Ty Smalley was a scapegoat. His Oklahoma middle school classmates picked on him relentlessly. It started with words, as it always does. Then the bullies got rougher on him.
“Ty was always pretty small for his age,” said his father, Kirk Smalley. “He’d get shoved, pushed here and there.”
After two years of being attacked verbally and physically, Ty Smalley tried to fight back. Instead of being helped by the school, he was suspended. And that was the last straw for him.
Last May, Ty Smalley killed himself at the age of eleven years old. And his father doesn’t want to see it happen to another child.
Kirk Smalley has been agitating to make bullying a crime. He’s been encouraging children to stand up to the bullies, including when they are not the targets. He also stages vigils at hte Oklahoma State House, pleading with legislators to pass anti-bullying legislation.
Assistant Deputy Education Secretary Kevin Jennings was appointed by President Obama to work on how to keep children safer at school. Jennings himself was also a victim of bullying to the point his tenth-grade year started with him refusing to set foot in the building. He notes the difficulty of defining and thus criminalizing bullying.
Suicides as a result of bullying and harassment have been high in the national news recently with two people, Tyler Clementi and 13-year-old Asher Brown, having killed themselves after being attacked for being gay in the last week. It’s starkly illuminating to see that even younger children like Ty Smalley chose the same last resort.
Ty Smalley, Tyler Clementi, and Asher Brown all chose to take their own lives because they were persecuted as Other. Some might argue that counting Ty Smalley in with Clementi and Brown is inappropriate because Smalley was simply bullied. But smaller boys who get bullied will tell you they get called anti-gay slurs. Even girls get that sort of treatment in school. Not to mention bullying because of race or gender (including gender expression).
What will it take for people like Ty Smalley, Tyler Clementi, and Asher Brown to stop being statistics? Can we as a society stop demonizing the Other and teach bullies that harassing people for being different is wrong? Or will we continue to use differences like race, gender, and sexual orientation as wedges to split ourselves from each other as human beings?
Article Â©2010 Brenda Daverin for Gather.com. All rights reserved.