Marion student works to counteract high school bullying - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Marion student works to counteract high school bullying


Two years ago, now 15-year-old Matt Shankles found himself at one of the lowest points in his life.

"I was hating myself, and I describe it as -- I was hating myself more than I was hating hate," he recalled.

After being "outed" as gay, he dealt with bullying on a daily basis -- until the day it seemed too much to handle.

"I sat on the floor with those knives for a really long time. And I must have fallen asleep because after that I woke up to my step-dad banging on the door wanting to know what I was doing," he said.

Shankles had a mantra as he was going through that tough time. He told himself, anyone who could survive that situation would come out the other side as an angel. Which is why a few months ago, when bullying on Twitter became exceptionally bad, he decided to do something.

"There were some twitter accounts, not just Linn-Mar but other Cedar Rapids schools, that were attacking people, spreading false rumors or telling secrets. So I was just livid because obviously I relate to people that were bullied. So I sat down and sat in front of the computer and go -- I'm going to call this @Linn_Mar_Love," Shankles said.

Shankles initially stayed anonymous -- and whenever he thought someone needed a kind word, he sent one to them.

"I wanted to show people there is hope -- even when this is all happening," he explained.

The creators of the movie "Bully" are hoping their film will inspire more Matt's in the world. The producer and director of the documentary "Bully" met with students and faculty members at the University of Northern Iowa this afternoon.

"I think every single person who sees the film whether you're a teenager, middle school, high school, teacher, parent. I think you can find ways in your own life to stand up," said "Bully" writer and producer Cynthia Lowen.

"It's been great to see the conversation happening at the national level. And we're moving to a point where we're not just saying "Bullying -- ahh!" But we're saying, bullying, I have a role to play," said Lee Hirsch.

Shankles said, whether its through a movie, or a simple tweet, he believes the country is on the right track toward ending the bullying epidemic.

"To know that attention is being raised on a national level, all together in one chunk, is a good thing," he added.

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