Anti-Bullying Act of 2012
MANILA, Philippines — After an Anti-bullying movement in the 2000s and 2010s gained popularity in the United States and United Kingdom, the Charity Act Against Bullying was formed in the United Kingdom in 2003, and National Bullying Prevention Month was declared in the United States in 2006.
In the Philippines, the House of Representatives has approved a bill requiring all elementary and secondary schools to adopt anti-bullying policies. House Bill 5496, the Anti-Bullying Act of 2012, seeks to promote greater awareness of the impact of bullying and how it can be prevented.
The bill requires that anti-bullying policies be included in the school’s student and employee handbook; details of the policies should be posted in school websites and school walls; schools shall submit their anti-bullying policies to the Department of Education (DepEd) within six months upon effectivity of the law; bullying incidents in schools must be reported to the division superintendents, who in turn shall report to the Education Secretary; and the DepEd must submit a report on bullying incidents to the appropriate congressional committee and impose sanctions on school administrators who do not implement anti-bullying policies.
Bullying is now the number one non-academic issue that most educators face, and is one of the top concerns of many parents. Defined as an act of repeated aggressive behavior in order to intentionally hurt another person either emotionally, verbally, or physically, bullying is characterized by an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person. Bullies may behave this way out of jealousy or because they themselves are bullied. When they leave school, they will most likely carry on their bullying in the workplace.
With the approval of the Anti-Bullying Act of 2012, this year has started just right, providing relief for the millions of students who experience bullying in school. It is hoped that the Anti-Bullying Act of 2012 will help schools create an environment where children can develop their full potentials with suffering bullying from others.
Why schools should be concerned about bullying?
- Head teachers must by law have a policy to prevent all forms of bullying among pupils. Challenging bullying effectively will improve the safety and happiness of pupils, show that the school cares and make clear to bullies that the behaviour is unacceptable.
- Head teachers will need to satisfy themselves that their policies comply with the Human Rights Act 1998 (in force from 2 October 2000).
The School Board of Broward County has approved the first school district Anti-Bullying Policy in Florida. The policy, which was adopted on July 22, was designed by the District’s Office of Prevention Programs and Student Support Services, under the Safe Schools Healthy Students Grant initiative.
The Florida Department of Education will utilize the new policy as a model for the state’s other 66 school districts. The policy was developed prior to the passage of House Bill 669, which mandates that all districts in the state adopt Anti-Bullying policies by December 1, 2008.
The District’s Anti-Bullying Policy specifically prohibits bullying of or by any District student or employee, with consequences for those acts that meet the definition of bullying as defined in the policy:
“Bullying” means systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students or employees.
The policy sets forth guidelines for the identification and reporting of bullying – as the overall goal of the initiative is the protection of students and their increased feelings of safety and belonging. The policy requires teachers and staff to utilize a variety of prevention and intervention activities and includes tools and resources that create environments of safety and respect and expectations of appropriate behavior.
The Anti-Bullying Policy was developed by a District task force, which included community and parental involvement.
Congress approves anti-bullying bill
QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA – A bill that seeks to require education institutions to create an anti-bullying policy was recently approved by the House of Representatives.
House Bill 5496, co-authored by Representative Christopher Co (AKO BICOL party-list) and called the “Anti-Bullying Act of 2012”, requires elementary and secondary schools to set guidelines on bullying.
A handbook on bullying prevention and measures will be distributed to students, teachers, parents and guardians.
The Anti-Bullying Law would also require all new schools to include policies prior to operation.
In addition, all incidences related to bullying must be reported to the division superintendents.
In turn, the reports will be sent to and compiled by the Department of Education (DepEd). The agency will then file its reports on bullying incidents to the House of Representatives’ congressional committees involved in education.
DepEd must also impose sanctions on schools that do not comply to the Anti-Bullying measures.
A similar measure on bullying was also filed by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV last year.
Bullying can be summed up as causing physical and emotional abuse against another person. Most incidents of bullying in the Philippines go unreported primarily because of the shame that victims go through.
Children who do not recover from bullying may become socially withdrawn as they grow up.
Apart from physical bullying, some children also experience “cyberbullying” through their mobile phones or the Internet.
DepEd said last year it will be coming up with more comprehensive measures on child protection, which includes measures against bullying. Education Secretary Armin Luistro cited Republic Act 7610 that identifies the types of abuse that children may suffer. This law encompasses bullying.
Fighting bullying in schools
MANILA, Philippines?It has been nearly a decade ago but Anne (not her real name) still remembers how her third grade math teacher bashed her head onto the blackboard and demeaned her in front of the class after she failed to answer a math problem.
She did not tell her parents about the incident for fear that her teacher will fail her in the subject. But apart from the physical pain, Anne was more affected by the humiliation she got?enough so that she refused to go to school after the incident.
?Pinapagalitan ako ng mama at papa ko kasi ayaw ko na pumasok. Napahiya ako at nawalan ng tiwala sa sarili. Mula nun hindi na ako nag-recite ulit sa klase (My parents scolded me because I didn?t want to go to school again. I was humiliated and I lost confidence. After that I never participated in class recitations again),? Anne said in an interview.
Now a college student, Anne has become an advocate against violence against children especially in schools, considered to be children?s second home and places for learning.
In a study commissioned by the United Nations Children?s Fund, the Council for the Welfare of Children, and Plan International, it was found that most students in the grade school and high school have experienced various forms of abuse either from their peers or from their teachers.
The study, titled Towards a Child-Friendly Education Environment: A Baseline Study on Violence Against Children in Public Schools, surveyed a total of 6,931 public grade school and high school students, of which 51 percent are females and 49 percent are males. The results of the study were made public in an event at Sulo Hotel in Quezon City last week.
The study aims ?to explore the dimensions of violence against children in schools, mapping out in broad strokes its definition(s), and the perception and attitudes of children and adults on the issue.?
The study covered schools in urban areas like Manila, Cebu City and Davao City, and rural areas like the Mountain Province, Masbate, Camotes Island in Cebu, Northern Samar, Capiz, and Sultan Kudarat.
The study also included interviews with 65 school principals and administrators, and 24 counselors.
The study defined violence against children as ?any act that violates children?s rights, particularly their right to physical and mental health, security and bodily integrity.?
The study revealed that children?s perception of violence is focused on acts that hurt them physically or emotionally.
This even includes punishment given to them by teachers for misbehaving like being made to squat, stand in the corner of a room, or stand under the sun (commonly practiced in schools in rural areas).
Although the children generally understood that these punishments are a way of disciplining them, the respondents said that they prefer a more positive way like being talked to or counseled by their teachers.
Respondents also said they consider bullying, being called stupid or other demeaning terms, being teased by their classmate, or being completely ignored by the people around them as a form of abuse.
?Children suffer more acts of violence from their peers than from adults in school while younger children experience physical violence from adults more often,? the study read.
?Teasing from peers often perceived as child?s play was perceived as an ?abuse? since this is made to humiliate or demean the victims,? the study added.
Michael, 19 and a homosexual, said that he has experienced being bullied and discriminated by his classmates because of his sexual orientation. But he said that he has gotten used to it by now.
Among the recommendations made under the study was to expand the public?s knowledge on laws protecting children and where to get assistance through community education programs and strengthening ties with media partners to advocate against violence against children.
Meanwhile, CWC chairperson and Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman said that she finds the results of the study alarming.
?Kami ng DepEd, Unicef, ng CWC at sa DSWD ay nag-aalala. Na-aalarma na kami na ang ganitong sitwasyon ay lumabas sa pag-aaral at kinakailangang gawan ng hakbang para ito ay makureksyonan (The DepEd, Unicef, CWC, and the DSWD are worried. We are alarmed that this kind of situation surfaced in this study and we have to take steps to correct this),? Soliman said in a chance interview after the launch.
She said that a main concern would be the Philippine culture or belief that forms of punishment are considered ways of disciplining children.
?Ang isang hamon ay sa kultura natin, sa tingin natin ang disiplina ay magagawa lamang kung may marahas na parusa kaya iyon yung isang kailangan pagtulungan naming ng DepEd (One challenge is our culture wherein we think that discipline may only be attained through harsh punishments, so we have to work closely with the DepEd in that regard),? Soliman said.
Soliman recommended that Parent-Teacher Associations and boards of public schools be empowered to help protect the rights of children. She added that there are programs under the DSWD like the Parent Effectiveness Seminar and Erpat (Father) which gives counsel to fathers with history of abuse.
?The media should also become partners in this advocacy by showing TV shows and movies which are non-violent,? Soliman said.
Meanwhile, Department of Education?s Alberto Muyot said the department will work closely with concerned stakeholders.
?We have to address the issues raised by the children in the study. We will look into this. We?ll work closely with the Council for the Welfare of Children on their recommendations kasi medyo general pa yung recommendations sila so bibigyan natin ng detalye (because their recommendations are mostly generalities so we will fill in the details),? the education official said.
Students or parents may report abuses in schools through the DepEd?s Legal and Legislative Affairs, Muyot said, but he urged complainants to follow through on their reports.
?Ang hinihingi lang po namin ay ang kooperasyon ng mga magulang nung mga bata na kapag kami nagpadala ng mag-iimbestiga sana maki-cooperate sila para makuha namin yung salaysay nung mga bata (All we ask is for the cooperation of the parents, so that when we send people to conduct an investigation, please cooperate in allowing us to get the testimony of the children),? Muyot said.
He added that teachers or other school employees found guilty of physically or verbally abusing students may be suspended or dismissed from service, as per the civil service law.
Meanwhile, Anne urged other victims of abuse in schools to report incidents to authorities.
?Humanap kayo ng makakatulong sa problema at wag kayo matakot. Magsumbong kayo sa magulang nyo (Look for people that can help you with your problem and don?t be afraid. Tell your parents),? Anne said, adding that she hopes the results of the study will prevent more cases of child abuse.