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Wrong to sack principal over 'lewd' Facebook pics: Swedish court

Wrong to sack principal over 'lewd' Facebook pics: Swedish court

Published: 23 Jun 2011 14:18 GMT+02:00
Updated: 23 Jun 2011 14:18 GMT+02:00

A Swedish court has ruled that a school was unjustified in sacking its principal after he joined a number of sexually themed groups on Facebook and published half-naked pictures of himself on the popular social networking site.

“They said ‘we can’t make allowances for your personal life, we have to think of our brand,’" 55-year-old Anders Karlsson told Sveriges Radio (SR).

In 2009, Karlsson lost his job as headmaster of Norrlands Entreprenörsgymnasium, an independent school associated with a public sector business development organisation in Luleå, after employers found out about some of his activities on the Facebook social networking site.

There he had chosen to post pictures of himself in sexually suggestive poses and was a member of groups with names like “Multiple orgasms”, “Vi som är sexgalna” (‘Sex maniacs like us’), and “All sexy bikinis 4U”.

The revelations came to light on the nyheter24.se news website, resulting in an emergency meeting of the school's board.

The fact that the school’s top official and most prominent public face freely associated with at least one Facebook group that featured links to pornographic websites and had published compromising pictures of himself which could be seen by students, didn't sit well with the board.

The board decided to ask for Karlsson’s resignation, saying he had “had a lapse in judgment”.

“Karlsson’s views on what someone is allowed to do as a private individual differ from the opinion of the board,” the school’s CEO Majvor Müller said in a statement at the time.

Speaking at a press conference Müller emphasized that Karlsson hadn’t broken any laws.

“But he is the students’ ambassador and a role model. There’s a moral and ethical limit when someone works with young people,” the Norrländska Socialdemokraten newspaper reported her as saying.

But Karlsson felt badly treated by employers for something that “practically everyone on Facebook does”, he said to Aftonbladet at the time.

And in local paper Norrländska Socialdemokraten he was reported saying that he didn’t think he’d done anything wrong, nor did he feel there was any shame in speaking openly about sex.

“I think sex is a natural and joyous part of life and don’t see any reason to try to hide that,” he said.

“Unfortunately, it seems to be unacceptable for a principal to have a normal, healthy sex life.”

Karlsson refused to go willingly and was subsequently dismissed by the school.

But on Thursday, after a two year legal battle, it became clear that the Luleå District Court agreed with Karlsson that his internet activities were conducted in his own free time and weren’t aimed at damaging the school’s reputation.

The court therefore ruled that Karlsson’s dismissal was unfair and that the school will have to pay him damages of 38,000 kronor ($5,900) per month for the period between November 2009 and May 2011 as well as a general sum of 100,000 kronor.

According to Aftonbladet, the court also said that the school failed to conduct a proper investigation into the claims and instead acted mainly on media accounts.

The fear that the school’s reputation would suffer was put before the best interest of their employee, the court said.

On two previous occasions a Swedish court has looked into employees’ social media activities and ruled in favour of the employers.

In both previous cases the it was statements made in the personal blogs of employees of the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) and embassy staff which were the cause for dismissal.

This was the first trial in Sweden that assessed an individual’s Facebook habits.

The Local/rm (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

14:41 June 23, 2011 by Swedesmith
Hey sonny, have you ever seen a grown man naked before?
15:51 June 23, 2011 by karex
People are entitled to do whatever they want, employers are entitlted to terminate any contracts they wish. That's how it goes.
15:56 June 23, 2011 by Luckystrike
@Karex....Apparently not
15:57 June 23, 2011 by wenddiver
This guy is where the life experience part of education comes in. Your going to be avoiding guys like this for the rest of your life. Principal, Priest, Coach and Supervisor are their favorite jobs.

You might want to learn Self-Defence.
16:13 June 23, 2011 by engagebrain
karex,

once you let employers control your private lives we become slaves.

fortunately there are restrictions the choices employers can make, so non-white, non-male swedes who won't sleep with their boss, can get and keep jobs.
16:20 June 23, 2011 by TheOneWhoTravels
Is he a pervert?
23:56 June 23, 2011 by Da Goat
They would not dream of persecuting him if he was not a normal heterosexual man. but yeah he should have been a little more circumspect!

Well done it seems there is justice in Sweden if you are prepared to fight for it.
00:41 June 24, 2011 by judgejack
Young students are at the mercy of their teachers. Their teachers should be at the mercy of the school board. Sounds like the judges are making the laws, enforcing the laws they make, and convicting anyone who disagrees with them. Teachers role has been historically to exemplify good behavior and a respectful lifestyle. The judges have simply thrown away a deeply important tradition if not the law that our ancestors believed to be fundamental. Now our little Swedish children have a sex nut for a role model. The debacle of the fall of Rome was led by these same people. They seem to pop up in every generation but in our generation they have the blessing of the the so called Law.
08:33 June 24, 2011 by byke
Does this mean the school has to reinstate him?
12:41 June 24, 2011 by Puffin
@ Byke

No - he just gets a pay-off as the school didn't follow the proper dismissal procedures -you can't sack some one solely based on a tabloid article as the school did - you have to have a proper investigation of the claims and allow the person to refute them
19:29 June 24, 2011 by byke
So is the 100k that was mentioned the severance package or do they need to negotiate this?
19:06 June 25, 2011 by Clarabow
It may be just a case of upholding his right to a 'proper procedural dismissal', rather than the Court agreeing that people in authority can post their personal inclinations on a public forum. I am not sure sexually suggestive pictures on a public website is validation of "a normal, healthy sex life." Can't people just have private lives any more? I do know that most young people are far more conservative than adults may realise. They want and should expect the people they look to for moral guidance, their teachers, who hold positions of authority, to be beyond reproach. I wouldn't want my children to think that posting sexually provocative pictures on Facebook is normal, and many young people use this website. And for this reason I think the Principal should have kept his pictures to himself.
12:23 June 27, 2011 by jackjones
By the same logical, we have to fire teachers who smoke or drink, activities that result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people each year. What about teachers caught speeding? Very dangerous. To answer Clarabow, it is very normal for many people to be involved in sexually provocative activities, and I am not sure I would want my kids involved with a parent who is intolerant.
18:18 June 27, 2011 by Puffin
There was a rektor at a local free-school near me who was really odd and unprofessional - used the school website as his own private twitter page and posted

- rants against students and their parents - publishing information from school records and private conversations

- pictures of himself in strange poses including own with a knife to his own throat

The school was eventually closes down by the School Inspectors and the rektor moved on to a career in politics as a local councillor for SD!!!
23:40 June 27, 2011 by Authentica
He should have kept his private life-private. There is no privacy once you get on Facebook.
21:20 June 28, 2011 by Clarabow
Jack,

I worked in Education and Child Protection and it is nothing to do with being intolerant. There are speeding Laws and I don't know any teacher who wants to fall foul of them. Smoking is pretty much banned in public places and certainly in schools. Any teacher who is convicted of a drink related offence won't be a teacher for long. So much for that argument as for - " it is very normal for many people to be involved in sexually provocative activities" - indeed, so why does anyone need to advertise them on a site used by millions of children? And this is the point. I take it you are not a parent? If you are - then I am glad I am not your child and if not, maybe you will feel differently about this teacher, his photos and a social networking site, which was not intended as a public notice board for "sexually provocative activities" when you are.
16:15 July 15, 2011 by MarshaLynn
Do you Swedes not understand that a person's character goes all the way through his being and is not broken up into separate compartments? When he is with your children, he is still the same lewd person he apparently is away from the classroom. How do you know when this will break through into the classroom? How do you trust him to make sound judgments? But of course the problem is that in modern western culture, no one cares about lewd or debauched. They say homosexuality is good (even though it kills its male participants), that marriage isn't necessary (although children fare better in an intact home with a mom and dad, but who cares, right?), and that free sex is ok (though it leads to instability, disease, and depression in women). So of course those who think like that are unable to develop the judgment to discern that this school principal is lewd and should not be in a position to influence impressionable children.
18:02 July 15, 2011 by Raiha
Agree with you Wenddiver.

Facebook is not a porn site, it is a social networking site. So far, no-one I know posts semi-naked photos of themselves for sexual reasons. Not unless, like Wiener (Weiner?) they can't control their impulses.

Would I trust this man to oversee my children? No, no, and no.
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