This week marked the one-year anniversary of Jamey Rodemeyer’s death. Last year, this young Williamsville man took his life after being bullied by peers in high school over his sexuality. Since that time, Jamey’s parents have taken their anti bullying campaign across the country, bringing attention to bullying and suicide prevention. From helping to enact local anti-cyber bullying laws to bringing the issue to national audiences on talk shows and working with Lady Gaga to establish the Born this Way Foundation, Jamey’s parents have made this their life’s work.
In a similar vein, Kirk Smalley from, Perkins Oklahoma, has made it his life’s work to promote anti bullying measures. In May 2010, his eleven year-old son, Ty Field-Smalley, took his life after being bullied by peers. He was bullied because of his small stature. Krik works with students who created Stand for the Silent, in Ty’s memory. With this organization, he has spoken to over 100,000 about the life and death consequences of bullying.
He will do whatever he can to prevent this from happening to other families. Besides talking to students, he is taking on school administrators and their policies around bullying. He feels they are typically unproductive and revictimize the victim, potentially leading to tragedies like his son’s. Like many schools, Ty’s school had a no tolerance for bullying policy, which gave the bully and the bullied, a suspension. He feels this sends the wrong message to the victim. Additionally, schools often make the victims sit down with their transgressor. Kirk feels this can terrorize the bullied and make them back down from original statements about what occurred. He says that bullies are smart and will get administrators to believe them over the bullied. According to Kirk, victims are commonly asked what they did to get picked on by the bully. These common practices are simply ineffective and damaging. Kirk believes that schools need to make a point of telling the bullied they will be protected. Additionally, he feels schools need to make parents accountable for their children’s actions. Kirk believes parents need to be told about their child’s behavior and enforce changed behavior in their child. If they do not, he feels the child and the parents should receive consequences. These should include: suspension and the bully being removal from school and fines and even jail time for the parents. He feels that we all have to get serious and seriously tough on this issue and stop excusing this behavior as acceptable and normal for kids to do to one another.
As our children go through the school system, we can only hope to not experience such a situation. But the sad reality is that many children do get bullied and that it is most probably happening in your children’s schools. Not only is knowledge power but it could be what saves your child’s life in this case. Help your child recognize what bullying is so they do not bully or become the bullied. Know what your child’s school policy is on this issue. If you agree with Kirk’s point, fight for change; make your case. Don’t accept indifference or bureaucratic inaction. It may just save a life.
(Note: In future posts we’ll explore this subject and NY States’ new laws on bullying and cyber bullying)