Hammonton Gets Close to Ryan

Laura Herman, Staff Writer

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October 7th, 2003 is the day that changed the Halligan family forever. The Hammonton school was delighted to have  Mr. Halligan come to our school to talk about Ryan’s story. Ryan was a victim to bullying, and ended up taking his own life. Here’s Ryan’s story:

Ryan was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, just a week before Christmas. There were early concerns with Ryan’s speech, language, and motor skills development as he entered kindergarten. He received special education services from preschool through fourth grade. By the time fifth grade came along, he no longer was in of additional help but he was not as academically strong as others. Later, a certain kid and friends started to pick on Ryan’s poor academic abilities and poor physical coordination. Ryan’s parents did the usual parent thing and told him to ignore the bullies and got him a therapist. Ryan seemed fine by the end of 5th grade. But by 7th grade, the bullying problem surfaced again. His parents offered to talk to the principal but Ryan refused. He wanted to learn how to fight back. After some training, Ryan then got in a fight with the kid. His parents were surprised to hear that Ryan was now friends with the bully. That summer Ryan went on AOL, a place where he would talk to his friends and even a girl. His parents gave him a rule that he must follow: he must always give them the passwords he used.

After Ryan’s death that rule was the key to solving why Ryan had done what he had done. His dad found out by searching online that Ryan had told his new friend a “funny story”. The friend decided to take the opportunity to start a rumor that Ryan was gay. Ryan thought maybe approaching that girl in the summer could get rid of the rumor. He told her everything– even his personal feelings. When 8th grade started up, Ryan approached his new girlfriend in person only to find out that she was “playing him” and not really interested. She was copying and pasting his messages to her friends. Later that day, Ryan then took his life.

Mr. Halligan shares this heartfelt story with students in order to give awareness to the idea that what you say and do can have an impact on others. After the assembly, many students and teachers felt connected to Ryan and his father. Some students and teachers had some strong responses following the assembly.

“I couldn’t help but to cry, it’s really upsetting to see what happened to him,” said Kylee Vaughn.

“It makes me re-think everything. What happens to kids like him is just cruel and upsetting,” said 7th grade math teacher Ms. Vassallo.

The assembly really impacted the school and it made almost everyone think of what they said to each other and apologize for anything negative they had said in the past. Kids I never thought could cry, bawled their eyes out. Myself, was even on the edge and it was moving in a way. Thank you Mr. Halligan for making people like me re-think the way that I speak and treat others.

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