NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A class project has landed a Longwood High School freshman in hot water.
For an assignment on persuasive speech, 15-year-old Jessica Barba created an anti-bullying YouTube video and Facebook page about a fictitious 12-year-old girl who commits suicide after being bullied at school.
“I was trying to get across that bullying is a huge problem in the United States and it’s worldwide now,” Barba told 1010 WINS. “We need to get it across to as many kids as possible that bullying is not okay, it’s not your place to put a kid into a state of mind where they feel like they have no other option but to kill themselves.”
“I feel passionate about the topic I used, and feel very proud of what I did. I hope other people see it that way too,” Barba told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.
1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reports
Last Wednesday, a day after the video was posted online, Barba said the principal suspended her from school.
“He said that I could get jail time for six months for what I did and I could get suspended for the rest of the year, including next year,” Barba said. “So, I’m sitting there and I’m having a mental breakdown. I was so distraught by everything that was going on.”
WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall On The Story
The video follows the story of “Hailey Bennett” a fictional character Barba created to raise awareness about bullying.
Barba wrote, shot, edited, set to music and acted in her film about “Hailey,” a girl with perfect grades who is bullied and taunted at school. Her only friend moves away. Her mother died when she was young. Her father turned abusive. She had no where to turn. Even her first trendy clothes didn’t help her fit in. She was isolated and depressed.
The video ends with Bennett slamming her bedroom door; a caption reads, “Hailey Bennett committed suicide on May 14th at 10:37 p.m.”
At the start and end of the video, Barba issued a warning saying the character was fictional and created in order to prevent bullying.
Watch The Video Here:
Barba had also created a Facebook page under the name “Hailey Bennett.” It featured status updates from the fictional girl reaching out for help but only getting cruel messages of hate in return. Barba was about to share it with her teacher when she was called down to the office.
“I couldn’t wait to show her. I thought I did such a good job,” she said. “I just … in the office I thought I was getting a pat on the back. I thought I did a good job. Naturally I just started hysterically crying. He was interrogating me like I was a criminal,” Barba told CBS 2’s McLogan.
A concerned parent apparently saw the Facebook page and called the police, not realizing that it was fake. The fabricated profile has since been removed from the social media site.
“I don’t work for a school district. I don’t know what they are thinking, but I’m very proud. It’s a great job. Thousnads of people have looked at it already,” said Michael Barba, Jessica’s father.
The school superintendent released a statement saying the district is unable to comment on a matter involving any student, adding “the incident is very unfortunate in that it created a substantial disruption to the school.”
Students told CBS 2’s McLogan they are now making homemade t-shirts that say “Rest In Peace, Hailey” and circulation petitions designed to “free Jessica.”
One parent seemed to sum up a lot of the students’ feelings.
“I think the school is overreacting,” the mother said.
Do you think the school did right by Jessica Barba? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …