Father who lost his son to bullying to share cautionary words

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John Halligan will share his son's story at Fernwood Avenue Middle School on Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 7pm John Halligan will share his son's story at Fernwood Avenue Middle School on Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 7pm

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Ryan Halligan was just 13 when he decided that he could no longer stand the teasing and bullying he had endured since elementary school, and took his own young life.

As a way to cope with the loss of his son, Ryan’s father John Halligan decided to create “Ryan’s Story,” a presentation that tells his story and suggests ways to avoid similar situations.

He already shared the cautionary tale with students at the Fernwood Avenue Middle School, and will return to the school to speak to the Egg Harbor Township community 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4, in the auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

“Something had to happen in response to this tragedy. It had to be something substantial and sustained, not just a short-lived sympathetic response. We decided to take all this intense pain and channel it into productive areas to help other young people avoid the same fate as our son,” Halligan wrote on his webpage, www.ryanpatrickhalligan.org.

Halligan, who lost his son Oct. 7, 2003, also states that through trying to help his son cope with his situation, he learned that technology is being used as weapons by children.

There were other factors as well, however.

“We have no doubt that bullying and cyber bullying were significant environmental factors that triggered Ryan’s depression. In the final analysis, we feel strongly that Ryan's middle school was a toxic environment, like so many other middle schools across the country for so many young people. 

“For too long, we have let kids and adults bully others as a right of passage into adulthood inside a school building. We place accountability for this tragedy, first and foremost, on ourselves as his parents... but also on Ryan’s school administration, staff and the young people involved,” said Halligan, whose son attended the Albert D. Lawton Middle School in Essex Junction, Vt. 

“As parents, we failed to hold the school accountable to maintain an emotionally safe environment for our son while he was alive. But accountability and responsibility should be shared by all involved – parents, bullies, bystanders, teachers and school administrators ... basically the whole system.”

Through his presentation, Halligan says he hopes to raise awareness among all involved parties about the dangers of bullying, especially during the fragile middle school years.

Over the summer, Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Gruccio verified that most reports of bullying come from students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.

The growth that middle school-aged children go through sets the stage for these incidents, she said during a presentation on the district’s state-mandated harassment, intimidation and bullying policy report.
“Middle school is that in-between period from child to teen time in a child’s educational career and growing years. Research shows that social issues are prominent at various degrees hence the majority of the cases were expected at the middle school level,” she said. 


More coverage:

Middle School the center of harassment, intimidation and bullying incidents

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