‘Ryan’s Story’ Brings Powerful Anti-Bullying Message to Amityville

‘Ryan’s Story’ Brings Powerful Anti-Bullying Message to Amityville photo thumbnail136111

On the 16th anniversary of a day that changed his life, John Halligan told students in the district a powerful story about his son, Ryan, who was bullied in school and took his own life. He spoke to sixth graders at Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School and seventh, eighth and ninth graders at Edmund W. Miles Middle School on Oct. 7.

“Ryan’s Story,” which has been presented at more than 2,000 schools across the country including the middle school three years ago, began with Mr. Halligan introducing students to Ryan through photos and videos. He then went on to tell the story of how Ryan was bullied in his Vermont middle school and the tragic consequences that resulted. Ryan was 13 when he died. Within a year, Mr. Halligan’s efforts resulted in a Vermont law establishing bullying prevention programs in schools. Many states, including New York, have followed suit.

His presentation had several core messages including suicide prevention, forgiveness and the role of bystanders in allowing bullying to happen. He encourages students to examine how they treat each other and apologize to someone they may have wrongly treated, and also reminds them that they are loved dearly. 

Middle school Principal Earl Mitchell explained that Mr. Halligan has taken a painful and tragic experience and turned it into a learning experience for others. He thanked Mr. Halligan for sharing his personal story with Amityville students.  

Middle school social worker Beatriz Offitto added that October is National Bullying Prevention Month and Mr. Halligan’s presentation is one of several character education initiatives, including unity day and mix-it-up day. She said the goal of these different activities are to encourage students to talk to others outside of their normal social circles, make new friends and foster a bully-free culture.   

Park Avenue sixth graders said the emotional presentation shined a light on bullying, and how it can manifest itself in several ways, including in person and over the computer. Jeffrey Lopez said he learned not to get involved in cyberbullying, while Ryan Daly said she hopes that Mr. Halligan’s words inspire her classmates to take action if they notice someone being bullied.

Nicholas Leon noted that Ryan was bullied a lot in middle school, and felt this presentation was important because he and his classmates are on the cusp of middle school. He said he expects Mr. Halligan’s messages to stick with him for years to come. Nasir Grant added that small insults can become bigger over time and a situation can get out of hand. He said no student should ever strive to make others miserable, but instead should treat his or her peers with kindness and respect.