PERKINS, Okla. (KOKH) — Ty Smalley was a 6th grade student in Perkins, Oklahoma. After two years of being viciously bullied, he was suspended from school when he chose to fight back. On May 13, 2010 he took his town life.
It’s been a long eight years for his father Kirk Smalley, who is now president of “Stand for the Silent.” Smalley travels to schools around the country to raise awareness of the epidemic of bullying in schools. The name of his organization is no coincidence.
“Ty was always a happy kid. He was always smiling, he was always trying to make somebody else smile,” Kirk said.
In many cases, victims of bullying will suffer in silence. Summer Welcher-Duke is the director of behavior health at the Indian Clinic in southwest Oklahoma City. She screens every school-aged child that comes in for treatment.
“And that is not just are they being bullied at school, but we’ve also screened for if they are bullying others,” Welcher-Duke said.
The Indian Clinic treated 775 children last year. Welcher-Duke says a significant amount of those children said they had been bullied. She says, the signs are not always obvious but typically go hand in hand with symptoms of depression.
“So we may see that when we’re visiting with them they’re tearful or hesitant to talk to us. Sometimes they’re hesitant to talk with their parents in the room, they don’t want to get in trouble for the behavior,” Welcher-Duke said.
She says parents need to take note if their child suddenly does not want to go to school, is skipping class or faking illness.
“Kids may be coming home crying. We get a lot of reports of kids coming home and they’re upset and they may or may not want to talk about it,” Welcher-Duke said.
The Indian Clinic has partnered with the program “Unstoppable Youth.” Through grants they are able to bring that program to schools in Oklahoma. So far, they’ve visited 11 and have seen 10,000 students pledge to end bullying. Welcher-Duke says the program appears to be working.
“It gives the school tools to use. It really helps the students understand what is going on and helps to improve their self esteem and how to talk to each other about it. It gives them tools to keep using after that program has finished,” Welcher-Duke said.
For Kirk Smalley, no program was in place when his son Ty was being bullied. He and his wife, who worked at the school where Ty attended, made multiple complaints. All of those complaints were dismissed by school staff, according to Smalley.
“We got the typical answer that ‘boys will be boys and kids will be kids,'” Kirk said.
Welcher-Duke said that kids can be vulnerable.
“What we think about ourselves comes a lot from what our peers think about us. So from a parent’s standpoint or provider standpoint the best thing that we can do is to help them understand that just because something is said to you or about you doesn’t make it true,” Welcher-Duke said.
If you or someone you know is a victim of bullying, we have a list of resources available: