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Graduation ban lifted for student over Facebook ‘bikini photo’

By Yukio Strachan     Mar 29, 2012 in World
Cebu - A Catholic school student, banned from attending her own graduation because a photo on her Facebook page showed her wearing a bikini, can now join her classmates this Friday in the ceremonies.
A local court Thursday issued a temporary restraining order against St. Theresa’s College's imposition of sanctions that would have barred the girl from attending her special day, GMA News Online reported.
Judge Wilfredo Navarro ordered the school to not only allow the student to join the graduation rites, according to Inquirer news but also to treat the girl “with kindness and civility befitting true graduates of a respectable institution sans any discrimination for the entire duration of the commencement exercises.”
Navarro's words piggy back to the plaintiff's petition that claimed that the school principal said the “minor(s) will sit on the stage if they are forced to join in the graduation rites”.
The defendants named in the petition were:
- Sr. Celeste Ma. Purisima, high school principal
- Mussolini Yu, assistant principal
- Marnie Racaza, student affairs moderator
- Kristine Rose Ligot, discipline in-charge
- Edith Yu, homeroom adviser
According to SunStar news, the petition said the student was surprised on March 1 when she received what she called a “harsh sanction.”
The school barred the girl from attending her graduation ceremony due to her Facebook photos showing her in a bikini while holding a lighted cigarette and a liquor bottle, which violated the teachings of the Catholic Church.
“Since the sanction was given, she suffered sleepless nights and (was) compelled to bear hate toward the school, which she is supposed to honor as her alma mater,” the petition said.
But St. Theresa’s College (STC) said it showed her mercy. The school said that while the student was not allowed to join the graduation march, she would be able to graduate.
“The decision (of STC) to allow (the petitioner’s daughter) to graduate is another act of mercy but the decision not to allow her to join the commencement exercise puts order to the virtue of mercy,” counsel for STC Romeo Balili said, SunStar news reported.
STC is a Catholic educational institution and is “committed to abide by the magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church in the formation of its students,” Balili said.
The Philippines is about 80-percent Catholic and the church is hugely influential.
STC described the photos as “lewd” and showed that the girl allegedly “transgressed” the Catholic Church’s teachings on modesty and temperance.
Navarro said, however, that STC “miserably failed” to follow its own rules contained in the students’ manual.
‘Easy, drunks and addicts’
The judge also chastised the principal for the manner she berated the student and four other female students who were also prohibited from attending the ceremonies and called them names because it traumatized the students, the Inquirer reported.
Navarro pointed out that while the school officials may not have physically abused them, they certainly verbally abused them.
According to Cebu Daily News, the students said the defendants scolded them about their bikini clad photos.
They said they were ashamed with what the students did in the photos and added that the students “cheapened themselves” and that the boys would take advantage of them.
The students said they “were deeply hurt and cried” after being scolded by the officials whom they accused of humiliating them with abusive language by calling them “easy, drunks and addicts.”
Depriving the students of attendance at their graduation, Navarro added, “would not help any for their recovery from such a psychologically and emotionally devastating experience.”
“It would drag them further into the abyss of emptiness and absence or lack of meaning to their temporal existence for the remainder of their lives. And to do this to them would indeed be most un-Christian if not entirely inhuman,” the judge said.
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