MANHATTAN — More than 250 high school student filmmakers from across the country are spending three days taking their cameras to Central Park, Grand Central, the Empire State Building and beyond to create 8-minute movies about cyberbullying for the first ever student film competition on the subject.
The filming began this week to kick off cyberbullying prevention month. The contest, part of the All American High School Film Festival, was organized in collaboration with AT&T and the Tyler Clementi Foundation, created to honor the 18-year-old Rutgers student who committed suicide after his roommate secretly set up a webcam and live-streamed his sexual encounter with another man.
“I have great hope that by engaging teens in this film competition and allowing teens to talk to other teens in their language of film we can have an impact to create a safer electronic experience for more and more youth in the future,” said Jane Clementi, founder of the foundation honoring her son.
The shorts will be screened at the AMC Theaters in Times Square on Sunday and winners — vying for a total of $26,000 in cash prizes — will be announced that night at the Teen Indie Awards.
Five of the 25 teams in the invitational competition are from city schools.
Two are from public schools that have a filmmaking bent: Long Island City’s Academy for Careers and Television and Carroll Gardens’ Digital Arts and Cinema Technology High School.
Two are private schools: the East Village’s Grace Church School, and the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in Riverdale and the Upper West Side.
And there’s also a team from Mythic Bridge, a program that offers free filmmaking workshops to at-risk New Yorkers.
“This film festival will go a long way toward supporting our efforts to enable friendship and social growth among our young people, and stop cyberbullying in its tracks,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said in a statement.
City schools, however, need to do a better job reporting bullying according to Public Advocate Letitia James, who recently sent a letter demanding greater transparency on tracking such incidents.
The Department of Education has come under fire for under-reporting incidents under the Dignity for All Students Act, which was implemented by the state in 2012 to address cyber-bullying and bias-related bullying (targeting race, religion, gender or weight, for example) as part of a bigger effort to help make school environments free from discrimination, harassment and bullying.
Only 30 percent of the city's roughly 1,700 public and charter schools reported some form of bullying to the state’s database created under the Dignity Act, according to figures from the 2013-2014 school year.
Meanwhile, according to the Department of Education school surveys given to sixth through 12th graders, from 2015, at least some students at 99.6 percent of middle and high schools said that bullying happens “all or most of the time,” a DNAinfo New York analysis found.