Personal story of bullying to be told at Northwestern Saturday

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Personal story of bullying to be told at Northwestern Saturday

November 27, 2012

Bullying. It’s a funny-sounding word, but there is nothing humorous about this behavior of unwanted, repeated, aggressive actions, whether it is verbal, social, physical or online.

One in seven students in grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying, according to statistics listed by the National Education Association. And, it is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to a fear of attack or intimidation by other students.

Northwestern Oklahoma State University’s Upward Bound program will shed some light on this topic Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Herod Hall Auditorium as it welcomes Kirk and Laura Smalley of Perkins to the Alva campus for a free public lecture. The Smalleys will share their personal story of how bullying affected their son Ty.

At 11 years old, Ty took his own life after being suspended from school for retaliating against a bully that had been bullying him for more than two years. Since this time in 2010, the Smalley’s have traveled to hundreds of schools and spoken with more than 550,000 students sharing their message under the “Stand for the Silent” platform.

Jaunita Noble, Northwestern’s Upward Bound director, said that high school students of her friend and Upward Bound colleague Francie Moss from Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City were the students who started “Stand for the Silent.”

“Francie’s Upward Bound students wanted to do a service project after reading the book ‘Ultimate Gift,’” Noble said. “They realized the unspoken epidemic of bullying and the effects that it can have on families after they heard the story of Kirk and Laura Smalley’s son, Ty. ‘Stand for the Silent’ exists as a platform to allow Kirk and Laura to share their story, and offer education and tools that will prevent their tragedy from happening to another child and family.”

Noble said that the Northwestern Upward Bound students also read the “Ultimate Gift” during a summer camp, and it was such a hit that author Jim Stovall came to speak to her group last spring. Several of her freshman Ranger Connection students just finished the book this semester.

Bullying has become a high profile topic, and the message on how to stop it is being helped through the March 2012 release of the documentary, “The Bully Project,” directed by Lee Hirsch. The Smalley’s story is featured in this production. Kirk and Laura also attended the first ever White House conference on bullying in 2010 following a private meeting with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Through the “Stand for the Silent” program, Kirk helps to address the issue of school bullying with an engaging, factual and emotional methodology. With the help of student leaders, he presents his inspirational story, and students are shown first-hand the life and death consequences of bullying. Through this unique approach, lives are changed for the better. Students, some for the first time, develop an empathetic awareness through education and understanding.

According to testimonials from a “Stand for the Silent” program brochure, the message is starting to work – not only for those who are bullied, but for those who are doing the bullying, friends of the bullied, parents and teachers.

From the bullied: “I get bullied all the time...It really hurts, and you have just inspired me and taught me that I am somebody! I can make a change!”

From the bully: “I had to admit that I used to be a bully, and you really opened my eyes to what the victims feel, and I burst into tears when I heard the story of your son... you didn’t just stop me from being a bully, but now I am supporting the cause brother.”

And how this message is saving lives: “When you came to speak at our middle school it really made me feel a lot more confident about myself. I admit to thinking about suicide and how I was going to do it because the kids at school always talk about me and hit me when the teachers are not looking. But since you came it has made a difference in my life, and I really can’t explain how thankful I am.”

The brochure also mentions that at the end of each event, pledge cards are given to those who agree to stand for the silent. The pledge speaks of respect and love...hope and aspiration, with the main lesson being, “I Am Somebody.”

This program is free and open to the public.

For additional information about this event or Northwestern’s Upward Bound program, please contact Noble at (580) 327- 8113 or email jrnoble@nwosu.edu.

-NW-