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NY School Suspension Gains Worldwide Attention

May 25, 2012

NEW YORK – It's not often that the suspension of a high school freshman makes news around the world, but it happened this week on Long Island. Jessie Barba returned to Longwood High School on Thursday after being suspended for creating a Facebook video about a fake suicide. Barba said it was an anti-bullying project for school.

Loida Santos, associate director of agency programs for Bias Help, a local nonprofit group dedicated to the prevention of hate crimes, says perhaps the project needed more teacher supervision. In the end, however, Santos says it delivered a powerful message to parents and teachers worldwide.

"If they see something that can be dangerous or can be potentially fatal to a young person, they're going to respond to it. So, I think this is a learning experience for everybody."

Despite the five-day suspension, the student's father said he was happy to see his daughter back in school and was hopeful she might earn an "A" for her effort.

Santos believes the parent who alerted the school did the right thing, thinking that a student might be at risk for suicide. At the same time, she says, bullying is a hot-button issue, and school administrators need to take time to investigate allegations before they hand out punishment.

"Did the school overreact? They probably did. They're suspending someone who is doing something right, instead of investigating and looking at what the situation was."

Santos says her group has been involved in anti-bullying presentations in just about every school district on Long Island. She says the important take-away in this case is that any instance of suspected bullying needs to both be reported, and fully investigated.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY