10 April 2013

Passage of Anti-Bullying Bill is a Must

For several months this year, the bill pushing for schools to enforce anti-bullying policies was left hanging at the Senate after it was passed by the House of Representatives. House Bill 5496 or the Anti-Bullying Act of 2012 was supposed to provide parents with important information about bullying, how it happens, how it can be addressed and how it can be prevented from happening in both the grade school and high school settings.

Sadly, it might take the death of a teenage boy suspected of being been bullied in school to make the incoming legislators think carefully about the bill's immediate passage in the next Congress.

Lee Young Gunay, 14, a second year high school student, was found in dead in his parents' home in Batangas last 25 March 2013, reports said. The victim's father Willy Gunay said in an interview that depression, particularly over low grades and accused of being gay in school, may have pushed his son to kill himself.

"Masyadong tahimik kasi si Lee, ayaw nya kaming magkaroon pa ng problema (Lee is too quiet, he doesn't want to give us problems)," he said.

Bullying is described in the measure as "any severe or repeated use of written, verbal, or electronic expression, or a physical act or gesture, or any combination of these by one or more students directed at another student that has the effect of actually causing or placing the latter in a reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm or damage to the property, creating a hostile environment at school and Infringing on the rights of the other students at school."

Under House Bill 5496, anti-bullying policies should be included in the school’s student and employee handbook provided to students and parent-guardians. Details of the anti-bullying policies are also required to be conspicuously posted in school websites and school walls.

Schools will be required to submit their anti-bullying policies to the Department of Education (DepEd) within six months after the bill’s passing. New schools can only start operating after they include anti-bullying measures to their policies as an administrative requirement. Furthermore, the bill require that concerned individuals to report any bullying incidents within school premises to the respective division superintendents, who will be responsible for reporting these to DepEd.