Following the controversies that hound the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA), a progressive youth group urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to take the lead in crafting and implementing a comprehensive mechanism that will cover all schools and protect all students from campus predators.
“Education is hellish enough without having to worry about sexual predators on school campuses,” said Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) National Coordinator John Samuel B. Lazaro said in a statement issued July 12.
“The least the DepEd could do is to ensure student participation in reviewing Makiling’s existing policies and strengthening internal mechanisms,” Lazaro added.
DepEd, in a statement dated July 12, addressed harassment and abuse allegations at the PHSA. The agency also reiterated that it “does not tolerate abuses in any form” under the leadership of its new secretary, Vice President Sara Duterte.
However, DepEd’s “belated” response regarding the harassment and abuse cases at the PHSA did not sit well with SPARK.
In particular, SPARK slammed DepEd’s statement noting that it is working alongside the PHSA administration in “reviewing the school's existing policies and strengthening its internal mechanisms to ensure the safety of the students inside the premises of the institution.”
For Lazaro, this “barely qualifies as action at all” because it “disregards the numerous reports of abuse cases happening outside of campus premises and school hours.”
DepEd, SPARK noted, would have been aware of this if PHSA held regular school inspections as per the Safe Spaces Act “but they have evidently not done so.”
Lazaro alleged that “even the maximum amount of effort would not have been able to erase the trauma and pain caused by this incident, but the DepEd currently seems uninterested in doing even the bare minimum.”
Given this, SPARK reiterated its demand for campus predators to have their licenses removed and to be “blacklisted for life.”
The group is also pushing for a “review and overhaul of all boarding schools” --- such as science high schools and seminaries under DepEd --- “where predators have been lurking.”