A legal issue was raised when school authorities denied graduation rights to five female high school students who posted pictures of themselves in bikinis in their Facebook accounts, and six high school boys who uploaded Facebook photos that appear to show them kissing each other while in school uniforms. The legal question here is whether or not the school authorities could impose disciplinary actions on these students, considering that their acts of posting or uploading their photos in their Facebook accounts were done outside their schools’ premises and beyond school hours.
The case of Angeles vs Sison, decided by the Supreme Court on Feb. 16, 1982, may guide the concerned schools and the parents of the disciplined students in resolving their differences. While the Angeles case involved the disciplinary action imposed on a student who physically assaulted a professor outside the school premises, the ruling of the Supreme Court in that case may also apply to the questioned conduct of the students in posting their photos in their Facebook accounts, which school authorities regarded as immoral or adversely affected the good name and reputation of their Catholic schools.
In the Angeles case, the Supreme Court sustained the power of school authorities to discipline their students even if the complained act was committed outside the school premises. The Court held that: “Common sense dictates that the school retains its power to compel its students in or off-campus to a norm of conduct compatible with their standing as members of the academic community. Hence, when the conduct complained of directly affects the suitability of the alleged violators as students, there is no reason why the school can not impose the same disciplinary action as when the act took place inside the campus.
“Furthermore, the true test of a school’s right to investigate, or otherwise, suspend or expel a student for a misconduct committed outside the school premises and beyond school hours is not the time or place of the offense, but its effect upon the morale and efficiency of the school and whether it, in fact, is adverse to the school’s good order, welfare and the advancement of its students. The power of the school over its students does not cease absolutely when they leave the school premises, and that conduct outside of school hours may subject a student to school discipline if it directly affects the good order and welfare of the school or has a direct and immediate effect on the discipline or general welfare of the school,” the Court said.
—ROMULO B. MACALINTAL,
Las Piñas City