Osmeña: British School doctored report on student’s ‘plagiarism’

Jee Y. Geronimo
Osmeña: British School doctored report on student’s ‘plagiarism’
At least two senators say officials of the school, where a student committed suicide, 'sanitized' an independent panel's report on the incident

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sergio Osmeña III slammed officials of the British School Manila for “doctoring” the report of an independent review panel (IRP) on the death of student Liam Madamba.

Madamba took his own life in February reportedly over problems at school.

During the Senate committee on education, arts, and culture’s second hearing on the incident Monday, June 15, Osmeña went over two different versions of the IRP report:

  1. The original report from the IRP, with an addendum 
  2. The report released by the Council of Trustees (COT), which incorporated the addendum to the original report

The panel was convened by the school more than a month after Liam died on February 6. He jumped from the 6th floor of the Dela Rosa carpark building in Legazpi Village in Makati City. He was rushed to the nearby Makati Medical Center but died several hours later.

A day before, Liam and another student were reprimanded by their teacher, Natalie Mann, for allegedly plagiarizing a paragraph in a first-draft essay.

Liam was reportedly traumatized because he was “under the impression” his apology letter would be sent to BSM head Simon Mann and the school body. (READ: Report: Fallen BSM student saw apology letter as punishment)

‘Misleading

Osmeña presided Monday’s hearing and compared the changes made by the COT on the original report. He said the changes were not simple corrections of factual inaccuracies, as claimed by the school.


Screengrab from ABS-CBN

TIMELINE OF REPORT

March 8IRP’s first formal meeting
March 23 – IRP finalizes report
March 25 – IRP presents report to COT; council gave recommendations
March 31 – IRP submits original report, including an addendum based on council’s recommendations
April 15 – COT releases report to BSM community
May 5 – IRP releases statement

For instance, the COT changed the dates covered by the review, making it appear the panel only reviewed events that happened from February 2 to 5. February 6 was excluded – the day Liam died.

The school said the events of February 6 is outside the objective of the review, which is to look over the school’s processes when dealing with a plagiarism case.

But IRP chair Edgar Chua said by limiting the review, the school was “sweeping” the incident “under the rug.”

“Trying to remove what happened on the 6th is wrong because that is why the review panel was convened in the first place – because of what happened on the 6th,” Chua said.

He and the other 4 members of the panel felt the “edited and abridged” COT report was misleading, so they came out with a statement on May 5, clarifying the report was not theirs.

They were also not aware the IRP report would be used only as a draft of the COT report, which is the official report according to COT chair Martin Turner.

Senator Teofisto Guingona III criticized the school for not consulting the panel for their factual inaccuracies even after an addendum was included.

“To me, it’s being sanitized without consulting the authors,” he said, an opinion shared by Osmeña.

Osmeña gave an example: A strong phrase was removed in one of the lines of the IRP report, but the change “misrepresents the situation”:

IRP REPORT (page 6) COT REPORT (page 7)
(page 6)Given the tragic conclusion, the IRP cannot make a definitive determination one way or another whether both students were given the same message.” (page 7) As the IRP was unable to speak to both students they could not make a definitive determination one way or another whether both students were given the same message.”

The senator pointed out other changes that weren’t indicated in the panel’s addendum. 

IRP REPORT (page 4)   COT REPORT (page 5) 

“However, the processes that the school will commit to follow to ascertain student guilt and the teaching/learning philosophies to be upheld when determining sanctions are not documented and, as a result, inconsistently followed.”

“However, the processes that the school will commit to follow to ascertain student guilt are not documented and, as a result, inconsistently followed.”
“Finding: The school does not outline in handbooks or in any policy reviewed by the IRP expectations for staff relating to how to deal with plagiarism or any major school offence – with the exception of Drug Use.”  “Finding: The school does not outline specific practices for dealing with Plagiarism, however, it does for major offences such as Drug Use, Bullying and Child protection issues

“Further, some critical elements of discipline management are not codified by the school in any manner and are therefore left to the discretion of individual staff members.

Included in these critical elements are:

  • Student rights (including confidentiality) and due process to defend themselves.
  • A discipline philosophy
  • Expected staff deportment when administering discipline
  • Expected level of parent communication and at what point a parent should be notified
  • Consideration of any cultural differences between the students in the school and members of the faculty.

“Further, some critical elements of discipline management are not codified by the school sufficiently and are therefore left to the discretion of individual staff members.”

Included in these critical elements are:

  • Student rights (including confidentiality)
  • Expected level of parent communication and at what point a parent should be notified
  • Consideration of any cultural differences between the students in the school and members of the faculty.

According to BSM, the reason for these changes are factual inaccuracies, since they have already provided the IRP additional policies the panel thought were not in place.

But Liam’s mother Trixie told Rappler that what the Council of Trustees did with the original IRP report “was worse than what they accused my son of.”

“All that edits that they made, it’s really just to make the BSM administration look better, that they are competent, that there are policies in place and being implemented, when actually, that’s not true,” she added.  Rappler.com

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.