Student Bravely Fights Anti-BullyingWednesday, June 06, 2012 By Prianka Zaman ‘13
Long Island teenager Jessica Barba was suspended from Longwood High School for five-days for bravely raising awareness against bullying through a creative short film she created and posted on YouTube, according to ABC News. Barba, 15, created a character named Hailey Bennett, a smart and seemingly happy 12-year-old girl. The video starts off with Bennett happily painting away when a classmate tears the paintbrush from her hand and rips up her artwork. Then Bennett sadly sits alone in the lunchroom as tables around her are filled with friends chatting and eating. Finally, Bennett walks through the halls only to have another classmate throw her books on the floor and shove her into the wall. As if this isn’t enough abuse in school, she returns home to be beaten by her father. Her mother died when Bennett was just three years old. She logs onto her Facebook page and reads tons of messages calling her fat, ugly, smelly, and more. The sad video ends with “Hailey Bennett committed suicide May 14 10:37 pm.” According to an article from the New York Daily News, Barba told WNBC/CH 4 New York that she was confused and hurt that the video she made with good intentions turned into a punishable offense. School officials will revoke the suspension and let Barba back into school. I don’t understand why Barba was initally punished for spreading awareness about teen suicide and bullying. Apparently, parents and students didn’t understand that Hailey Bennett was a fictional character even though Barba included annotations at the beginning and the end of the video and a description bar stating that the character portrayed is fictional. Barba’s video was touching in a unique way because Bennett’s story was told in the perspective of a teenager with no support at all. Another anti-bullying movie, Cyberbully, has the same message, but it is portrayed through an entirely different perspective. Cyberbully tells the story of Taylor Hillridge, a 17 year old girl, who is a victim of bullying through social media. Hillridge faced hateful messages and verbal abuse on her Facebook page after a hacker got into her profile and posted suggestive status updates and rude comments. She received a backlash of hate from her classmates who didn’t believe that someone hacked her page. Soon the comments got so mean that Hillridge attempted to take her life, just like Bennett from Barba’s video. When I walk the halls of Midwood, I don’t see many students getting bullied in school or online. It doesn’t appear to be a major problem, especially since New York City is a more liberal city with tolerant and accepting teenagers. According to ABC News, however, 30 percent of students are bullies or victims of bullies, 25 percent of students are victims of cyber bullying, and an alarming 77 percent of students are verbally bullied in school. What makes it worse is that some of these students don’t have the support of parents or friends, just like Bennett, or they are too afraid or ashamed to talk to friends or family about it, like Hillridge. This is where videos like Barba’s on YouTube come into play. When these students feel alone, imagine what would happen if they stumble across Barba’s video. Even though her video was for a project, the effort she put into it made it so much more than just another assignment. She acted as a voice to teens everywhere who feel misunderstood, isolated, or helpless. The suicide at the end of the video was an added touch of drama that makes the video even more eye opening. Parents and students who were upset over the suicide should see beyond it to the main point of the video. The administration should have taken into account the message behind Barba’s video. We need more teens like Barba who go above and beyond to spread awareness of this serious problem that affects many teens today.