Who is Ryan Halligan?
Ryan Halligan was 13 years old when he committed suicide on October 7, 2003. His parents don't place a singular blame, as Ryan suffered from depression, but say that cyberbullying was a major cause of Ryan's death.
Ryan was bullied at school so he learned kickboxing to defend himself. After getting in a fight in February 2003 with the main bully, the children stopped teasing him for a while. One day, Ryan told his parents he was now friends with the former bully. His parents were concerned, but allowed Ryan to make his own decisions.
After Ryan's funeral, his dad logged into Ryan's AOL instant messaging account to see if there were any clues to why Ryan had taken his own life. John, Ryan's father, had heard rumor of ongoing cyberbullying. Ryan had trusted his new "friend" with an embarrassing and funny story. This boy shared this story, spreading rumors that Ryan was gay.
These rumors went into the summer. During the summer, Ryan started talking to a female classmate online in order to help dispel these rumors. When 8th grade started, Ryan approached his girlfriend. In front of friends and classmates, Ryan was told it had all been a joke. She and her friends had found it funny to get Ryan to say a lot of personal things, which were then shared with others. 1
Ryan's father, John, worked hard after his son's death to get two laws passed in Vermont: one about bullying prevention and one about suicide prevention education. 2 The family has also teamed up with I-Safe America to raise awareness of cyberbullying.