Bullying in El Salvador

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Bullying is a problem in El Salvador, just as it is anywhere in the world, but it is perhaps made worse in this South American nation with gang violence. An NPR report said someone dies as a result of gang violence every hour here, and often it is girls who are victims. The gangs do a lot of bullying and intimidation of people, especially teenagers.

This was one reason for the influx of children into the United States a few years ago, the report said.

This is perhaps beyond what is normally considered bullying, but it is intimidation and aggressive behavior against other people, and that is the definition of bullying.

While this is an extreme form of bullying, the less blatant form is still around in El Salvador. As elsewhere, bullying in El Salvador is most common among 11-14 year old teenagers. Bullying in El Salvador is not something that just happens one time, it is not an isolated incident. It is not considered bullying unless it happens over a significant amount of time and is repeated often. It starts as middle school bullying and continues as high school bullying.

Another study, as a graduate student project in San Salvador in 2015, said often bullies come from families where there may be only one parent, or where there is little if any structure. People who become victims may be in the same situation. Those that become victims tend to be less confident, and generally more stressed than other students. Bullies tend to pick on these types of people because they are easy targets. Bullies also target younger students, and in this case 87 percent said they saw bullying against a student who is in a grade lower than the bully in school. Middle school bullying tends to single out younger students and those considered weaker. Providing bullying information is one way to combat bullying in El Salvador.

The study said 45 percent of all students felt they had been harassed in some way, and 38 percent admitted to bullying others in some way, according to bullying statistics.

Nearly that many also said they were bullied because they were different in some way. This could be different clothing, different cultures, or even just different in the sense of being stressful or not having many friends. Sexual orientation, or transgendered students, are also victims at times.

The study said support of parents and teachers is key to stopping bullying. Parents and teachers should take students seriously when it is reported, and could consider how to deal with it, instead of ignoring the problem. This study showed that 50 percent of students felt it was teachers that should stop bulling in the classroom.

Barbara Romero, Director of Sexual Diversity of the Ministry of Social Inclusion, said recently bullying in El Salvador is an issue that is not talked about enough. While it has gone on as long as there have been people, the issue has not been investigated as much in this country, she said. Romero said there is a “naturalization and invisibility” when it comes to bullying, and not giving it the attention it deserves allow the problem to continue. She said at times it is almost allowed by teachers, who tolerate and even encouraging bullying by giving students nicknames and not taking it seriously on the playground.

Romero also suggests children who are victims of bullying do not do as well in the classroom, and do not pay attention when in school. Indeed, a study by the United Nations called Latin America: School bullying and academic achievement, showed there can be stark results in education when students are bullies. This study surveyed 91,000 sixth grade students in 16 Latin American nations, and found that 50 percent had reported some type of bullying. It also examined the impact of bullying on reading and math test scores. Interestingly enough, it found that in some countries bullying affected math more than reading, and vice versa. Also it found that being in classrooms that were disrupted by bullying type incidents, or even seeing it happen on the playground, could also have a detrimental effect on learning.

For this study, 232 classrooms in 182 schools, involving 6,346 students, were surveyed along with standardized testing they were taking in 2011.

El Salvador was below the regional average in many cases, but a significant number of students still reported being victims of bullying in El Salvador. The study showed 42.5 percent of El Salvador students said they had been bullied in some way, and the regional average was 51 percent. Of those, 15 percent said they had been physically bullied and 18 percent said they had been insulted or threatened, which was also a little below the regional average. Thirty Three percent said they had been robbed, and the regional average was 38 percent. The study showed that 55 percent of the students said they had seen bullying, and again this was a little lower than the regional average of 59 percent.

When it came to the impact this had on learning, students who had been bullied had 7.61 percent lower math scores and 7.65 percent lower reading scores on standardized tests. Witnessing bullying decreased scores in both reading and math by three percent among El Salvador students.

Sociologist Carolina Bascuñán also says bullying has an impact on the quality of education students receive. However she criticized policies that just seek to punish the offender, or who focus on the offender and not on prevention. She says including everyone is how to handle bullying.

“You not only have to work with the children, but with the entire educational community and the family, because it is the entire system that excuses and encourages the violence, and that must be in charge of preventing and eradicating it,” she said.

Bullying often takes place on the playground in the schools, but in recent years the Internet – Internet bullying and Facebook bullying in particular – have become issues. Facts about cyberbullying is harder to pin down because it is done electronically, and it is always on. It is hard for students to escape this type of bullying, and there have been reports of teenagers killing themselves because they have been bullied in this way. Adults sometimes also bully teenage girls with “sexting” which is sending electronic messages of a sexual nature.

Often bullying continues into adulthood if not stopped in the teenage years. Those that have been bullies stay bullies, and often those who were victims as teens are victims as adults. Sometimes those who have been bullied find themselves in power, and bully in the workplace themselves.

The motives are different when it is office bullying or workplace bullying. Here it is more about job preservation and power, while at the younger ages it is more about getting recognition from one’s peers as a strong our tough person. The long term effects are a lifetime of suffering and an endless pattern of abuse.

There are many reasons as to why people bully, and it can be so they can vent frustrations, hurt and anger, they have felt at home onto other people It can also be a lack of attention, and sometimes it is just because it is what they have seen elsewhere.

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