Pisay board defends final decision on students who shared lewd photos

Sofia Tomacruz
Pisay board defends final decision on students who shared lewd photos
'We assure the public that the PSHS Board has exerted best efforts in arriving at this decision and we request that this be respected,' says the Philippine Science High School board of trustees

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Science High School (PSHS) board of trustees said on Wednesday, May 29, that it exerted its “best efforts” and considered the “specific circumstances” of each student when it decided to ban 6 male students from marching in their graduation rites but allowed 3 of them to still receive diplomas, 

“We assure the public that the PSHS Board has exerted best efforts in arriving at this decision and we request that this be respected.  We urge everyone to move forward and provide the needed support to the students and PSHS community,” the board said.

The PSHS board made the statement on Wednesday, after it reversed an earlier decision and barred the 6 students from their graduation ceremony for sharing nude photos of their female classmates online.

In issuing the statement, the board said that it wanted “to correct some misconceptions and wrong information that are circulating around social media and in newspapers,” apparently referring to some reports that it had no authority to decide on the matter.

“We wish to inform the public that under the PSHS Charter…the Board of Trustees has exclusive authority to resolve or decide matters of non-graduation or termination of scholarship, based on extensive consultation and comprehensive facts, including but not limited to precedent cases and specific circumstances,” it said.

Separate cases

A board member told Rappler that when the board decided on the sanctions on the 6 students, it considered each case separately.

“There were a lot of differences in terms of what exactly they did, the number of acts that they might have done versus what was established that they’ve done,” the board member said.

The board member said that when the public learned about the case, “everybody was lumped up into a single situation and everybody was judging them as one.”

“But at the end of the day, especially after we had heard and reviewed everything they did, we recognized these are 6 students in although very similar situations, [were] not identical,” the board member added.

Prior to the students’ graduation on Wednesday, the PSHS board initially allowed all 6 students to graduate despite two school committees’ recommendation for disciplinary action against them. 

Public outrage and internal protests that followed prompted the board to reconsider its decision to overturn the school committees’ recommendations. (READ: Robredo on Pisay controversy: Abuse vs women unacceptable in any form)

‘Similar but nuanced distinctions’

The board member said after the final deliberation on the cases, the board had “although still very similar, very nuanced distinctions for each of them,” leading to the decision.

The issue stemmed from a complaint filed by several female students with school authorities in December 2018, after learning that their boyfriends, also from PSHS, had shared their nude photos online and traded them for photos of other girls. (READ: From victim to fighter: ‘We all have to take a stand,’ says Pisay student)

The PSHS board said while all 6 students involved in controversy were not allowed to march, it decided 3 will get their diplomas while 3 will only get certificates of completion of the 6-year program. All 6 students will also need to comply with additional requirements given to them as part of their sanction.

This means that the 3 boys who will receive their diplomas will be recorded as PSHS graduates. Meanwhile, the other 3 students who will get certificates of completion will not be included in the school’s list of graduates but will be able to pursue higher studies. 

Meanwhile, the PSHS board urged the media and the public “to respect the privacy and maintain the dignity of our scholars, and not aggravate the issue further which unnecessarily puts those children’s future at risk.” – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.