Senate report: 'Alarming' how BSM handled aftermath of student's death

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Members of the Senate committee on education, arts, and culture slammed the British School Manila (BSM) for how it handled the events that followed the death of one of its students, Liam Madamba.

"It was alarming how BSM handled the aftermath of Liam's death. BSM intentionally put off meeting with Liam's family and purposely delayed giving Liam's apology letter to his family," read the 24-page committee report submitted on September 30.

Liam, a scholar at BSM, 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.

A day before, he and another student met one of their teachers, Natalie Mann. Mann asked the students to write a letter of reflection for plagiarizing a paragraph in a first-draft essay.

According to a report from an Independent Review Panel (IRP), the students saw the reflection process as a punishment.

Mother files DOJ complaint

The Senate report noted that BSM "did not promptly conduct its own investigation" on the February 5 incident, and only convened the IRP 3 weeks after Liam's death – that is, after a group of "Concerned Parents" wrote a letter requesting for the panel to be formed.

And even after the IRP completed its report on March 31, it took almost two months before the Madamba family got hold of a copy of the report. They were earlier provided with a copy of the Council of Trustees (COT) report, but the family believes this is an "edited and abridged" copy.

Senators refer to it as a "sanitized" version of the IRP report. (READ: BSM: Connection between student's death, school reprimand)

"Instead of releasing the IRP Report, BSM came up with its own COT Report to shield the school from possible liabilities arising from the negligent acts of its school personnel, and their failure to observe the required diligence of a good father of a family in connection with the February 5, 2015 incident," the report read.

The report cited educator Feny delos Angeles Bautista, who observed that there was a "sense of panic" on the part of the school leadership to protect its reputation as an international school.

On Monday, October 5, Liam's mother Trixie filed a complaint before the Department of Justice (DOJ) against BSM school head Simon Mann (not related to Natalie) and members of the COT and the Board of Governors for obstruction of justice under Presidential Decree 1829.

In a statement sent to Rappler on Thursday, October 8, Mann said they will "fully cooperate and go through the legal process" once they receive a formal copy of Madamba's complaint. 

The Senate committee also recommended the DOJ to conduct its own investigation into the matter to determine any criminal or civil liability of Natalie Mann and other BSM officials. (READ: DepEd: BSM may face sanctions over Liam Madamba's death)

REST IN PEACE. A photo of British School Manila student Liam Madamba on display at his wake. Screengrab from ABS-CBN

REST IN PEACE. A photo of British School Manila student Liam Madamba on display at his wake.

Screengrab from ABS-CBN

'Negligence'

The committee report also criticized BSM's "phenomenal support" for Mann, who "caused Liam mental anguish or emotional suffering."

According to the report, Mann did not comply with the "required procedural due process" when it imposed the disciplinary action on Liam for plagiarism.

"After Liam's death, Mrs Mann suddenly departed the Philippines on March 2, 2015, without even extending Liam's family the courtesy of personally meeting with them or at the very least explaining to them what transpired last February 5, 2015," the report read.

"She neither immediately informed them of the existence of Liam's apology letter nor gave them a copy of the same. Liam's family deserved more than just an email from Mrs Mann expressing her condolences. She failed to exercise the standard of care that a person of ordinary prudence would have done under the same circumstances. This is tantamount to negligence."

The Senate report noted that the school did not place Mann under preventive suspension and "prematurely absolved her from any liability for the incident" when it said the teacher dealt with Liam in the way BSM expected her to.

Moreover, the school allowed Mann to go on leave of absence, and later on approved her resignation.

On Thursday, Simon Mann told Rappler that the school recognizes and respects the authority of the Senate as a legislative body. 

"We trust that in due time, the matters contained in this report will be clarified," he said in the statement. 

Liam's death happened just as the school – established in 1976 – is seeking an official recognition from the State through Senate Bill (SB) 2147.

Together with the report, the committee submitted SB 2975 – a substitute bill to SB 2147 – which indicates BSM, even as an educational institution of international character, must also be subject to applicable government laws, rules, and regulations. – 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