By Genevieve Candace Poquiz

Teachers are now no longer allowed to have contact with students outside classes, including through social media, as the Department of Education released DepEd Order No. 49 — amending DO 47 — to promote professionalism within the agency.

Photo Courtesy of Rappler/DepEd

According to the order, teachers are to “avoid relationships, interaction, and communication, including following social media with learners outside of the school setting, except if they are relatives.”

It also emphasized the observance of proper courtesy between coworkers and stirs from activities and relationships that may hinder their ability to maintain objectivity in their decision-making.

"Dapat, as a teacher, meron talagang line between him or her and the learner. Dapat hindi sila magkaroon ng friendly relations with their learners outside of the learning institution setting dahil nagkakaroon ng bias iyong isang tao kapag nagiging kaibigan na niya. Of course, relationships, mayroong mga problema iyan," Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte said.

Duterte pointed to instances wherein teachers become involved in crime, either as suspects or victims, after going out with their students, highlighting an alleged incident in which a teacher went on a drinking spree with a student and was stabbed.

“So these are instances na preventable kung nire-recognize ng ating teaching and non-teaching staff sa Department of Education na dapat merong linya doon," the vice president explained.

Other than that, the education department reiterated on their social media guidelines not to spread rumors and misinformation or to post “online attacks,” reminding their employees and officials not to “disparage DepEd and must always be mindful of the reputation and honor of the organization.”

In addition, the mandate discouraged any political or third-party intervention in raising concerns about basic education, requiring direct communication with the office of the secretary, or the concerned assistant secretary or undersecretary.

In the instance that the order is not followed, there will be “outright denial of any request or appeal for consideration in the Office of the Secretary.”

The order was criticized by Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Chairperson Vladimer Quetua, who stated that "parts of the memo actually threatens the freedom of expression and right to redress of grievances of DepEd personnel," and ACT Teachers Representative France Castro, who rebuked the order for infringing on DepEd personnel's freedom.

"Why does the Department of Education feel the need to create such an order that gags and threatens teachers and education support personnel, which treats them as mere creatures only of the school, and dehumanizes them preventing them to exercise their right to free speech, expression, to organize and be able to voice out their grievances?" Castro questioned.

Edited by Khezyll Galvan