Students stand for the silent


On Father’s Day, seven days after his son’s death, Kirk Smalley made a promise to his son.

“I promised Ty I would stop bullying in our world. I never break promises to my boy,” Smalley said.

The room grew silent and as people dabbed their tears, Smalley told them exactly why he couldn’t do it.

“I can’t keep my promise to my boy. I can’t do it alone. I’m not asking you to do this for me. I’m not even asking you to do this for Ty. Do it for your kid. Do it for your grandbaby,” Smalley said.

Smalley’s story was first told through the 2011 documentary “Bully.” The documentary explored the issue of bullying across America.

Shortly after the documentary aired, Smalley and his wife Laura made it their mission to prevent others from committing suicide by speaking to schools.

In his presentation Smalley shared shocking statistics. Every seven seconds a child is bullied. Suicide is the second leading cause of death. 25% of children will not only think about suicide but have a plan to take their own life before graduating from high school.

Ty’s photo was displayed at St. Bernard Catholic School Jan. 22, 2014. His picture sat there as his dad shared the story of how his son took his own life.

Before Smalley began the story of his sons death, he let a music video play. The song expressed the pain bullies caused drawing tears out of audience’s eyes, but I couldn’t help look over to Smalley. With his arms around the picture and his head pressed against Ty’s, he spoke to his son flashing him an “I Love You” sign.

At age 11, Ty shot himself in his parents bedroom after being expelled because he retaliated to his bully after two years of abuse.

After hearing about Ty’s death in 2010, 68 high school students from Oklahoma City started an organization called “Stand for the Silent.” The students didn’t know Ty, but felt as though something needed to be done. The program encourages individuals to start a “chapter.” A chapter is a group of students committed to make a difference in their community.

“They taught me that I am somebody. I can make a difference in the world,” Smalley said.

The organization went viral as Kirk and Laura traveled to hundreds of schools to tell their story.

“It’s hard. I’m on the road about 320 days a year and I’m away from my wife,” Smalley said. “I live with the day Ty killed himself everyday. Sometimes I do three, four or five presentations a day.”

Several emails and phone calls took place for principal Mark Zulkoski to make it possible for Smalley to speak at St. Bernard.

“I know there will be a positive impact,” Zulkoski said. “I think when he looks at the kids he will make a connection. I know there will be an initial wave of it. We just need to keep it going.”

Students are taught a variety of subjects in school, but some don’t think it’s not enough.

“It’s more than writing, reading and arithmetic. We oughta learn respect for others and tolerance for differences,” Smalley said.

Smalley created a Facebook page July 11, 2012 for people to talk about their struggle and gain support for others. It doesn’t matter if you know that person who posted on the page. All are welcome to comment and show encouragement to the individual.

Through Facebook and personal emails, the program makes a huge impact on many lives.

“We get emails from kids saying we saved their life. It means a lot. We want to keep other families from going through what we are going through,” Smalley said.

To help prevent teen suicides, the Nebraska State Senator Amanda McGill introduced LB 923 that requires training on suicide awareness and prevention for school personnel.

“My mom used to say, you got three kinds of people in this world,” Smalley said holding his hands in the air. “Those who wish for thing to happen, those who make things happen and those who are just going to sit around and wonder, hey, what just happened?”

As the presentation winded down, Smalley asked the audience to recite a pledge that read:

“From this day forward, I promise to respect those around me as well as respect myself. I am somebody and I can make a difference. I can make another feel loved. I can be the helping hand that leads another back to the path of hope and aspiration. I will not stand silent as others try to spread hatred through my community. Instead, I pledge to lift up these victims and show them that their life matters. I will be the change because, I am somebody.”

1,379 days ago, Ty Smalley committed suicide.

“Maybe if someone took a stand sooner,” Smalley said. “Ty would be here today.”


If you or someone you know has considered suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Ashley Quintela
Edit in Chief and Hitting the Runway Blogger