Kirk and Laura Smalley are starting to make waves in their fight to prevent bullying in schools.
The Perkins couple believe their son, Ty Field, who committed suicide on May 13, was being bullied at school and that it contributed to his decision to end his life.
And while the Perkins-Tyron school district has said there was no indication Ty was being bullied at school, the district has requested bullying-prevention training for school personnel.
The Smalleys are also meeting with state legislators to discuss needed amendments to the School Bullying Prevention Act, which was adopted in 2002. The law currently mandates that schools have policies, but doesn’t go to much further in requiring training. Several state legislators have pledged support to help pass amendments to the law and strengthen the act, according to Mark Brennaman, whose groups Education Advocacy Group is helping the Smalleys.
Out of their greatest tragedy, the courageous Smalleys are making a difference.
Recently I’ve been writing about an 11-year-old boy who committed suicide. His parents say the boy, Ty Field, was being bullied at school. The school district denies that Ty was being bullied.
Ty’s parents, Kirk and Laura Smalley, are determined to find some sort of good from their son’s tragic death. They are putting all they have into bringing awareness to bullying problems in schools.
It’s those rare moments when a reporter finds such an incredibly gracious and brave man as Kirk Smalley. In what is certainly the greatest tragedy of his and his wife’s life, he found the strength the share Ty’s story with the readers of The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com.
As a father myself I can’t imagine the pain and suffering Ty’s parents are experiencing. The pain in Kirk Smalley’s eyes is enough to break any other parents heart.
On Saturday, more than 30 people met at the Smalleys’ Perkins home to talk about what they could do to prevent bullying in schools. Many in attendance vowed to keep attending Perkins-Tyron Public School meetings until changes happen. No one representing the school district was at the Smalley’s home, according to Mark Brennaman, whose organization Education Advocacy Group is helping fight bullying in schools.
After Sunday’s article was published, Kirk Smalley said he has been talking with several state legislators and received calls of support from as far away as Australia.
I hope that Kirk Smalley’s mission to find something good out of this tragedy does not fail. I hope that some day the Smalleys find peace.
Bullies do not belong in our schools.
The Stonebriar neighborhood in northwest Oklahoma City is a quiet, family addition that looks like many other areas around Edmond–Brick homes around 2,00o square feet. Tall privacy fences. Perfectly manicured Bermuda grass.
Well landscaped lots (homeowners are required to spend no less than about $1,000 on flowers, grass, trees and shrubs).
Trash cans be kept out of sight unless it’s trash day.
Only ”for sale” or “for rent” signs can be posted in lots.
Home prices in the new neighborhood start at about $200,000.
Heather Drapeau didn’t mention being surprised by a request to remove several signs posted in the windows and on the fence around her home. She didn’t say if she’d read the homeowner’s association covenants, but she doesn’t see it as a neighborhood rules issue. She thinks her opinion is as valid and protected as her neighbors’ who she says display signs supporting the Edmond North high school Huskies. Drapeau says the neighborhood association looks the other way at those signs, but one of hers that says, ”For Peace Bring The Troops Home Now,” is inflammatory.
“They want this neighborhood to look like all of the other cookie-cutter neighborhoods around here,” Drapeau said.
“But I’m going to keep rattling my saber.”
The former military combat medic has promised to keep the signs up and has no issue going to court about it, she said.
We’ll keep an eye on this story and see how it turns out.
It’s been more than a month since my coworker Ron Jackson and I returned from an immigration fellowship hosted by the Institute for Justice and Journalism and the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
The fellowship, called Immigration in the Heartland, was designed to immerse journalists in the issues, arguments, faces and facts surrounding the immigration debate in the country. We heard from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, lawmakers, community leaders, naturalized citizens and undocumented immigrants. We talked to lawyers, judges and talking heads. Husbands, single mothers and students attending school in south Oklahoma City.
Most of the week-long fellowship took place in Norman and Oklahoma City. But we also spent time at immigration court in Dallas and other federal offices.
One of the requirements of the fellowship is that the journalists produce stories on the issue. This weekend, Ron and I will publish the first group of what we plan to be a series of stories about immigration in Oklahoma.
As Oklahoman and Miss USA first-runner up Morgan Woolard said, “It’s one of the most hot button issues in our country today.”
My hope is these stories will educate and foster informed debate on the issue. Keep an eye out for the stories here on Newsok and in The Oklahoman.
Good Monday morning from OPUBCO HQ, where the water cooler talk centers on what the ending of “Lost” meant? In the interest of brevity, here’s some links to stories you might have missed over the weekend:
- Sen. Coburn reports money-losing medical practice; other members of Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation file their financial disclosure forms.
- Oklahoma budget negotiators kept 2012 fiscal year in mind as they crafted FY 2011 budget.
- State still in race for $175 million education stimulus funds from second round of the Race to the Top program.
- Adoption costs can price out middle-class in Oklahoma.
- Budget cuts may close Shawnee juvenile detention center.
- Oklahoma County disposing of environmentally hazardous tornado debris.
- Urban chicken issue divides Oklahoma City residents, neighborhoods council members.
- Tulsa World: House Bill 3382 would hide birth dates while others sold.
It’s a new week, and a new round of cleaning up for those in the Oklahoma City area. This time, hail was the culprit. Check out the amazing pictures of some of the destruction.
Here’s an abbreviated version of what you might have missed over the weekend:
As a reporter, whenever a government agency tries to restrict my access to a public place, my first instinct is to want to go there.
After tornadoes damaged several Oklahoma City neighborhoods on Monday, police restricted access to four neighborhoods: Heritage Estates, Deerfield Estates, Deerfield West and Liberty Creek.
As I drove around looking for stories on Tuesday to give to readers, I took a left turn onto a residential street and unbeknown until later to me and the photographer we wound up in Deerfield Estates.
We found tremendous destruction, people picking up the pieces, neighbors helping neighbors, friends lending hands and support. What we also found was several people who wanted and maybe even needed to tell their stories of survival. These were hopeful stories that a community healing from such devastation needs to hear. They are stories that we would not have been able to give readers if we hadn’t accidentally stumbled into the restricted area.
I left the neighborhood wondering why the media’s access was being completely shut out. I can understand the need to have proper controls to make sure clean up efforts are not hindered and streets clogged with television crews.
But I wish law enforcement would work with us and not immediately shut us out of such situations. There must be some middle ground between allowing recovery to occur without hindrance and completely shutting the public out and not allowing those doing to recovery to tell their stories.
-Michael Baker, 475-3384
Good Monday morning from OPUBCO HQ, where we’re keeping a close eye on the weather today.
We had some good stories this past weekend. Here’s what you might have missed while you were spending time with the Moms in your family:
–Road decisions are always fused with politics in some way. Watchdog reporter Randy Ellis had an interesting story on Sunday about a new interstate exit planned for the Shawnee area. Apparently, the governor co-owns some land near the planned intersection, but he said it’s in a floodplain and virtually worthless. Other groups in Shawnee are lining up to oppose or support the interchange, including an Indian tribe and the local school district.
–Unfunded pension liabilities are a ticking demographic time bomb that governments everywhere will have to deal with before long. Watchdog reporter John Estus takes a look at the retirement benefit obligations for the police and fire unions in Oklahoma City.
–Budget negotiations continue at the Capitol for fiscal year 2011. Our political reporters had the latest, including an update by Michael McNutt and a look at some plans for controversial tax credits by Julie Bisbee.
–Carrie Coppernoll had an interesting look at the 50th anniversary of “the pill” and how Oklahomans feel about it.
–If you’re a visitor to either the University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State University, you might be able to just ignore any parking ticket you get. That seems to be the logic of university officials, who refused to release parking ticket information. Reporter Bryan Dean has a story where the universities are hiding behind a federal law to protect student privacy.
–In other education news, Norman reporter James Tyree broke down the numbers of alcohol incidents at the University of Oklahoma.
–The author of a law allowing parents to drop off their newborn children at safe places without penalty said the law worked last weekend in Shawnee, when a mother dropped off her twins at a local fire station. Watchdog reporter Randy Ellis explains the history of the law.
–Arizona is ground zero in the latest fight over illegal immigration. The Arizona Republic looks at the numbers and finds that not all illegal aliens are sneaking over the border. Many are getting visas and then overstaying their allotted time.
–The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues to cause problems for wildlife and energy company BP. The New York Times investigates the company’s safety record and finds it lags other energy companies. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal broke down the relationship between the federal government’s Minerals Management Service and the energy industry.
On Tuesday, I participated in a news conference held by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding new rule proposals for coal ash.
It was for a follow-up to an article on residents in the eastern Oklahoma town of Bokoshe fighting to close down a coal ash disposal site near their town of about 460 people.
The topic and the EPA’s action is somewhat complicated, but what surprised me about the whole Washington news conference — reporters could call in and listen and ask questions at the end — was that although I was hearing EPA experts speak, I was told in a news release issued just shortly before the conference to quote them only as “senior EPA officials” and not by name. Journalists were to quote only EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson by name.
This was a first for me. I’m not an environmental reporter by trade and haven’t participated in too many telephone news conferences with federal agencies. But, I was offended and I thought our readers probably would be too.
I was also torn as to if I should participate. As journalists, we’re duty bound to provide information to our readers on topics of interest, but at the same time we shouldn’t encourage government officials to operate behind a veil of secrecy. Plus, I don’t think our readers want a whole bunch of stories quoting nameless bureaucratic sources. It’s hard to trust that information. In the end, I phoned in to listen to the conference but decided not to use information from anybody that I could only say was a “senior EPA official.”
Turns out that this wasn’t the first time the EPA had done something like this. On Wednesday, I read a blog by Robert McClure on InvestigateWest about how the EPA had done this before. McClure makes some excellent points.
I won’t say never again, absolute statements like that can come back to bite you and it could be just a big enough story that it has to happen, but I will discourage my editors and fellow reporters from participating in a news conference under such conditions.
Colleagues John Estus and Bryan Dean wrote an article in March on the dangers of allowing government to hide behind such carefully-controlled and filtered messages. It’s a growing concern how many agencies are trying to control the story.
As journalists we want the information as unfiltered as we can get it, and we believe our readers want and deserve the same.
Below is a phrase net built from the text of stories published with my byline in April 2010. Phrase nets visually display how words are connected in text.
In simpler terms, this is what swirls through my head when I’m trying to sleep at night. Kind of disturbing, isn’t it?
(Click on the title of the visualization, “Estus April 2010 phrase net,” to view it in a full browser window. My favorite view is the final view, which connects word one with word two using a space.)