MSHS Admin's Inaction to Sexual Harassment
From June to August 2018, numerous female students of Manila Science High School (MSHS) filed a formal complaint to the school administration about acts of lasciviousness incidences—few of which took place as far back as 2016—committed by several of their own male schoolmates.
The reported incidences range from catcalling; dry humping female students; and groping and fondling their breasts.
The abuses seemed widespread: we learned that among female MSHS students, an average of three students per section have experienced sexual harassments perpetuated by male MSHS students.
The sad part is that the MSHS administration has taken no disciplinary actions against the abusers despite the numerous incidences and complaints.
As a result, students—mostly victims and sympathizers from several MSHS batches—vented and aired their grievances through social media (Twitter), calling out and seeking justice against the perpetrators.
However, the administration, together with the MSHS’ General Parent-Teacher Association (GPTA), diverted the issue and turned the tables around the victims by reprimanding, and threatening to sue them for their accusations and online use of profanities.
Consequently, the victims had been forced to apologize to their alleged abusers.
Considering that most incidents of harassments do not have documented physical evidences nor witnesses to corroborate the abuse, the victims take a huge risk by speaking out and reliving their traumatic experiences and being vulnerable—mentally and emotionally.
The MSHS administration’s cold and apathetic reception is nothing new: we have seen how it sweeps the issue under the rug especially when it comes to student abuses, and frankly, we questioned if they are concerned for the greater good of the students.
The only way to correct this situation is by terminating its current tendency to favor the harassers: is it because they are academic achievers and their parents are officials of GPTA?
Ensuring the safety and recovery of the victims from their traumatic experiences should be the main priority. The current administrators should place the welfare of the student body over protection of very few but privileged sons of GPTA officers.
Silencing the students will not stop our plea for justice, but will further strengthen our resolve to correct societal injustice.
To address these cases properly, and prevent similar cases from happening, we propose the following:
- The school agreement should be revised in a way that sanctions—other than unclassification—are provided for all offenses (minor, major, and grave). While the abusers may not be made to answer criminally, the school administration should impose firm disciplinary actions to perpetrators to discourage future incidents.
- The Supreme Student Government (SSG) should provide better representation of students’ welfare and should not be afraid of fighting for students’ rights nor retaliations from the school’s administration, members of faculty and the GPTA (see 3);
- A grievance mechanism or committee should be in place that works with the MSHS administration, the GPTA and the students. Ideally, this should come from the SSG but there should be provisions and systems in place to protect the grievance committee and the student-reporters. The formation of such committee should be agreed by GPTA and MSHS administration;
- A professional guidance counsellor should be accessible to all MSHS students to provide social-emotional-psychological support, providing them with support in completing high school and advancing to college. The students should be impartial and free of school politics.
- Instead of Christian Living classes, which in public school setting is restrictive and discriminatory, proper Sex Education facilitated by a teen psychologist should be offered in MSHS. This should provide better understanding to students about sexuality, emotional relations and responsibilities, human sexual anatomy, sexual activity, sexual reproduction, reproductive health, reproductive rights, safe sex, birth control, sexual abstinence, and most importantly, consent.
- A redress of MSHS administration, which considering recent student abuses (child abuse by teacher, sexual abuses by students) for the last two years, has appeared to protect and sided with the abusers through cover-up and misdirection.
We appeal to the current MSHS students, student council officers, the GPTA, faculty members, and alumni to heed our suggested solutions. The student experience in MSHS has deteriorated through the years because of mismanagement and inaction. We have felt that MSHS is NOT a safe place to study anymore with these imminent threats to our well-being.