SCOTCH PLAINS—On March 1, Union Catholic invited John Halligan to give a special presentation to students on cyberbullying, paid for by Union County Educational Services. John lost his son Ryan to cyberbullying in 2003, when Ryan was in 8th grade. Shortly after his death, John fought for and got the Bully Prevention [Law] passed in Vermont. Since then, he has become an avid protester against cyberbullying, traveling to roughly 200 schools per year to speak on the subject.
John began his presentation by introducing students to his son, showing them a video comprising of clips and photos of his son’s life. He then told Ryan’s story—beginning with his birth shortly before Christmas of 1989 and ending with the family’s coping with Ryan’s death. John explained how Ryan was cyberbullied by kids at school and how he realizes now that Ryan also suffered from depression. He told all students in the room that they are loved more than they can ever know, and that the adults in their lives are here to help them through these difficult teenage years.
After hearing Ryan’s story, students engaged with John in a Questions and Answers segment, asking insightful and moving questions, from questions about what Ryan was like as a child to what the family does every year on Ryan’s birthday. Teachers will be following up with students in the days after the presentation by discussing cyberbullying and its damaging effects.
John Halligan and his wife Kelly have created a website in memory of their son at www.ryansstory.org. This is also where John can be reached, should a school be interested in hosting him as a guest presenter.
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