Editor's Note: This is a supplement to our recent series about bullying in Vermont schools. The series is written by Vermont teacher Catherine M. Oliverio.
While looking through his son Ryan's bedroom at home, parent John Halligan came across the boy's seventh-grade yearbook. Inside was a crude drawing of a stick figure hanging from a flagpole; throughout the book were angry comments scribbled across many student faces in the book. It was as if Ryan was trying to give his father a message. Something was terribly wrong.
"I logged onto Ryan's AOL account and instantly received dozens of responses. First, they wanted to know why I was using Ryan's account," said Halligan. "Well, I wanted to know if anyone was willing to share information with me-then the mystery began to unravel. After my son had gone for a medical exam, he shared his experience in a humorousmanner. The bully took it another way and spread the rumor that Ryan was gay. I was grateful that Ryan adhered to the Internet rules. I found folders on the computer that had archived all of Ryan's conversations and that was how I found out how he dealt with the rumor all summer."
There was also a folder for a girl ; it appeared that Ryan and the girl were boyfriend and girlfriend.
When Ryan approached her in person, she said, "Ryan, you're a loser. I was just joking, pretending to like you on line for a good laugh."
Ryan said, "It's girls like you who make me want to kill myself."
Regarding the exchange Halligan said, "I could not imagine the pain and humiliation my son must have felt. I can't imagine how that girl stomped on Ryan's heart."
Someone in the audience at Halligan's presentation at Poultney High School asked, "Did the boy and girl pay for what they did?"