“The issue is not just the bikini. It’s wearing skimpy clothing, acting suggestively, provocatively and sexually. It’s not about teenagers wearing bikinis in the poolside. Dili baya na bastos ang pag wear og bikini [Wearing a bikini per se is not lewd]. To wear a bikini is not a mortal sin,” said Allan Trani, HR Officer of the Saint Theresa’s College (STC) of Cebu City.
That the act of the college is part of its academic freedom is recognized. This is noted by former UPLaw Dean Raul Pangalangan in his Inquirer article, although he went on to note that “the school actually intruded into the student’s privacy”.
[We’ve opened a new entry on Academic Freedom at the Legal Wiki. Please let me know if you want to volunteer and help update this entry, or any other entry in the Legal Wiki. Thanks.]
STC recently ended its silence because, it said, it suffered an beating from the media and eventually received an unfair negative backlash from the public. Many STC alumni, including my sister, agree with the action of their alma matter. If students and parents don’t agree with the policy, they should enroll in public schools or non-sectarian schools. Far from being unfair, failure to enforce the rule at this time would be totally unfair to past students, particularly those who joined beauty contests with swimsuit competition, who voluntarily left STC and still love the school. Far from being un-Christian, the fact that the students were made to graduate, notwithstanding this serious violation of the school’s code of conduct, is a tempered response.
[Feel free to express any opinion, contrary or otherwise, at the comment section below.]
A summary of the press conference is provided by Peter Romanillos (with thanks):
- Due process was observed. The students involved were required to explain, in writing and in their own words, what actually transpired during the party in Crimson Hotel. The written explanation was read by the parents who signed it.
- It’s not true that the school banned the girls from attending the graduation rites simply because they posed in bikinis. The girls were not in a beach. They were inside a hotel room. The photographs were obscene and sexually provocative. STC said it could release the photos but chose not to because they want to protect the dignity of the five students. This matter was purely internal until the students filed a case in court.
- STC did not hack the facebook accounts of the girls, contrary to the insinuations of many news articles. Some STC students who didn’t like the photos reported the matter to the school admin. The school has always reminded the girls to uphold responsible use of social networking sites for their own protection and security. To ensure the students’ adherence to this, the student handbook prohibits “posing and uploading pictures on the internet that entail body exposure.” [In addition, some acquaintances saw the photos, which means these photos were not private.]
Finally, the girls were sill allowed to graduate. They were not expelled. The only penalty imposed was the prohibition from joining the graduation ceremonies.
Getting into trouble by reason of social networking is not new. Unfaithful spouses have been sued for unfaithfulness using photos and statements in facebook accounts. We have clients dismissing employees because of their internet activities and we have handled internet libel cases. In short, be careful of what you say or do in the world wide web. As the the GMA7 advocacy says, think before you click.
[Now, do you agree with STC or the students on this issue? Use the comment section below.]