Sweden condemns surveillance in schools

Sweden’s Data Inspection Board (Datainspektionen – DI) has demanded that seven schools change their use of surveillance cameras in a decision it hopes will set a precedent for schools across the country.

Sweden condemns surveillance in schools

The ruling follows an investigation by the Board revealed that seven different school were currently deploying surveillance cameras in a way which violated Swedish regulations governing the use of the cameras.

The decision sets a precedent which applies to all of Sweden’s schools, writes Data Inspection Board head Göran Gräslund in an article in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

The seven school singled out by the Data Inspection Board include high schools in the Stockholm suburbs of Bromma, Tensta, Tumba, Kista, and Järfälla.

Two Malmö-area high schools, Frans Suell and Jörgen Kock, were also included in the investigation.

Six of the schools were told they could no longer use any of their surveillance cameras when school is in session on the weekdays.

But Tensta high school, which today has 60 surveillance cameras in place, will be allowed to keep one camera in operation during school hours.

Due to previous problems with the theft of computer equipment at the school, Tensta high school has been granted permission to keep one camera near the computer equipment storage area.

In the article, Gräslund writes that the Board’s decision is “a wake-up call for all schools in Sweden which use or are considering using surveillance cameras indoors during the day” and claims that there is widespread ignorance about rules governing surveillance, which occurs regularly and is often an invasion of privacy.

“The personal information laws contain rules which address the use of surveillance cameras indoors,” writes Gräslund.

He worries that schools’ surveillance methods are close to reaching levels which would cause people in other work places to “react quite negatively”.

The school’s ever expanding surveillance is causing both students and school personnel to become more numb to the practice, which worries Gräslund.

“Young people learn early on to accept being watched,” he writes.

He encourages schools to search for other, less intrusive methods to combat problems of theft, violence, and vandalism.


Distance learning remains a ‘possibility’ for Swedish schools: Education minister

Remote learning remains a possibility, but not an obligation, for schools in Sweden as students around the country begin term this week, the Education Minister said on Wednesday.

Distance learning remains a 'possibility' for Swedish schools: Education minister
Education Minister Anna Ekström (L) and general director of the Schools Inspectorate, Helén Ängmo. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Minister Anna Ekström made the comments during a press conference in which she outlined the rules ahead of back-to-school season but did not make any new announcements.

She urged schools to be “flexible”, outlining some of the measures which have been recommended by the National Board of Education since an early stage in the pandemic.

This include changing furniture arrangements to promote distancing, staggering lesson and break times to prevent students mixing in large groups, and increasing cleaning. Many parent-teacher meetings are likely to be cancelled, she said.

Schools for under-16s have remained open throughout the pandemic, and Ekström said this decision was based on research showing children were affected by the virus to a lesser extent. “The younger the child, the more mild the symptoms,” she said.

In Sweden, only one of the almost 6,000 people to have died after testing positive for the coronavirus was aged under 10, and none of the victims have been in the 10-19 age group.

Ekström added that no occupational group linked to schools had been over-represented in Sweden's coronavirus statistics.

In addition to taking this kind of measures, heads of schools have also been given additional decision-making powers.

These include the ability to switch to remote learning, or make other changes such as adapting the timetable (including moving lessons to weekends) if necessary due to the infection situation. 

“If the situation gets worse, teaching can be moved partially or entirely to distance learning. This could happen in the whole country, individual schools, or in municipalities or regions where schools may need to close as a measure to prevent spread of infection,” Ekström said.

“The government is prepared to take measures, but we don't want to close schools.”