The anti-bullying law

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

A QUESTION asked in Frankahay Ta! yesterday morning: Si Paterico ug si Paterica nagsakay og trak. Nahug si Paterica. Kinsay nahabilin?

Hahaha, I went through that at the Mabolo Elementary School and Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella said, through a text message, “that” being the obligatory kick one gets, usually in the leg, after he says, in answer to the question, Paterico.

Boys will always be boys, whether they live in the city or in the barrio, whether they’re enrolled in an exclusive private school or in the barangay elementary school.


We go through similar rituals, fight over the same arguments and play like games.

Kahlil Gibran wrote in Sand and Foam that “should we all confess our sins to one another, we would all laugh at one another for our lack of originality and should we reveal our virtues, we would also laugh for the same cause.” He must have been talking about boys.

Who hasn’t gone through fistfights under the gabaldon? Who hasn’t witnessed or been involved in a fight that was started with a challenge for one boy to step on a line drawn on the spot or to touch the ear of another or a twig on his shoulder?

We all went through that. It was part of growing up, like the circumcision one day during the summer break.

Now, we are told, boys can’t do that anymore. The school principal or anyone holding the equivalent rank has to make sure acts like “unwanted physical contact” do not happen in his territory, otherwise he will be penalized with administrative sanctions and his school, suspension of its permit to operate.

That is the Anti-Bullying Act of 2012 for you. Republic Act 10627, which President Noynoy Aquino signed before he left for Zamboanga City to attend to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebellion, says that “any severe or repeated use of a written, verbal or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture, or a combination of both, that puts a student in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm or damage to his property or creates a hostile environment at school or disrupts the education process or the orderly operations of a school” is bullying.

The unwanted physical contact that is considered bullying includes punching, pushing, shoving, kicking, slapping tickling, headlocks, inflicting school pranks, teasing, fighting and slanderous statements. Even calling a student ugly is also bullying.

Curiously, the Anti-Bullying Act does not directly punish the bully or his or her parents. It merely directs elementary and secondary schools to “adopt policies to address the existence of bullying” and shall, among others, identify the range of disciplinary administrative actions that may be taken against the bully or the student who retaliates.

Bullying is a legitimate concern. It happens almost every day in schools. Parents complain about it. The more aggressive ones take matters into their own hands and confront their children’s tormentors.

But whiIe I agree on the need to address the matter of bullying in schools but do we need a draconian measure to do it? When tickling is bullying, can the law that says it is be anything but draconian?

Let’s all strive to create a wholesome environment in the schools but my goodness, don’t take the fun out of growing up. People like Edgar Labella had bumps, lumps and bruises when he was a young boy. He must have taken part, at one time or another, in some pushing, shoving, kicking and other acts that would have constituted unwanted physical contact.

And yet, no thanks to any anti-bullying law, he turned out just fine. He is the vice mayor of the city of Cebu, man!


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 20, 2013.


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