‘SPECIAL AUTHORITY’: Teachers have power to discipline students

By: Gerome Dalipe

TEACHERS are considered as our second parents — at least in schools. But to what extent can a teacher discipline a student?

The provisions in the Family Code give the teachers the “parental authority,” thus they can discipline their students in accordance with the existing law.

Therefore, no law prohibits the parents from giving children some measure of physical punishment.

But this parental authority may be suspended or terminated if it is carried out in an excessive manner.

There is no question that a teacher, having given by law “special parental authority,” can impose some form of punishment on a student (except corporal punishment) provided it is not excessive.

The issue on the teacher’s authority to “discipline” students came to light when radio broadcaster Raffy Tulfo pressured a 55-year-old public school teacher in his radio program to quit her job and give up her license.

In the show “Raffy Tulfo in Action,” a grandmother and two parents complained to Tulfo that Grade 2 teacher Melita Limjuco allegedly maltreated their child.

Closed-circuit television footage showed Limjuco telling the student to sit outside the classroom as punishment for not bringing his report card.

The student obliged and sat outside the room for one whole period. The grandmother said the child was deeply humiliated by the punishment.

Instead of gaining support, netizens criticized Tulfo for shaming the public school teacher.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the Department of Education said they it is investigating the incident, adding that the case should be discussed in the proper forum.

Pursuant to the Family Code of the Philippines, the only prohibition is “corporal punishment,” which refers to inflicting bodily harm.

Thus, anything less than corporal punishment is not expressly prohibited, but may fall under the provisions of the Child Abuse Law.

The Supreme Court also pointed out that Republic Act 7610 (Child Abuse Law) applies only when there is a clear intention to debase, degrade or demean the intrinsic worth and dignity of a child as a human being.

When the intention is just to discipline and teach the student a lesson for his own welfare, the actions is spared from the provisions of the Child Abuse Law.

The Revised Penal Code also states that there is no crime when there is no criminal intent.

In the case of Bagajo vs. Marave, the High Court acquitted a teacher because her intention was merely to discipline and not to commit a crime.

The teacher was accused of inflicting corporal punishment resulting in the slight physical injuries of the student.

However, the SC held the teacher administratively liable since hitting a child with a ruler or stick was corporal punishment.

If the infliction is excessive, the teacher may be held criminally liable as the grave wounds are proofs of sheer anger, not any motivation to discipline.