GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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May 6, 2013

Dad tells RHS students of bullies' impact

Rockport school officials are taking new steps toward creating a positive learning environment.

That includes steps against bullying – and that has included the father of a 13-year-old who committed suicide telling more than 500 Rockport high school and middle school students that they are the ones who hold the most power in preventing bullying by speaking up and walking away.

“Bystanders are a big part of the problem. Bullies do it for the audience. If you speak up and walk away, you take that audience away from the bully, John Halligan said during a recent presentation at the school.

“If your friend is bullying someone, tell your friend that it is not OK,” he said. “The friends of people who bully have the most power to stop it.”

This is just one program brought into the schools to help foster a positive learning environment. Before the end of the school year, Ed Gerety will talk to students about how to be a leader as an individual and as a community, said Phil Conrad, who serves as principal of the high and middle schools. Both programs are funded by a Rockport Rotary grant.

Halligan urged students to be an “upstander” to help stop bullying and not be a bystander. But he also wanted students to know they are never alone and that they are surrounded by adults who want to help if they are in need.

Halligan, who lives in Vermont, has toured nationally to speak on the effects of bullying, visiting 858 schools in 35 states — including Manchester Essex Regional Middle/High School in 2010. His program called “Ryan’s story” has been broadcast on several national outlets outlets, including CNN Anderson Cooper 360, PrimeTime with Diane Sawyer and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Halligan told the students of how his son Ryan committed suicide on Oct. 7, 2004 after years of bullying. He told the crowd that he never intended to be a regular speaker on this subject.

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