Commentary: Bullying is not OK

Disciplinary cases can be exhausting. They can last for months on end and filing one does not actually guarantee justice will be served nor does it ensure that the aggrieved will receive resolution. The process is quite a long one, and one that requires the complaining party to go through a series of steps of filling out forms, consulting with discipline officers, and finding witnesses, among others. Even with this arduous process, there really is no assurance that the case filed can be a success in the first place.

Disciplinary Cases (Web) - Ernest

Sometimes cases are closed even though an actual solution to address the issues underlying them is not reached. Although they are supposed to bring resolution to the aggrieved, sometimes the very same people they aim to protect become the ones further aggrieved. This is why such cases can take a heavy toll on the complainant-students physically and emotionally. If and when the cases do not move forward or fails to reach definitive conclusions that can hold the accused accountable, it can be truly disheartening on the part of the complainant.

In the greater scheme of things, I do understand the importance of keeping in place these strict systems that seek to promote the facilitation of justice. These are important to ensure that no one takes unfair advantage of the system, that the accused can exercise their right to be innocent until proven guilty, and that the institution remains fair and just. I do understand why the burden of providing proof rests on the complainant because we’re all too familiar with tales of baseless accusations and allegations that have put so many innocent lives behind bars.

The school setting may be perceived as a system minuscule in comparison to the real world, but it is nonetheless just as important to bring justice to those deserving of it. For an issue as grave as bullying, for example, I understand it is important to gather necessary, strong evidence to build a proper disciplinary case. What I don’t understand, however, is when someone who files a case does take the time to go through with the entire process of finding witnesses, submitting written statements, and dealing with disciplinary officers, their claims are dismissed and their evidence shut down as being too weak to be establish a prima facie case.

Worse are accusations of forging and editing screenshots of messages exchanged between parties submitted as possible evidence. Worse is rendering the rather harrowing testaments of witnesses to have no direct connection to the disciplinary case although they involve the same accused party.

They were testaments that told stories of sexual harassment and plain bullying, and they were all rendered evidence too weak to establish a case.

But deliberately humiliating someone in front of others is not OK. Touching someone in a way that can be considered malicious is not OK. Almost running over someone with your car and proceeding to joke about it is not OK. Filming yourself pretending to knife someone out of spite is not OK. Harassing someone because of their economic status and province of origin is not OK. Bullying is not OK. None of these is OK. But why are we letting them pass unscathed? Why have we let the perpetrators run away? Who do we really want to protect?

This incident only calls for a reevaluation of the systems that we have put in place and the very institution we belong to. I hope that the matter never dies, because justice has to be served.

We are an institution that supports the call to end bullying. But until there are people like them who continue to intimidate others because of whatever status they or their parents have in school and in the society as a whole, it will not cease to exist. But here’s a parting message: I believe the strong ones aren’t the ones who have power and use it only for their gain. The strong ones are the ones who can see power when it is abused and are brave enough to stand up against it.

By Althea Gonzales

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