1682105920 The girls revolution at an elite school in Santiago de

The “girls’ revolution” at an elite school in Santiago de Chile

The insignia of the San Ignacio El Bosque school at the entrance to the educational center in Santiago de Chile.The insignia of the Colegio San Ignacio El Bosque at the entrance of the educational center in Santiago de Chile.Sofia Yanjari

The scandal occurred during the first break on Friday, March 31, at the San Ignacio El Bosque School, a private educational institution run by the Jesuits, one of the favorites of Santiago de Chile’s elite to educate their children . About 25 seventh and eighth graders – aged between 12 and 13 – demonstrated against the differences between girls’ and boys’ uniforms and the lack of space provided for them. The young women belong to the first mixed generation in a historically masculine establishment that opened in 1960 as the headquarters of historical San Ignacio, the center. As girls, they introduced the new system in their first year of kindergarten in 2013 and today, even as teenagers, they want to pave the way for their successors. The protest, which consisted of breaking the dress code by wearing shirts other than those allowed, did not significantly change the day-to-day running of the school. The crisis erupted when they returned to their classrooms after discussing the petition with three academic authorities: a group of I and II high school students – aged between 14 and 15 – approached them in a corridor and, as they say , physically and verbally attacked her. .

The images of what happened were captured by some of the school’s 50 surveillance cameras in the Providencia municipality, which were confiscated by prosecutors. At the facility, they report that “the chaotic situation” lasted four minutes and doesn’t give much detail: Boys and girls are seen jumping, some laughing and others crying. The students concerned informed their parents that they had been abused and asked them to pick them up. Another told her older brother about the alleged perpetrators and the school authorities stopped him before he hit her. One of the parents named Carabineros. Two agents entered the premises in search of explanations – an unprecedented occurrence in the San Ignacio – but left shortly after speaking to management.

The scandal backlash continues three weeks later. 12 proxies (as parents of school children are known in Chile) filed sexual abuse reports against a publicly unidentified number of students at a police station. The senior prosecutor for gender, Carolina Fuentes, who is leading the investigation, explained to EL PAÍS that the students involved were first examined by the regional units for attention, since they were under 18. Victims and witnesses (URAVIT) and then led them as prosecutors with each a videotaped interview. This phase is practically complete, but there are other investigative steps in progress that you cannot describe in detail. Those over 14 who are found responsible risk being charged in court, although their existence is strictly concealed.

The reaction to what was happening extended beyond the school community. The Minister of Education in Gabriel Boric’s government, Marco Antonio Ávila, ordered an inspection of the school to see if it was complying with the necessary prevention protocols. The Minister for Women, Antonia Orellana, who is very close to the President, “strongly” rejected the facts denounced, as did feminist organizations. The school San Ignacio El Bosque, with differentiated teaching – the parents pay according to their income, but the majority belong to the upper class – keeps appearing in the lists of the institutions with the best academic results in Chile, partly due to the extensive media coverage explained the problem had. With a strong social focus, it is considered a Catholic but progressive school.

“The students are right”

The school’s chaplain, Rodrigo Poblete, is the senior Jesuit in the facility, whose rector is a lay woman, Luz María Acle. It is the first time he has discussed this matter in the media and he receives this newspaper in the same room where the accused students were “held”. The education center suspended seven of them, five of whom returned to classes this week. The facility’s internal investigation concluded that three of the accused were not involved in the incident and the other two committed verbal abuse. The remaining two were expelled hours ago, although they have 15 days to appeal the decision. “The students are asking for two things: more space, more participation. They say it’s a macho school. And change the uniform,” says Poblete. “Basically, you’re right. This is a traditionally male school. And as the mixed courses progress, two different realities come together and the new one begins to push the previous one. The school kind of knew this was going to happen,” he adds, acknowledging responsibility.

It was a strong shock at school, where mothers and fathers prefer to remain silent in public, like the principal herself. Since the events of March 31, San Ignacio El Bosque has provided psychological support to those involved, but the routine has become rare: breaks and Meal times for the seventh and eighth generations – the mixed ones – are now on a differentiated schedule to those of I and II Medium to avoid contact. The measure is temporary, but there is no normalization date. The students who were suspended and reinstated entered the first day an hour and a half after their classmates.

The case of aggression has provoked the outrage of lawyers. On the one hand, the parents of the girls in the participating courses say that their daughters feel insecure at school, “they’ve been saying that for some time,” says Poblete. On the other hand, some of the parents of the students in the last two men’s courses assert that their sons “are defenseless, that they feel invisible to the girls”. The school defends that last year it conducted a survey on co-education in fifth to fourth graders – aged between 10 and 17 – and more than 70% said they were “very satisfied”, more than 20% said that somewhat was missing and only 3% felt “super dissatisfied”.

Facade of the San Ignacio El Bosque school in Santiago.Facade of the San Ignacio El Bosque school in Santiago.sofia yanjari

The separation of fathers and mothers

Jaime Bustos, 43, is the president of the school’s parenting center and, like the chaplain, is making his first public reference to what happened before the media. He and his wife, with whom he shares the position, have cared for the parents of the boys and girls involved in community and individual meetings. He ensures that positions vary from those calling for the expulsion of the students concerned, to others calling for training and monitoring authorities. Everyone agrees that from now on the school will be transparent about the progress of the investigations and concrete measures. The education center publishes the measures taken to deal with the crisis almost every day. “We ask for the details that they do it in co-education, adjustment of activities, plans for gender equality,” Bustos describes.

The parent rep, who doesn’t want an entire generation to be branded for what happened, argues that the pandemic effect was a contributing factor: the students of the protesting generations left as girls and returned to the classrooms two years later, pre-adolescents, says Bustos, without the Mentioning boys who were going through the health crisis just like their schoolmates. The fathers and mothers interviewed for this report ruled out participation, as did the rector.

If the school knew that the relationship between the mixed and male courses would cause tension and the girls’ parents warned “some time ago” that their daughters felt insecure, what did they do to avoid what happened on December 31? March happened? ? Last year the school organized a day between the mixed and male courses, the courses from 14 to 18 years. Psychologists, fathers and mothers took part and brought in ideas for improving the facility. “Something has been done about it. From today’s point of view, it was insufficient,” Poblete affirms, given the events of March 31st, an obvious fact that continues to provoke debates in Chilean society on an issue that is particularly sensitive today: equality between men and women.

“gender violence”

The pastor assures that there are no problems of living together in the mixed courses. The conflict occurs with adolescents. “They don’t feel seen anymore because it’s all about the little girls. They don’t see mixed courses, they see little girls. We lacked the know-how to generate an experience where the blended courses proudly say they are first generation and the immediately older proudly say they complete a stage,” says Poblete. In the second semester of last year, the school enlisted the advice of the Niñas Valientes Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting gender equality in the educational process. Their President, psychologist Carla Ljubetic, affirms that they have worked to guide the educational community’s transformation process towards a formative, equitable, inclusive and non-violent process.

One of the upcoming workshops is to raise awareness of Gender Equality and Violence Prevention courses, which will be taught from the seventh to the second half. Ljubetic describes what happened as a “situation of gender-based violence and it is important to address it from this place”. But he stresses that even if they are the most privileged students in the Chilean school system, they should not be isolated from the social context where there is a problem of violence and inequality.

Alongside the generational meeting, Poblete adds that they’ve trained the oldest teachers to change inclusive vocabulary – “some still don’t” – that they’ve created a garden especially for the students (the school grounds are seven hectares) because “It’s not all soccer fields”, which include, for example, the canteens and the topics in history classes and add more female protagonists.

The generation of Chilean girls and youth from San Ignacio El Bosque is the daughter of the feminist marches that erupted in the streets in 2018, giving birth to the name “the new Chilean feminist wave”. The chaplain explains the organizational skills of the students: “We as a school think it’s good that the students absorb the reality from abroad. We encourage a critical mind, we create dialogue and that is very tiring.”

But the students’ allegations are nothing new, with precedents set before they were attacked by peers from older schools, they denounce. In November last year, about twenty students delivered a letter to the principal, in which they addressed, among other things, the issue of uniforms. When the students go to sixth grade – 11 years old – they have to wear tracksuits and they wear skirts. And in gymnastics, men in shorts and women in leggings. In addition, they claimed that boys’ compliance requirements were more flexible than girls’. The School Board decided to postpone the discussion until the Baccalaureate (the final cycle of four years, which is male only until this year) and thus to take an active part in the debate as they would be part of the student body. However, they considered that it was not possible to wait for their claim to be heard. Meanwhile, the public prosecutor’s office is continuing its investigation.