Father shares story of bullied son's suicide with Raleigh students

Posted August 14, 2012
Updated August 15, 2012

— Students at East Wake Middle School sat silently Tuesday as Kirk Smalley described how his 11-year-old son shot and killed himself in 2010 after enduring two years of bullying.

"I'm here to tell you what happened to Ty. I'm hoping that, by doing that, you can make sure this doesn't ever happen again to another kid," said Smalley, who now speaks to students around the world about preventing bullying.

Ty Smalley's experience was featured in the documentary "Bully," which was released this year.

"Stand up and say it's not right," Kirk Smalley said, showing his young audience photos of boys and girls who were driven to suicide by bullies. The stories resonated with the students.

"I did not want to go to school, and almost every day, I would be in the office," bullying victim Charlie Woodlief said, noting that he got through that difficult time with the help of his family, friends and teachers.

"Bullying is a problem that affects a lot of people in different ways," student Shayla Stackhouse said.

Even East Wake Middle Principal Nancy Allen recalled being bullied as a child.

"Whenever one of my students comes to me and says, 'I’ve been bullied,' I remember those days, and I get a lump in my throat," Allen said. "I don’t want that to happen to one of my kids here. They’re too important."

Teachers can do only so much to stop bullying, she said. Anti-bullying bracelet Bracelets could give students confidence to stop bullying

"It's up to (students), and it's up to them to care about each other," she said.

A nationwide survey found that about one in five high school students had been bullied at school in 2008-09, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called bullying a widespread problem.

The Wake County Public School System has a Bullying Prevention Task Force that is studying the best ways to deal with the problem.

Each student at Tuesday's Stand for the Silent assembly received a bracelet with the inscription "I am somebody."

Smalley said he believes that, if children believe in themselves, they won't bully and will help protect others.

"You've got to be the one that can go up to that kid and offer your hand in friendship," he said.


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  • Hippy_mom Aug 17, 2012

    These bullies that make life ___ for other students sometimes grow up to make life ____ on their co-workers later in life.

    Bullying doesn't always stop when a kid graduates or quits school. I've seen some pretty nasty bullies in the workplace, especially in state government. A good friend of mine was bullied to the point where she checked the value on her life insurance policy. Her husband was out of work and they had a kid to support—and the bully knew that. She knew my friend needed this job and that seemed to intensify her efforts to make life miserable. My friend was lucky to have a supportive family, who helped her through.

    When you're a kid, your sense of time is so different. Everything is so "right here, right now." Telling a kid that things will get better with time doesn't always help. But maybe if we stop the bullies when they are young, fewer workplace incidents will occur?

  • ashwednesday36 Aug 16, 2012

    You know, fortunately/unfortunately, the grandmother/bus monitor incident at the end of last school year brings this to light. I either experience those verbal abuses or see it on a daily basis in school.....student on adult (teacher/custodian/administrator) abuse is rampant. Although that case dropped off the radar, it is my understanding that the kids were charged by the police in spite of the grnadmother not pressing charges herself. That is what it will take.

  • esteryates69 Aug 16, 2012

    Please all us need stop this bulling now.Let not lose a another child or any one to Bullies.

  • smokeybear Aug 16, 2012

    ashwednesday36: I also told the Asst. Principal that I am gonna nip this in the bud. he told me that he was not aware of stuff happening to my granddaughter and I told him why> on several ocasions she told me to not say anything because it would make it worse on her. Well, I didn't care. I told the asst. principal I want the girl, the mother of the girl who lead this gang and I to sit down and find out what is going on. Did anything happen, no way. I am telling you, they don't care, they just want to herd these kids out of schools like cattle and get those numbers. When grandaughter was attacked she had no choice but to defend herself. I know if I had driven up that day and say what was happening, I would have jumped right in the middle of those kids and started swinging. This 62 year old 4 ft. 11" lady would have showed them a thing or two.

  • ashwednesday36 Aug 16, 2012

    Interestingly the principal and the perpetrator were both African American. Had that been reversed imagine what would have happened. That girl left the school and entered a private school. I found the school and the new principal. I also found that the girl had told the new principal EVERYTHING that had been happening to her at the hands of this young man. I gave the principal a phone number and some important information. I don't care if I never teach again, when I'm called by this girls father's attorney I will sing like a bird!!!!

  • ashwednesday36 Aug 16, 2012

    smokeybear-- To you and all parents of children bullied my heart goes out to you. I am entering my 16th year in the classroom this month. I am former Navy and a disabled veteran. Last year I witnessed a young girl (white) being sexually battered (meaning she was being touched by a young man and she told him several times to stop) right in my classroom. When I saw him he had moved his chair closer to her until he had pushed her against the leg of the LAB table and was rubbing his leg on hers and had his arm across the table making contact with her. This took mere minutes and when I saw this I threw him out of my room. I reported this and the principal did little citing the fact that the girl did not come back to school for a few days (I wonder why?).

  • smokeybear Aug 15, 2012

    My grandaughter was bullied at school. Officials took it lightly. She would hide in bathroom from the bullies. I talked to principal and they look at you like your crazy. She got word she was going to be beat one day at school and she skipped. They gave her 3 days in detention, but no nothing done about bullying. That same weekend, some of the ones who were going to jump her got her outside her appartment. Teeth marks on her body, hair pulled out, but no school officials don't think this is going on in their schools. School here says: We have a no bullying policy, what a joke. this is Wilson County

  • oceanchild71 Aug 15, 2012

    lovethemoment: The teachers do not make the rules/penalties for offenses and they do not determine what those infractions are, the principal or assistant principal does. The board of education stipulates the punishments for infractions such as fighting, drugs, weapons, etc. and those are usually included in the student handbook handed out at the beginning of the year.

  • jenjengirl89 Aug 15, 2012

    Dear Parents,
    Every convicted felon on death row has a mama who will swear he's a good boy and they boo hoo that they are 100 % sure their baby would NEVER murder anybody.

  • Lightfoot3 Aug 15, 2012

    "That was my MO, put a little fear into the known bullies and let the bullied know that I'd stand behind them." - Hammerhead

    That's what we need more of today. The kids need to form groups that will assure the bullies that there will be retribution, not from one, but from many. My nephew told me about a group in his high school that did that. It was kind of like the Guardian Angels.