Belleville Middle School 8th graders recently participated in an Anti-Bullying/Suicide Prevention presentation. The presenter was John Halligan, who lost his 13-year-old son, Ryan, to suicide in October 2003. After his death, it was revealed that Ryan Patrick Halligan was the victim of intense bullying and was ridiculed and humiliated by his peers at school and online. Ryan was a student at a middle school in Essex Junction, Vt., at the time of his death.
John Halligan is an outspoken advocate for anti-bullying education. In memory of his son, Halligan spearheaded the Vermont Bully Prevention bill which was signed into law in May 2004, only a few months after Ryan’s death. He also successfully led the passage of the law pertaining to mandatory suicide prevention education in public schools in April 2006.
Halligan told the students about Ryan, the way he was bullied, and the effect it had on the whole family and community. His presentation began with a video of home movie clips and pictures of Ryan. Halligan then told about the factors which led to his son’s suicide.
The BMS students gained a deeper understanding of the devastating impact of a teen suicide. Many life lessons were imparted, including forgiveness and finding ways to turn a tragedy into hope for others.
Ryan’s story has been told worldwide by print, radio and TV, including CBS Early Morning Show, Good Morning America, and BBC World Radio. For his work in Ryan’s memory, John Halligan has received many community service awards, including one from the United Way and the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award.