In the small town of Tipton, Iowa, 17-year-old Jacob Stallman is drawing national attention for standing up against to bullying – something he’s been dealing with since middle school.
“I was really short and really fat,” Jacob said. “All of a sudden, I was growing super-fast, like Hulk, and my belly went down. I was like, ‘So the bullying stops here ‘cause they can’t call me fat anymore.’”
The weight loss didn’t end the bullying, however. But after losing weight, the bullying It only got worse after Jacob came out as gay to a friend at school in the seventh grade.
“There was the whole middle school effect where you told one person they told another, and they told someone – next day at school, it was a hot topic,” Jacob said. “Then I was bullied ‘cause I was gay, ever since.”
The bullying carried into high school. His mother, Tania, noticed something was wrong early on.
“Before, we had several talks—we were very, very close,” Tania said. “And then when he started having trouble when he was in 6th and 7th grade, he became more angry, somewhat withdrawn. Our special talks that we had become few and far between.”
Eventually, Tania says her son broke down in front of her – and confessed that he was a victim of persistent bullying.
“I was heartbroken,” Tania Said. “It's very, very difficult to see that he felt alone, that he didn't have anybody.”
Tania later discovered her son had attempted to kill himself, and she grew desperate to help her son.
“I was really angry, I was really upset, and I wanted to address the situation as soon as possible,” Tania said.
Tania sought the support of her school board, with little reaction. After learning that parents in her town were having similar issues with their children, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
“I decided to start an anti-bullying campaign on Facebook,” Tania said. “When I started it more people were coming forward, letting him know that they had the same concerns you know, with being bullied in the school district, elementary, middle and high school.”
Tania created “Tipton Against Kids Being Bullied” – a group that puts members in touch with anti-bullying resources including laws, processes, and what to do if experiencing it. It also established a network where parents are able to share their concerns, or seek advice to help other parents. Tania posted fliers around town to get people to visit and join the group.