Mother of fallen BSM student: Apology letter had 'red flags'

MANILA, Philippines – The apology letter of British School Manila (BSM) student Liam Madamba, who took his own life in February reportedly over problems at school, showed "red flags" of his state of mind, his mother said on Tuesday, May 26. 

The Madamba family only got hold of a photocopy of the letter – which Liam was made to write over charges of plagiarism in a first-draft essay – two months after the student's death, mother Trixie Madamba said at a public hearing of the Senate committee on education, arts, and culture. 

"Liam used words and phrases like 'my unending selfishness,' 'a thousand shades of darkest emotions.' He used the word 'ashamed' twice," Madamba said.

She added: "Had I seen that letter as a mother, I would've known that a red flag was up. Had a caring educator read this letter, she or he would've known a red flag was up, and that the child was going through a seriously alarming emotional distress."

Liam jumped from the 6th floor of the Dela Rosa carpark building in Legazpi Village in Makati City on February 6. He was rushed to the nearby Makati Medical Center but died several hours later.

Liam, a scholar at BSM, was reportedly traumatized after one of his teachers allegedly made him apologize to the entire school body that he had plagiarized a paragraph in his essay even if it was just a first draft.

Since then, the Parent-Teacher Association demanded the school to convene an Independent Review Panel (IRP) on the case. While an IRP was convened, it reportedly reviewed the school's processes when dealing with a plagiarism case and not the details of Madamba's case.

'Reflection process'

According to Catherine Tantoco-Daniels – a former Board Parent Governor of BSM – writing an apology letter is part of British schools' reflection process. 

Liam's meeting with the teacher, Natalie Mann, happened on February 5, a day before his suicide. Liam and another student were asked by Mann to write a letter of reflection supposedly addressed to the "whole school community."

"When you are asked to address a letter of reflection to the whole school community, how is this introspective? Why was he not supervised during this part of the process, and afterwards, why did Mrs Mann not to sit down with Liam to go over the points he wrote to help him reflect better?" Madamba said. 

"This letter was not reflection but public humiliation."

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr said it was clear in the letter that "he was in anguish...berating himself."

But British School Manila head Simon Mann (no relation to Natalie) defended the teacher, saying the letter was never intended to trigger hurt, as it is part of the reflection process. 

But he agreed that had the letter been read, the school could've "looked at how we could better support him."

Liam's teacher reportedly did not read his letter until a couple of days after she received it. 

Madamba said that when they fetched Liam in the afternoon of February 5, the boy's face was "unusually drawn and long and sad." When asked if he was okay, he said he was and only needed a nap.

Later that day, the boy prepared merienda (snacks) for his siblings and said goodbye to them past 5 pm. He disappeared for 14 hours without a cellphone and money. 

The teacher, Natalie Mann, left the country mid-March and has already tendered her resignation.  – Rappler.com

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.

image