Last year, I attended an assembly at Antioch Upper Grade School, where a man told the emotional story of his son who had committed suicide in 2003.
The man, John Halligan, talked about how his son, Ryan, had been mercilessly bullied. Ryan was teased at school and even stood up to his bully at one point.
It wasn't until after Ryan's death, however, that his parents discovered that he'd been bullied on the Internet as well. John found instant messages from other students and even contacted some of Ryan's classmates, discovering that the bullying had continued online. While John said his son ultimately suffered from depression, he and his wife have no doubt that the bullying and cyber-bullying helped trigger that depression. Ryan was just 13 when he killed himself.
Search the Internet and you'll find many other stories like Ryan's. Kids today aren't just bullied in school lunchrooms or on the playground. There often is no escape because when they get home, they can be bullied on the Internet as well.
It's stories like Ryan's that make me particularly proud of the efforts of the Lake Zurich High School student who started a website where students can only post compliments about their classmates. Remaining anonymous, the student started the site when she was a freshman. She'll be a sophomore this fall, and her site is going strong.
LZ Compliments has been a huge hit with the middle school and high school students it caters to. The student has approved and posted close to 3,000 compliments so far. I can only imagine how her classmates feel when they see compliments about themselves on LZ Compliments. And I can't help but think that maybe those compliments could end up saving a life.