PERKINS — Ty Field was bullied, his family says. Ty, 11, committed suicide. He would have turned 12 this past Wednesday. Ty's parents don't want anyone to forget.
They're looking for a bit of good from the greatest tragedy of their lives. They want parents to know bullying happens, even in small towns, and it can have awful consequences. "I'll use whatever resources I can find,” said Ty's dad, Kirk Smalley. "I'm going to keep my son's smile in front of the camera. That grin on his face. Those freckles and those eyes. "We hope that we can keep anybody else from going through what we're going through,” he said. "It's a nightmare. We can't sleep. We can't eat. We don't go a second of any day that this isn't slapping us in the face.”
A happy childTy appeared to be like many boys growing up in rural Oklahoma. Kirk Smalley said he began taking Ty hunting soon after he married the boy's mother, Laura, about five years ago. Ty killed his first deer two years ago and had plans to go antelope hunting this October in in Wyoming. It's a trip Kirk and Laura Smalley still plan on taking. "Laura is going to kill Ty's antelope,” Kirk Smalley said. "We are going to put his antelope on the wall where he bragged to his friends it was going to be.” Ty also liked to play video games and ride his dirt bike on the 40 acres upon which the family's home sits. But what Ty, and the rest of the family, really loved to do was watch the St. Louis Cardinals play baseball. There were trips to Busch Stadium, and Ty could often be seen wearing a jersey with the number of Cardinal catcher Yadier Molina or all-star first baseman Albert Pujols. "We live and breathe Cardinal baseball and deer hunting,” Kirk Smalley said. "He wasn't a depressed kid. His mom and I never saw anything that this was a child contemplating suicide.”
What happened?On May 13 before school, Ty sat in the bleachers, laughed and joked with sixth-grade classmates and friends, Smalley said. Another boy — the same boy, Smalley said, that had been bullying Ty all year — began picking on Ty. Ty pushed his bully back, Smalley said. Ty got suspended. Ty's mother works for the school district. She took her son home and told him to do his chores and homework. Ty knew he was in trouble, Kirk Smalley said. Ty never did his chores. Instead, he walked into his parents' bedroom closet, looked into the large mirror on the wall, held a .22-caliber pistol to his head and pulled the trigger. When Laura Smalley returned home about 2:30 p.m., she found her 11-year-old son lying on the floor dead, wearing his Albert Pujols jersey and with a can of root beer stuck in his front pocket. "He was already cold,” Kirk Smalley said.
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• 33 percent said they had been involved in bullying.
• 14 percent claimed to be a bullying victim.
• 12 percent reported being a bully.
• 7 percent said they had been a victim and a bully.
• Nearly two-thirds of children who were frequently bullied and half of the children who had not been bullied wanted better adult supervision.
Youth suicideOf the 252 child deaths looked at in 2009 by the state Child Death Review Board, 21 were classified as suicide. In the board's 2008 review, there were 9 suicides of 247 child deaths. In Oklahoma, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among youths ages 10 to 24. Only automobile accidents kill more youngsters.
• For a suicide crisis, call the HeartLine hot line at (800) 273-8255. Sources: Oklahoma Health Department, Oklahoma Child Death Review Board, HeartLine