John and Kelly Halligan lost their thirteen 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. After Ryan’s death, it was revealed that he was ridiculed and humiliated by peers at school and on-line.
Ryan father writes: “A few days after his funeral I logged on to his AOL IM account because that was the one place he spent most of his time during the last few months. I logged on to see if there were any clues to his final action. It was in that safe world of being somewhat anonymous that several of his classmates told me of the bullying and cyber bullying that took place during the months that led up to his suicide. The boy that had bullied him since 5th grade and briefly befriended Ryan after the brawl was the main culprit. My son the comedian told his new friend something embarrassing and funny that happened once and the friend (bully) ran with the new information that Ryan had something done to him and therefore Ryan must be gay. The rumor and taunting continued beyond that school day … well into the night and during the summer of 2003.”
Ryan’s father, John, devotes his time to touring the United States and Canada, meeting with young people and promoting the need for more education and prevention of bullying, cyberbullying and teen suicide. He has also established a website in his son’s memory.