SCAP urges human rights body to police schools, supports national legislation to protect students’ rights

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QUEZON CITY – A student group called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to monitor schools which may be violating students’ rights before graduation. The agency is tasked by the Office of the President towards human rights protection and promotion. 
An incident in Cebu City caused online attacks towards St. Theresa’s College (STC) when it did not allow two of its students to attend the graduation rites because of Facebook photos. Although the court ordered that the said students be made to attend their graduation rights, the school administration refused to honor the issued order.  Another incident was reported in Infant Jesus Academy in Marikina City wherein 6 boys are denied of joining their graduation rites because of  photos on the same social networking site.  Both institutions are Catholic schools.
The Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), a nationwide alliance of student councils and student political parties, tags both incidents as an impingement on the personal and private affairs of the students.  SCAP said that the two incidents are not isolated but are two of the many instances wherein schools violate students’ rights.  The student alliance claims that it regularly receives reports from students of various schools presenting similar dilemmas.
“CHR is in the best position to police these academic institutions”, quipped JC Tejano, National Spokesperson of SCAP.  “We urge CHR to review the student handbooks of these schools and see to it that school rules and regulations do not violate the rights of students and are in accordance with the law” he added.
Academic freedom
SCAP maintained that Catholic academic institutions resort to punish their students in an unfair manner under the guise of academic freedom.
“Schools are protected because of academic freedom.  But academic freedom should not be used as an excuse to control students in this manner.  Students’ personal space, which includes social networking sites such as Facebook, should not be governed by any school policy,” said Tejano.
“The school’s responsibility is to form their student and instill values in them.  This role does not give them a license to punish students for what is in the real of parental guidance.  Academic freedom has limits,” he added.
Constitutional rights prevail over student handbooks
“Students’ rights are human rights and human rights are inviolable,” SCAP asserted. Not a single student handbook across the country has the power over the rights bestowed on any individual guaranteed by the constitution.
In a previous statement, SCAP alleged that STC violated the students’ rights to freedom of expression and speech and several provision in the Magna Carta for Women by causing psychological and emotional trauma.
Students’ Rights Bill
The group is also urging legislators that a national legislation on protecting students’ rights should be passed.  Currently, several versions of a students’ rights bills are pending under the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“A bill protecting students is long overdue. We need to make sure that this generation are afforded a conducive environment for learning by securing their rights, within or without the campus,” SCAP concluded.
JC TEJANO, 0917.836.0345
GIBBY GORRES, 0917.362.7480
This is a press release from the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP).

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