By Naeisha Rose
City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), the chairman of the Council’s Education Committee, led a lively forum at Queens Borough Hall to address cyberbullying Nov. 1, just one month after a fateful stabbing incident at a Bronx high school, which left one student dead and another in critical condition.
A third student, Abel Cedeno, is facing multiple criminal charges, and student witnesses who attended the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservationwith the three classmates reported he snapped after being bullied because of his sexuality, according to news reports.
Students at Urban Assembly reported to administrators that Cedeno said he was bisexual.
Dromm himself came out as openly gay in 1992 while he was still an educator, and last year helped to secure funds for the Education Dept. to appoint Jared Fox to be the first LGBT liaison for its Office of Safety and Youth Development branch, according to the councilman.
“Most of you probably heard of the terrible incident in the Bronx that happened where three students’ lives were deeply impacted by an alleged bullying incident,” Dromm said. “I think it is time we discussed what we could do at a local level to ensure that these types of things are not happening at our schools.”
Throughout the Queens Parent Advisory Board meeting Dromm and a group of panelists discussed ways to prevent children from becoming victims of cyberbullying, how to spot cyberbullying, how to stand up for someone being bullied, and what to do or how to stop one’s child from being a bully.
Cyberbullying involves using social media platforms, videos, and pictures to harass people, according to the panelists.
One of the tools they used to educate parents and teens in the audience was a 21-minute video from AT&T Cyberbullying Film branch, which was presented by the president of its East Region, Marissa Shorenstein. The movie is called “There’s A Soul Behind That Screen.”
In the film a girl is bullied for putting on a suit for a costume, another girl is bullied after a drunken sexual encounter results in a nude photo of her being shared with the entire student body and the last vignette features the parents of a boy name David who committed suicide after bullying dismantled his life.
“Since his death I’ve had a lot of kids come up to me to say how sorry they are that they did not stick up for him,” David’s mom says. “They didn’t know what to do.”
According to stats in the video, 89 percent of teens and 95 percent of parents agree that cyberbullying is a serious problem.
“So much of it happens outside the school environment,” Shorenstein said. “Parents need to catch up with kids on social media.”
To prevent bullying the panelists said parents should monitor their kids’ use of social media and teach them how to be more mindful of the impact of the messages they send.
Some of the signs of bullying include being withdrawn from family and friends, not wanting to go to school, and lack of sleep, according to the panelists.
Parents who have a child who might be a bully were advised to speak with their children more often and to possibly seek therapy for their child, the panelists said.
Students who see bullying occurring were advised to help de-escalate a situation, report a bully or befriend a victim of bullying and to offer them words of encouragement.
Also on the panel was Jane Clementi, of the Tyler Clementi Foundation. Her son Tyler, a student at Rutgers University in New Jersey, committed suicide after a roommate livestreamed him being intimate with another man in their dorm room to classmates.
Clementi said students who see someone being bullied need to stand up for the victims.
“This issue is very personal to me,” Clementi said. “Just call it out and say I don’t think your behavior is funny.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose