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"Eye On the Future": Student journalists report on LGBTQ sex ed and cyberbullying

Journalists of the future
Journalists of the future 06:42

Seven New York City high school students reported on stories that impact their community as part of a CBS journalism workshop called "Eye On the Future." The students who participated this year were chosen from the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice in Brooklyn. With the help of 26 CBS News employees, the students learned to research, shoot and write stories over the course of nine Saturdays this fall. Watch their reports in the video player above.

LGBTQ Sex Education

Student reporters Naimah Muhammad, Hilda Sandoval, Josuel Santos and Anabia Alvi focused on a shortcoming of sex education programs that fail to address issues related to LGBTQ youth.

They report that more than 85 percent of parents support having LGBTQ sex education taught in schools, but less than 20 percent of students say they actually receive it.

"Some people might not feel like it's a necessity" since there's no risk of pregnancy, one student said. 

Another girl suggested that certain family members might not be supportive. "I come from a Dominican background and I feel like the traditional side of my family, like the older — like in their 50s — would be against this," she said.

Studies show well-designed sex-ed classes can reduce teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, regardless of sexual orientation. So why aren't they more widely taught?

"We're not there yet, but we're working on it," said Lindsey Harr, executive director of school wellness programs for New York City public schools.

Asked about some students' concerns that there isn't enough representation of LGBTQ health issues, Harr replied, "I think you bring up a really good point, which is that the health education and sex education need to cover topics like gender identity, sexual orientation for all students, regardless of what their own identity and orientation are."

Harr said they're working to expand sex-ed programs, but with more than 1,800 public schools in the city, it's a challenge. 

Because the New York City Department of Education does not track which sex-ed curriculums schools choose to follow, there's no way to know whether LGBTQ students are getting the attention they need.


Student reporters Andrea Hernandez, Aiden Hossanah and Seeya Mangra gathered a group of fellow students for a roundtable discussion on an issue that concerns kids, parents and educators alike: cyberbullying.

Though it happens online and after hours, schools across the country are experiencing the effects of cyberbullying. This year alone, New York City schools saw a 10 percent rise in bullying, the students report.

Participants in the roundtable point out that what happens at home almost never stays at home. Arguments that happen online or over the weekend escalate at school.

"A lot of stuff on social media always happens on a Sunday," one student observed. "It happens on Sunday because Monday we've got a full week."

Another student said it makes kids not want to come to school, or worse: "They might be hurt or they might want to do self-harm."

Every year, students at the school sign a pledge promising to use their cellphones and other technology responsibly. But those at the roundtable say it's ineffective, and they believe most bullying never gets reported to school faculty.

What is the Department of Education doing to help kids combat cyberbullying?

"We are spending about $47 million on school climate and mental health initiatives," said Lois Herrera, the head of the department's office of safety and youth development.

"We address cyberbullying in a number of ways. First and foremost, it's bullying. And so our discipline code views any type of incident of harassment, intimidation — whether it's electronic or in person — the same."

Child psychologist Darby Fox says students can also take action by being an "upstander" — someone who does not tolerate bullying when they see it.

"If they know the people, the perpetrators, they need to talk to them and just kind of give them a heads-up, 'Hey, that's not OK. That's not cool,'" she said. 

But she also said that if bullying escalates, kids need to go talk to a parent or teacher because it can be very damaging.

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