Programming note: Learn more about Kirk’s story and see how he has turned grief into a mission to help kids in the AC360° documentary “The Bully Effect” on Sunday, March 3 and Saturday, March 9 at 8 p.m. ET.
Kirk Smalley and his wife, Laura, endured every parent’s worst nightmare – burying their child. Their 11-year-old son, Ty, was a victim of bullying.
“This kid that had been picking on him for over two years, came up and starting picking on him again. And I guess Ty finally had enough. He retaliated … he got caught. He was suspended for three days. They called his mama. She went and picked him up, took him home,” said Kirk Smalley.
“She told Ty to do his homework, told him to do his chores, told him we’d talk about it when we got home that evening. When Laura came home … she found out that Ty didn’t do his homework. Our boy didn’t do his chores. Instead, he killed himself on our bedroom floor.”
Programming note: Learn more about Kelby’s story and see how she and her dad have overcome prejudice and bullying in the AC360° documentary “The Bully Effect” on Thursday, February 28 at 10 p.m. ET and March 3 and 9 at 8 p.m. ET.
Bobby Johnson’s daughter Kelby came out of the closet at age 14. The reaction from their church, he says, was immediate. “The pastor’s response was, ‘you can come here but you can no longer teach, you can no longer hold any position of authority or power within the church because that’s a part of our bylaws,” says Johnson, adding, “since that day … we have not been back.”
It was a defining moment for a man raised in a deeply religious household, and was the beginning of a journey of introspection of his faith.
“As I began to see the hate, the anger, the intolerance that came out in the community with Kelby, that really made me reflect on what I was taught,” he said.
Editor's note: Don't miss AC360°'s "The Bully Effect" on Sunday, March 3 and Saturday, March 9 at 8 p.m. ET.
Eva was a bully. Tall for her age, she used her height to intimidate her peers. She made fun of those without designer clothes and got suspended several times for fighting.
She was also well-liked, outgoing, funny - and a victim of bullying herself.
"When you're in junior high, you're just trying to figure out who you are," the 24-year-old Los Angeles resident remembers. She says she bullied others because she was, as were most kids, insecure.
Programming note: Learn more about Alex’s story and see how he has transformed from bullying victim to advocate in the AC360° documentary “The Bully Effect” on Thursday, February 28 at 10 p.m. ET and March 3 and 9 at 8 p.m. ET.
The bullying Jackie Libby’s son, Alex, faced every day was so severe that she worried the emotional toll would drive him to suicide.
“I would lay up with my husband at night and … just cry and say … what if he decides he doesn’t want to be here anymore? I mean, at that point, there was really only one more way to disengage. He was failing out of school. He wasn’t involved with his family at all. He didn’t want to have anything to do with his siblings. He didn’t have any friends,” Libby said. “There was only one more way for him to get out.”
Alex first spoke about his tormentors not to his mother but on camera to documentary filmmaker Lee Hirsch in what would become the award-winning film “Bully.”
“They punch me in the jaw, strangle me. They knock things out of my hand, take things from me, sit on me,” Alex said in the movie. “They push me so far that I want to become the bully.”
The children and parents profiled in Lee Hirsch's eye-opening documentary, "Bully," have experienced a profound transformation in the time since the film was made. AC360's "The Bully Effect" traces the journeys of Alex, Kelby, Kirk, and the filmmaker himself. While their stories are unique, for each, the process has been one of self-discovery and determination.
These snapshots illustrate what they have overcome. For the full picture, watch "The Bully Effect" on February 28 at 10 p.m. ET and March 3 and 9 at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.
Cartoon Network, AC360’s long-time partner in our special reports on bullying, launched a national program today to continue the company’s campaign against bullying.
They raised the first anti-bullying flag at the Warren G. Harding Middle School in Philadelphia; 2,000 more schools across the country will join the initiative. The flags, which come with a bullying prevention toolkit, represent the power bystanders have to stop bullying.
On hand for the event was Senator Bob Casey, Democrat from Philadelphia, who plans to introduce the Safe Schools Improvement Act, a federal anti-bullying law, to Congress in the coming days. Currently there is no federal law against bullying.
An extraordinary documentary called "Bully" captured a behavior adults hear about, but rarely see: the way some kids pressure and relentlessly harass their peers. Filmmaker Lee Hirsch was embedded in several schools for an entire year. What he filmed was so raw and eye-opening that the project catapulted a movement, sounding the alarm about the critical and dangerous issue of bullying.
Something profound has also happened as a result. In the time since "Bully" was released, a number of kids and parents profiled in the documentary, and the filmmaker himself, have been on life-changing journeys, and in some instances have experienced remarkable transformations.
AC360° has dedicated the past year to tracing the course of their journeys and personal missions. In partnership with Cartoon Network, we want to share their stories with you in a powerful documentary called "The Bully Effect," premiering on CNN on February 28 at 10 p.m. ET. The program will air again on March 3 and 9 at 8 p.m. ET.
Tonight's Emmy-Award winning report is part of a special multi-platform effort aimed at taking a stand to help stop the bullying crisis. Tune in to Anderson's town hall “Bullying: It Stops Here” at 8 and 10 p.m. ET.
If you or someone you know is experiencing bullying or harassment, please reach out for help. Here are some organizations that can assist you:
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The Trevor Project
Learn more about the AC360° initiative and what experts think about the critical bullying problem:
AC360° study: Schoolyard bullies not just preying on the weak
Bullying study infographic
Who would Peter be today?
Take the Stop Bullying: Speak Up pledge
Behind the scenes at Anderson's town hall
After Andrew Shirvell was fired from the Michigan Attorney General's office for misconduct, he sued and won unemployment benefits. Jeffrey Toobin and Deborah Gordon, the lawyer for a former University of Michigan student who won a lawsuit against Shirvell, talk about the legal precedent and what could happen next in the case.
In the fall of 2010, Anderson Cooper confronted Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell about his actions against a student who attended the University of Michigan at the time. Shirvell launched a relentless and personal campaign on the internet and targeted Chris Armstrong in person claiming he had a "radical homosexual agenda" he was pushing as student body president.
Subsequently, Shirvell was fired from his job and denied unemployment benefits because he was let go due to misconduct. He also lost in a federal court in August when a jury reached a verdict in Armstrong's favor, awarding him $4.5 million.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with AC361°