Are schools hindering the effort of students to stop bullying?
Bullying is a serious issue and has been gaining more and more attention nationwide as a result of the recent unfortunate suicides of several students who have fallen victim to bullying. Many students have been greatly impacted by the bully-related suicides, and feeling as though schools are not doing enough, have taken matters into their own hands. These students, such as Jessica Barba, are using social networking resources in an effort to spread awareness of the significance of bullying.
For instance, Barba created a YouTube video of a fictional character who commits suicide as a result of the bullying she faces at school.
Other students, such as Stormy Rich, aren’t using social networking outlets but rather, are taking a more direct approach to stop bullying and confronting the bullies first-hand.
One would think that the schools, since they themselves are not acting efficiently enough to address the matter, would welcome the effort of students. However, Barba’s school has not only suspended her for a week, but is also holding a hearing to determine whether she should be suspended for the rest of the school year and possibly even next year as well.
The school explains that her video was disruptive because one parent became alarmed after failing to recognize that the video was regarding a fictional character. Rich’s school suspended her from using the school bus system, where she confronted the bullies who were assaulting, both physically and verbally, a special education student.
In Barba’s case, should concern from a parent really be considered disruptive? Barba claims that she put forth her best efforts in conveying the video as fictional, but even if the video was not obviously fictional to the concerned parent, is it really such a bad thing for parents to be on alert for bullying?
One could argue that Barba’s video simply shed light on what a parent should look for to see if their child is at risk for a bully-related suicide. The parent who called in thinking Barba’s video was real was not wrong to be concerned and Barba’s school should be pleased that students’ parents are on the lookout for bullying, even if their accuracy rate of spotting it isn’t 100 percent.
An incorrect concern by a parent alarmed by Barba’s video is a small price to pay for the benefits brought by Barba’s video. The video not only sheds light the significance of bullying, but also encourages other students to make efforts in raising awareness on the negativity of bullying as well.
As for Rich’s case, she reached out to authority figures multiple times before taking matters into her town own hands. In other words, she took all the reasonable steps before deciding that action was not being taken soon enough, if at all, by the school system. The reasonable steps that Rich took indicate that she did not act irrationally in confronting the bullies and that she must have felt the bullying to be an imminent and serious threat to the special education student’s safety for her to have taken the actions that she did. When authority figures don’t respond to students following the authority’s own policies (as Rich was in this case, since her school’s handbook says to report bullying to someone in charge), then there’s only so much left for a student to do.
In conclusion, both Barba’s and Rich’s punishments are harsh and unjustified measures that would serve more harm than good by deterring students from taking steps to prevent and/or stop bullying by their peers.
Anoosha Rouhanian is a J.D. candidate and law clerk at HooverLaw.