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BOARDING SCHOOL SCANDAL
Schools agency: kids taught 'to take a beating'

Schools agency: kids taught 'to take a beating'

Published: 29 Nov 2011 12:36 GMT+01:00
Updated: 29 Nov 2011 12:36 GMT+01:00

After reviewing the prestigious boarding school Lundsberg in Värmland, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) have given the foundation until the end of February to prove that they can rid the school of bullying.

”Our investigation shows that there are students subjected to different kinds of demeaning treatment at Lundsberg. This is not acceptable,” Carina Abreu of the agency said in a statement.

According to the agency, the younger students learn to ”take a beating”, although the violations at the school consist of both verbal abuse and physical violence.

Students who can't hack it and leave are seen as lacking. Several leave every year.

”A normalization of phenomena that are not deemed as acceptable by society in general, have occurred at the school,” the agency wrote in its report.

The school must therefore rectify the criticised deficiencies and stop the bullying, the report concludes.

Minister for education, Jan Björklund, has described the report as "very serious" and told newspaper Expressen that he had never heard of such a case of widespread bullying.

"I have heard of students being trated badly but never to this extent at one school. But of course, it is up to the Schools Inspectorate to assess and evaluate," he told the paper.

The agency announced last week that they are also looking into the other two national boarding schools Grennaskolan and Sigtuna Humanistiska Läroverk.

The three national boarding schools are different from other schools in Sweden as it is they recieve their permit from the government and not the Schools Inspectorate.

This means that ultimately it is the government who will decide on the future of Lundsberg.

"But we won't be making our own independent evaluation. The agency has given the school an assigned time period in which to set things right, and we will let them assess them after that," he said.

The Schools Inspectorate described in their report how the principal and the teachers had failed in dealing with the situation.

”And staff at Lundsberg don't always see some of the things that have happened at the school as violations,” leading to a situation where the head of the school might not be aware of all that is going on.

Staff told the agency that they weren't surprised that people have complained about bullying and confirmed that it does occur at the school.

But many feel that both staff and students are blind to the faults, as the violations carry such a long tradition.

The principal, who has been working at the school since 2004, told the agency he is working to change these traditions.

To the agency inspectors he admitted that there is a pecking order at the school and that it is important for the students to work their way up through the hierarchy in order gain use of a ”slave” themselves.

The interviews revealed tales of nocturnal visits where older students wake up younger to give them a ”brotherly slap”.

Interviewees also admitted that students have been forced to see the school nurse after being subjected to ”Gut-wrestling”, ”Guts” being a term for a student further down in the pecking order.

The report concludes that the situation at the school is not acceptable and have given the foundation until February 28th to rectify the situation and prove they can provide all the children in their care with a safe environment in which to learn.

”Every student has the right to a calm and safe study environment. That goes for all students and all schools,” Abreu said.

According to Björklund, the agency is following the existing legislation by "going in hard and saying this is not acceptable".

"The government can always ultimately revoke a permit, but we will work from the Schools Inspectorate's assessments and recommendations. If the agency turns to the government a clear recommendation, it is my belief that we will follow that. but we aren't there yet," said Björklund to Expressen.

TT/Rebecca Martin (news@thelocal.se)

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