Friday, 23 September 2011

Suicide of Ryan Halligan

Ryan Patrick Halligan, December 18, 1989 – October 7, 2003 was an American teenager from Essex Junction, Vermont who died by suicide at the age of 13 after bullying from his classmates in real life and cyber-bullying online. According to the Associated Press, Halligan was repeatedly sent instant messages from middle school classmates accusing him of being gay, and was "threatened, taunted and insulted incessantly".
His father, John P. Halligan, a former IBM engineer, subsequently lobbied for laws to be passed in Vermont to improve how schools address bullying and suicide prevention. He has also given speeches at schools in other states about the story of his son.
Ryan's case has been cited by legislators in various states proposing legislation to curb cyber-bullying. In Vermont, laws were subsequently enacted to address the cyberbullying problem and the risk of teen suicides, in response. In 2008, his suicide and its causes were examined in a segment of the PBS Frontline television program entitled "Growing Up Online,".

Ryan Halligan Life and suicide,

Ryan Halligan was born on December 18, 1989 in Poughkeepsie, New York, the son of John P. and Kelly Halligan. His family moved to Essex Junction, Vermont, where Halligan attended elementary school and, later, middle school. He was described by his father as a "gentle, very sensitive soul", who experienced some developmental delays affecting speech and physical coordination in his early school years. Although he overcame those difficulties by the fourth grade, "He still struggled; school was never easy to him, but he always showed up with a smile on his face, eager to do his best", said his father.
In his 1999–2000 school year, Halligan suffered bullying at the hands of a group of students at his school because of his learning disorder. The family stated in a short documentary that Ryan enrolled in counseling, with little success. In December 2002, the youngster told his father that the bullying had started again and asked for a Taebo Kick Boxing set for Christmas in order to learn how to defend himself against the bullies. Following a fight in February 2003 which was broken up by the assistant principal, the bully stopped bothering Ryan. Towards the end of 7th grade, Ryan told his father that he and the bully had become friends. However, after Ryan told him about an embarrassing examination that he had at the hospital following stomach pains, the bully used the information to spread a rumor that Ryan was gay.
According to his father and news reports, Ryan spent much of his time online during the summer of 2003, particularly on AIM and other instant messaging services. During the summer, he was cyber-bullied by schoolmates who taunted him, thinking he was gay. He unintentionally archived these conversations on his hard drive when he installed DeadAIM, a freeware program. His dad also found in this folder of archived conversations transcripts of online exchanges in which a girl whom Ryan had a crush on pretended to like him but later told him at school that he was a "loser". He found out she only pretended to like him in order to retrieve personal information about him. Their private exchanges were copied and pasted into other IMs among his schoolmates to embarrass and humiliate him. After he went up to the girl and she called him a loser, he said "It's girls like you who make me want to kill myself".Ryan had also begun communicating online with a penpal about suicide and death and told him he was thinking about suicide. The penpal answered "It's about time".
On October 7, 2003, when John Halligan, Ryan's father, was away on business, and everyone else in the Halligan family was sleeping early in the morning, Ryan went into his family's bathroom and hanged himself. He was discovered by his sister who was the first one up that morning,.
Bullying As a Social Pathology: A Peer Group Analysis.

Ryan Halligan Aftermath,

Although Halligan left no suicide note, his father, John P. Halligan, learned of the cyberbullying when he accessed his son's computer. He forgave the girl after he found out she was being blamed for Ryan's suicide and was going to kill herself due to guilt over his death and subsequently had her brought over to his house. She would go on to speak out against bullying with Ryan Halligan's father on the popular show ABC primetime. Although the Halligans moved out of Vermont, she still maintains contact with the Halligans. He confronted the bully who had started the gay rumor after he found out he had made fun of how Ryan killed himself. The bully burst into tears and apologized for what he done. Ryan's father also learned the name of Ryan's penpal and tracked him down to his house and spoke to his parents. According to Halligan, he never got a satisfying response. He still visits the boy's website which contains several references to death and suicide. He began to lobby for legislation in Vermont to improve how schools address bullying and suicide prevention. He has also given speeches to schools in various states about the story of his son and the devastating effects of cyberbullying among teens.
Vermont subsequently enacted a Bullying Prevention Policy Law in May 2004 and later adopted a Suicide Prevention Law (Act 114) in 2005 closely following a draft submitted by Halligan's father. The law provides measures to assist teachers and others to recognize and respond to depression and suicide risks among teens. Halligan's case has also been cited by legislators in other states proposing legislation to curb cyber-bullying.
Halligan's story was featured on a Frontline television program entitled "Growing Up Online", produced in January, 2008, by WGBH-TV in Boston and distributed nationwide over PBS. In it, his father recounts his shock upon discovering the extent of the abuse his son endured, saying he believes that bullying on the internet "amplified and accelerated the hurt and pain he was trying to deal with, that started in the real world".

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