Ryan’s Story

Ryan Patrick Halligan (1989 – 2003)

By Gracie Goldy

The consequences of technology leave lasting impacts and can affect an individual at the most extreme degree, death. Ryan Halligan was just your average 13-year-old kid. He lived at home with both of his parents, went to a middle school in Essex Junction, Vermont and wanted to be accepted just like everyone else. On October 7th, 2003, Ryan took his own life as a result of the battles he faced with cyberbullying. His parents, John and Kelly, expressed how their lives would never be the same after the death of their son. Now, John speaks at schools around the country and shares Ryan’s story with hopes of putting an end to cyberbullying. 

According to John, Ryan struggled with speech, language, and motor skill development early into his childhood. Throughout pre-school and elementary school, he received special educational services which were incredibly beneficial for his academic development. Even though he got past these academic deficits, he still felt as though he was academically challenged in a sense. He had to put in much more work than his peers did in middle school and he constantly felt as though he was struggling to keep up with the intense work load. 

Ryan’s peers started to target Ryan’s academic weaknesses and would bully him at school. While they would never physically harm Ryan, they would tease him andoften were mentally tormenting. Ryan’s parents were proactive and found a therapist for him to talk with and as a result of this and their advice, they felt as though things were getting better. After elementary school, Ryan went onto middle school and continued to struggle academically, just as he had in elementary school. The bullying picked back up again, but his parents were never too concerned with it because they viewed it as a normal part of development. While the bullying seemed to be controlled from Ryan’s parents’ point of view, in reality, he was really struggling. 

However, in 7th grade, the bullying got out of control. He had been hiding his feelings and struggles from hisparents, but it got to the point where he could no longer hide his pain. He mentioned the idea of either moving or having his parents home school him, but they just motivated him to push through the situation. His dad offered to talk to the school about the bullying, but Ryan felt as though it would only make the situation worse. Ryan convinced his parents to buy him a kick boxing training kit for Christmas so that he could defend himself if he was ever stuck in a dangerous situation. Sure enough, one day his skills were put to the test and he got into a fight with one of the kids who had been bullying him. He told his parents that the kid wouldn’t be bothering him anymore, so they became less concerned about the situation as a whole. Ryan’s parents admit now how they should have continued to take the situation seriously. 

After Ryan took his own life, his dad went into his computer and viewed all the instant messages that Ryan was receiving up until the day he died. He realized how powerful and dangerous the online world can be and was aware of how drastically it affected his son. Ryan’s parents now travel around sharing their story and speaking on behalf of their son. They know now how quickly one’s lifecan be taken away and are working to do whatever they can to educate on the seriousness of the situation. Ryan’s parents have worked to create a prevention law on bullying and have worked to hold school’s accountable for the bullying that occurs within their schools. They are aware that they can never get Ryan back, but they are determined to help parents find ways to prevent this happening within their own families.