By Henrylito D. Tacio
Her son had been telling her that there was this boy who kept bothering him for quite some time already. Because she didn’t want any trouble, she told her son not to mind or fight him. If possible, she asked him to avoid him.
Then, one day, her son went home with his nose bleeding. He had bruises all over his body. She could not believe what she saw. When she asked him who did it to him, he replied that it was the boy whom he had been telling her. And the boy had some companions, all of whom attacked him.
“There shouldn’t be a place for bullies, not in schools,” she wrote in her social media. “It has become a culture of silence when we try to just negotiate to avoid scandal, or the case may end up in court.
“What if they had knives?” she continued. “What if they really intended to hurt or harm him gravely? Worst of all, some parents are even called over-acting when they act on assault or oppression.”
A school is a student’s second home and assumed to be one of the safest places for children. It is supposed to be a place where learners are nurtured and protected.
But in some instances, when bullying is present, a school become a place of torture. “Schools become the settings that expose children to violence, not just from their peers but also from teachers and school personnel,” commented the United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Is this really true? I tried to do a little sleuthing on the subject, and I unearthed a 2009 study by Plan International and UNICEF on Violence Against Children in Public Schools in the country. In the said study, it was found that four out of 10 children in Grades 1 to 3 and seven out of 10 in both Grades 4 to 6 and high school had experienced some kind of violence in school.
“Results of the survey show that peers perpetrate most forms of violence experienced by children,” commented Michael Diamond, who was described in the study as the Plan Philippine country director. “Ridicule and teasing by peers are the most common experiences.”
Unfortunately, parents don’t know that such incidents are taking place. In a Reader’s Digest article, Dr. Richard B. Goldbloom wrote: “Many parents are unaware that it is happening because they never discuss it with their kids and because bullying is often a kind of underground activity that many children won’t report.”
Unlike in the United States and other industrialized countries, violence against children by their peers, in particular bullying, has received little attention in our country. This is possibly due to the perception that bullying and fighting among children is part of school culture. “Away bata” is the common excuse for it – it’s “normal” or “a rite of passage” for children.
If you are a parent, how will you know that your child is being bullied? A book on psychology gives us these manifestations: frightened of going to school and is difficult to wake in the morning; doesn’t want to ride the school bus; begs to be driven to school; becomes withdrawn, anxious, or lacking in confidence; cries him/herself to sleep at night or has nightmares; feels sick in the morning; and comes home with clothes torn or books damaged.
A child is also being bullied if he or she has possessions (like pens or pencils) that end up “missing,”; asks for money or starts stealing money (to pay the bully); comes home starving (money/lunch has been stolen); stops eating; and is frightened to say what’s wrong.
A major red flag is when he or she attempts or threatens suicide or runs away from home.
“Bullying is a symptom of a deeper problem,” observed Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara when he was still alive. “It should never be tolerated. Quality education and a safe and positive learning environment go hand in hand.”
During the time of President Benigno S. Aquino III, Republic Act 10627 or The Anti-Bullying Act of 2013, was signed. The law seeks to address a hostile environment at school that disrupts the education process which, in turn, is not conducive to the total development of a child at school.
The law requires elementary and secondary schools to adopt policies to prevent and address bullying. All those found to be engaged in the act of bullying – regardless of age and discernment – have to comply with civil liabilities, including a penalty that ranges from P50,000 to P100,000.
But despite this law, bullying continues unabated. Dr. Honey Carandang, a noted Filipino psychologist and author, has often expressed her disappointment over the seeming lack of concern that school authorities have shown towards bullying incidents that take place right under their noses.
“It’s really sad how, instead of being helped, the bullied child is sometimes even blamed for the bullying that has taken place,” Dr. Carandang deplored, adding that there should be more programs put in place to further educate teachers and administrators about the dangers of bullying and to teach them to be more sensitive.
“There are three persons who need to be helped and empowered here – the bully, the bullied, and the bystander,” Dr. Carandang. She further said that everyone needs to be part of the solution and that if a teacher or student is in a class or is a witness to a bullying incident elsewhere on campus and does nothing, then that person is as much a part of the problem as the bully.