Pisay board to reconsider graduation of students who shared lewd photos

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Science High School (PSHS) board of trustees will reconsider its earlier decision to allow 6 students to graduate despite the recommendation of two school committees for disciplinary action against them.

PSHS ex-officio board member Senator Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV on Friday, May 24, relayed the latest development in the case involving 6 graduating male students who had shared lewd photos of their female schoolmates online without the latter's consent.

The school’s management and disciplinary committees had recommended that the students not be allowed to graduate and that they be given certificates of completion instead, but the PSHS board overturned their recommendation.

Aquino, who sits in the board as chairman of the Senate committee on science and technology, said in a statement that the matter was up for review and that he agreed with the committees' recommendations.

“My representative raised the issue with me and the matter is now up for reconsideration. We will vote in favor of the recommendation of the Discipline Committee and Management Committee, which is not to allow the identified students to graduate based on the degree of their offenses and previous decisions in similar cases,” the senator said.

PSHS Executive Director Lilia Habacon earlier said that the school board was "carefully and judiciously" studying the matter and would reach a final resolution before the students' graduation on Wednesday, May 29. 

The board's move came after students, parents, alumni, and faculty gathered at the PSHS main campus to protest the board's earlier decision. On Thursday, PSHS students launched an online petition urging the board to reconsider its decision.

After months of investigation, the school’s discipline and management committees had found 6 male students liable for multiple “level 3” or serious offenses after they shared online lewd photos and videos of fellow female schoolmates without the latters' consent.

Under the school’s code of conduct, having more than one level 3 offense would make a student ineligible for graduation. But according to parents and students, the management committee’s recommendation to bar these 6 students from marching was quickly overturned by the PSHS board of trustees. (READ: Pisay students to school board: Don't let students who shared lewd photos graduate)

Instead of retaining the multiple level 3 offenses that would have kept the students from graduating, the board supposedly decided to issue them one offense each, which would have allowed them to march.

Aside from Aquino and Habacon, the other members of the board are:

Students earlier accused the PSHS board of betraying their trust.

“A lenient decision is not an act of compassion…. It is a display of indifference to the experiences and voices of the victims who have entrusted this institution to uphold the very values it has come to define itself by,” they said. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.