‘Is your school safe?’: Youth group provides checklist for safe campuses vs gender-based crimes

September 7, 2023 - 7:38 PM
Image by Wokandapix via Pixabay

A school should have an accessible grievance center for students to be considered as “safe,” according to a youth group.

The Enough Is Enough (EIE) Philippines group offered a checklist of policies and facilities for schools to be considered “safe” for students following the recent return to face-to-face classes.

Classes started in public schools on August 29. This was in compliance with the Department of Education (DepEd)’s implementing guidelines for the school year 2023-2024.

Private schools, meanwhile, have the option to maintain their blended learning setup.

EIE’s “checklist” of policies for a “safe” school comprises:

  1. An accessible and victim-centered grievance procedure
  2. Psychological, legal, and financial assistance to victim-survivors
  3. An office of Anti-Sexual Harassment that proactively safeguards safe spaces
  4. Teachers and personnel have been trained to handle cases of gender-based sexual harassment
  5. School transparency and accountability when it comes to cases of sexual harassment

“Yesterday (August 29) marked the opening of classes but with campus predators and enabling school admins continuing to enjoy impunity, students are returning to schools that resemble places of violence, rather than places of learning,” EIE said in a statement.

“Schools should be places where students are safe, supported, and empowered. But how many times have our safety and dignity been violated by the very institutions mandated to ensure our well-being and the people of authority we are told we can trust?” it added.

Laws on Safe Spaces, Anti-Rape

Acts considered as gender-based sexual harassment are covered under the Safe Spaces Act, which was passed in 2018.

These include “catcalling, wolf-whistling, unwanted invitations, misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic and sexist slurs, persistent uninvited comments or gestures on a person’s appearance, relentless requests for personal details, statement of sexual comments and suggestions, public masturbation or flashing of private parts, groping, or any advances, whether verbal or physical, that is unwanted and has threatened one’s sense of personal space and physical safety.”

In Section 21 of the law, it was also stated that educational institutions shall have the following:

  • An officer-in-charge in charge of receiving complaints of violations of the Safe Spaces Act
  • Grievance procedures to facilitate the filing of complaints by students and faculty members

Schools are also mandated to investigate the veracity of allegations of sexual violence and harassment even if the person concerned does not want to file a complaint.

“If a school knows or reasonably should know about acts of gender-based sexual harassment or sexual violence being committed that creates a hostile environment, the school must take immediate action to eliminate the same acts, prevent their recurrence, and address their effects,” the provision reads.

This week, a rape case of a teacher to an 11-year-old student in Cavite gained buzz on social media.

Based on reports, the teacher purportedly committed the crime in a motel and in school.

The teacher was arrested for child abuse, rape and abduction.

Under the amended Anti-Rape Law of 1997, the age of consent is 16 years old. This means an individual who committed a “sexual act” to someone younger than 16 have committed an act of rape.