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DepEd draws up tougher policies vs bullying, violence in schools

September 14, 2011 5:08pm

Philippine education officials are drawing up a more comprehensive child protection policy to protect pupils against bullying, abuse, exploitation and discrimination in school.

According to Education Secretary Armin Luistro, the Department of Education has started consultations with teachers and other stakeholders on the policy.

"This is a serious matter that we cannot put off nor delay because it involves the over-all well-being of our learners which when not addressed promptly may negatively affect them for life," Luistro said in a news release posted on the DepEd website early Wednesday afternoon.

Luistro also reminded school personnel and the public that corporal punishment and violence in any form is not allowed in public schools, whether by adults or the children’s peers.

He noted that Republic Act 7610 had listed down acts that constitute child abuse and are therefore considered a criminal offense.

These include psychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment.

Also included are:

  • acts by deeds or words which debase, degrade or demean the worth and dignity of a child
  • unreasonable deprivation of his basic needs for survival such as food and shelter
  • failure to immediately give medical treatment to an injured child resulting to serious impairment of his growth, permanent incapacity or death.

    "We reiterate that school personnel who commit such acts are violating the provisions of Batas Pambansa 232 and that they can be held criminally liable including dismissal from the service," Luistro said.

    Proposed policy

    The proposed policy may involve measures to prevent abuses against children in the school and the processes to be observed when abuses are committed.

    It will also include the procedures to follow and possible referral to other concerned agencies.

    Trillanes bill

    At the same, the DepEd has expressed support to the bill filed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV which seeks to institutionalize its teaching in schools and the creation of public awareness on its ill-effects on child development.

    "This is consistent with the mandate of DepEd which puts premium on child safety in schools while providing an environment conducive to learning," the DepEd statement read.

    It added that DepEd believes that addressing the issue on bullying in school cannot be simply addressed by dismissing or suspending the offending child because it requires a more thorough approach that involves both the school and the parents to be able to get to the root of why a child resorts to bullying.

    Oftentimes, bullying is a manifestation of problems that stem at home, the DepEd statement said.

    As early as 2006, the DepEd issued Memo 297 to set a limit on the substitute parental authority being exercised by some DepEd authorities.

    2008-2009 study

    A baseline study on violence against children in public schools by PLAN Philippines, titled "Toward a Child-Friendly Education Environment," was released in February 2009.

    It found that:

    1. At least 5 out of 10 children in Grades 1-3, 7 out of 10 in Grades 4-6, and 6 out of 10 in high school have experienced some kind of violence in school.

    2. Verbal abuse is the most prevalent form of violence experienced by children in all school levels. This includes being ridiculed and teased, being shouted at and being cursed or spoken to with harsh words.

    3. Children’s peers, more than the adults, are the perpetrators of violence in schools.

    4. Male children are more likely to experience physical violence than female children.

    5. Physical and verbal forms of violence are accepted by the children as part of discipline and
    seen as appropriate when inflicted within certain parameters.

    6. Children generally prefer a more positive form of discipline such as being talked to and corrected or guided/counseled in response to offenses or violations made in school.

    7. Experiences of violence usually result in low self-esteem, fear, anger and helplessness among children.

    8. Family background and personal circumstances, influence of peers and media, lack of awareness about children’s rights, fear, inability of authority figures to respond to cases, and lack of policies are some of the factors cited as contributing to incidences of violence in schools.

    9. Children and adults recommend awareness raising and capacity building activities for parents, teachers and children, clear policies, and collaborative measures that involve all stakeholders including community leaders as measures to address VAC (violence against children) in schools.

    The study's recommendations included:

    1. Advocate stronger involvement of the Department of Education in developing and standardizing child protection policies and mechanisms for schools must be facilitated.

    2. Concretize the collaboration of different stakeholders for the protection of children by
    establishing clear, functioning mechanisms for VAC case reporting and processing as well as for school monitoring.

    3. Provide adequate information to local government officials, other community leaders, school officials, teachers, parents and children on relevant laws relating to child abuse and child protection. Capacity building must also be provided across the different stakeholder
    groups, so that they could facilitate the processing of VAC cases and ensure justice for children.

    4. Enact local legislation at the barangay and the municipal levels, which would further help protect children from possible abuses and various forms of violence.

    5. Step up and concretize programs promoting children’s rights in schools and in the communities through campaigns addressing specific forms of violence against children in schools.

    6. Promote alternatives to corporal punishment by documenting and disseminating cases demonstrating the merits of positive approaches to discipline, and facilitating discussions with both adults and children in the schools and the broader communities.

    7. Undertake more in-depth studies on VAC in schools.

    The study had covered 2,442 children from 58 public schools in Masbate, Northern Samar and the Camotes Islands in Cebu; as well as adult stakeholders such as parents and other community representatives, school personnel and guidance counselors. — RSJ, GMA News