By now, you have heard or seen videos involving students of Ateneo de Manila Junior High School.
You probably know the details well: a young boy in school uniform attacking a taller student after forcing him to choose between "bugbog or dignidad."
There's another video of the same young boy, still in school uniform, forcing another student who was already on his knees to say, "Boko ako!"
He had to kiss the other boy's shoes so he would not get beaten up.
No one knows yet who took these videos (the assumption is they are students as well) or who uploaded them on social media in the first place.
But the angry public backlash against Ateneo and the boy has been massive.
While we are all free to give our opinion, extra care has to be taken because these students are minors.
What is transpiring now in public will have devastating psychological effects on both the perpetrator, the victim, and the spectator (or the student who took the video and just watched it all happen).
Parents, all your frustrations are valid.
The anger you are feeling is more than understandable, and there is no question that what the boy did was wrong.
But we have to ask ourselves: what do all these social media rants accomplish?
Here is what we hope: this incident will make schools pay attention and take a second (and third) look at their anti-bullying measures.
Even before this incident, we have heard parents complain about the frustration and helplessness with how schools respond to issues of bullying.
A school guidance counselor, who wishes to remain anonymous because she does not know the full details of the incident nor is she a part of Ateneo's academic community, says schools need to review their "hallway supervision" system to deter incidents of bullying on school grounds.
"Schools usually identify 'possible red zones' like the comfort room, gym, cafeteria, or playground."
Since these are places where bullying incidents can happen, faculty and school officials should regularly monitor these locations.
The counselor also says schools usually have safe zones and explicit rules to deter bullying.
Everyone, from student to administrative staff, should be made aware of these rules, which can be found usually in the school handbook.
"What kind of rules? It varies, but some have set allowable minutes that students can use the restroom."
People have been clamoring for immediate action, which means what? Schools will put into play its disciplinary action system.
"Usually, [a disciplinary action's] goal is to restore relationships and ma-realize nung bata yung gravity ng ginawa nya," the guidance counselor tell us. "It's called the restorative justice paradigm in school discipline. But there's also punitive justice, which means the student will get expelled."
The incident prompted the Department of Education (DepEd) to issue a statement reminding schools to enforce anti-bullying policies.
DepED reiterated Department Order No. 40 which institutionalized zero tolerance against violence against children.
It also established a Child Protection Committee (CPC) in all public and private schools, which should protect the identities of the bully, the victim, or the witness.
Gina,* a mom we spoke to who has a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and Guidance Counseling, says she is all for the restoration of relationship. "But the school needs to set clear guidelines and boundaries when restorative justice program is not anymore helping the community, promoting justice and protecting the welfare of the children."
AdMU president, Jose Ramon T. Villarin, SJ, released a statement yesterday, December 20, 2018, saying Ateneo's Junior High School Committee of Discipline has been meeting and conducting all necessary inquiries they need to come up with a decision on the matter.
He stated, "Again, I assure you we are treating the matter with the highest priority and urgency.
"Let me be very clear: the school does not condone such behavior.
"We have our codified standards of conduct, and all students are made aware of these and their rights and responsibilities.
"The school is not silent on its stand on violence and will not hesitate to impose the penalty of dismissal or even expulsion in cases of grave misconduct," the AdMU president stressed.
While mom Gina was horrified by the actions she saw on the video ("Medyo nanggigigil ako! Na-trigger ang soft spot ko as a parent), she hopes parents will stop sharing it.
The bashing is also not helping anyone—not the bully, the victim or the spectators.
She pointed out, "The children's faces are so exposed!"
Gina's son was bullied and then accused of being the bully. She went to the school and made sure to let them know she was not going to handle this sitting down.
"My son was crying and thinking what did he to do to be bullied! It took a while before he realized that he did not do anything at all."
Mom Patrice Diaz, who did research on bullying some years ago when one of her sons got bullied, says, "It's difficult to make sense of kids getting a kick out of deliberately hurting his classmates... but there are power dynamics at play here.
"There is a perpetrator, a victim, the bystanders, and the helpers. Let's teach our kids to stand up to bullies, to lend power to the victim, and be the helpers instead of passive bystanders.
"Let's teach them being a passive bystander only serves the perpetrator."
Gina adds about the perpetrator, "Sana lang the family is a good support system for him to get through this."
Dad JJ Yulo said he was "incensed and fuming" about the bullying incident, but after calming down, he reflected on his Facebook, "I always say we have to respect that everyone is on this journey in life. No one is born bad...things just shape you.
"This kid who's in the limelight now for horrible reasons...he wasn't born that way.
"I'm not saying what he did was right but only that we must know he never started out that way. I also always say that it's the most difficult people that need the love the most."
Ateneo professor and director of the Office of Admission of Aid (OAA) Jose Ma. Edito “Jo-Ed” Tirol makes a valid point on his Facebook post where he said, "The videos that have surfaced about [the boy's] character and behavior, there can be little debate about the bullying that was done to other students." But he asked people to pause and think.
Tirol writes, "What this kid did earlier this week was wrong. There are no if's or but's about his action and whatever motivated him. I would like to see the maximum implementation of penalties against him. And I would like to see his associates—for want of a better word—sanctioned as well.
"Whoever took the videos for all the bullying incidents, whoever did the first upload, whoever conspired with him to create scenarios for bullying, and even those who willingly chose to do nothing when they saw their schoolmates being beaten up. In case you haven't been paying attention, this isn't a simple case with a simple resolution.
"It is not enough to know the physical circumstances. Rather, it is crucial to understand what drove these minors—and yes, they are minors—to behave like animals. Only by studying the background behind the events can more stringent measures be implemented to prevent a future occurrence."
Parents, if you see a photo or video of violence involving minor children, sharing it on social media is not the best way to help victims. Instead, we highly encourage you to take action by reporting it to the social media platform to take it down. And if you recognize the school uniform, report it to the school at once.
In 2013, the Philippines enacted an anti-bullying law. Republic Act No. 10627 (R.A. 10627) or the Act Requiring All Elementary and Secondary Schools to Adopt Policies to Prevent and Address the Acts of Bullying in their Institutions. The law, also known as The Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 covers bullying in all of its five forms: physical, verbal, relational aggression, cyberbullying, and sexual bullying.
Under the law, students, parents, or any member of the school administration may anonymously report bullying instances or act of retaliation that they have witnessed it to school authorities. It's up to the school to impose adequate administrative disciplinary actions, notify the parents or guardians of the bully and the victim about the action taken to prevent any further acts of bullying.
The school authorities may also report to the law enforcement agencies if the bullying incident can be considered a crime and thus may be pursued under the Revised Penal Code. Schools or school officials who violate the law shall be given appropriate administrative sanctions or suffer suspension of permits to operate.
This story originally appeared on SmartParenting.com.ph.
*Minor edits have been made by the PEP.ph editors.