JFK Middle School is Bully-Free

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The Bethpage School District’s JFK Middle School held Bullying Awareness Day in November. Each grade followed a schedule of activities and programs based on anti-bullying. The day started with a PowerPoint lesson, followed by a special presentation and assorted activities.

The highlight of Bullying Awareness Day was the assembly, “Ryan’s Story,” presented by John Halligan. Mr. Halligan lost his son Ryan to suicide in 2003, and it is believed that bullying and humiliation – both online and in school - from Ryan’s peers are what sparked this tragedy. Following Ryan’s death, Mr. Halligan helped form the Vermont Bullying Prevention Bill and also played a role in passing ACT 114, a law pertaining to mandatory suicide prevention education in public schools.

Mr. Halligan shared Ryan’s story and photographs from the time his son was a young child through his adolescent years. He described the difficulties that Ryan faced as a result of bullying, as well as its broader impact. “When you bully, you’re not just bullying one kid – you’re bullying their entire family,” he explained. He discussed the basic characteristics of bullies while noting that bystanders are guilty as well, and encouraged students to help their peers. Mr. Halligan then took the time to respond to questions students asked about Ryan’s situation and bullying in general.

Following Mr. Halligan’s presentation, JFK Middle School Principal Ms. Kerri McCarthy addressed the students. “Change really comes from within,” she explained. “You as students have the power to make that change. You should be here to support each other.”

Students then participated in post-assembly activities including group discussions and handouts in classrooms, cooperative games in the gymnasium, a video showing, and ice cream treats. Staff members, who wore “Bully-Free Forever” shirts, emphasized tips for dealing with bullying, avoiding cyber bullying, and important points from the Ryan’s Story presentation. The day brought students together in realizing the importance of good character and rising above negative behaviors such as bullying.