Jessica Barba back to school after suspension
A smiling Jessica Barba rejoined her freshman classmates Thursday at Longwood High School, a week after she said school officials suspended her for posting an anti-bullying video on YouTube that portrayed a fictional teenager who ultimately commits suicide.
"It was great to see all my friends," Barba, 15, said after school. "Being out for five days wasn't that fun, knowing I was missing out on my education."
Barba started the day by going with her parents, Michael and Jody, to the district's administration office in Middle Island shortly after 7 a.m. When the three emerged, the student told reporters that the suspension had been removed from her record and she planned to submit the video, as she originally intended, for a school project on persuasive speech.
School officials, citing student privacy, would not confirm that a meeting had taken place. Since Barba's story made headlines this week, they have declined to confirm any details, including the existence of the video, and refused to confirm she was suspended.
Superintendent Allan Gerstenlauer, in a statement Thursday afternoon, said that "the matter was thoroughly investigated and dealt with following our normal district procedures."
"Our protocols are clearly outlined in our code of conduct, which is communicated annually to students, families and staff," Gerstenlauer's statement said. "We would like to shed more light on the situation, but are unable to release any details of the matter due to student privacy laws."
Barba said she had no regrets over her video and no hard feelings toward school officials.
"It's a good school, and they took a wrong and turned it into a right," she said. "All I wanted was to go back to school and my friends and hand in my project."
The video, which included shots of a fake Facebook page, was posted May 15 on YouTube. In it, Barba portrays a 12-year-old who is bullied in school and online. The YouTube title notes that the video is fictional, and the clip opens and closes with a note saying the character is fictional. A caption near the end states the character committed suicide.
A parent complained to Suffolk police, both school officials and police said. Barba said she was suspended effective May 17. Police on Tuesday said no crime was committed.
Barba and her parents appeared Wednesday on the "Today" show and MSNBC.
Some parents outside the school voiced their support for the student.
"I feel the school bullied her," said Lori Koslow, 39, of Yaphank. "She should have gotten an award, not punished."
The Rev. Marvin Stewart, whose daughter is a senior, said he was glad Barba was able to return. "She was just trying to raise awareness of the problem," he said.
After school, several students took Barba's side.
"She was just trying to shine a light on the problem [of bullying]," said senior Darius Dorival, 18, of Coram.But several others said the attention on the matter was misplaced or overblown, particularly after the death Sunday of Longwood High School freshman Dominic Trionfo, 14, in a personal watercraft accident on Peconic Bay.
"People should be thinking of my best friend," said Angel Rodriguez, 16, of Middle Island.