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Schools learn cost of bullying

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Under a new proposal being backed by the the minister for education, Thomas Östros, bullied pupils will be entitled to compensation from the district council responsible for their school.

An EU directive is already in place to deal with discrimination on the grounds of gender, ethnicity, beliefs, sexual orientation and disability. But the author of the proposal, former judge Bertil Bengtsson, says that doesn't go far enough.

"We believe that our own legislation needs tightening up for the cases which don't come under the discrimination law," he told Tuesday's Svenska Dagbladet. This proposal addresses both bullying among pupils as well harassment of pupils by teachers, and victims will be able to seek help from a "children's ombudsman". It will be the responsibility of schools and student organisations to inform children of their rights.

"Children are more vulnerable than adults and that's why a special law is needed for schools," said Bengtsson. "It used to be enough for the school or council to brush bullying aside and say 'boys will be boys'. They will no longer be able to do that."

In Gothenburg the tendency for boys to be boys - or, in this case, vandals - cost schools over 21 million crowns in repairs last year. Göteborgs Posten reported this week that the city's schools were broken into 632 times - some as often as every other weekend.

"It has become normal for the windows to be covered in graffiti," said teacher Pia Berggren, who came into her classroom on Monday to find that everything had been ripped out and two computers and a CD player had been stolen.

"The horrible thing is that you get used to it," she said.

According to Tuesday's DN, boys are being boys up in Jokkmokk too, where over the last few years a huge gap has opened up between girls' and boys' final school grades. While the results achieved by the town's girls have consistently been among the country's top ten scores, the boys have been well below average.

After a year-long study, reasearchers decided that the difference could be explained by the "macho ideal" in a town where "the boys put free time before study, while girls study so they can leave the place."

Such a stark conclusion may just have woken the boys up: since the report was released, the gap between boys' and girls' results has halved.

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