Tuesday, October 15, 2013
It was a moving scene at Dubose Middle School on Thursday as the Stand for the Silent program to stop bullying came to the school.
The hand sign for “I love you” is the adopted sign of SFTS and co-founder Kirk Smalley told the audience that it also stands for support. A majority of the children, many of whom were teary-eyed, held the sign in the air for the remainder of the presentation.
“God it’s powerful,” he said of the kids using the sign. “We’ve had football and basketball players holding up the sign and it all really means a lot.”
Smalley and his wife Laura’s 11-year-old son Ty was a victim of intense bullying in school. Smalley said that his son was beat up, called names and tortured until he got an afternoon phone call from his wife. Ty had retaliated against a bully, was suspended, and then took his own life on the floor of his parent’s bedroom.
“Laura worked at his school and after Ty died she heard some kids still making fun of him after he died,” an emotional Smalley told the stunned crowd. “A mother shouldn’t have to hear those things about her baby that just died.”
The Smalleys, natives of Perkins, Okla., handed out rubber bracelets to the crowd with the program’s name engraved. In the last seven years, 55,000 American kids have committed suicide due to bullying and one in four kids will have a suicide plan before they graduate from high school Kirk told the audience.
The background on Kirk’s phone is a picture of Ty; his phone is filled with dozens of them. The Smalleys have been to hundreds of schools and spoken to over 670,000 kids to raise awareness of the dangers of bullying.
“It’s all about awareness and we not only need to get it out in the schools, but in the community,” he said. “We shouldn’t hate; hatred is lonely. Kids are smart and they get that.”
An eighth grade girl from Texas coined the phrase “lmL” that resembles the hand symbol the program uses. She then spent six hours at the Oklahoma City Zoo teaching the hand sign to a gorilla who now greets visitors with the sign.
Country music singer Morgan Frazier recently partnered up with SFTS, performing her song “Hey Bully” after Kirk spoke.
“This cause is important to me because I got bullied growing up,” she said. “When I saw their presentation on YouTube it really touched me and I had to help.”
Frazier is currently on tour and will be in Hayward, Wis. on Friday. She has performed “Hey Bully” at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and hopes to visit more schools with the Smalleys. She believes that one reason for the harrowing statistics Kirk mentioned is a child’s perception that they don’t have support.
“I think that’s why a lot of kids end their lives -- because they think they’re alone. There are people they can talk to and resources online, they’re not alone and they need to realize that.”