By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Education Secretary Leonor Briones urged public and private school heads to address bullying cases immediately to avoid further harm to the learners.
“We need to act on these cases immediately because it could result to further harm,” Briones said. “We have to make sure that we act immediately on cases of bullying as soon as possible because this can be very dangerous,” she added.
Briones noted that the DepEd continues to receive reports of bullying cases in schools despite the passing of Republic Act 10627, the Anti-Bullying Act, which aims to protect children enrolled in kindergarten, elementary, and secondary schools and learning centers from being bullied.
“Even as we are aware that there is a law, not all are aware that there is a law against bullying,” Briones said. Passed into a law in 2013, RA 10627 requires schools to adopt policies to address the existence of bullying in their respective institutions.
Briones underscored the importance of promoting the anti-bullying law not only to learners, teachers, and school heads but most importantly to guardians and parents. “They have to undergo exposure to what the law is and the penalties and the interventions needed,” she said.
After the anti-bullying law was passed, Briones said that DepEd has issued circulars “setting out the procedures and what actions should be taken” in cases of bullying, especially in schools.
“This is a very serious issue, as serious perhaps as the other problems of children in learning environment and we’re very sensitive to it,” Briones said.
However, Briones noted that “even as we have a law, not many are aware of such law” and “even as we are aware that there’s bullying, not all children, teachers, or officials are aware that what they are doing is bullying.”
Briones cited the cases of cyberbullying prevalent on social media. “It is very easy to bully or harass a person whom you have not seen at all,” she said. “It’s easier to bully online and in the advent of communications, bullying online I think is proceeding at a much faster pace than a usual face-to-face bullying that happens in schools,” she added.
The DepEd chief noted that bullying may happen to anyone, regardless of their age or status in life. “Whether you are bullying a child or the Secretary of Education, bullying is bullying,” she said. “I have been bullied and I know that I can handle it but a learner who is bullied may not be able to handle it,” she added.
Given the prevalence of cyber bullying, Briones admitted that the DepEd is not satisfied with the way bullying cases involving learners are handled.
“We’re not really satisfied because the pace of bullying – especially on social media – is accelerating and steps have to be undertaken,” Briones said. “What are we necessarily not happy with or what we think needs improvement is really the immediate action – you cannot wait,” she added.
Briones asked school officials that if bullying happens on a Friday, “you cannot wait until Monday” because “instances like these can be very dangerous if you don’t take action immediately.”
Briones shared that she recently received a report that a child is being bullied in one high school. “I immediately called the director of the school because such actions are not part of a civilized society – they’re inhuman,” she said.
If there are cases of bullying involving learners, Briones directed teachers and school heads to take action. “You need to act fast, you don’t have to wait what would the DepEd Secretary or the Central Office will say because our protocols say that this can be addressed at the school level – so maybe, we need faster action,” she added.
To be able to address bullying, Briones also urged all learners “to learn how to respect each other” and for teachers “to learn to discipline themselves into prevention of bullying and to know the symptoms.”
Briones noted that in the DepEd circular, it is stated that the “teacher is in the best position to know when there are tendencies for bullying because they see the children every day and how they relate to each other.” Thus, she urged teachers that “if there are such signals, then they should take actions because it’s part of that protocol.”