Meet Upstander Kirk Smalley

Co-founder of bullying prevention program Stand For the Silent speaks about we can all stand up to the hostility.

Portrait of Kirk Smalley

How do you define bullying?
Bullying is repeated, unwanted aggressive behavior. I think that bullying is also in the eyes of the victim. If you feel that someone is being a bully to you, even if they claim to be ‘only kidding,’ then that could be considered bullying. It’s time we take the power away from the bully and put it into the hands of the victims.

What do you think is the scariest thing about being bullied?
I would say the scariest thing about being bullied is feeling absolutely helpless, that there is no where to turn for help—no way to get away from it.

What resources do you think a person should have available to respond to bullying?
I feel that having a support group of like-minded individuals that have experienced bullying and can relate to others’ experiences is very important. Individuals like this need a space without fear of ridicule or judgement.

Kirk Smalley TileHow do you think the community can help if someone is being bullied?
Stand up for them! In most cases, if a bystander gets involved or speaks out, bullying will stop within seconds!

What does respect mean to you?
Respect to me is letting you be you and me be me and not judging someone by stereotypes or differences.

If you could do one thing to stop all bullying, what would you do?
I am doing it! I travel extensively whenever I am invited to speak to schools and communities, raising awareness to the very real and devastating effects of bullying.

If you could say one thing to anyone who is the victim of bullying, what would it be?
Stay strong. We love you and are fighting for you! This WILL pass. It WILL get better.

What role do you think the internet plays in bullying?
I think the internet has increased the ease that people can bully each other. Now, we don’t have to face someone to ruin their life. We can do it while hidden behind a monitor or cellphone screen without fear of immediate repercussions.

How are you an Upstander?
I work very hard to support victims of bullying and give them the resources and tools to find out that they are someone important and that they DO belong. We have chapters of Stand For the Silent started now in 39 states and 18 countries to help do this and give the victims a place to belong and find support.

Do you think someone who bullies other can change?
I have no doubt in my mind that bullies can change. I receive hundreds of messages from kids that have heard us speak saying, “I never knew that what I was doing could cause what happened to your son. I am sorry, I will quit and I want to help you make it stop.”


Kirk Smalley is an anti-bullying advocate that is passionate about stopping bullying and youth suicide. He and his wife have experienced the devastation that bullying can and does cause and have dedicated their lives to making sure that no other family lives our nightmare. Follow Kirk Smalley and Stand For the Silent on Facebook and Twitter.


The views or experiences expressed are solely those of the contributor or interview subject and do not represent the views of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, its staff or board. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the material, please contact the Tyler Clementi Foundation, and we appreciate your support and commitment to end bullying starting on #Day1.

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