Damages ‘too low’ after vacuum cleaner attack on schoolboy

A pupil in eastern Sweden has been awarded 5,000 kronor ($600) in damages after a teacher attacked him with an industrial vacuum cleaner.

The Court of Appeal upheld the District Court’s verdict despite an appeal from the office of the Child and Pupil Ombudsman (BEO), which had demanded 25,000 kronor in compensation for the boy. The case is the first of its kind involving BEO to be referred to a higher court.

BEO took the case against Grundstens school in Uppsala after the matter was reported in June 2006.

According to the report, the intermediate level pupil was fooling around with a vacuum cleaner with which he was meant to be clearing up sawdust. The teacher saw red, slammed the pupil down on a table and began sucking his face and mouth with the vacuum cleaner.

After the incident, the pupil claimed to have difficulty sleeping and was afraid to go to woodwork class. The pupil’s father was told by the school head that there was nothing she could do about the situation and that he was entitled to take it further if he wished.

Uppsala council confirmed that the teacher lost control. He was said to be devastated by the matter and tried to apologize to the child. He also offered an apology to the boy’s father.

The teacher was off on sick leave for the rest of the school year and is no longer employed at the school.

In April 2006, a new law against discrimination and other abusive behaviour in schools was introduced in Sweden. Ombudsman Lars Arrhenius has argued that compensation levels must be raised if the law is to have any effect.

Arrhenius said that BEO would “in all likelihood” appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court.

“The legislation is new and there are no previous cases, so I probably will [appeal]. This legislation has emerged from the fact that pupils are vulnerable to violations in school and this has been a problem for a long time,” said Arrhenius.

“It is not acceptable. As the law was intended to change the situation, damages have to be higher than this,” he added.