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Schools employing sex offenders

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07:26 CET+01:00
Careless employers have allowed at least 75 convicted sex criminals to work as substitutes in Swedish schools and daycare centers since 2003.

Minister of Education Jan Björklund is now planning to put harder sanctions in place.

The 75 convicted sex offenders have received substitute positions within schools and childcare centres, despite the existence of a 2001 law requiring new hires to submit to criminal background checks.

According to TV4's investigative news program Kalla Fakta, several are repeat offenders. Altogether the situation involves 85 different sex crimes, 30 of which were directed toward children, according to the investigation.

Education Ministier Björklund is troubled by the revelations.

“It's completely unacceptable. It's irresponsible,” he said to news agency TT.

In the new school law due to be sent out for consideration in the fall, and which the Riksdag will take up in 2009, Björklund now plans to include fines or firings for municipalities, principles, or daycare heads who don't follow the rules.

“It doesn't help to have laws if people don't follow them on the ground. The new school law will include sanctions. And the National Agency for Education (Skolverket) needs to start enforcing them,” he said.

The head of inspections for the National Agency for Education Hélène Ahnborg found the figures frightening.

“It shows that the current law isn't working in the way it was intended,” she said.

According to Ahnborg the situation arises most often when substitutes are needed on short notice and employers become lazy in carrying out background checks with the police. And the lack of sanctions is obvious.

”The inspectors checks that school management is aware of the law and its demands. And that the law is followed. If we find out that someone isn't following the law, we issue a reprimand. We then conduct a follow up visit,” she said.

Child Ombudsman Lena Nyberg wants to ban schools and day care centres from hiring anyone guilty of a serious or sex or violent crime.

According to Nyberg, current rules simply mean that background checks are required, but they say nothing about what employers should do if serious crimes are discovered.

She believes further that background checks should be required for all categories of workers who come into contact with children and young people such as sports coaches, personal assistants, and drivers of transportation services for the disabled.

“Paedophiles move around is society looking for opportunities and can pop up in activities where there is a close connection to children and young people,” said Nyberg.

TV4 surveyed sexual criminals by having the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention go through the personal identification numbers of 110,000 women and 40,000 men who have worked as substitutes in schools or in childcare centres since 2003 in 96 of the country's 290 municipalities.

Those numbers were checked against police records from 1973 through 2006.

It's not clear from the results if the crimes were committed before or after the substitutes were employed by the schools or childcare centres.

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