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Boaz Students Will Stand For The Silent

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BOAZ, Ala. (WHNT) -- Boaz City Schools have a new anti-bullying program to try to avoid a repeat of an Oklahoma tragedy.

In May 2010, 11-year-old Ty Smalley committed suicide after years of suffering from bullying.

He was sent him from school earlier in the day after fighting back against a tormentor.

"The second person always gets caught, because the bully can plan their attack," Boaz school resource officer Thomas Underwood said.

"Ty got caught, and they suspended Ty and the bully."

His mother, who worked at the school, took him home and told him to do his homework and chores.

She went back to school to finish the day.

"When she come back home, she found him in his bedroom," Underwood said.

"He had shot himself with his hunting rifle."  

The story brought tears to the officer's eyes, as it has many times before.

Underwood met Ty Smalley's parents when they came to Boaz earlier this year to share their story, which overwhelmed him.

Interim superintendent Mark Isley was at the presentation, and saw Underwood walk to the front of the auditorium.

"He walked down the aisle like you would see in a church service after the sermon, and presented a heartfelt description of how he felt this impacted him personally," Isley said.

It became Underwood's mission to put an end to bullying at Boaz, something he said he sees frequently while spending time at the system's five schools.

"Sometimes with our kids they don't realize what they're doing, they don't realize they're hurting people," he said.

"When you're playing with another child, there's a line there, and when that other child is tired and gets fed up with it and wants you to stop, you've got to stop."

Underwood plans to change things through an education program, which starts with explaining what bullying is, and how children should address it.

A group of Oklahoma State University students started Stand for the Silent with Kirk and Laura Smalley after hearing the story of the couple's son.

The logo for SFTS includes a heart around TS, Ty's initials.

Boaz school officials want kids to say "I Stand For The Silent" and commit to a pledge:

     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 a 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.

It will be taught to fifth graders like Drug Awareness Resistance Education was, and become a sort of club with monthly meetings for middle and high school students.

Underwood hopes to develop an annual scholarship to award to a graduating senior who participated in the program faithfully, to be voted on by other students.

Each school will also have two bully boxes, where kids can anonymously submit anonymous reports about bullying.

Isley emphasized there will be due process on all complaints, as they will consult teachers to find out if they need to closer evaluate a problem.

This is also not solely about punishing offenders.

"We're going to find the root causes of why the bully felt like he or she needed to bully," Isley said.

"This is one area in public schools I have never seen a program or a group of people that actually treats the bully, like a doctor treats a patient."

Underwood and Isley presented their program at the Annual Auburn University Anti-Bullying Summit.

Educators from 17 states and two countries attended, and Isley said Alabama State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice is watching closely to see if SFTS can be expanded across the state.