Principal’s Death, Violence Clouds July Vacation

July 16, 2010

The Colegio Montebello in Heredia geared up for the return of students and teachers this week during a midyear vacation that was marred by the killing of Nancy Chaverri, the school principal, by a 17-year-old student the day before the July break began.

Mauricio Arce, the school’s administrative director, told The Tico Times psychological intervention for students and teachers alike is underway, as is a comprehensive violence prevention plan for the school.

The incident sparked national concern over violence in schools, as educators across Costa Rica met to discuss how to prevent this type of incident in the future.

“We are doing some things, but we have to be doing more,” President Laura Chinchilla said. “We need a more ambitious program to confront violence in schools.”

President Laura Chinchilla, who visited the principal’s family after the shooting, offered her condolences on the social network Facebook.com writing, “We share the pain with all of Costa Rica regarding the death of Nancy. (We extend) our condolences to (her husband) Javier and her two beautiful sons, Jiancarlo and Luis Diego. We are with you.”

As this year’s two-week public school vacation comes to a close, Freddy Román, a Red Cross, said his agency is bolstering road and water safety efforts this weekend to prevent any further accidents.

Whereas drownings are down from the average of the nine typical of July vacations to around five this year, deaths to firearms and other weapons saw a leap, in what Roman saw as a troubling tendency towards viewing violence as “normal.”

Roman said violence can increase during vacations when people tend to drink and use drugs more, and also due to the stress of being off work and school schedules and families spending more time together. However, the 39-person death toll thus far in the vacation (July 3-15), is in keeping with the country’s average of three deaths per day to all causes and no major accidents were reported, said Román. For this weekend, he recommends driving cautiously on return trips, using seat belts and child seats, and taking along medications and staying hydrated on long trips.

–Sophia Kempler

and Chrissie Long

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