Schools, DepEd should address bullying

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I believe that my son is being bullied in school, and I know we have a law against bullying but I am not familiar with it. Please help me. I want to know the remedies available to me.
Kim

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Dear Kim,
The recent rise of incidents of bullying in schools reported in traditional and social media prompted our government, particularly our Legislature, to enact a law requiring all elementary and secondary schools to adopt policies to prevent and address such acts. This law is Republic Act (R.A.) No. 10627, otherwise known as the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013.

Under the law, “bullying” is defined as any severe or repeated use of a written, verbal or electronic expression, and/or a physical act or gesture by a student directed at another student causing or placing the victim in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm or damage to his property, creating a hostile environment at school for him, infringing on his rights, or materially and substantially disrupting the education process or the orderly operation of a school (Sec. 2, R.A. No.10627). This includes unwanted physical contact like punching, pushing, shoving, kicking, slapping, tickling, headlocks, inflicting school pranks, teasing, fighting and the use of available objects as weapons, making any slanderous statement or accusation like directing foul language or profanity at the target, name-calling, tormenting and commenting negatively on victim’s looks, clothes and body, and cyber-bullying. (Ibid.) Cyber-bullying refers to any bullying done through the use of technology or any electronic means including texting, email, instant messaging, chatting, internet, social media, online games, or other platforms (Sec. 3(b), Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A. No. 10627).

To address the matter, all elementary and secondary schools are directed to adopt policies to address bullying in their respective institutions prohibiting it on school grounds, or at school-sponsored or school-related activities, and providing disciplinary administrative action against the bully or retaliation on persons reporting the bullying incident, among others (Sec. 3, R.A. No. 10627).

The school principal or any person who holds a comparable role shall be responsible for the implementation and oversight of policies intended to address bullying. Hence, a complaint concerning bullying must be reported to the school principal or other school officer designated by the principal to handle such issues. (Sec. 4, Id.) In consequence, complaints of bullying are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Department of Education or the concerned private school and shall not be brought for amicable settlement before the Barangay (Sec. 10 (A), IRR of R.A. No. 10627).

Upon complaint, the school personnel designated to handle bullying incident shall investigate the matter. If proven, a penalty may be imposed on the bully in the form of written reprimand, community service, suspension, exclusion or expulsion depending on the nature and gravity of the offense. In addition, the bully shall also be required to undergo an intervention program. (Sec. 10(B)(f), Id.)

Please note that the remedy provided above does not preclude the filing of other complaints. Hence, when the act complained of violates other laws, civil or criminal, a separate action may still be filed in court to vindicate the rights of the offended party.

We hope you find this opinion useful. Please bear in mind that this opinion is based on the facts you narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary if facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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