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Letter: Jessica Barba's message on bullies

Jessica Barba, 15, right, and her best friend

Jessica Barba, 15, right, and her best friend Hannah Babbino, 14, display a shirt that kids wore in school to support Jessica after she was suspended. (May 23, 2012) Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

As a graduate of Longwood schools, I was surprised when I happened past a television this morning in Southern California and saw my alma mater in the news ["Cops: Video no crime," News, May 23]. I am proud of my schooling, but I am sad to say my pride was hurt today when I heard about student Jessica Barba and her suspension over an anti-bullying film she made for a school project.

My experience has caused me to be very attuned to news about bullying. I toured in Theatre Three's "Class Dismissed: The Bullying Project" for three years, going to schools on Long Island, in New York City and Connecticut, talking to students, teachers, parents and administrators about what can be done to alleviate bullying. As a student in Longwood schools, I experienced bullying myself. Barba's project hit the nail on the head. This is what bullying does to human beings.

To find that a student at my high school was doing such a remarkable, poignant and vital project about bullying, and then to find her suspended over it has made me question the authorities under which I had studied. How can a school district bully a student out of her free speech rights, especially and ironically when that free speech is about bullying? How can a school combat bullying without talking about it?

To say that Barba's project caused a "disruption" is specious. The disruption was there before Barba's project. It is she who is bringing the disruption to light and challenging others to talk about and deal with a real and dangerous problem.

Kevin F. Story, Valencia, Calif.

Editor's note: The writer graduated from Longwood High School in 2003.

Judge Glenn Berman sentenced Dharun Ravi to 30 days in jail, plus three years of probation, 300 hours of community service and a $10,000 fine, even though he was a pivotal factor in the suicide of Tyler Clementi ["30 days; Sentence in Rutgers suicide case," News, May 22].

The judge himself said, "Our society has every right to expect zero tolerance for intolerance." Ravi should have received at least three to five years in jail. Justice has not been served.

Jessica Barba was suspended for posting a fictitious video about bullying on YouTube and Facebook. The video was for a school project about persuasive speech, and it was clearly stated on the video that it was fictitious. The topic she chose was definitely relevant.

Bullying is a topic we should all be talking about, and more important, working to eliminate. Barba should have received accolades for her project from parents, teachers and the school itself -- not a suspension.

Rhoda DePietro, Baldwin

I am appalled by the Longwood School District. This young lady should be commended, not suspended, for her courage and conduct in addressing this issue in the manner she did.

In light of the recent travesty of justice in the Rutgers University spycam case -- which is just another form of bullying -- this young lady's work should be held high for everyone to see.

The suspension is why kids today don't step up and fight horrible conduct by other kids. When is society going to face bullying head on and put a stop to it?

Michael Brachet, Deer Park