Anti-Bullying Movement: Father Shares Story of Son's Suicide with Wausau Students

By: Madeline Anderson Email
By: Madeline Anderson Email

Bullying at school and online has been in the local news a lot lately, from racially-motivated fights breaking out during lunch, to Facebook "Confessions" pages that target fellow classmates.

But at Horace Mann Middle, teachers and students are using instances of bullying to create positive change in their hallways.

Through the Wausau School Foundation's grant project, "I Am Somebody," speaker Kirk Smalley shared his personal story of loss with the school Tuesday, in an effort to prevent what happened to his son, from happening here.

"Ty was picked on for a little over two years by a kid, mainly because he was small for his age," Smalley said. "One day he finally had enough. And ever since then we've been going to schools all over the world trying to make it stop."

Smalley's son, Ty, committed suicide in 2010, when he was just 11 years old. The Oklahoma father started an anti-bullying organization called "Stand for the Silent" in honor of Ty. He's traveled all around the world, appeared on CNN, and even met with President Obama.

During his presentation at Horace Mann, many students became incredibly emotional when Smalley told them about Ty.

"Hearing about people who have gone through that, it makes it more real," said 8th grader Karrington Nowak. "Just to see the emotion on his face and everyone around me. It's ridiculous that's things can be so emotional. That the world is so hard that it's cause people to do these things."

Since starting the "I Am Somebody" campaign in the beginning of the school year, 6th grade teacher Sarah Murphy says she's already seen a change in people's attitudes.

"Kids are opening up to us like we've never seen," Murphy said.

Nowak attributes that to speakers like Smalley. "In the last couple months, I've seen no problems," she said. "More groups seem to be more accepting to people now. It's been really nice."

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