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When bullying results in tragedy

Editor's Note: This is the conclusion of a three-part series about bullying. The series was written by Catherine M. Oliverio, a Poultney High School teacher and freelance writer.

The boy cried. "I'm sorry, Mr. Halligan. I promise I'll never say anything about Ryan."

The belated apology from a bully meant a great deal to parent John Halligan. And he later asked himself, "Why didn't I do this sooner? If only, my son would be alive today."

The Vermont boy that taunted Ryan finally stopped bullying-he is now 19 and his life has been profoundly affected by the tragedy of Ryan Halligan.

"I give teachers a lot of credit. Teachers make profound impacts," said Halligan. "I'll never forget my art teacher, my favorite teacher. She made her students feel welcomed and got to know us. She told life stories to create our thinking.

"From her we learned that a former student had died because of suicide. You can always turn an inkblot into a butterfly. We all make mistakes, but lessons are learned. When there is a bad situation, turn it into something good."

Halligan's recent presentation at Poultney High School left an impression on students and teachers alike.

Students in eighth grade English classes continued with the topic of bullying with related activity questions. Halligan's visit fit in well with the students current reading of a book, titled "The Revealers", by Doug Wilhelm.

"Doug and I are very good friends-that's a great book to reinforce how dangerous and serious bullying can be," Halligan said.

At the conclusion of his presentation, Halligan received a standing ovation. He held a question and answer session but said, "Please do not ask about the suicide details."

When asked if he had given a similar talk at Ryan's school, Halligan said, "No, I would not be able to step into that school because it is too hard. In his memory, a tree was planted at the school."

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