OSSINING, N.Y. – As Kirk Smalley spoke about the bullying that led to his 11-year-old son’s suicide, dozens of Ossining middle school students showed their support by holding up their hands in the sign language for “I love you.”
Smalley, an Oklahoma native, spoke at three assemblies this week at Ossining’s Anne M. Dorner Middle School about his son’s story and an anti-bullying movement known as Stand for the Silent. Parents, school officials and students said Thursday there were no words to describe the impact of Smalley’s story of Ty Field-Smalley, who took his own life at age 11 after being suspended from school for retaliating against a bully.
“I’m thrilled the school district had the courage to bring such a powerful program to the district,” said parent Lisa Rudley, who has a student in seventh grade at AMD. “The program itself was a very powerful message that will help kids that are bullied and the ones doing the bullying. I think it’s going to help our kids come together and stop this. I was really touched by the program and the message that the kids that are the bullies need help too.”
Stand For The Silent began in 2010 when a group of students from Oklahoma State University heard the story of Ty Field-Smalley. Today, Kirk Smalley tours school districts around the world to teach them of the effects of bullying and things they can do to stop it. The presentations at AMD included not only the story of Ty, but four other students from around the world who died from suicide following relentless bullying. The program was co-organized through AMD’s STARS program and Ossining Communities That Care.
CTC president Alice Joselow said the program touched many students and staff who are “poised for action to break the cycle of bullying.”
“I have been working in partnership with the schools for over 20 years and this 'Stand For The Silent' program was the most challenging, thoughtful and inspiring program that I have ever seen,” she said. “This is an assembly that will live on and provoke the kids to take action on themselves to support and stand up for their peers.”
Joselow added that many parents, students and school officials don’t realize the impact that bullying can have on children today.
“Bullying is a really harsh and difficult reality for children and it’s very different now. Kids are faced with digital and cyber bullying as well as the in-person bullying today. It’s much tougher on kids because it’s constant,” she said. ““A lot of people look at the solution to bullying as providing caring adults for children. That’s important, but the real key to breaking that cycle is to change the culture of the children themselves and empower them to stand up for the silent.”
For more information on the Stand For The Silent program, visit the group’s website. Students interested in joining AMD’s “STARS Stand up Against Bullying” club can join during the next session beginning Jan. 16.