MANILA -- It's school opening time again, and the issue of bullying is cropping up anew. Bullied students--and their parents as well--need not be helpless.
Under Philippine laws, bullies can face the consequences of their actions, even charged criminally.
"The targets or students and their parents are protected, and can avail of legal remedies provided under the law," lawyer Amado Aquino III told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
Aquino pointed to Republic Act No. 10627, or the Act Requiring All Elementary and Secondary Schools to Adopt Policies to Prevent and Address the Acts of Bullying in their Institutions.
RA 10627 enables students to anonymously report bullying. Although disciplinary administrative action would not be taken based on an anonymous report alone, bullies are still subject to punishment once the report is established as true.
The law requires the school principal or any authorized representative to report to the law enforcement agencies if he or she believes the bullying is tantamount to a crime and, thus, criminal charges may be pursued under the Revised Penal Code.
The law says students, parents, or any member of the school administration may report bullying instances or act of retaliation that they have witnessed. Then school principal will either notify the police, take disciplinary administrative action, notify the parents or guardians of the bully, or notify the parents or guardians of the victim regarding the action taken to prevent any further acts of bullying.
For non-compliance of RA 1067, the Secretary of the Department of Education shall prescribe the appropriate administrative sanctions on school administrators. Erring private schools shall likewise suffer the penalty of suspension of their permits to operate.
Types of bullying
Based on section 2 of RA 1067, bullying takes many forms.
It defines bullying as "any severe or repeated use by one or more students of a written, verbal, or electronic expression, or a physical act or gesture, or any combination thereof, directed at another student that has the effect of actually causing or placing the latter in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm or damage to his property; creating a hostile environment at school for the other student; infringing on the rights of the other student at school; or materially and substantially disrupting the education process or the orderly operation of a school.
The law says bullying may be in the form of pranks, teasing, fighting, and the use of available objects as weapons; any act that causes damage to the victim's psyche or emotional well-being.
For the sharp-tongued, bullying can also be any slanderous statement of accusation that causes the victim undue emotional distress like direct directing foul language or profanity at the target, name-calling, tormenting, and commenting negatively on the victim's looks, clothes, or body.
Cyber-bullying or any bullying done through the use of technology or any electronic means is also bullying punishable under the law.
Aquino classifies bullying into five basic forms: physical, verbal, relational aggression, cyberbullying, and sexual bullying.
The lawyer said physical bullying is often the easiest to identify, as this usually involves hitting, kicking, destroying, or stealing property.
Verbal bullying is name-calling, insulting, threatening, intimidating, and also racist remarks and sexist comments.
Relational aggression, Aquino said, uses relationships to control or hurt others. This includes talking behind a person's back, spreading rumors, etc.
Cyberbullying is in the use of social media, instant messaging apps, and any information technology.
Sexual bullying, Aquino said, involves humiliating words that target a person sexually, making vulgar gestures, uninvited touching, name-calling, and the likes.
Aquino also cited Senator Juan Edgardo Angara's anti-bullying bill, which seeks to amend the existing anti-bullying law, by including penalizing teachers and other school personnel, who, themselves, bully the students.
"Senate Bill No. 2793 aims to give more teeth to the DepEd (Department of Education) order by penalizing a teacher or any other school personnel who commits acts of bullying to a student, with a fine of not less than PHP50,000 but not more than PHP100,000 and/or by imprisonment from six months to a year," Aquino said.
He continued: "If the bullying resulted in the student attempting to commit suicide, the penalty will be a fine of not less than PHP100,000 but not more than PHP500,000 and/or imprisonment of one to three years. If the suicide attempt results in the death of the victim, the penalty will be a fine of not less than PHP500,000 but not more than PHP1 million and/or imprisonment of three to six years."
Senate Bill No. 2793 is yet to be signed by the President, he added.
How can parents identify if their kids are being bullied?
Website verywellfamily.com enumerated some tips to help parents see signs that kids might be the targets of bullies.
1. If they say a lot of "drama" at school or if they say that others are "messing" with them.
Take note of what happened and how they felt. Assure the kids that they did not cause the bullying, and give them tips on how to overcome the experience.
2. "Vanishing friends"
Know your kids' circle of friends. If you notice that some of them are vanishing or the kids are no longer inviting them to your house, that can be a sign that the kid is being bullied.
3. Changes in mood
Verywellfamilydotcom stated that kids who are being bullied may appear anxious, clingy, or withdrawn. Some may also exhibit low self-esteem.
4. Minor injuries or health complaints
Parents should not only check if the kids have bruises or wounds. Take notice if the child complains of frequent headaches and other ailments.
5. Binge eating
Somebody might have destroyed their lunch, so they binge eat when they get home. Others might also skip meals to avoid being bullied.
6. Change in sleeping pattern
A change in their sleeping habits could be because they experience nightmares. Sleeping more than normal, crying until they fall asleep could also be indicators that the child is being bullied.
7. Failing grades
This is because bullied children may find it difficult to focus on schoolwork.
8. Lost possessions
Bullies could have damaged or stolen their belongings. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency