John Halligan wanted Weddington students to know they’re not alone when dealing with bullies, and parents shouldn’t ignore the issue. Recently, Halligan, a Vermont resident, told the student body and parents how cyber-bullying led his 13-year-old son, Ryan, to commit suicide.
Ryan was a victim of bullying and cyber-bullying, and took his own life in 2003. Halligan spoke during an evening presentation at Weddington High School for parents, which was sponsored by the Weddington Middle School Parent-Teacher-Student Organization and Weddington Middle School.
“Propelled by this unthinkable tragedy, Halligan has made it his mission to educate students and parents about the perils of bullying, cyber-bullying and teen depression,” Weddington Middle School teacher Karen Pruitt said. “Halligan has been an outspoken advocate for the education and prevention of bullying, cyber-bullying and teen suicide throughout the United States and Canada. His son’s story has been told worldwide by print, radio and TV programs, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, Frontline, Anderson Cooper and Diane Sawyer.”
Only a few months following Ryan’s death, Halligan spearheaded the Vermont Bully Prevention bill, which became law in May 2004. He also successfully led the passage of the Vermont law pertaining to mandatory suicide prevention education in public schools in April 2006.
“Oct. 7, 2003, will always be the day that divides my life.,” an excerpt from Halligan’s website, ryanpatrickhalligan.org, reads. “Before that day my middle-school-aged son, Ryan, was alive… After that day, my son would be gone forever, a death by suicide. Some would call it bullycide or even cyber-bullycide. I just call it a huge hole in my heart that will never heal.”
He introduced students to his son by playing a video of Ryan and then sharing experiences, how his son struggled to deal with the bullying.
“It’s cruel what those kids did to (Ryan) and that he thought the only way to end it was to end his life,” seventh-grader Megan Gwyn said. “I think that if those ‘bystanders’ had done something, maybe told an adult or helped Ryan out, Ryan wouldn’t have committed suicide.”
Many Weddington Middle students want to turn what they learned from Halligan story into action, Pruitt said. The students have embraced the Peace Out, Purple Out campaign that was held at the middle school for an entire week recently. Students have demonstrated their belief that bystanders must get involved to stop bullying and cyber-bullying.
“What valuable information we learned tonight about Facebook, texting, cell phones, sexting, bystanders, etc,” one of the parents who attended the evening meeting said. “We will definitely sit down as a family and have a discussion with our four children about what we learned tonight.”
– This article was provided courtesy of Union County Public Schools