By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

(File photo)

MANILA – The Department of Education (DepEd) is considering providing training for teachers and parents to spot “red flags” of bullying in schools.

In a Palace briefing, DepEd Undersecretary Michael Poa said the training is part of the agency’s efforts to provide immediate interventions to Filipino learners involved in bullying incidents.

Poa said the DepEd has already identified pilot areas where training for teachers and parents will be conducted.

“Gusto nating mag-train ng teachers, ng parents to spot red flags para sila ‘yung magsabi sa atin kung kailangan ng intervention ng kanilang mga anak. As to the teachers, nag-start na ‘yung ating pilot in certain areas lang (We want to train teachers and parents to spot red flags so that they can tell us if their children need intervention. As for the teachers, our pilot training has started only in certain areas),” he said.

While the agency is reviewing mechanisms to prevent bullying in schools, it also needs to gain parental support to address the issue that has an adverse impact on the bullied students’ mental health, DepEd Undersecretary Gina Gonong said.

“Addressing bullying can’t just be DepEd’s responsibility,” Gonong, who also joined the press briefing, said. “So we need to engage our parents and the communities to reduce if not to eliminate bullying in schools.”
Reporting system
Poa said the DepEd is also improving its reporting system considering that most of the complaints lodged before its Learner Rights and Protection Office (LRPO) are related to bullying.

He said the LRPO has so far resolved at least 120 cases of bullying.

“But you know, pagdating kasi sa ganitong reporting system, dalawa iyan eh, puwede kang magsabing yes, naka-resolve ka ng 120 cases pero (when it comes to such reporting system, there are two things we need to consider. Yes, we could say we’re able to resolve 120 cases but) we still don’t know if there is underreporting going on,” Poa said.

“That’s why we need to make sure that our system is accessible to everyone, even to anonymous complaints kasi maraming takot mag-complain (because many are afraid to make a complaint [and we have]) to make sure that people are really being encouraged to report,” he added.

Anti-bullying hotlines

Poa said bullied students may directly report to the DepEd any abuse or violence they have experienced in schools, including cyberbullying.

This, as he acknowledged that some bullied learners are afraid to lodge a complaint before school authorities.

“Kaya naman tayo naglagay ng hotline na kasi karamihan naman talaga ng ating mga learner lalo na pagdating sa bullying, takot silang magsumbong kaagad kasi nandiyan ‘yung nambully sa kanila or pagdating naman sa abuses in our schools, takot sila na baka kampihan ng school authorities ‘yung bully (That’s why we put up a hotline because most of our learners, especially when it comes to bullying, are afraid to report it immediately because the bully is there or when it comes to abuses in our schools, they are afraid that the school authorities might be on the bully’s side),” Poa said.

“These are very natural. The reluctance is quite natural so that’s why we had a hotline para kung takot silang magsumbong sa kanilang school or sa division office man lang ay puwede silang dumiretso sa central office through our hotline (so that if they are afraid to report to their school or to the division office, at least they can go straight to the central office through our hotline),” he added.

Any cases of abuse may be reported to the DepEd’s LRPO through landline (02) 8632-1372, mobile number 0945-175-9777, e-mail address weprotectlearners@deped.gov.ph, and Facebook page https://facebook.com/deped.lrpo/.

Responsible internet use

Poa said there is also a plan to include the responsible use of internet in the DepEd’s curriculum.

The agency, he said, has many projects and advocacies at the school level to educate learners about responsible use of internet and cyberbullying.

“It is really number one, creating awareness and number two, how do you respond once there is bullying,” Poa said, adding that DepEd is coordinating with the Department of Health to help bullied students and bully who may be experiencing mental health problems. (PNA)