Editor's Note: The following letter was written and submitted by North Merrick School District Superintendent David Feller.
Dear Sixth Grade Parents:
The North Merrick administration, faculty and PTA work collaboratively to make certain that all children are safe, respectful and responsible. Character education and bully prevention have always held significant roles in children’s education; however, in this era of cell phones, social media sites, e-mail and newspaper front page reports, we are committed to teaching our children how to be cyber-safe and cyber-bully free.
In partnership with our PTAs, we have recruited Mr. John Halligan to speak to sixth grade students on Thursday, Jan. 24 from 9:30-10:45 a.m. in the Brookside School (via Courtesy Bus Company). Mr. Halligan will relay his own tragic experience as a father whose thirteen-year-old son, Ryan, took his own life in 2003, after incessant bullying by peers since the fifth grade, both in school and online.
During his short video collection of home movie clips and still pictures of Ryan, students will gain a perspective from inside a family of a child victimized by both bullying and cyber bullying. When Mr. Halligan shares the factors that led to his son’s suicide, students will also learn the signs and risk of teenage suicide and how best to help a friend. The presentation story is riveting and powerful, and reminds students that there is a face, a person and a heart on the other end of the computer screen. At the conclusion, students will have the chance to ask questions.
Within each school, small student groups, led by sixth grade teachers, physical education teachers and mental health faculty will convene before the presentation to prepare students and will reconvene following the presentation to process the content and participate in team-building activities. Our faculty members have participated in several comprehensive planning sessions for this event.
Prior to January 24, our social workers will present a program to our sixth grade students focused on bully prevention, cyber-bully prevention and related safety tips. Students will also be asked to sign an anti-bully pledge. Throughout the school year, Sixth Grade Town Hall Meetings; Child Abuse Prevention Services (CAPS) Programs: Step Up and Speak Out and Surf-Safe; and other events have been planned.
Given the sensitive nature of the topic, we suggest that you ask your child about the John Halligan presentation, and discuss it together. If for any reason, you would prefer that your child not attend, please send a written note to your building principal no later than Thursday, Jan. 14.
We encourage you to attend the January 24, 2013, 7:00 PM presentation, (flyer attached) “Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Youth Depression.” John Halligan will provide you with strategies designed to take preventative action. For more information, feel to visit www.ryanpatrickhalligan.org
Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact your building principal. Kindly complete the attached permission slip and return it to your child’s classroom teacher no later than Jan. 14.
David S. Feller, Superintendent
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