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WPCNR SCHOOL DAYS. Special to WPCNR from Stepinac High School. January 26, 2023:

In its ongoing commitment to help raise awareness about bullying and cyber-bullying, incidents of which are widespread at high schools throughout the nation, Stepinac High School today addressed the issue with riveting presentations by renowned speaker/author John Halligan.

The father of a 13-year-old son who was bullied at school and committed suicide in 2003, Halligan led compelling and informative discussions with Stepinac’s students, their parents and guardians as well as members of the community.  The sessions were held in the school’s Major Bowes Auditorium.

Halligan, who has made it a personal mission to curb bullying and cyber-bullying, relayed his own tragic experience as a father of a son, Ryan, who had been bullied by his peers since the fifth grade, both in school and online. Halligan related that bullying and cyber-bullying were factors that contributed to Ryan’s vulnerability and ultimate suicide as the youngster had wrestled with underlying mental health issues and depression.

Halligan began his presentation with a short video comprising home movie clips and pictures to tell Ryan’s story. Paul Carty, Principal, said that Halligan’s heartbreaking and unforgettable presentation reminded “our students that there is a face, a person, a heart on the other side of the screen,” adding: “The students gained a unique perspective from inside the family of a victim of bullying and cyber-bullying.”

In the wrap-up session, the students received life-changing lessons about forgiveness, suicide prevention, the role of bystanders and a challenge to apologize to someone.

 According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) website, #StopBullying | CDC, last year, about 1 in 5 high school students in the U.S. reported being bullied on school property and  more than 1 in 6 reported they were the target of cyber-bullying.  Bullying can result in physical injury, social and emotional distress, self-harm, and even death. It also increases the risk for depression, anxiety, and poor academic achievement. The CDC also notes the youth who bully others are at increased risk for substance use and academic problems.

Frank Portanova (Class of ’93), Vice Principal of Academics and Curriculum, said: “Bullying and cyber-bullying can be prevented.  Our hope is that, inspired by Halligan’s presentation, students, parents and guardians and the community at large will continue this important conversation with each other and elsewhere to effect change.” For more information, visit the site named after Halligan’s son:

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