Thursday, May 24, 2012

Shooting The Messenger -- Story of Jessica Barba

Jessica Barba, a high school freshman at Longwood High School, Middle Island, N.Y., was suspended for trying to raise awareness of a major issue--bullying in schools.  She produced a six-minute video on bullying for a high  school assignment, featuring a fictitious character (Hailey Bennet) as the victim, who ultimately commits suicide.  She also created a fake Facebook page in Hailey Bennet's name and posted an update that said, "I wanna be dead".  A concerned parent reported the page to the police. The school, ignoring all the notices on the page that it was mere fiction, suspended Barba for a period of five days for causing disruption.

Photo credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara
Barba right
Bullying has become a problem of such proportions because schools often tend to look the other way. At the beginning of every school year, school authorities convene assemblies to announce a no tolerance policy towards bullying.  Children are encouraged to report bullying to the counselors and teachers; however, either due to the volume of complaints or lack of trained personnel, the complaints get swept under the rug. With two children who have been through the public school system, I am aware of the horrors of the lunchtime school cafeteria and those unsupervised corners of the playground or the school corridors.  I know of parents who had to remove their children from such environment and pay exorbitant fees to private schools to keep them safer and happier and not just to give them a better education. 

Children that are bullied suffer loss of self-esteem, depression and anxiety and the trauma stays with them their entire lives. Schools have to nurture children and give them a carefree childhood instead of becoming a nightmare as they are apt to do nowadays. And there are none so blind as those who will not see; school officials must adopt stricter measures in combating this problem. "Bullying is 100 percent preventable," Barba says.The schools certainly should not punish somebody who is creating that awareness.  I think Jessica Barba is a heroine. 

UPDATE: The school reinstated Jessica Barba today.  It also promised to remove  the suspension off her transcript. Hopefully, it will now encourage free speech on this subject and allow dialogue and independent thought to address the issue.  For some more information on anti-bullying and proactive behavioral management, click here.


Prabha Mohan said...

It takes a lot of courage to do what Barba did. The school on the other hand displayed a bigoted attitude and cowardice. Schools are ultimately to blame for bullying, not the kids.

Unknown said...

I am not sure what training these counsel lessened but as a parent of a bullied child I know how stressful it is for both the child and the parent to watch this happen. More open dialogue with school teachers etc????

Priyamvada said...

School teachers don't normally get involved. Guidance counsellors always want "evidence". usually, there are no witnesses or kids are scared of repercussions from peers to come forward and report bullying. That fear has to be eliminated. Only trained professionals can help--the dialogue is to find a way to help kids report such happenings. This is only the first step. Kids like to belong to groups and be popular. They do not want to help victims of bullying in case they are rejected by the group. This is not a simple issue.