From harassment and abuse to protest: a wake-up call from schools

Sounding board or space with a fertile path for the recreation of social scourges, the secondary school added to its work agenda the item of protest against forms of violence that include sexual harassment and abuse.

Girls and boys from public and private institutions give shape to a phenomenon with demonstrations, inside and on the street, in which they point to other male adolescents and demand assistance from the adult world to stop what -according to coincident voices in the system- is a current as harmful as it is predictable if you look back a bit, the confinement forced by the Covid-19.

Until a few weeks ago, little reaction had been seen against sexual and gender violence, bullying or cyberbullying in the street, expressed in the list of demands along with the more traditional ones, such as the repair of buildings.

“It is important to emphasize how the kids reacted and did a sit-in, for example. The question is why they should have held a sit-in”, analyzes Omar Fernández, a graduate in educational management, specialized in Comprehensive Sexual Education ESI and adviser to the chamber of private schools EGE. With 34 years of experience in teaching and management and research in the educational world, the phenomenon does not surprise him. Rather, it seemed sung, according to his analysis: “In the midst of a pandemic we did fieldwork where we saw a common denominator in anguish, depression or a violent family environment. We warned: ‘save when we return’”. Thus, Fernández says that “in these last 15 days we have had a barrage of calls to work on bullying, cyber bullying or harassment.

Catalina Cantore is a member of the board of directors of the Union of Secondary Students as Secretary of Human Rights. In the entity that brings together student centers, “we had a meeting a couple of weeks ago where the problem was analyzed. It started in Normal 2 and there was a string. I think it’s everywhere”, she says and combines the phenomenon with a change of time: “Anyone notices that before it was kept, not only out of fear but because perhaps these situations were normalized”.

The lawyer Fabiana Rogliano intervened in a case of violence registered in Normal 2 as a member of a specialized professional body that offers assistance from the La Plata Bar Association. In her gaze, various vectors converge. “In adolescence, the most intense developmental growth occurs, with a replacement of the structure of internal limits. “Many times, in the search for one’s own identity, states of anguish are generated. With the loss of those internal limits, that anguish put on the outside, translates into the denial of the other option, being in the last publicly known cases, the feminine one”, she analyzes.

This is transferred to an altered social scenario, according to the lawyer: “The pandemic and the state of isolation in which the adolescents were involved, caused the socialization process that has been carried out in these years to remain in a precarious state. . These states that are filed in the interaction between their peers and institutions, but have not had it”.

Girls who come out to say it

In the Region, the denunciation of adolescent women against men appears as a common scene. In the protest they are together with other men from the same school. “It is a super attitude of the girls to go out and say it,” says the student from La Plata and complains that “there is no support from the schools towards them.” Regarding the participation of the boys, she assesses that “there is a very complex issue about it. I think they understand the girls’ situation and that what happened is wrong. It is positive that they can realize and that we do not do it to annoy or attract attention.

The danger of crime

Rogliano calls for “teacher training in the evolutionary processes of adolescence and the exercise of personal care for parents in this social moment in which they live, in order to avoid behavioral deviations that could involve them in a criminal offense.”

Faced with this picture, the General Directorate of Culture and Education created a Comprehensive Sexual Education Commission -ESI-, with the participation of teachers, students, directors and relatives of the students, to jointly address the problem.

Fernández considers that “there are issues to work on at the jurisdictional level. We returned in 2021 and there are positions for the Guidance Teams (they deal with the impact of social and mental health problems at school) to cover. We need investment, more professionals in psychology, psychopedagogy, social workers. Also, in private schools the problem is seen. You have to see if they have an orientation team”, he warns.

Given the situation in the Directorate of Schools, they created a special, multisectoral commission

However, the social context appears in the analysis. The adviser and researcher believes that “boys suck the violence of society”, marked in this new century “by violence and fragmentation”, he insists. Having said all that, the system has its duties: “We have to anticipate at school,” he maintains.

Other data is seen in schools: “In secondary school there is a high rate of course change in the fifth year, Fernández points out and adds that “in addition, the groups were fragmented. There are small groups of three or four that do not interact with the rest”.

From that diagnosis, the agenda follows. “We have to hold institutional conferences, reinforce the coexistence council,” she says and points out about this last space for multisectoral participation: “Young people have to face the challenge of curbing violence.” According to him, based on her teaching experience, adolescents exercise this function and usually set limits between peers. At the same time, he proposes “outings, sports championships, school breakfasts. It is complicated because it was two years, but we run the risk of being late, ”she warns.

Another fact also appears in this spectrum: violence is accompanied by poor school performance.

Rogliano considers necessary, “the establishment of judicial structures specialized in violence against children that are in charge of criminal cases for crimes committed against children and adolescents.”

Walter Martello, Deputy Ombudsman of the Province and Head of the Observatory for the Rights of Children and Adolescents in that organization, considers that “the problem of bullying and school violence among adolescents is a global phenomenon. It has been increasing throughout the world and Argentina is no exception.” It is pointed out from the Ombudsman that many of the situations were turned, mainly, to social networks and with the return to full presence brought a greater degree of conflict. “Situations like the ones that have been taking place in La Plata require articulated and joint action between students, families, teachers and authorities. Each and every one of the actors in the educational community has a lot to contribute and we have a fundamental tool: coexistence agreements, meeting areas in each of the schools to channel proposals, concerns and find solutions”, he indicates.

The problem of violence appears broadly and exceeds gender. It is also, according to specialists consulted, in cyber bullying, as a mechanism of the era of electronic communication. “This is more complicated because it takes place outside the classroom. If you notice, when conflicts break out in the classroom because they come from outside, “says Fernández.

Another serious issue for the researcher is that of self-harm in adolescence: “It is a way to release anxiety and draw the attention of others.” In short, according to the adviser “we have a great fight against violence and a great struggle of the collectives. We cannot fall into a gender issue. Kids with autism or Asperger’s are being bullied”, he maintains.

“Enough of violence”, the claim

The cases are repeated. Since March, there have been demonstrations in various public and private high schools.

On Friday, the students of the Middle School No. 13, located at 22 and 49, joined. In the morning they held a street demonstration in which they demanded answers for the alleged case of a fifth-year student who and abuses her companions with groping.”

A little further back, in the “Colegio Cristo Rey” community, posters were seen in the corridors and on the nets. One called for “Enough Violence.” In those days, in Normal 2, in the middle of the protest, a case with few antecedents in sight was known: the Justice imposed a perimeter restriction that prevents a teenager from approaching a girl from his own school.

Girls and boys ask for help in a different way than what they hear. For example, at the end of 2021 they complained that at the “San José Obrero” school, someone with a managerial function, they said, objected to the length of the skirt of a girl who complained about being groped by a classmate. The case led to a “pollerazo” within the school, with the support of relatives and other men from the school.


Minors involved in a cause of this type can access specialized sponsorship. It can be requested at the Colegio de la Abogacía de La Plata, located at 13 Nº 831, between 48 and 49 de La Plata, by calling 2214392215

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From harassment and abuse to protest: a wake-up call from schools