Costa Rica: Speaking out for Nancy Chaverri

13 July 2010

On 1 July 2010, in a school near San José in Costa Rica, a 17 year-old high school student entered the office of the School Principal, Nancy Chaverri, and shot her in the head. The bullet passed through her neck, hit her spinal cord and broke vertebrae. Due to the damage caused to her body by the bullet, the prognosis was uncertain.

For nine days Nancy was unconscious, in a critical condition and fighting for her life in the intensive care unit of the Hospital Méjico, San José, Costa Rica.

On 11 July 2010 she passed away.

Nancy Chaverri was 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," because she had taken disciplinary action against him for infringements of dress code and conduct.

On 1 July he took a gun to school, a gun he had taken from home, and told some of his peers that at some point during the day he would do something to the Principal. His friends did not take him seriously but just before the end of the school day, he shot Nancy.

The police arrested him and he is currently in a juvenile detention center, under observation, waiting to be judged.

I am telling you this detailed and painful story because I knew Nancy well. She was my cousin.

Like any of you, I never imagined that something could happen 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 committed by a student to a teacher on 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 few 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 USA. But we also have many acts of violence in our schools in the USA; sometimes we feel these are isolated problems of specific communities, or countries. I also thought the same before last week!

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 USA and Costa Rica.

We also have many problems of violence here in the USA. 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 firearm?

We have made a blog for Nancy's family to share some of the news, opinions and messages that are being sent to her relatives. Although Nancy’s blog is in Spanish, please feel free to write in English or any other language you prefer, to share your thoughts about gun control and violence in schools.

Nancy's blog: Nancy Chaverri Jiménez

Alejandra Chaverri