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Community meeting for a community issue

GCSD complements student assemblies with a parents night on bullying

In the past it might have been considered a part of growing up, but today more light is being shed on the issue of bullying than ever before.

Many schools are trying to draw this conversation into the open, and the Guilderland Central School District will be doing so at a community seminar Wednesday, May 18. Taking a Stand: A Community United to Confront Bullying and Other Issues Facing Our Youth will start at 6 p.m. at the high school and feature keynote speak John Halligan.

Halligan's son, Ryan, committed suicide in 2003 after several years of increasingly serious bullying. Now, he tours the nation telling his story and helping groups of kids and parents understand the seriousness of the subject and what can be done about it.

He'll be speaking to students in the middle and high schools Wednesday, tailoring his presentation to the age group he's addressing, and will also give a PowerPoint slide show to parents that evening on how to recognize signs of bullying issues and stop them.

"My main objective is to give information to parents I wished me and my wife had before our son passed away," he said.

It's advised parents leave their young children at home for the evening presentation due to the nature of the topic.

Bullying is not a particularly large issue at Guilderland schools, but that doesn't mean it can be ignored, said Demian Singleton, assistant superintendent for instruction.

"Over the course of the past year or so our district has been very actively studying this topic," he said. "We're pretty much right in line with national statistics, but that to us is unsettling. Our position has been if there's one case, it's one too many."

Thus the idea of bringing the topic outside of school hours with the help of PTA organizations. Halligan, who has spoken at over 500 schools nationwide, doesn't see the problem disappearing anytime soon, in large part due to the increasingly large role of technology in our social lives. For children like his son who are cyberbullied, he said, there is no respite from torment when they get off the school bus"it's a 24/7 affair and parents should be aware of it.

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