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.


A Winning Entry in a Short Story Contest: THE LONE WOLF by Renuka Vishwanathan

Renuka Vishwanathan is my classmate from high school and a very talented author.  Here is one of her pieces.

The site where her story appeared, will not allow me to copy and paste.  So I am providing the link.

What Is He Thinking? Or Is He? Mitt Romney on Women’s Health

Women’s health care has become a hot subject of political debate.  It seems that Republicans are not just taking a moral high ground here wagging their finger at some supposed promiscuity, but they are threatening to eliminate every safety net available to women.  Romney shows his concern for the middle class tax payers claiming they should not be burdened with more taxes…but here’s a solution.  The rich could be taxed.  Affordable health care, I would presume, would be popular with citizens? In any case– a poor, unwed, single mother is a bigger burden on the taxpayer.  The taxpayer not only feeds her but her uncared-for children as well, for their lifetime. 
Romney in a speech at Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois launched his “off with their heads” tirade against Planned Parenthood (PP)  and Obamacare. Dressed casually in denims and rolled up sleeves, obviously to represent the common working man and disguise his millionaire status, he very grandly directed women to go elsewhere for their health care–“Well they can go wherever they’d like to go. This is a free society.” Just not PP it seems.  Free society?  Apparently not. 
What’s more, Romney wants to free the nation from debt by making its people go broke.

In the local community college where I work, young women and not so young women struggle with their student loans and the high cost of healthcare. Their part-time jobs do not provide them enough income to buy healthcare.  PP is very important to them. Republicans have to deal with problems realistically–if women get pregnant, usually there is a man behind it. Why are women being specially targeted? Republicans have become little Oliver Cromwells.  They are even squeamish about sex education.

The Tennessee Senate  passed SB 3310, a bill to update the state’s abstinence-based sex education curriculum to define holding hands and kissing as “gateway sexual activities.” Just one senator voted against the legislation; 28 voted in favor. Since the bill specifically bans teachers from “demonstrating gateway sexual activity”, educators would be prohibited from even demonstrating what hand-holding is.                                      (

Maybe they should support the gay marriage cause, no contraceptives or abortions needed. 
Who is to reason with people who believe all women are Jezebels, guns don’t kill people or that when you fall and hurt yourself, the ground came up and attacked you.