08 August 2014

School's Bullying Procedure is Very Sketchy

In this country, one of the most sensitive issues confronting the students in basic education is the incidents of bullying in schools. For instance, data from the Department of Education (DepEd) for SY 2012-2013 showed that about 80 percents of child abuse incidents are acts of bullying.

Bullying is so rampant that Education Secretary Bro. Armin A. Luistro, FSC, himself admitted, in one anti-bullying forum, that he was a victim of bullying.

The latest case of bullying happened at the Baesa Adventist Elementary School (BAES) in Caloocan City where a young boy with health problems was physically abused and bullied not once, but twice by a single classmate. The worse thing is that, according to the parents, the principal has not done anything to mitigate the second incident from happening.

The parents of the victim, together with several other parents, troop to the DepEd office and file a complaint against the seeming inaction of the principal. They claimed that the first incident was reported to the head of the school, but no action was made to prevent the victim and the suspect from joining the same class.

When the principal was interviewed by the ABS-CBN News Bandila, she claimed that there is a process that has to be followed. The first offense entails a serious talk between the teacher and the concerned students, the second offense will involved the parents, teacher and the students involved, and when all else fail, the principal will be called to help mediate.

Can anybody see something wrong with the process cited? It means that a child or student will have to receive three physical beatings or acts of bullying before the principal will take action! What kind of procedure is this?

Under the "Anti-Bullying Act of 2013," bullying is defined as "any severe or repeated use by one or more students of a written, verbal or electronic expression, or a physical act or gesture, or any combination thereof, directed at another student that has the effect of actually causing or placing the latter in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm or damage to his property; creating a hostile environment at school for the other student; infringing on the rights of the other student at school; or materially and substantially disrupting the education process or the orderly operation of a school."

This definition is very important as it emphasizes that even a single act, so long as it is "severe," may constitute bullying. The law also prohibits cyber-bullying or “any bullying done through the use of technology or any electronic means.”

Under Section 12 of the Law, it was stated that "upon the filing of a complaint or upon notice by a school personnel or official of any bullying or peer abuse incident, the same shall be immediately reported to the School Head, who shall inform the parents or guardian of the victim and the offending child, in a meeting for the purpose. The victim and the offending child shall be referred to the Child Protection Committee (a school body) for counseling and other interventions. The penalty of reprimand, if warranted, may be imposed by the School Head in the presence of the parents or guardians.”

It was clear in the law. Did the principal of Baesa Adventist Elementary School do any of these officially mandated procedures or close to it? Based on what she said in the interview, she barely lifted a finger to address the matter when it was first reported to her.

The law further stated that "if bullying is committed for a second or subsequent time, after the offending child has received counseling or other interventions, the penalty of suspension for not more than one (1) week may be imposed by the School Head, if such is warranted. During the period of suspension, the offending child and the parents or guardians may be required to attend further seminars and counseling. The School Head shall likewise ensure that the appropriate interventions, counseling and other services, are provided for the victim or victims of bullying."

To the principal-who-wants-to-wait-for-three-offenses-of-bullying-before-she-acts-on-it, the law has mandated you to intervene immediately after the first offense was committed. You don’t have to wait for all those useless talks to step down from your almighty throne to get your fingers dirty in the affairs of us mere mortals. Act now, act decisively and act fairly according to the law.