Anti-bullying walk held in North Hempstead

Hundreds of students participated in North Hempstead's first annual Bullying Awareness Walk on Saturday. Videojournalist: J. Conrad Williams Jr. (April 6, 2013)

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They call themselves "the superheroes" of Herricks High School.

The three members of "The Justice League" club said they were fed up with a string of bullying incidents -- the cyber and the cafeteria kind -- and took a bullying awareness campaign to Town Hall.

Thanks to their efforts, North Hempstead town sponsored its first "Bullying Awareness Walk" Saturday at North Hempstead Beach Park in Port Washington. Several hundred students, educators, and lawmakers gathered to make the 10-minute walk and to ponder the epidemic -- some telling grim tales, others forecasting an easier road.

John Halligan, whose 13-year-old son Ryan committed suicide in 2003, helped open the 90-minute event as keynote speaker.

"Just a generation ago, we never talked about this," he said.

Walking the pathways that encircle North Hempstead Beach Park, Halligan pointed out how intricate the world of bullying has become since his son died.

Ryan Halligan, like many middle schoolers, exchanged instant messages with his peers in Vermont and was often bullied online, said his father, who lives in Farmingdale. Now, he said, students are "moving on from Facebook; they're finding Instagram, Twitter."

Students say that, while bullying has become more high profile, the proliferation of social media platforms has resulted in new forms of bullying.

Just two weeks ago, justice leaguer Monica Abdallah recalled seeing an Instagram photo of a student, posted by another classmate, describing the subject just as "It."

Michael Reisman, a junior at Herricks and a member of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance, noted that gay students, especially, are still the target of intense discrimination.

"In this new age, technology plays a part," he said.

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