Bullying in Costa Rica

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Bullying in Costa Rica has become such a problem that parents who are looking to get their child into a public or private school there are urged to ask about the school’s stance on identifying and handling the problem. As of 2015 both public and private schools in Costa Rica began implementing new protocols to encourage those who witness school bullying to report it immediately.

Bullying Statistics 

In 2012 there were 57 complaints of bullying filed by the parents of the victims. In 2014, there were 189 formal bullying complaints made in Costa Rican schools. This number had tripled since 2012 and bullying has been a problem in Costa Rican schools since before then. Of all the complaints in 2014 about bullying, in 94 those cases the bully was physically aggressive to their victim. 92 of the cases involved both verbal and physical aggression while 29 only involved verbal aggression. Of the many students bullied only four of them experienced cyber bullying.

The four locations in Costa Rica where school bullying takes place the most is Central Valley, Heredia, Cartago and Alajuela. In these locations the reported bullying happened in public schools as the private schools are not as likely to report incidents. Of all the public schools that did report them, it was found that bullying takes place more in secondary schools than elementary schools.

Bullying Information

When bullying cases are reported in schools, psychologists intervene. They meet with both the bully and the bullied as well as anyone who witnessed the incident. Schools in Costa Rica strongly encourage anyone who witnesses bullying to come forward and report it.

Prevent Bullying 

During a 2013 court ruling by the Constitutional Chamber of Supreme Court in Costa Rica, it was decided that any student filing a bullying complaint had to make the complaint anonymously. This ruling came to be as a result of a school director in Costa Rica who would not reveal the bully that was victimizing her own child.

In November of 2014, three parties legislators entered Bill No. 19,399 in an effort to eliminate bullying in all Costa Rican schools. The bill included initiatives that, if passed, would be taken when a bullying incident was happening in schools. The initiatives included sending letters to parents and punishing student bullies with demerits. It also would have required schools to send bullies and their victims to meet with psychologists for treatment. On the school staff end of the problem, teachers and other school employees could be dismissed from their jobs for ignoring bullying complaints made by any student. The year this bill was proposed over 100 bullying cases were reported in Costa Rican schools.

Between 2009 and 2014, 21 students in Costa Rica committed suicide because they had been bullied. A female high school student committed suicide in Costa Rica as the result of a Facebook page two of her fellow classmates created, which stated that the female student would perform sexual acts when asked to.

How To Handle Bullying 

For many reasons, the dropout rate of students in Costa Rica is a documented problem. While one proposed solution is to offer scholarships to students at risk of dropping out, another proposed solution is to take steps to improve a school’s response to bullying. One issue with bullying in Costa Rican  schools is that students tend to get expelled for bullying, and this often results in extra exposure to a violent home environment that is often the cause of the bullying to begin with. Parents have argued that expelling bullies doesn’t put a stop to bullying and that all it does is take away their right to receive an education.

Office Bullying

School yard bullying is not the only type that takes place in Costa Rica. In 2010, a study was conducted on the perception employees have of workplace bullying. In countries such as Costa Rica it is defined as a phenomenon based on the hierarchy of any given company. The aggression displayed in cases of workplace bullying is often a direct strategy to harm employees.

Research that has been conducted on the subject of workplace bullying has been referred to in studies as harassment, aggression and abuse. Those who have written on this subject have studied bullying in terms of victimization also. The results of a study on workplace bullying showed that 30% of those who participated in it agreed that workplace bullying made them less efficient employees. Those that conducted this study pointed out that companies with less efficient employees can ultimately put more pressure on resources used for welfare and social services and can lead to medical treatment costing more money. It can also lead to a company’s more productive workers leaving and others retiring before they originally planned to.

It has been suggested that cultural structures need to be studied in  an attempt to discourage bullying in the workplace. This includes identifying the factors that trigger, enable and even reward those who bully. Studies have proven that a country’s culture often dictates the bullying of employees in the workplace. For example, countries such as Costa Rica often experience more physical violence than other countries do. This equals more violence in the workplace  and leads employees to believe that bullying only pertains to physical violence. Traditionally in Costa Rica the concept of workplace bullying has been that it is a process that involves subordinates, colleagues and supervisors.

The long term effects of bullying in Costa Rica are still being studied in hopes of finding an effective way to stop it all together.

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