BEWARE, teachers who bully students.

A bill seeks to include high school and elementary teachers among those covered by the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 and distinguish the “fine line between teacher discipline and abuse.”

The bill mandates the Department of Education (DepEd) to provide training for teachers and assistance to guidance counselors on how to discipline misbehaving students “without resorting to corporal punishment.”

Senate Bill No. 2793 is “not punitive” in nature but rather a guide for school officials to properly instruct students, said Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, principal author of the anti-bullying law.

“We want to raise awareness and to mandate each school to adopt anti-bullying policies, whether committed by students or teachers,” Angara said in an email to the Varsitarian.

The bill states that a teacher or any school employee found to have committed any act of bullying on a student would be fined an amount ranging from P50,000 to P100,000 and/or sent to prison for six months to one year.

Data from the DepEd showed that a total of 6,235 “bullying” cases were filed during academic year 2013-2014, of which 999 involved child abuse and 5,236 were cases of bullying.

Signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III, Republic Act No. 10627 or the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 requires “all elementary and secondary schools to adopt policies to prevent and address the acts of bullying in their institutions.”

‘Displaced aggression’

Bullying, as defined by law, is any repeated written, verbal, physical act or electronic expression done by one or more students to physically or emotionally harm or threaten another student. It also includes material and substantial school disturbance and damage to property of other students.

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“In psychology, bullying is a displaced aggression,” psychology professor Arlo Salvador said in an interview.

Salvador said there was a problem with how school officials dealt with bullies, pointing to their “curative rather than preventive” approach.

Instead of merely disciplining the “bully,” teachers should conduct a long-term assessment on the “aggressor” and provide follow-up reports to parents.

“Hindi lang sagutin ng magulang, teachers, administrator, or medical committee [ang kalagayan ng isang bully]. [Dapat isagawa] ang multidisciplinary approach,” Salvador said.

Signs of being a bully must be addressed as early as possible to prevent the student from reaching the point of extreme physical aggression, he added.

Some of the short-term effects of bullying are fear and lack of self-confidence, which may eventually result in aggression if not prevented, Salvador said.

Safety a priority

In handling cases of bullying, Angara said the primary responsibility of school authorities was to guarantee the safety of students within school premises.

Under DepEd Order No. 40 outlining the cabinet department’s Child Protection Policy, private and public schools were required beginning 2012 to form Child Protection Committees to decide on bullying cases.

The committee is to be composed of school officials, teachers, parents, students and community representatives, to allow a balanced discussion and to arrive at a fair decision.

The policy aims to “promote zero-tolerance policy for any act of child exploitation, violence, discrimination, and other forms of abuse.”

No serious cases in UST

A document from the UST Counseling and Career Center showed that 12 UST students from the secondary and tertiary levels had filed “minor” cases of bullying.

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A preliminary survey meanwhile found that 124 students, or 37 percent of the total 334 students of the UST Education High school, the laboratory school of the College of Education, considered themselves victims of bullying.

UST Education High School (EHS) Principal Loreto Sauz however clarified that no serious cases of bullying had occurred under her watch. Thus, there had been no need to call parents to CPC meetings.

In UST Junior High School (JHS), no serious bullying cases were also reported. However a “slight increase” in “cyberbullying” cases was reported last academic year, JHS Assistant Principal Marivic Torres said in an email.

Torres attributed the increase of reported cyberbullying cases to the surge in social media use, particularly Twitter and Facebook.

“The faculty especially the homeroom advisers remind the students on proper decorum or responsibilities especially in using social media,” Torres said.

Students more effective in campaign

Sauz said student-leaders were more effective anti-bullying advocates, compared with teachers. “Students will be responsible enough if they see their fellow students promote the advocacy,” Sauz said.

One of the projects assigned to the EHS student council this school year is the Bullying Prevention Campaign, where students can join art activities like slogan- and poster-making contests.

UST-JHS has also stepped up its anti-bullying campaign.

In 2013, Geronimo Sy, assistant secretary of the Department of Justice, conducted a seminar with school officials and the JHS Parents’ Association to take steps toward “a heightened awareness campaign on bullying and cyberbullying.”

Last year, the JHS began its “Respect, Empathy, Acceptance, and Compassion bring Harmony” or REACH Program to “stop bullying in the school environment through a collaborative community.” Monica M. Hernandez, with reports from John Chester S. Fajardo and Mary Gillan Frances G. Ropero

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