THE controversy surrounding those videos of violence inside the Ateneo de Manila Junior High School has forced many Filipinos, particularly parents, to confront the problem of bullying. But just by scanning the posts and reactions to the videos, one gets the sense that a lot still needs to be done to educate the public on bullying, whether online or in real life.
Bullying in the Philippines is quite common. According to one study, it is very pervasive in high schools, whether public or private. Another one says verbal bullying is the most common in its study of sixth graders in the Visayas, followed by physical and cyber bullying. A report released by Human Rights Watch last year says LGBT or seemingly LGBT students are more prone to bullying; the report says some teachers and school administrators are also perpetrators.
How can you tell if a child is being bullied?
Bullying has been talked about, at least online, quite extensively. A quick scan about bullying will give you ideas on how to spot the signs of bullying. Now, any of these signs could be caused by anything so it makes better sense to find out if there’s more to it than your child just being moody. Several articles on this are here, here, here, and here. Keep in mind that a key indicator is change in behavior.
What can you do if a child is being bullied?
The usual advice by experts is not to respond with the same violent or abusive behavior, which is correct. But the key to acting is knowing, so try to find out more about bullying. Again, a quick online research will do the job.
Are there laws against bullying in the Philippines? Yes, yes, and yes. It can be a very useful tool to ensure accountability. Many parents have used this law to end bullying and protect their children from bullies. Some have even gone to the extent of filing criminal charges against bullies.
Is the Department of Education doing something about bullying? On paper, it has what it calls a child protection policy. In light of the Ateneo incident, the DepEd urged schools to enforce these policies. Some schools do have anti-bullying policies. In practice, it remains to be determined if these policies work and whether they are enforced properly.
After you’ve done all the research, bring the matter to the attention of school administrators. This is important because, according to the studies cited above, bullying usually happens in a school setting. As a parent or guardian, you have the right to demand action from the school. If that doesn’t work, filing a case with the authorities should compel the school to act.
Keep in mind: the school and the government have the duty and responsibility to act on your complaint and on the child’s behalf. If they fail to perform those functions, they are remiss and they can – and should – be held liable. (Andres Enojado / Lifestyle Laguna)
What do you think parents, guardians, teachers and school administrators should do about bullying? Let us know!