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In 2012, graduating high school girls from St Theresa’s College Cebu (STC) uploaded on their Facebook pages photos of themselves and their friends while they were getting dressed for a beach party. They were dressed in undergarments and bikinis.
More recently, 6 graduating high school boys from the Philippine Science High School (Pisay) reportedly shared naked pictures of their female classmates/ex-girlfriends without their consent.
They were going to be allowed to graduate along with the rest of their class. Enraged students, alumni and faculty held protests to contest the decision.
Finally, the Pisay board of trustees decided that the 6 boys would not be part of the graduation ceremonies today, May 29. However, 3 of them will still be given their diplomas while the 3 others will be given certificates of completion once they have complied with the requirements of the disciplinary action.
An iron hand for girls, kid gloves for boys
These two cases show that when it comes to meting out punishment, an iron hand is used for girls while boys are treated with kid gloves.
These are the bare bones of these two cases:
The STC high school seniors were getting ready for a beach party and posted photos of themselves in bikinis or bras on their Facebook page.
A teacher got wind of the photos and filed a case of disciplinary action against the young women for “violating provisions on proper and moral behavior in the student handbook.”
The STC girls willingly posted photos of themselves on their Facebook page. There was no malicious intent behind it. However, the school saw this as a violation of the STC Student Handbook and the girls were not allowed to graduate with their class.
Legal proceedings ensued. A parent filed the case claimed an invasion of privacy and it went all the way to the Supreme Court. The High Court ruled in favor of STC, but a regional trial court (RTC) ordered the school to allow the two students to attend their graduation rites.
STC defied the RTC order
On the day of the graduation, the two girls and their families reportedly tried to enter the school for the graduation, hoping the RTC order would hold but they were not allowed to enter the school premises. (READ: They were not called on stage during their graduation last March 2012)
STC defended its decision not defy the court order, claiming they had already “showed mercy” by only barring the students from their graduation rites and still allowing them to graduate. (READ: Groups hit school for punishing girl over ‘bikini’ pic)
As if 4 years of high school could be undone by one misstep and lapse in judgement.
The Supreme Court’s final decision set the legal precedent that now defines and limits online privacy rights. (READ: Dash of SAS: Porn in your pocket: What the law says about your naked selfies and sex videos)
As for the Pisay case:
Six male students shared and uploaded naked photos of their female classmates/ex-girlfriends without their consent.
Pisay’s management committee and disciplinary committee recommended that the 6 accused students be prohibited from graduating. They would instead get a certificate of completion.
However, the school’s board of trustees did not agree and initially allowed them to graduate.
After days of protest and social media pressure from students, parents, faculty, and alumni, the Pisay board relented and made a final decision to prohibit the boys from attending graduation ceremonies.
Unequal assignment of blame
Schools and academic institutions stand as places of learning. However, in certain instances, they become places of unequal assignment of blame.
A girl who gets pregnant is expelled while the boy who got her pregnant remains in school.
Female students at the Pines College Nursing School are required to take pregnancy tests and pay for it. If there is uncertainty or doubt about her pregnancy status, the student must agree to subject herself to further medical examination by the school physician. If suspected of having an abortion, the student will be dismissed and subjected to an investigation and medical evaluation or show proof that she did not have an abortion. It is unclear what kind of proof the school will need, but it does not seem to be as important as establishing these procedures as warnings and laying out these punitive measures. (READ: Dash of SAS: A right to say no to a pregnancy test )
Female students who post photos of themselves in bikinis will not be allowed to graduate while male students who upload naked photos of female classmates without their consent – if not for the protests and media pressure – would have been allowed to march along with the rest of their class.
Let’s put this in context: posting sexy photos of yourself on social media may be seen as an error of judgement or, in the case of STC, violation of student handbook policies. Posting nude photos of others without their consent is a crime.
Male students are held to a lower set of standards if at all because…boys will be boys?
Permissible male behavior is not genetically pre-programmed into the testosterone and XY chromosomes that make up a man. It is learned from an environment that promotes it, from a society that emulates it, and from institutions of learning that allow it.
May 29 was the Pisay graduation day. Six boys were absent from the graduation ceremonies.
Their absence should serve as lesson to other schools and to all of us.
Victims of sexual crimes should be believed and protected rather than blamed. Perpetrators should be investigated and held accountable rather than pardoned. – Rappler.com
Ana P. Santos writes about sex and gender issues for Rappler. She is also the 2014 Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting Miel Fellow.