On July First 2010, in a school near San José, a 17 year-old high school student entered the principal ‘s office and shot her directly on her head. For nine days this woman was in a critical condition, struggling for her life in the intensive care unit of the Hospital Méjico, San José, Costa Rica. The bullet crossed her neck, touched the spinal cord and broke a couple of vertebras. She was unconscious and given the damage caused by the bullet, the prognosis was uncertain. She just passed away today, July 11.
This woman is Nancy Chaverri, principal of a private school for upper middle class children from pre-kindergarten to high school near San José. The student who shot her told some of his classmates he was going to take revenge against her because “he disliked the principal very much,” due to disciplinary actions she had taken against him. These disciplinary actions mostly addressed incidents related to dress code and conduct. He brought a gun from his home to school and early that Thursday, the boy announced to some of his peers that at some point during the day, he would do something against the principal. It seems like his friends did not take him seriously but right before the school day was over, he committed this criminal act. After a brief persecution in the neighborhood, the police caught him and he is currently in a juvenile detention center, under observation, waiting to be judged. The principal, mother of two adolescents, was also waiting for recovery and was under observation until today, when she died at the Intensive Care Unit.
I have followed this painful story closely since Nancy is a cousin of mine. Like any of you, I never thought of seeing something like this happening to a member of my family, a mother, a professional outgoing woman, with a modern lifestyle, and with very high moral values. It is also heartbreaking to see something like this happening in Costa Rica. During the last decade, violence has escalated exponentially in Costa Rica and schools have not escaped this phenomenon. However, this is among the worst premeditated acts of violence done by a student to a teacher in a school campus.
The adolescent who shot Nancy might have not committed this criminal act if a gun was not accessible to him. During the past days, when Nancy’s life was in suspense and her family was in shock , her husband and her two teenage sons committed themselves to start a campaign against the violence in educative centers and to prevent something like this ever happening again in Costa Rica. The support received by Nancy’s family is vast and reassuring. There is a strong consensus to put pressure on the current government to develop programs addressing the increasing violence among adolescents and to strengthen control and regulation of fire weapons. Also, many of the messages received by our family indicate a rising concern about the little communication among parents and children and about the increasing lack of respect of students towards their teachers.
This story might sound to you far from us, a reality in a little country about five thousand miles from The United States. But we also have many acts of violence in our schools in the U.S; sometimes we feel these are isolated problems of specific communities, or countries. I also thought the same before last week!
I would like to share with you this blog with some of the news and a few opinions or messages supporting Nancy’s family. It is very hard for me to acknowledge that it took me seeing Nancy fighting for her life to actively respond to the many acts of violence in both of the countries I belong to: the U.S. and Costa Rica. Although Nancy’s blog is in Spanish, please feel free to share, in English or any other language you prefer, your thoughts about gun control and violence in schools.
We also have many problems of violence here in the US. Why not continue raising our voices by writing to our congress representatives to express our positions about gun regulations and the need for training and psychological evaluation for anybody who owns or wants to obtain a fire arm?