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!

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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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