School safety and a do-nothing policy

NOTE: This piece was first published in last April 2015. As school season draws near it gives parents something — actually a lot — to think about. Reposting it here in full.

This is that time of the year when just-graduated high school students and their parents are preoccupied with scouting for the best school for tertiary education. As if education quality and financial considerations aren’t stressful enough, recent years have seen increasing incidents that compromise safety and security of college students.

The concern isn’t limited to their surrounding environment like rising criminality encountered in their commute. On-campus security issues have been on the rise such as drug proliferation and fraternity hazing. Years ago such concerns were usually associated with certain brands of schools. But not anymore. Even top tier institutions have found themselves in the thick of things.

The worst part about this: it seems that no clear direction for reform has been undertaken by the school and all other private and government agencies involved. The silence is deafening.

Take the College of St Benilde (CSB). While there is great interest in its more up-to-date and cutting-edge course offerings like Animation, Multimedia Arts, Music Production, Fashion Design, and Photography, Culinary Arts, Hotel and Restaurant Management, and the like, it has yet to address major security concerns that have plagued it in this past year alone.

Last year, the school found itself in the middle of a crisis when one of its Hotel RM students, 18-year-old Guillo Cesar Servando, died after suffering multiple injuries apparently due to fraternity hazing. Two months after the incident, the National Bureau of Investigation quickly filed charges against 20 suspects, all members of the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity, for their alleged involvement in the death.

The Facebook page of CSB still yields no official policy from the school on how it plans to prevent similar incidents of violence, save for a statement by CSB Vice Chancellor Robin Serrano dated June 29, 2014, saying the school will cooperate in the investigation and its prohibition on fraternities and fraternity-related violence.

Yes, they’ve said they have disallowed fraternities in their midst, but moves for clear-cut policy reform and integration seem to have fallen into a black hole. A statement posted on Facebook is deemed enough to strike fear among fraternities, when in the past, lower-tiered institutions were compelled to push for a crackdown on fraternities on campus, with their members and recruiters summarily suspended or expelled.

A couple of months ago, veteran columnist Ramon Tulfo wrote an exposé about the alleged rampant drug trade in CSB. What made his piece all the more disturbing was that the allegations were based on his personal experience. Apparently, he discovered Valium and a sachet of marijuana in his daughter’s room. When confronted, his daughter admitted that she and her classmates got these from bars near CSB where she studies.

Mr Tulfo went to St Benilde’s administration to report the problem of selling drugs near the school. To his dismay, he said no official from CSB took the time to discuss the matter.

Neither did CSB come out with a statement. What was only published later on was a telephone interview with a certain Ivy Cruz, a staff member of the Institutional Communications unit of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB), who said that “the administration is working very hard to ensure that the students and parents are happy about our services.”

“The primary concern of the school is the welfare of the students. We are really concerned [about] the welfare of the students and the parents,” she added.

Nothing official was released later by CSB. Instead, Mr Tulfo received numerous hate tweets and blogs, including several posts from his own daughter condemning him for putting the school in a bad light.

This, however, is not a problem unique to CSB. This college is not alone in facing the problem of school safety involving issues like fraternity violence and drugs. So many institutions have found themselves embroiled in these situations before. But CSB stands out because of its top-tier branding and standing in the education community, aside from being among the most recent in the growing incidents of student safety concerns.

However, it seems like nothing tangible has been done both by school administrations or the agents of government, such as the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), to ensure school safety in colleges and universities. Even an initiative of Congressman Sherwin Gatchalian, which came hot on the heels of the Servando killing, is dead in the water.

This begs the question, how many lives of students do we need to sacrifice before we start talking about the issue of safety in campuses before meaningful institutional action and policy reform is finally undertaken? –

JP Fenix: 53 years on earth, 32 years communications professional, 28 years print journalist, 10 years broadcast journalist, 8 years born again Christian, 7 years full time dad, 53 years AD/HD.

(Assorted pills image via ShutterStock.)

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2 Responses to School safety and a do-nothing policy

  1. Hi, JP, you may want to read this. An update to Servando Act of Congressman Sherwin Gatchalian:

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