Bullying-no joking matter

Ryan's bullying started in the fifth grade.

"It seems the meanness switch turns on with emphasis on personal appearance, socioeconomic status, and who is considered SPED," said Halligan. "Students made fun of Ryan, as he was not an athlete at that time. As his parents, we told him to ignore them. Sixth grade was a blur and thought that seventh grade would be an easy year; but no, the bullying brought more tears.

"One night in December 2002 Ryan had his head on the kitchen table crying-he said, 'I hate that school. I never want to go back there. Can I be home schooled?'"

The bullies had returned.

"My first reaction was to do something about it, but Ryan begged me not to set up a meeting with the principal and guidance because he did not want to be embarrassed," Halligan said. "Instead, Ryan wanted me to teach him to defend himself. This brought back memories of the movie, The Karate Kid. We did a kickboxing program every night and talked about anything and everything."

During this time together, Halligan emphasized that he did not want to get calls from school about Ryan getting into any fights. "I told him that he had my permission to wail on the bully," he said.

Eventually, Ryan and the bully fought with Ryan landing a few good punches, which made Halligan proud.

Ironically, Ryan said, "After the fight, the bully and I actually became friends." Things changed from that point on.

It wasn't until the end of seventh grade and the beginning of the summer of eighth grade, 2003, that Ryan spent most of his time on the computer as if driven by an addiction.

The Halligans had strict Internet safety rules: no IM with strangers, no personal information, no pictures, and no secret passwords.

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