24 October 2014

Examining the STC-Cebu Bikini Case Supreme Court Decision

Having once been in Education, I had more than just a passing interest in a Supreme Court decision that was given decent coverage by the evening news yesterday. For the benefit of readers who had not previously heard or had forgotten about the incident, in 2012 the St. Theresa’s College of Cebu barred several high school seniors from attending the commencement exercises.

According to reports, the students had posted pictures of themselves on Facebook which the school subsequently deemed as lewd, obscene or immoral. The students were subsequently prevented by security guards from entering the campus to attend the commencement exercises.

If I understand things correctly from news reports, the students were allowed to graduate but just not allowed to attend the commencement exercises. If this was the case, then the school’s decision was, in fact, a win-win situation for the school and the students. Perhaps, then, the better option for the students – and their parents – would have been to cut down on their losses, accept the school’s decision and move on from there.

I understand from the web site of STC that it is a Catholic school operated by nuns belonging to the order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The moral standards of schools like this may seem almost medieval in the present day.


That said, the parents knew full well what the standards of discipline were when they enrolled their children. If anything, these very standards were probably what attracted them in the first place.
On the other hand, these are the very same standards that attract parents to enrol their children in the school; including, needless to say, the parents of the students involved in the disciplinary case.

I am only guessing, but having been in education myself, I will not be surprised if the school’s actual sanction for acts deemed lewd, obscene or immoral is actually dismissal or expulsion or, in informal school parlance, kick-out.

However, experienced school administrators will think twice about actually expelling seniors late in a schoolyear. Not only is it always difficult for any senior to find a school to transfer to, especially one moving on account of disciplinary reasons; but to expel a senior at the homestretch is almost inhumane unless there is a particularly good reason to do so.

Therefore, allowing seniors to graduate but barring them from the commencement exercises is a viable solution. Of course, it is harsh to parents because obviously they look forward to the graduation ceremonies. On the other hand, to the offending parties, and they may not see it this way but, in fact, they are getting off lightly. Kick-out always brings so many more unwanted complications.

That is why the parents of the students in the STC case who filed their case against the school would have been better served had they swallowed their pride, moved on with their lives and enrolled their children in college where they could also move on with theirs.

The basis of their case was that the computer teacher who downloaded the pictures from their children’s Facebook accounts violated the students’ rights to privacy. The teacher, for her part, was quick to say that other students were the ones who showed her the pictures in the first place.

Pardon me, but even offline in the real world, if you want privacy, you keep to yourself.

If you go online, and not just on Facebook but elsewhere, it goes without saying that you are connecting with a world much larger than your immediate community. This is in fact the very nature of the Internet and why it was created. If you do not want content seen, do not post it, period! Better still, do not even create it.

Do not even go blaming Facebook’s privacy provisions because the social network has among the most intricate privacy options available online.

What a waste of time, effort and resources, then, when there was always going to be one Supreme Court decision on the matter.

Each of the students involved had the right not to take the pictures and not to post these online. Instead, they preferred to exercise the right to blame someone else for a problem they themselves created. Kids will be kids, of course; and who was at fault that these STC students were so misguided is the subject of another article altogether.

I have not seen any of the pictures that the students posted; but I am of a progressive disposition and will not pass a judgement of immorality or lewdness just on the basis of wearing bikinis online. It will always have to be in context; and often the malice is in the eyes of the one looking.

That said, the parents knew full well what the standards of discipline were when they enrolled their children. If anything, these very standards were probably what attracted them in the first place.

It will not harm STC, however, to define more closely what is lewd or obscene in the modern day. After all, being Catholic does not mean being stuck in the Medieval Ages.


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