentation on bullying. They were inspired by Kirk Smalley's talk on Stand for the Silent last fall.

On October 27, 2011, Kirk Smalley from Perkins, Okla., was the featured speaker of the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) and the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (KDES) Bullying Awareness Week activities. A tall and lanky man dressed in a cap, t-shirt, jeans and boots, Smalley said he is a private person, not a trained public speaker. Regardless, his presentation was 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 promised, in memory of his son, to stop bullying in the world. He and his wife Laura have 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.

The presentation had an immediate and lasting impact. In the months following, bulletin boards which included student thoughts on bullying were put on display. Students could be seen wearing the blue "I am somebody" bracelets Smalley passed out to remind them of his message that, "Together, we can stop bullying." Montolvo said that were positive effects of the presentation and teachers noticed an improvement in how students relate to one another.

The anti-bullying message has also shown up in creative ways at two events in February 2012. In the Mr. and Miss MSSD Teen Pageant, two of the contestants, who made their position presentation on the effects of bullying and teen suicide, referred to the experience of Smalley's talk. For the Optimist International Club Communications Contest for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, two of the KDES contestants addressed bullying in their speeches. Mauricio Orozoco, an eighth grader said, "I want to help the world prevent bullying because I do really care about everyone. I can help the world by asking Kirk Smalley to give presentations...and I will help him so we will be able to 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." Smalley had 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 and the message has taken root.