• Sweden edition
School rapped over bullying victim's suicide

School rapped over bullying victim's suicide

Published: 06 Feb 2012 15:58 GMT+01:00
Updated: 06 Feb 2012 15:58 GMT+01:00

A 15-year-old girl from southern Sweden took her own life after several years of bullying during which her school's idea of combatting the problem had been to make her go tell the other students that their taunts upset her.

The girl had been experiencing problems in school since the age of thirteen and frequently had abuse hurled at her by a gang of boys.

According to the family, the girl, who had a reputation as a “good student” was transferred together with a friend into a class with an unruly boy gang.

The girl was seated next to the boys, who started to call her names, write taunts about her on the board and send her dirty pictures over the internet.

The problems then escalated when she was 14, when profanities were graffittied onto the girl’s locker, cans were thrown at her and she had to listen to abuse every day. The parents felt that the teachers had lost control of the social climate of the whole form.

The boys often called the 15-year-old an ”emo”, a word which refers to a music style called emotive hardcore but has recently also become common slang among the young for someone who wants attention.

When the girl had been pushed into the wall by the boys, injuring her shoulder, her mother called the school and asked what they were going to do about it. She was told she was the third to complain that week.

The school had launched a mentor programme to try to come to terms with the problems among the students.

The girl was told by her mentor that the best way to deal with the situation was to go round the different class rooms, explaining that she was not an “emo” and that she didn't feel good about being called that.

The girl, initially unwilling as she felt it was humiliating, did what the mentor told her. When her mother called her mentor to complain she was told that the girl had “done well”.

However, the 15-year-old's problems continued and the family was forced to seek help from the child and youth psychiatry (Barn- och ungdomspsykiatrin, BUP). When she turned 15 the problems got worse and the girl was home-schooled for a while.

Meanwhile, according to the family, the boys continued to harass her on Facebook.

After some time, the girl started a new school where she seemed to be doing well, but eventually when other pressures set in, she could no longer manage and subsequently took her life.

The parents were unwilling to inform the students at the 15-year-old's former school, which her little sister was still attending, about the tragic death. But despite their wishes, teachers went round to the different classes telling the children what had happened.

The family reported the school to the Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) for not following their wishes as well as for not doing enough to help the girl while she was a student there.

However, the Schools Inspectorate decided not to take the matter further as they concluded that the school had tried to combat the problem but that they had never perceived it to be aimed specifically at the 15-year-old.

The Schools Inspectorate also concluded that the fact that the girl was asked to explain to the students that she wasn't an emo, explained by the school as a measure to combat the ignorance among students what the emo culture stands for, was highly inappropriate.

However, the agency will not intervene in this case, as the school has taken measures against similar occurrences in the future.

They also said that although it is always important to listen to parents and follow their wishes, they could see why in this case, the school chose to speak to its students about the girl's death.

Rebecca Martin (rebecca.martin@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

16:56 February 6, 2012 by this_aint_sparta
The "mentor" needs a good piece of mind for the dumbest idea ever, and if the gang of the 15 year old boys were given some healthy/nasty bruises at the right time a life could have been saved and all those boys would have become a better person in the future :-)
17:10 February 6, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
The usual defense against bullying is to join a group of students who hang together and defend each other against the bullies, at least emotionally. Sadly she may have had no such friends network to fall back on.

Interesting longer article in this week's new yorker about alleged bullying and intimidation that led to the suicide of a gay student in New Jersey after his sexualtiy was exposed to other students 2 years ago:

17:14 February 6, 2012 by strixy
There was a similar case in Poland but the abuse lasted for a much shorter period of time. The bullies were charged with and trialed. If Poland can, why can't Sweden? Seems like Sweden is a better place to live for perpetrators than it is for victims.
17:33 February 6, 2012 by motti
@strixy If Swedish justice is the same as British, I can explain. It is all about the criminals Human Rights, as set out by the EU. I kid you not. The criminals have a greater need for human rights than their victims.

wonderful world, isn't it?
17:50 February 6, 2012 by DAVID T
This would not have happened if it was my daughter - I would have taken the matters into my own hands and given these boys and their parents a taste of their own medicine
17:56 February 6, 2012 by strixy
As a human rights lawyer to be I doubt human rights is the issue. I suspect those responsible for engorcing the law like to use the HR excuse to wipe their mouth when the true answer is - laziness. It would not have been a violation of any laws to have the boys turned to social services and to the young offenders penalty sysytem. None of it was done and they are likely to grow up to be well adjusted psychopaths (contrary to the popular belief, this is not an oxymoron).
18:03 February 6, 2012 by idialogue
Welcome in Sweden .. the world of Atheistic Criminals paradise..
18:13 February 6, 2012 by zooeden
I absolutely agree with post #1 and in addition if I was the parent I would make them boy to pay my gone daughter, she is gone because of them, there would be a rampage!!! So sick of this news!!!
18:49 February 6, 2012 by bobbysingh
Why wasn't this matter discussed with the Police? I mean, why didn't the parents of the girl report about those nasty boys to the Police?
19:36 February 6, 2012 by The Watcher

So the crimes comtited in the name of religion thousands of years is nothing, but lets associate a tragic accident with Atheism . I am an imigrant and I'm saying to you: Get the f..k out of Sweden, you barbaric religious ignorant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
20:02 February 6, 2012 by BillyB
So awful that a 15 year old took her own life...over something that could easily have been prevented if teachers bothered to care...

Tragic, deepest sympathy to those she left behind
20:32 February 6, 2012 by StockholmSam
Oh god, where do I begin?

As a teacher with eight years of experience in Swedish schools, this does not surprise me.

The mentor deserves a lot of blame here for his bungling of the situation. In his defense, though, I have never met a mentor in a Swedish school that had ever had any training whatsoever. Teacher college does not teach you how to mentor kids; that takes a special skillset. Of course, to save money, schools simply pass the responsibility of mentoring on to the teachers, along with so many other administrative duties. For this reason, the specific school is responsible for the mentor's failure as is the entire Swedish concept of mentoring, which by right should be a separate function carried out by trained specialists.

Education is a right, not an obligation. That means that anyone who wants to get an education should have 100% access. But that does not mean that those who are not interested in getting an education should be forced to go to school. This is my beef with compulsory education. So many teachers, myself included, spend 80% of our energy dealing with behavioral issues among students who really have no business being in a classroom. It hurts the teacher's effectiveness and retards the development of the best and brightest of our young people who are left with teachers operating at 20% of their capacity.

Teachers do not get into the profession to care for the bullied or to correct they bullies; they get into it to teach subject content. But parents expect teachers to take over the parental responsibilities and raise good kids. Believe me, it is easier for a pair of parents to raise two or three kids than it is for one teacher to try to raise 50 kids, especially when the teacher's hands are tied in most situations. This is why schools need disciplinary functions that are strong and separate from the teaching function. But like all else, school leaders are scared to take that responsibility so they, too, place all responsibility on the teachers.

Why was this poor girl put before a psychologist instead of the batshit crazy bully boys? Put them in the mental care institutions and see what happens.
21:26 February 6, 2012 by Vill
I believe most of the blame should be placed on the parents of the bullies. Parents these days just don't care about putting time and effort into raising their children properly.
22:20 February 6, 2012 by Anglosaxon123
School anti-bullying policies do not work here in England. I always hoped things would be better in Sweden. Obviously not. My own 14 yearold son had bullying problems last year. It was clear right from the start that all the school cared about was it's own "reputation". They said they were concerned and wanted to solve the issue - but the truth was, they were more concerned about the schools name being smeared.

Although children have always bullied each other - the internet has made it easier than ever before for children to spread messages of hate about each other. Facebook & Twitter are both shining examples. I know children as young as 8 who are now addicted to Facebook, and they attach so much importance to their popularity on there. Their profile and photos are everything to them. One nasty evil comment can spread across a whole network of school friends with the single press of a button. And it can have shattering effects.

Yes, nowadays we have iphones, sat-navs, ipads and wide screen tv. But the truth is, our kids are no happier. Thank goodness I had my childhood in the 1970s. What a wonderful time that was :)
23:27 February 6, 2012 by tr2001
If i were the girl and wanting to take my life for that reason. At least i wouldn't go alone!
23:47 February 6, 2012 by Migga
There has to be more to this story. What are these "other pressures" that is meantioned in the article? It seems that those "other pressures" is just as, or even more, responsible for the girl to take her life.

But some people on this site don`t think ahead, they just make quick calls. According to you all it`s Swedens fault. It`s the swedish laws, the swedish schools or the swedish teachers.

Give me a break will ya. The hate towards Sweden and Swedes on this site is sickening.
04:37 February 7, 2012 by nar klockan klamtar
There needs to be a structure in place for dealing robustly with any bullies. Not enough hurt or embarrassment put on to the bullies is always the problem. The bullies should be identified, then split up, isolated and dealt with resolutely on an individual basis. A wide spectrum of agencies including the school, police, courts, probation officers and shrinks, each giving them a thorough working over, dominating their life generally handing down a lot of inconvenience and discipline. Visits to them and their parents at home, drumming in the message that bullying is an illness that has to be cured, that their lives will be seriously inconvenienced whilst being part of any bullying.
04:48 February 7, 2012 by Trenatos
Great, post blocked because of profanities..

The schoolsystem needs to grow a pair and actually DO something about the continued bullying. It's growing worse every year.

It's NOT that hard to actually DO something about the issue, rather then try to pass it off on the victim, or making excuses for their behaviour (Yes, I've personally seen it, by teachers and other staff.)

Someone repeatedly bullying others? Expell them! Toss them out.

*Call the police if need be*

In many cases what's going on is quite literally ILLEGAL, and falls under harrassment of various forms.

Schools need to take some responsibility again and decide that such behaviour is simply not ok!

Someone caught with weapons? Police charges + expelled for a year

Bullying? Police charges + expelled for a year

Otherwise harrassing fellow students or staff? Police charges + expelled for a year

Will people complain? Yes, but you know what? Sometimes someone has to make that decision even when others don't like it.

Schoolsystem, if you keep doing what you've been doing, more innocent victims will die.
05:16 February 7, 2012 by TheWatchman
@ Trenatos

Well said. Sometimes people will complain but the law must be laid down sometimes and even if it's unpopular, if that's truly the right thing to do it should be in place. This person would still be alive if they were expelled immediately.
06:48 February 7, 2012 by Avin a go
# StockholmSam

A teachers responsibility doesn't end at just teaching a syllabus. Social skills and the child's daily welfare come under the jurisdiction of the school. Whats lacking is a strong school policy backed by both teachers, head teachers and parents to combat not only bullying but hitting and being disruptive to the other children.

As a parent of 3 well behaved children I'm fed up with the lack of due care shown by the school. Being hit by other children is part of daily life at their current school.

The teachers again have exactly the same attitude as you, they came into the profession to teach not deal with disorder problems, leaving the children in effect to fend for themselves as best they can.
07:52 February 7, 2012 by StockholmSam
@Avin a go

You conveniently ignored half of my point, that being that the school needs to have a dedicated function for handling disciplinary issues in the school. It requires specially trained staff members who understand child psychology. Teachers do not get that except on the most superficial levels of classroom management. Bullying issues as described in this article go WAY beyond the abilities and responsibilities of a classroom teacher. Come on, the teacher cannot police Facebook, Twitter, the hallways, the playground, the busstop, the T-bana and the Galleria. Not for one student, not for 30 students.
09:42 February 7, 2012 by Douglas Garner
@Avin... You are absolutely right, a teacher's responsibility extends to be a good example and provide guidance to students.

Unfortunately, the bad example frequently begins at home. When parents bully or allow siblings to treat each other badly, they are providing training into how to BE A BULLY or how to be a victim. Then it is tossed back into the teacher's lap to try to fix... and guess what, after the 6 hours the child spends at school, he or she is back in the hands of the parents.

Let's also not forget that this behavior is taught and learned from well before the child begins grade school. The same parents are then quick to run down to the school and complain or file police charges that their child is being abused while in the school's care.

Keep in mind that here in Sweden it is generally improper to single a child out for misbehaving. It is nearly impossible to mandate any form of punishment including such things as school cleanup, detention, banning from events...

Children cannot even be held responsible for their own actions if under 15... I have had grade school children tell me that they don't have to wear a bike helmet because the law cannot hold them responsible due to their age... and the parents let them leave for school without helmets! What kind of message does that send or lesson does it teach? By the way, frequently these are the same kids that bully others.

How about acts of brutality or bullying towards teachers? In Sweden, a young child can hit or stab a teacher with minimal repercussions if any. If the teacher raises his or her hand in self defense, it is a criminal act.

I am certainly not advocating corporeal punishment, but teachers must be allowed some tools as well as parental support to deal with the issue. Schools from the earliest grades should provide trained guidance counselors to help these kids... that way teachers can do their basic job, which is teach...

...or do you prefer your child's teacher to spend 80% of his time dealing with 5% of the children because of the disruption they cause and the disrespect they show to teachers and fellow students?
11:00 February 7, 2012 by Avin a go
Glad to see some passion. I hope you both have as much passion for teaching?

The blame game is always an interesting one. I and my wife have brought up our children to have respect for others.

I agree that teachers can't make up the short fall from bad parenting. I would like to send my children to school feeling confident they are safe, and be able to ask them, "have you been hit today?" without hearing the answer "yes".

I think thats a reasonable request. I'm sure your both tell me otherwise.
12:34 February 7, 2012 by flintis
Bring back the Birch, give the bullies a taste of their own medicine & they will really think twice before bullying someone else.

Too bloody soft with kids nowadays.
12:34 February 7, 2012 by strixy

''Give me a break will ya. The hate towards Sweden and Swedes on this site is sickening.''

Well, it is not compulsory to read this site after all... .

IMO it is not up to the current standards not to have trained mentors at schools, that's all. Swedes are known for their ability to swipe anything under the carpet in order to perserve the state of indifference and this has failed in this case. This girl needed help and did not receive any.
15:35 February 7, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
@ Douglas Garner post 22


@ StockholmSam post 21

Agree that there are insufficient disciplinary tools. And 100% agree that the teacher cannot police the entire universe of one child, let alone 30, but as for special resources to handle discipline, a low cost alternative at least for modest discipline issues could simply be solitary confinement for the afternoon. Eons ago when I went to elementary school, getting sent to the principal's or vice principal's office meant sitting in a room for more than an hour with no audience for one's rebelious antics, and the act of getting expelled from the classroom was a much needed embarassment to the student to begin with. Maybe a Swedish school would not have enough vacant offices for this, or perhaps this would be considered a gross violation of human rights here.

@ All parents of teenage children who are concerned about bullying

Any interesting point in the article that I referred to earlier is that teenagers themselves tend to dismiss bullying up to a point. They do this because there are no perceived social advantages among their peers to be perceived as either a bully, or someone who is bullied, and so they often dismiss incidents of mistreatment as mere episodes of 'drama', even if these are repetitive and start to lead to psychological damage of a student who is always the victim of these dramas. The point is that by the time a student recognizes their mistreatment as bullying and tells you about, it probably already reached a very bad level, and must be taken seriously and acted upon at once.
23:46 February 7, 2012 by soultraveler3
Stockholm Sam is absolutely right.

I teach hemspråk at a local school and it's horrible.

You aren't allowed to discipline the children at all. You can't tell disruptive students to leave class, you can't issue detentions or extra homework and you can't even break up fights or physically stop one child from hitting another.

If someone starts swearing, acting up, talking on their phone, hitting another child, won't sit down etc. you're screwed. You have to stop everything you're doing and focus the majority of your attention on one or two troublemakers until they decided to settle down. This can take 10 minutes or more since you're not allowed to do anything but try to get their attention and reason with them.

It's an everyday, multiple times throughout the day, occurrence. It happens in all the classrooms as well as in the hallways / playgrounds. Talking with the parents doesn't often help either. More often than not, they don't care, are too busy with other things, think that their child couldn't possibly be doing anything wrong or feel as helpless as we do.

Laws need to change and more parents need to become active and involved in the lives of their children, before all the blame is placed on the teachers. We have a responsibility too, but proper behavior and upbringing needs to start at home.
07:07 February 8, 2012 by Douglas Garner
@Avin a go... thanks for the compliment. Yes, I give them every once of passion I have and most love it. Most important work I have done in my life (aside from being a parent), and the most fun I have ever had!
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