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Bullying Can’t Be Solved with More Bullying

Jessica Barba, 15, returned to Longwood High School in New York last week after a five-day suspension for posting her original anti-bullying video on YouTube.

Jessica Barba, 15, returned to Longwood High School in New York last week after a five-day suspension for posting her original anti-bullying video on YouTube.

The video, which was created in fulfillment of a class assignment on persuasive speech, depicted a fictional teenager who is bullied in school and online and eventually commits suicide.When a parent of another student complained to Suffolk County police, Jessica was suspended. But the school district later reversed its rush to judgment. She was reinstated after missing school for five days, and the suspension was expunged from her record. Police said no crime had been committed.

In the video, Jessica portrays a 12-year-old who becomes despondent and depressed after being systematically bullied. Both the title of the video and statements at the start and finish clearly indicate that the scenario is fictional. The video ends with the girl running into her bedroom and slamming the door; a caption indicates that she committed suicide.

“I chose bullying because it is a problem that I feel strongly about,” Jessica told Newsday. “I believe that bullying has to end.”

This incident all too clearly demonstrates that all of the policies, practices and laws in the world are not going to work unless school administrators use common sense and caring to address issues. Indeed, knee-jerk reactions as exemplified by Longwood School District officials, demonstrate the dangerous pitfalls inherent in zero-tolerance policies and anti-bullying legislation.

Enforcement has to be free of politics, prejudicial judgments, and inadequate research and information. In this case, officials were more interested in protecting the reputation of their district than in the welfare of their student. Jessica should have been rewarded for her ingenuity and creativity instead of being punished. There is simply no substitute for fairness. Hastily meting out consequences to satisfy a public relations problem hurts everyone and compromises the integrity of the entire school system.

The Dignity for All Students Act will take effect in New York State on July 1. Let’s hope that school district officials will enforce this with their hearts and heads, keeping the welfare of students as their number one priority. New York joins 11 other states that have already passed similar legislation: California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

The Dignity Act protects against all forms of harassment, especially those based on race, color, weight, national origin, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex.  The legislation amends state education law to require schools to incorporate diversity and discrimination awareness and sensitivity training into lessons on civility, citizenship and character education. In addition, schools are required to develop effective responses to harassment and bullying, and to mplement strategies to prevent these behaviors.

It’s important that this and all anti-bullying legislation be implemented in a way that ensures dignity and justice for all students!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

john June 01, 2012 at 12:02 PM
What was their reasoning for suspending her in the first place?
Paul Poteat June 01, 2012 at 01:38 PM
John, I feel your pain. Every story I've read on this has left that out. Frustrating to say the least. Its not possible that no one ever asked what the original reason was right? I feel like I must be mssing something.
Cindy Lou Who June 01, 2012 at 01:50 PM
She was suspended because one parent didn't think it was appropriate and the school district figured that because the parent is an adult, their opinion overrides that of a child. It saddens me to think that the school was so worried about how it would be perceived that it suspended the child without really thinking. Bullying is a big issue and the more children are aware of it, the more they can help others their age. Common sense is not something everyone has and can be learned by how others react. This girl was truly trying to help and make kids see what really can and does happen.
Paul Poteat June 01, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Cindy, is what you're saying confirmed (that she was suspended because a single parent complaining)? Before I go on a rant of how much power individual parents have I want to make sure you’re right 
Cindy Lou Who June 01, 2012 at 02:15 PM
That is what this post says. Unless the reporting is bad..."When a parent of another student complained to Suffolk County police, Jessica was suspended." Second paragraph!
Paul Poteat June 01, 2012 at 02:32 PM
My brain blocked out that line! Apologies. So now that it’s confirmed....how does one parent get a kid suspended!!! Let’s assume you (worst case scenario) blatantly ignore that parent, what can they do? Keep calling? So what? Isn’t that better than mistakenly suspending a kid and getting slaughtered in Newsday/Patch/etc.? School districts sometimes miscalculate risk/reward and crisis management. They should route all parent complaints to a professional PR firm (only half kidding).
Lee June 02, 2012 at 12:41 AM
She was suspended for FIVE days. Didn't the teacher who gave the assignment, the administrator who gave the suspension, or her parents, siblings and friends look at her video and then act as an advocate for her? I don't see how this punishment went on for five days. I hope that this child is receiving really good counseling and moral support after this traumatic experience!!
BBNY June 03, 2012 at 12:58 PM
I think Jessica should have been given an award for her story and video . Instead the irresponsibe school administration of Longwood School District punishes her for doing an assignment assigned to her by a teacher and gets suspended. Nice message for all the other students of Longwood. Some nameless/faceless person calls Police and another namelees/faceless school official wrongly punish this student and they remain anonymous. I say they both should give Jessica a public apology . Possibly at a school assembly. We are behind you Jessica 110% Good Job!!!. As far as the complainer and the School Administration you should be ashamed of your actions and apologize to this girl.
Ranger Sewer June 04, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Send your Kids to Karate and watch the Bullying stop, and your Kids will learn how to spot trouble and how to stay away from it, AND have the tools to DEFEND THEMSELVES if needed.
John E. Cakes June 04, 2012 at 03:33 PM
The whole story was never told. If you knew it, this article would have never been written. The school district was right for suspending her. Unfortunately, the district cannot legally disclose the truth.
Fred Stewart June 04, 2012 at 04:42 PM
please, fill us in...
Paul Poteat June 04, 2012 at 04:56 PM
What a useless comment. Claiming to have something provocative to say but can't/won't explain it? Very helpful.

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