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More students raise cry vs harassment

/ 04:42 AM June 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — More students and alumni of at least six other schools raised their own cries against sexual harassment after high school girls from Miriam College (MCHS) howled on social media against the schools’ employees.

Increasing reports of sexual harassment were aired by students and alumni of St. Theresa’s College, St. Paul College and Ateneo de Manila University, raising the hackles of a high ranking official of the Department of Education (DepEd).

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For several days now, social media sites have been flooded with complaints under the hashtag #MCHSDoBetter, often accompanied by accounts of predatory behavior at the hands of MCHS employees and urgent calls for accountability from the school administration.

The posts included screenshots of inappropriate private messages teachers allegedly sent to students, stories of faculty members trying to pursue relationships with minors and punitive actions taken by school officials against those who were victims of sexual harassment.

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Harrowing accounts

The widespread, detailed and often harrowing accounts of Miriam students and alumni led to similar complaints from students of other schools, including Marikina Science High School, Quezon City Science High School, St. Theresa’s College, St. Paul College Pasig, and Bulacan State University Laboratory High School.

Some of the complaints were posted under the hashtags #STCDOBETTER, #SPCPSQUAREUP and #TimesUpAteneo.

On Saturday, Ateneo issued a statement, through gender and development focal point chair Maria Elissa Lao, suggesting the school also had new incidents reported.

“We are saddened by recent social media posts of reported incidents of sexual harassment by certain members of the faculty of [Ateneo],” Lao said in the statement. “We assure our students that we are here to listen and support anyone who has experienced harassment.”

“We are verifying these reports and are ready to immediately begin impartial investigation when warranted,” she added.

The statement followed complaints Ateneo high school students posted on social media that the school was not doing enough against sexual harassment with one account claiming that a faculty member who repeatedly harassed students was starting to teach at the university level.

3 professors identified

In 2019, its students and faculty organized a protest against the growing number of sexual misconduct cases on campus and at least three professors were identified.

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“We will ensure that these reports do not remain mere reports that DepEd tosses aside,” Education Undersecretary Tonisito Umali said in a radio interview on Sunday. “We will really take a hard look at this. We will investigate it thoroughly.”

Sanctions for the guilty“I will personally monitor this,” Umali said. “Actually I know of other schools aside from [Miriam College] with these issues and this should not be overlooked. There are clear guidelines.”

Umali was referring to DepEd Order No. 40, issued in 2012, which defines the department’s child protection policy, which includes, among others, the mandatory establishment of child protection committees in public and private schools.

The committees are required to “recommend sanctions for those found guilty of inappropriate behavior” and DepEd Order No. 40 gives wide latitude to private schools in meting out penalties according to the “rules of the school.”

Aside from institutional penalties, offenders are also liable under Republic Act No. 11313, the Safe Spaces Act, which widened the scope and strengthened the 25-year-old Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, or RA 7877.

The Safe Spaces Act, enacted into law last year, also covers harassment in public places and online, including social media and email, and includes acts of harassment against those who identify themselves as nonbinary.

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TAGS: DepEd, harassment of students
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