SUMMIT, NJ - John and Kelly Halligan lost their 13 year-old son, Ryan, to suicide on October 7, 2003. At the time of his death, Ryan was a student at a middle school in Essex Junction, Vermont. It was revealed in much greater detail after Ryan’s death that he was ridiculed and humiliated by peers at school and on-line.
In memory of his son, John Halligan spearheaded the Vermont Bully Prevention bill which was signed into law (ACT117) in May, 2004, and 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 (ACT 114) in April 2006. Halligan has been outspoken about the need for more education and prevention of bullying, cyberbullying and teen suicide throughout the United States and Canada. His son’s story, and his accomplishments in response to this tragedy, have been told world-wide by print, radio and TV, including The CBS Early Morning Show, CNN Anderson Cooper 360, Good Morning America, and The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Summit parents will have the opportunity to hear Halligan's powerful story first-hand, as he will speak at a special assembly at the Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School (LCJSMS) auditorium October 3 at 7 p.m. He will also be speaking to both the seventh- and eighth-grade students at LCJSMS during the same day. The assembly is entitled "Bullying, Cyberbullying and Youth Depression", and is sponsored by the LCJSMS PTO.
Halligan's student presentations begin with video of home movie clips and pictures of Ryan as a very powerful way of introducing his son. He then begins to tell the story of Ryan’s life and the factors that led up to his son’s suicide. The audience gains a unique perspective from inside a family of a child who is a victim of bullying and cyberbullying. They also gain a deeper understanding of the devastating impact of a teen suicide on a family. There are many powerful life lessons imparted, including forgiveness and finding ways to turn a tragedy into hope for others.
For his work in Ryan's memory, Halligan has received community services awards from United Way of Vermont, Children Abuse Prevention Services (CAPS) of New York, Kids Safe Collaborative of Vermont, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Vermont and the FBI Director's Community Leadership Award.