I refer to the unfortunate news concerning the suspension of a high school girl from Malacca for wearing a miniskirt.
At the onset, it is my uncompromising stand that the act undertaken by the school, the Methodist Girl’s Secondary School, in suspending a Form Five student by the name of Stephanie Tan Joo Sing for one week by reason of the latter’s wearing a miniskirt during a charity event held outside the school was unreasonable, oppressive and a grave violation of said student’s human and constitutional rights.
In the words of Raul Pangalanan, former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law (School as Facebook Patrol, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Passion for Reason, March 29, 2012): “It’s less about whether to be libertines or prudes, or how lenient and how severe. That will merely drag us into the amorphous debate on obscenity, and lead us to say, ‘I know it when I see it’, in the famous words of US Justice Potter Stewart.
“Rather, it’s about who gets to make the call, and whether we can carve out spheres in our lives where we can be free to be ourselves without having to worry about prying eyes.”
The act complained of by the school does not warrant the stiff penalty that they meted out and handed to the poor young lass.
It is a basic elementary knowledge in law, especially criminal law, that the penalty to be imposed for violation or infraction thereof must be commensurable to the illegal or prohibited act committed.
The pertinent central question to this whole case is that: Does the act of the student in wearing a miniskirt in a charity project outside the vicinity of the school justify the decision or action of the said school in suspending the said student for one week?
I do not think so!
Hence, based on the legal principle of the commensurability of the imposition of penalty for any legal violation, it is my firm view that the decision arrived at by the school is both inhuman and unconstitutional.
Could you imagine that? A student was suspended for one week for wearing a miniskirt? Undeniably that is utterly cruel!
According to reports, the parent-teachers association (PTA) chairperson Chua Hong Pioh has defended the move by the school, saying the action was not unprecedented.
He said the school had also acted similarly in 2008.
Following the 2008 case, he said the school had issued a directive which outlined that there must be proper dress worn during events, including external ones that were linked to the school.
Commentaries: Notwithstanding the fact that the act done by the school is not unprecedented, by virtue of the fact that there was already a precedent way back in 2008; still it is my firm view and passionate stand that the school, so as the PTA has viciously violated and encroached on the rights of the said student.
The violation or transgression that I am referring to squarely pertains to the basic fundamental principle of due process; and its corollary necessary twin requisites of due notice and fair hearing.
What is due process?
It is based on the principle of: “Strike me, if you will; but hear me first”!
Following closely the facts of this case, nowhere is it stated nor was it highlighted that the aggrieved student, subject of the order of suspension, was afforded the necessary procedure of due process.
On this sense, I completely subscribed to the position taken by the state Education, Youth and Sport Committee chairperson Gan Tian Loo when he categorically stated that he would only comment after he had heard from both sides. I am applauding the said chairperson in his statement which undeniably shows his impartiality, sense of fairplay, equity and justice!
That is the right thing to do in the first place and most reasonable way of handling this sensitive issue that is so impressed with both private and public interest!
Was there a prior notice given to the student and to her family? Stating therewith that she is being charged or accused of violating any school rules and/or regulations?
Was there an investigation conducted by an impartial tribunal or student-faculty disciplinary committee to see the whole picture or scenario and to ferret out the truth?
Was the girl given an opportunity in any forum to face her accuser, to explain her side and to defend herself?
It appears that none of the said procedures were undertaken or utilised. Instead, the school, in protecting their “reputation which was smeared” due to the “indecent” attire wore by the said student, with the concurrence and connivance with the PTA, hastily decided to suspend the said student.
To put it in another way: the school with the support of the PTA, just struck the hapless girl and simply invoked the 2008 precedent; without bothering whether their act will violate the rights of the said girl, hurt her feelings and so as her family and besmirched their reputation.
I completely understand the sentiments and I am in full solidarity with the family of the said girl.
I concur with her father, Tan Eng Hock that the said suspension was unwarranted and that the allegation was an embarrassment to their family.
As the said father, further stated: “I would have been the first to tick her off if she had dressed sexily”.
As an academic myself and as a observer of our society, my other primordial concern with regard to this issue is the welfare and well-being of the central figure and that is no other than the said student herself.
I believe she is still a minor and a sad experience like this might affect both her psychological and emotional state.
According to the reports and the testimony of her father, the said girl has been crying often since the suspension.
I cannot imagine the situation. The school that was supposed to teach us good manners and right conduct is the very institution that viciously and unjust violates our rights. This is a shame! This is a disgrace!
It is on these inhumane grounds, in my view that the school’s judgment is unreasonable, utterly oppressive and indeed, a grave violation of the said student’s rights.
As already noted: They’ve struck the girl without first hearing her side! That is unjust, unfair and totally oppressive!
It is also my view, that the ruling or judgment or order of the school is void ab initio (void from the beginning).
My humble suggestion to the family of the said girl is to sue the school as well as the PTA for abuse of rights and to demand for moral damages.
The school must be taught a lesson by the court.
Doing the right thing means we must be governed by reason, common sense, compassion and prudence.