As a project for a persuasive speech class, 15-year-old Long Island student Jessica Barba created a video about a fictional girl named Hailey who committed suicide after experiencing extensive bullying and cyberbullying. For that, Longwood School District suspended her for five days, with Superintendent Allan Gerstenlauer calling the video “unfortunate in that it created a substantial disruption to the school.” The school also told her that removing the video would help “soften the blow” of her punishment, but after her suspension was passed down anyway, she reuploaded it. The school also took down the fictional Facebook page Barba had created for the character in the video.
Yesterday, however — after Barba had already missed several days of class — the school decided to lift her suspension and wipe it from her record. She reacted to the decision:
BARBA: I’m going back to school, and that’s what I wanted… The school did the right thing… they turned a wrong into a right, and that’s all that matters. It feels great to have made [the video] go around the world and made it get to different children’s eyes, and I hope made kids be inspired to be not bullies, and stand up for bullying. Speak up, speak out, and that’s what I’ve been saying.
Neither Jessica nor her father would comment on the school’s intention for suspending her in the first place. As one Longwood alum wrote in response to the incident, “The disruption was there before Barba’s project. It is she who is bringing the disruption to light and challenging others to talk about and deal with a real and dangerous problem.”
Watch Barba’s video, which now has over 130,000 views on YouTube: