Ilocano-speaking students only 'advised to transfer' – school
MANILA, Philippines – "Advised to transfer" and "expelled" are two different things. At least that's how the management of the Saviour's Christian Academy (SCA) in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, puts it.
The school was trying to clarify the blog post that has sparked criticisms, even condemnation – that SCA kicked out 3 Grade 8 students after they were found to have spoken Ilocano on the English-only campus during a break.
"The use of the word 'expulsion' is not appropriate. They were just advised to transfer," SCA legal counsel Jaime Agtang told Rappler over a phone interview on Wednesday, August 7.
He said the memorandum given to Kleinee Bautista, Carl Abadilla, and Samuel Respicio last July 31 gave them a choice between transferring schools and raising a protest so the "matter could’ve been resolved at the earlier stage."
If only the families were not "too hasty" to transfer their children to other schools, Agtang said, they would've realized the students were not being expelled.
"[But] they were too hasty to [move] out upon the statement of the principal that the decision was final," Agtang added.
A relative of Bautista earlier told Rappler that high school principal Cristeta Pedro said the decision of SCA president Reverend Brian Shah is final even as their family was not inclined to follow the school's advice.
"They relied on that statement, opted not to request for a reconsideration," Agtang said. As he understood the memorandum, he said it was not an absolute order and the students could always seek clarification.
Only Abadilla's mother filed a letter of reconsideration, the school lawyer said. But even before Agtang could issue a recommendation, Abadilla already transferred her child to another school.
Pedro advised Agtang that if the students transferred, they can return the following year.
Pictures of the SCA student handbook retrieved by Rappler show that under "Behavior on and off the campus," not only students but also parents and chaperons must speak English "at all times within the school compound."
Speaking the vernacular, whether Filipino or Ilocano, is considered a miscellaneous misconduct and merits a reprimand.
Shah told Agtang the students committed the violation of speaking in Ilocano repeatedly – 3 times, to be exact.
Bautista's relative confirmed that Bautista was given an oral warning prior to the incident.
The school, Agtang said, has the academic freedom to implement this rule, or any rule for that matter, as long as it is not "against public morals and public policy deemed not appropriate" for learning.
He said SCA, through the English-speaking policy, is committed to globally-prepare their students for global interaction.
"Considering that there’s a reputation that Filipinos are good at English," he added.
Yesterday, Agtang met with Department of Education (DepEd) Laoag City Superintendent Araceli Pastor to clarify that Shah never uttered a foul word, nor attempted to slam a cellular phone in front of the students.
In a blog post that went viral on Tuesday, The Ilocos Times columnist Herdy Yumul wrote that "a teary-eyed" Bautista recalled Shah angrily doing all these when they were called to his office.
Pastor told Rappler they have not received a formal complaint from the parents, so instead of a formal investigation, they have been doing fact-finding since they learned the incident.
She added the incident complaint mentioned earlier was for a different case that was filed to the school – a copy of which was given to DepEd.
The SCA administration is set to hold a dialogue with parents within the next 3 days to seek better implementation of the school's rules and regulations.
"The language issue is not the principal issue with respect to the educational policy of the school. The school is open to discussion with any party or parent regarding the rules and regulations...and the school upholds the welfare of the students," Agtang said. – Rappler.com