Bull session. That was how it was called in the all-girl elementary school I attended in the mid-’70s.
You were marked once called to a “bull session.” It was like the kiss of death. Classmates would form a circle around you, then tell you everything they didn’t like about you.
Often, the person in the hot seat would break down and feel so humiliated even days after.
In 2004, a popular film, “Mean Girls,” depicted something similar—where the “Queen Bees” in school reigned and sowed terror in class, ostracizing and gossiping about their classmates. The film resonated with many people, students especially.
Not much has really changed. Only that bullies have grown braver and fiercer. Sometimes, the bully of 30 years ago has grown up—now he conducts his “bull sessions” at home, at work or at socials.
Unfortunately, as we have seen in recent reports, the bully has become much younger.
Earlier this year, Noni Odulio, the father of a Grade 1 student in an exclusive school for girls, wrote an impassioned letter about bullying incidents where his daughter was the object of humiliation.
“Parents who seek to dismiss these instances as ‘growing pains’ or ‘part of the culture are either blind to the truth or party to the crime,” Odulio wrote. “In no world is bullying and intimidation acceptable. Do we wait for our daughter to come home with physical scars? Do we allow her to endure this horrible situation because this will make her ‘grow up?”
The number of bullying incidents has risen at an alarming rate. Parents, teachers and school administrators must create a greater awareness about bullying and swiftly act on reported incidents.
Bullying at home
Bullying becomes an even greater problem when done in the home. A home where bullying is prevalent—between spouses, or between parent and child—is like a fertile ground for raising either a bully, a child with very low self-esteem, or sometimes, both.
The wounds that bullying inflict cut long and deep. I have many friends, now in their 40s and 50s, who can vividly recall being bullied by classmates or teachers decades ago.
The recollection is amazing—from the exact words used, to the violence (physical or verbal) that was perpetrated, down to what they wore that day, and which where it happened in school.
Thank God for enlightened and progressive souls at the Department of Education led by Undersecretary Alberto Muyot, the DepEd has a brand new Child Protection Policy (CPP). I asked my MTRCB colleague, lawyer Noel del Prado, who helped craft and refine this policy, to explain the key features of the CPP.
Here are what parents, educators and those who have been bullied can look forward to this school year and beyond.
First, the CPP provides protection to children, not just against the abuses of teachers, administrators, but also against bullying and other acts of peer abuse, on campus and off. This covers online or cyber-bullying.
This is revolutionary, proactive and vigilant, as there is no law defining and penalizing “bullying” yet.
It incorporates protection of children against anti-corporal punishment, even in the absence of a law defining and penalizing the physical punishment of children.
Positive and holistic discipline of the child is the value that is reinforced here, and it is based on the fundamental principle that children are human beings with basic rights.
The CPP expands protection of children against “discrimination” to include discrimination on account of ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, being HIV- or AIDS-positive, being pregnant, being a child in conflict with the law, being a child with disability or other status or condition.
More important, this new policy empowers children by recognizing their duties and responsibilities, as direct stakeholders in child protection.
The policy institutionalizes and localizes child protection by providing for the creation and appointment of a Child Protection Office (CPO) in all public and private elementary and secondary schools. This provision, I am certain, will be most welcomed by parents and every child who has at one time or another been bullied.
And because eradicating bullying is a team effort, the CPP mobilizes the students, parents, school heads, teachers, community, local government units and other stakeholders to address child abuse, exploitation, violence, discrimination and bullying cases.
It will be definitely be a policy with teeth because it mandates the DepEd Central Office, through the Offices of the Undersecretary for Programs and Projects and Regional Operations, to devise programs, campaigns and activities to raise consciousness, mobilizing and educating the parents, teachers, community, local government units and other stakeholders to address child abuse, exploitation, violence, discrimination and bullying cases.
In the bullying equation, it’s not just the bullied one who needs help but the bully as well. Thus, the CPP mandates the provision of psycho-social and programs and services, not just for child victims, but also for children committing peer abuse.
Perhaps the DepEd can add a clause requiring parents of the bully to attend the psycho-social program with their son or daughter, so that the education can be reinforced in the home.
E-mail the author at [email protected]; follow her on Twitter @cathybabao.