MANILA -- Who will protect teachers from student bullies?
This was the question raised by Teachers' Dignity Coalition (TDC) chairman Benjo Basas after a high school teacher in Novaliches was reportedly bullied by one of his students inside the classroom.
Teacher "Richard" said he was delivering his lecture when one of his students suddenly came up to him and strangled him.
The student, allegedly a leader of a gang, was mad at Richard for reporting two of his gang members to the guidance counselor.
"Pinahiya ako sa loob ng classroom. Bigla akong sinakal dahil sinabi 'Bakit ba yung tropa ko sinisita mo?'" said Richard, who started teaching at the San Bartolome High School only four months ago.
According to Basas, cases of students bullying their teachers have been increasing. The worst so far, he said, was the case of a teacher in Caloocan who was stabbed and killed by a student.
"Nakakagulat at nakakalungkot. Masakit isipin na merong ganito na ang bullying ng bata ay hanggang sa teacher na umaabot," Basas said in an interview with ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda" on Friday.
He said the Department of Education (DepEd) should not just ensure the protection of children in schools but also the teachers.
"With due respect to our Department of Education, masyadong mataas yung pagpapahalaga sa tinatawag nating children's rights, na wala namang problema. Pero sana hindi natin isinasakripisyo naman yung authority ng ating mga teachers," he told "Punto por Punto" host Anthony Taberna.
"Sa classroom iba ang setup. Kinakailangan nating i-disiplina yung mga bata," he added.
Disciplinary actions now forms of bullying?
Under the DepEd's Child Protection Policy guidelines, scolding students in front of their classmates is considered a bullying behavior; thus, teachers who conduct such form of supposed disciplinary action will face administrative liabilities.
Basas lamented that the practices considered by "old school teachers" as appropriate disciplinary actions are now considered forms of bullying.
"Pag tiningnan mo ng masama yung bata at natakot siya, that is child abuse. Pag sumigaw ka at natakot siya, that is child abuse. Piningot mo, pinalo mo, that is child abuse," he said.
DepEd Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali said it is not true that teachers no longer have the power to discipline their students.
He noted that there are still "positive" and "non-violent" forms of disciplinary actions.
"Pwede naman tingnan yung bata, hindi naman po yan magiging child abuse. Pero oras na sigawan, halimbawa sa sitwasyon na mapapahiya ang bata o pisikal na sasaktan ay wala pong duda na child abuse yun," Umali explained.
"Pinoproteksyunan lang naman po natin ang ating mga anak laban sa verbal na pang-aabuso, pisikal na pang-aabuso ng mag-aaral sa kapwa mag-aaral o ng guro o kawani ng kagawaran," he said.
Importance of guidance, counseling
Umali also assured teachers that students involved in similar cases would definitely face sanctions, even expulsion from the school.
"Medyo mabigat po yan, walang kaduda-duda... Mabigat po ang kaparusahan niyan," he said of Richard's case.
He said the DepEd will still look into the case even if the parents of the student have already reportedly transferred the boy to another school.
Meanwhile, Umali advised teachers and school officials to strengthen their guidance and counseling of students to prevent such incidents, noting that Richard's case cannot be exactly categorized as a bullying incident but as a case of misconduct.
"Yan po ay misconduct ng isang bata o masamang asal," he said.
"Pag ang bata po ay nakikitang sumasagot-sagot na sa guro ay dapat po matutukan kaagad at huwag na hintaying manakal ng kanyang guro," Umali said.