Mr. Halligan’s Message for WHS

Mr. Halligans Message for WHS

Lexie Hullivan, Reporter

Ryan Halligan was only 13 years old when he ended his own life. Ryan, who was younger than most Waterford High School students, had been experiencing long term, excessive bullying. Ryan’s father, John Halligan, has been brave enough to share Ryan’s story with schools around the country in order to advocate for anti-bullying and suicide prevention.

On Monday, February 6th, there were few dry eyes in the audience of the Waterford High auditorium. Just by attending school, most kids have been involved in bullying, whether by being a bystander, being bullied, or being the bully. Mr. Halligan touched on the fact that Ryan had friends who he confided in, who knew about the bullying, and never reached out to an adult. He also confessed that he often feels guilty for not doing more to prevent Ryan’s suicide. The purpose of the assembly was to inspire students to stand up to bullies. Mr. Halligan’s visit made a difference to Waterford students, especially those who have had similar experiences to Ryan. If Ryan’s story hit close to home for you, you are not alone.

Sophomore student Ava Rivera was moved by the assembly, saying that “I found the entire story very touching. I walked out of the auditorium feeling reflective and especially considerate of the people around me.” Rivera reveals that it was not only her that was emotional, but also the friends and fellow students who were sitting nearby: “I watched many people go up to speak with Mr. Halligan after the bell. I wished that I had gone as well.” If time had permitted, Rivera would’ve told Mr. Halligan: “I appreciate you taking time to share your story with us. I am sorry for your loss and I will pray for you and your family.” Although this would have been nice to hear, Mr. Halligan was not short of kind sentiments from the Waterford High School student body.

While for most, Ryan’s story was the most poignant, some found the story of Ashley and Ryan’s bullying to be the most thought-provoking. Ashley was a popular girl, who began to flirt with Ryan on social media in the summer leading up to the tragedy. Despite her actions, Ashley was only pretending to be interested in Ryan, and was really making fun of him behind his back. This came after Ryan’s bully, who remains unnamed, spread a rumor around the school that Ryan was gay. Senior Natalie Schenking recalls the fiery reactions of the students around her: “When Mr. Halligan was talking about the girl, Ashley, there was a row of guys behind me who were becoming visibly upset, and even shouted out in anger.” Hearing what these kids did to Ryan is a tough pill to swallow, and it may even be hard to believe that kids could be so cruel. 

That being said, WHS students are not totally innocent and definitely have something to learn from this story. Whether it be whispers in the hallway, or face-to-face confrontation, it exists. If anything is taken away from Ryan’s story, have it be that bullying happens everywhere, in all different forms, and to ignore it is to be complicit in it. 

If you or somebody you know is in crisis, there is an anonymous tip line where you can seek help. Email [email protected] or call or text 860-909-4004 to report any urgent situation you know of around the school. Remember, taking a second of your day to contact the school tip line could save someone’s life.