Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What Do We Expect of Our Kids? In Support of Jessica Barba

If you do not know this young lady's name, you should.  Jessica Barba is a 15-year old freshman at Longwood High School in Middle Island, NY.  Jessica tried, albeit somewhat in vain, to make a difference.  Jessica followed the rules, thought outside the box, and participated in a class project in which the students were told to create a project about an important issue.  Jessica chose to do her project on, and raise awareness of, an issue that has been in the news a lot recently - bullying.  Before I delve into what, exactly, Jessica did for her project, I will be the first to admit that, upon hearing the initial reports and increased coverage of this issue, I was one that said, "Really?  This has been going on forever.  We've all been, at one point in time, exposed to bullying.  We've all either been a part of a group that has seen it, contributed to it, or (worse) been the victim of it.  Get over it - it happens all the time."  I will also be the first to admit (write it down!) I was horribly wrong.  The bullying we experienced as kids was far different than what kids experience now.  Kids, for some reason, seem to be more cruel and hateful in their bullying now.  What were seen as 'harmless pranks and comments' then are far more extreme now.  More importantly, the way these things are dealt with now are nore extreme.  Victims of bullying in years past might have gone home and cried.  They might have had to get a parent to calm them down and reassure them that it would be okay.  Today, kids are far more likely to do something drastic.  It seems, at least, that they are far more likely to exact revenge or, sadly, take their own lives.  The stories in the news are filled with these after-effects.  It is sad but horribly true.  This is an issue facing our teens and we, as parents, are struggling with how to address and cope with it for the safety of our children.  It is also a time when we often bemoan the fact that, "this younger generation never puts forth any effort and only makes the problems worse.  None of them are leaders enough to take a stand."  Enter 15-year old Jessica.

Again, thinking 'outside the box', Jessica created a fake Facebook page and made a six minute video about the fictional Hailey Bennet (played by Jessica) who lost her mother when she was three years old, was abused by her father, and was then left alone when her best friend moved away.  She gets bullied at school, is made fun of on the fake Facebook page, and eventually ends her life.  Keep in mind that both the video AND facebook page had disclaimers stating that Hailey was a fictional character.  What happened next is what caused the problem.  A concerned parent saw the page and, apparently, did not view it thoroughly enough.  The parent called the police, who then contacted the school.  On the FB page, Jessica (as Hailey) had posted updates stating that she wanted to be dead.  When called to the principal's office, Jessica was confronted with printouts from the FB page that did NOT include her disclaimer.  Though she tried to plead her case to administrators, the person that printed these pages did not scroll down far enough to include the disclaimer.  Her mother later brought the same printouts that clearly showed it, however school officials did not seem to care.  Here comes the really incredible part....

Jessica faced a suspension hearing at school today.  As I write this, I do not know the outcome, however I know what it should be.  The administrators stated that her video was, "unfortunate in that it created a substantial disruption in the school."  Good!  It should have!  We preach and harp and put the issue on television and tell the kids it is wrong.  Now, when one student does something that raises the awareness to an incredible level, we punish her for doing something to bring it to everyone's attention??  How hypocritical can we, as adults, be??  If this had been my child, I would be as incredibly proud of her as her parents are now.  I have watched and listened to my own daughter as she tells me how people would pick on a girl that is overweight or a young boy in a wheelchair.  When asked what she did (and later witnessed her behavior), she told me that she and some of her friends admonished the other kids for their behavior, then spent time with the victims of the bullying.  I have seen her sit with them at lunch when others would not, or spend time with them at school events when others turned away laughing.  Through all of it, she and her friends did what was right...and I told them all how proud I was for doing it, later admitting that I, being in the same position at their age, wasn't sure how I would have acted.  I may not have been the one saying things or laughing, yet I don't know if I would have so publicly displayed disdain for the actions of others.  Had my daughter made this same video that Jessica made, I would not only be fighting with the school but I would also be showing the video everywhere I could.  This girl deserves to be applauded not disciplined.  They should use her as a shining example of how to lead others and how to treat others. 

This is a time when our youth should, indeed, be shown that one person can make a huge difference, and Jessica can teach both children and adults alike.  We ask them to do the right thing, try to show them what the 'right things' are, then hope they follow through.  We, as a society, are aching for personalities like Jessica to shine and become examples for the world...and we're going to punish that?  We're going to stifle not only their creativity, but their desire to do the right thing?  If parents are going to feel compelled to monitor things like Facebook and report to the authorities, then we best be open-minded and see the "Big Picture."  Not only was Jessica's creativity silenced and punished, but they aslo (as noted by the NY Civil Liberties Union) took away her free speech.  America, it is time to praise this young woman and all others who not only think as she did, but ACTED.  We cannot continue to think for them - we have to let them soar on their own...and any young woman (or man) that thinks and acts as this girl did should be the example by which all others are measured.  Keep her in school...and have her teach everyone else...including some parents.  This is just my opinion, but this is the person that has the, "better hands," to which we will leave the world when we're gone.  I will feel perfectly content knowing people like Jessica will be in charge in the years to come.

Until next time..................

No comments:

Post a Comment