Revisiting the Child Protection Policy in Relation to Anti Bullying: How Teachers Protect Themselves
Scenario: Teacher X, a public-school teacher, adviser of grade 3 class, was informed of a complaint from a mother that her son was subjected to bullying. According to the complaining mother, her son’s lunch was stolen, pulled his hair, and pushed him whenever they went out from the classroom. Consequently, her son did not want to attend classes because of the said bullying. Teacher X immediately notified the school guidance counselor of the matter and the same was set for confrontation between the bully and the victim together with their respective guardians in the guidance office. During the confrontation, the guidance counselor interviewed both parties together and proved through series of questioning that the alleged bully really committed the alleged act of bullying. After the confrontation, the guidance counselor and the teacher reported the same to the school head for the action that would be taken against the bully. Three days after, the bully was punished based on the recommendation of the school head. The mother of the victim, unsatisfied with the punishment given to the bully, requested for concrete steps taken by the school to prevent any further acts of bullying or retaliation and that her child needed to be given special attention to cope up with lessons for the latter refused to attend classes. However, the adviser and school head declined to entertain further issue being raised by the mother, averring that the complaint was already acted upon and resolved. Whether or not the school is correct in resolving the complaint.
The Department of Education flexes its muscle when the issue at hand relates to the benefits and welfare of the learners, since the best interest of the children is the paramount consideration in every action and imposition of rules and guidelines, campaigns and activities of the department. As the department fully recognizes the rights of learners, it takes proactive measures in upholding the rights of the children to special protection and its policy of zero tolerance for any act of abuse and violence against the children, the department already issued numerous and various memorandum and orders which dictate procedures and other mechanisms to strengthen the implementation of the DepEd Child Protection Policy to ensure that the rights of the children in basic education are respected, protected, promoted, and fulfilled in, by the department.
The Child Protection Policy is in consonance with the policy of the State. No less than the Constitution provides, ‘’The right of children to assistance, including proper care and nutrition, and special protection from all forms of neglect, abuse, cruelty, exploitation, and other conditions prejudicial to their development;’’ Article XV. Section 3 (2). Towards this end, the department in collaboration with partners and stakeholders, ensure that children in schools are protected against any form of abuse and violence.
Among others, in relation to Child Protection Policy is the Anti Bullying Law which provides strict compliance to the procedure as to how the teachers and school heads comply with procedures set by the law itself.
The purpose of Anti Bullying Law in relation to the Child Protection Policy is to avert the creation of a hostile environment at school for the children; infringing on the rights of the children at school; or materially and substantially disrupting the education process or the orderly operation of a school. Some of the acts as provided by Anti Bullying Law, that which teachers and school heads need to take appropriate actions;
a. Any unwanted physical contact between the bully and the victim like punching, pushing, shoving, kicking, slapping, tickling, headlocks, inflicting school pranks, teasing, fighting and the use of available objects as weapons;
b. Any act that causes damage to a victim’s psyche and/or emotional well- being;
c. Any slanderous statement or accusation that causes the victim undue emotional distress like directing foul language or profanity at the target, name-calling, tormenting and commenting negatively on victim’s looks, clothes and body; and
d. Cyber-bullying or any bullying done through the use of technology or any electronic means.
In the event a bullying transpires, the usual action by most of teachers is to report and bring the matter before the guidance office and resolve the same in the earliest opportune time. After one or two confrontations of the parties before the guidance counselor the issue will be put to a halt. The bully will get scolded and punished and the victim will return to the usual routine in the classroom. Everybody will return to usual and normal day. Everything goes back to normal in the eyes of the school personnel. – Little do they know this is a perfect case of administrative action against the school head and possibly, against the teacher because the non-observance of the above procedure in case of bullying is fatal to the defense of non-observant teachers and school heads.
Under Sec 10 B(c) and (g) of Department Order 55 s. 2013, it states how to conduct fact finding documentation. The school administrator, principal or school head, or guidance counselor /teacher or school personnel or person designated to handle bullying incidents shall:
Separately interview in private the bully or offending student and the victim.
Determine the levels of threat and develop intervention strategies, if the bullying incident or retaliation or the situation that requires immediate attention or intervention, or the level of our hours is high, appropriate action shall be taken by the school within 24 hours from the time of the incident.
Inform the victim and the parents or guardian of the steps to be taken to prevent any further acts of bullying or retaliation; and
Make appropriate recommendations to the Child Protection Committee on proper intervention, referrals and monitoring.
With respect to due process, in all cases where a penalty is imposed on the bully or offending student, the following minimum requirements of due process shall be imposed with:
a. The student and the parents or guardians shall be informed of the complaint in writing;
b. The student shall be given opportunity to answer the complaint in writing with the assistance of the parents or guardians;
c. The decision of the school head shall be in writing, stating the facts, and the reasons for the decisions; and
d. The decision of the school head may be appealed to the Division Office as provided in the existing rules of the Department.
A willful violation of the abovementioned procedure may subject the erring school heads and teachers to administrative proceedings which may be commenced by a private complainant or a motu proprio by the Schools Division Superintendent. The said proceedings may also be commenced upon sworn written complaint of any other persons as provided by DepEd Order No. 49, s. 2006.
Teachers and school heads recognize that cases of abuse and violence in schools may arise as a result of different situations faced by them within and without the school, that made them susceptible to administrative complaint. Fortunately, in helping the teachers and school heads to avoid such unfavorable circumstances brought about by neglect of duty, inadvertence or ignorance of the procedures and policies that may strip off of their profession that feed their family, the department has been giving the teachers protection through issuance of various policies, memorandum, seminars and campaigns for everyone to be fully aware of. However, teachers and school heads must be in full cognizance of those protections. Even when there are good intentions, some teachers would sometimes break the law, guidelines, procedures, and policies, because they do not realize that they are doing something running afoul of required actions.
It has been said that ignorance of the procedures and policies excuses no one from non-compliance therewith, nevertheless, the best protection teachers may have been to be fully equipped and have that legal awareness. Simply put, know the law, guidelines, procedures, and policies, since ones cannot defend their actions by claiming they did not know the same.
Article Written by:
Mark John G. Ortiz
San Juan Elementary School - Teacher III