Natalia De Agustín, 17, has not finished this year's course at her institute in Madrid. He has left school because he could not stand the harassment situation that, as he has been denouncing, he has been suffering for nine years. It is a complex story, of a girl who starts having problems in one center, changes to another, and then moves to another district, but finds herself again with the same classmates who harassed her, or with others who know the first ones. and take over. So up to four centers.
First one or two girls who insulted her, then a group, harassment in social networks. Messages of the type: "They have hired me to kill you". Persecutions on the street, beatings while they recorded it with the mobile phone. He spent two months in the hospital. A rosary of denunciations in the police, meetings in the centers, two trials. All useless, according to his experience. In the end, last February, Natalia left him. The story told by his family is that of a system that does not work, does not know how to tackle the problem and, moreover, according to them, tries to hide it. "The system does not give you solutions, and if you do not accept what they do you end up expelling, which is what has happened to our daughter," accuses his father, Luis De Agustín, who three years ago, with his mother, Raquel Rodriguez, and the student herself, already denounced what was happening to this newspaper.
The suicide of a minor of 13 years, in Getxo, on June 16, who had reported unsuccessfully bullying for years it has shown again that sometimes these cases are underestimated. The mother of that boy has written a hard message in social networks against the school: "I warned him. They looked the other way. Now that they do not come with bullshit. "
"Let's see if you kill yourself"
In 2017, when two girls attacked Natalia, one told her: "Let's see if you kill yourself once and that's what we all want," according to her story. After a trial, the two minors were sentenced to social work and compensation in 2018. In another, pending the appeal, two other minors were acquitted. Although his father states that seven municipal agents and the director of the institute testified in his favor, and that one of the minors acknowledged that he had beaten his daughter and the other, that she had been expelled from the center.
What has failed in the case of Natalia to stop studying? For the Ministry of Education of the Community of Madrid, nothing. This is the striking, very representative of the continuous clashes between families and institutions about bullying. Counseling questions the child and her family. She does not consider that in the episode of the last institute, the one that has taken her to stop studying, there has been harassment, and not to value what happened to Natalia in the previous years. Ensures that the protocol was opened and closed when considering that it did not exist. Moreover, they point out that the youngest "has not attended class since February, without justifying" and that she had problems in the center where she was before.
It refers to the case pending final judgment: precisely one of the defendants was enrolled in the center where Natalia was and despite his warnings, ended in his class. The center argued that there was nothing he could do because there was no conviction against her. Then the problems started.
There is a clash of realities: the Ministry of Madrid questions Natalia
"Counseling, at the moment in which it is aware of a supposed case of harassment acts immediately sending the teams of inspectors and psychologists to the centers, and that is where the information is collected and it is determined if it is a case of harassment or no, nor are cases covered or minimized, "he says. "We are the first interested in this scourge to disappear, hence the decree passed a few weeks ago on school coexistence, which also determines sanctions for all those who do not disclose the existence of a case of these characteristics."
The Community argues that the cases fall, but because it believes that the majority are not: in the 2015-2016 course 573 complaints were filed and only 179 were admitted, the rest were dismissed; in 2017-2018 407 were received and only 83 were estimated. The conclusion of the counseling is that cases of bullying have been reduced by 54% in the last legislature.
Regardless of who is right, it is symptomatic that a serious problem of minors degenerates into such a sullen confrontation between a family and the Administration. But they are more families and it is repeated throughout Spain. The courses with the highest risk potential are fifth and sixth grade of primary and first and second of secondary.
In 2015, it also caused a great commotion the case of Diego, a student at a school in Villaverde, Madrid, who committed suicide after leaving a letter to his parents: "I can not stand going to school anymore and there is no other way to not go". The reflection of her father, Manuel González, who in the courts failed to recognize the bullying, is also very bitter: "My experience, like that of Natalia's parents, like most people, is that the Community of Madrid never sees anything, everything seems good, they only think about covering it up ".
The Madrid Association Against School Harassment (AMACAE) It is equally forceful: "The case of Natalia is the most bleeding we have had in five years, it is manual. The Ministry of Education only wants to cover everything, is the usual, "says María José Fernández. Their data are very different: in 2016-2017 they treated 500 cases; the following year, 700; and in the first quarter of this year they carry 100, twice as much as last year. "When they arrive here they are already desperate, because nobody does anything. And if they stop going to class, they risk a fine for absenteeism and even a record of guardianship of social services. If you complain, they persecute you. " In his opinion, there is a fundamental problem: "The system blames the victim, minimizes it, they say there is a conflict, they do not treat it as harassment, they disguise it. They have spent a lot of money in a coexistence program and want to see that it works and the statistics go down. How is it possible, if we are all the associations of Spain overwhelmed? We are like in gender violence 30 years ago. "
Just as severe is the report just presented by Amnesty International on bullying in Spain. He concludes: "There are thousands of cases of bullying that are not documented as a result of the lack of data, inadequate training and poor accountability." Ensures, in summary, that the official figures are not real. "It is totally true that cases are covered. In Extremadura, for example, the official percentage of cases is 0.02%, that is impossible ", explains Koldo Casla, one of the authors of the report. Amnesty sees an abyss of figures according to who gives them: the latest data from the WHO, of 2014, speak of 7.5% of boys and 4.3% of girls, an average lower than European. But far from the 0% and 1% that hold the autonomous communities. 96% of the complaints that came to the harassment telephone of the Ministry of Education in 2017 were not sent to the inspection. Amnesty conducted 125 interviews and two teachers, one from Badajoz and another from A Coruña, told them the same thing: "If a director says that there is no harassment at his center, he either does not know what is happening at his school or is lying" .
An association of families accuses the centers of wanting to cover the 'bullying'
The first awareness of the problem in Spain, for its social and media impact, was the case of the boy Jokin, in 2004, in the Basque Country. From there, harassment protocols were developed in all the autonomous communities, although moving from paper to real sensitivity has cost much more. "For five years we have seen a change. Before it was a total taboo and the centers did not want to talk about harassment, they did not want to open the protocol, much less the private ones, which are more hermetic. It's changing. Now in some cases it is almost the other way around, it is reported right away, and sometimes they see it where there are not, they are badly managed problems of coexistence ", explain three of the 170 tutors of the Municipal Police of Madrid, who intervene in these cases . "Parents arrive with children of three or five years old who talk about harassment, and at that age it is impossible," certify specialists from the Central Unit of Citizen Participation of the National Police, with 217 delegations in Spain.
"It is easier to demonstrate cyberbullying, by the screenshots, and the physical, by the sequels, and also if somatizes or there are witnesses. If it is psychological or isolation, it is more difficult ", reflect the National Police agents. The most difficult part is to involve everyone involved in the problem in the solution. "The parents of the alleged harasser always deny it and do not accept that their child may need help. Then you teach them the Whatsapp and they fall apart or give him a slap right there. And that sometimes these children have the traits of a leader, with social skills, but poorly channeled, "explain the municipal agents.In the end, if there is no progress, the solution of many parents is simply to change schools, as Natalia De has done. Augustine for years.
Very few convictions
An instruction from the State Prosecutor's Office in 2005 advised to solve the cases in the center itself, but when the parents file a complaint the matter is judicialized. Then it enters another dimension, the criminal, more arid and that usually creates more discontent. Because in addition to being an unpleasant experience, only a small part of what arrives ends in convictions. "We have an avalanche of complaints, but bullying does not exist in the penal code. We must try other things: injuries, crimes against moral integrity … ", explain spokespersons of the Office of the Children's Office of Madrid. Its last annual report pointed with concern that in 2017 it processed 192 complaints and filed 81, 42%, because those involved were under 14 years of age and, therefore, without criminal responsibility. Although he considered that these cases were not harassment, but "conflicts of the coexistence in the school environment and, even, disagreements of the parents of the minors with the school".
That is why the Office of the Children's Prosecutor is also subject to strong criticism from parents: "You feel treated like a criminal, they are accustomed to more serious matters and for them this is nonsense of children", accuses Luis De Agustín. Natalia relates that the first time she went to testify the prosecutor saw her voluminous file and said: "Look, I'm not going to read Don Quixote." His father told the episode on a television program and the official called to apologize. The Office of the Public Prosecutor ensures that its staff is trained and sensitive to the problem. As for the prosecutor who attended Natalia, he left the post after the controversy.
And Natalia, what are you going to do now? "I do not know, live, heal, and not shut up anymore, it was hard to leave high school, but I decided not to suffer anymore, now I think about going back to school and it's very painful to see yourself surrounded by people and feeling helpless."
National Police and Municipal Police of Madrid agree: "Mobile phones have changed everything". In his experience, most cases of bullying they result in cyberbullying. Data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE) indicate that 45.2% of children under 11 years of age have mobile, 75% of those of 12 and 92% of those of 14. The fact of not having mobile can be a reason for isolation. "Before in the talks we asked who had a cell phone. No longer, you signal them ", explain the tutors agents of Madrid. "The talk we used to give to 15-year-old kids is already given in elementary school. The mobile is a gift of first communion. There is an enormous lightness of the parents with the mobiles, it is as if they were given a moped without explaining the rules and how to drive ".
The National Police offers talks of cyberbullying, and although they are ten hours the centers ask for them, because they are very worried. From 2014 to 2018, the body has taught more than 24,600 talks about harassment and more than 59,800 about Internet risks. The addiction to videogames is another problem: "They do not know how to distinguish fiction from reality and harassment sometimes starts in the chat of the game itself. "
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