School refuses to enroll student with Arabic name

A 13-year-old female student has submitted a complaint to the Discrimination Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen, DO), charging that a school refused to enroll her because of her Arabic-sounding name.

On June 10th, the day schools closed, the girl applied to Husbygårdsskolan in Kista northwest of Stockholm for the next semester, she wrote in a notification dated July 2nd.

The following day, her mother, a co-complainant, received a message from a school secretary, saying that there were no more places at the school and that the application was rejected.

The secretary then asked if the school should rip up the application and the student’s mother, unaware of the consequences, said yes.

Suspicious, a week later on June 18th, the subject’s older sister called the principal, claiming to be a Swedish woman named “Annelie” seeking a spot for her son “Johan,” who was the same age as her, or about to enter grade eight.

“The headmaster became totally lyrical and implored that ‘Annelie’ make contact with the school secretary in charge of the admission process as soon as possible,” wrote the complainant. “The principal said that there was room at the school and closed the conversation by saying, ‘See you in the fall.'”

The girl’s sister called and again pretended to be “Annelie,” this time for the secretary at the invitation of the rector.

“[Blacked out] was also very happy about ‘Annelies” and ‘Johan’s’ interest in the school and assured that there were places before the autumn holidays for grade eight because they had reorganised the school to create a large grade eight class from two former grade seven classes,” the complainant wrote.

According to the notice, the secretary offered to pick “Annelie” up along the way and guide her around the school so that she could see the school buildings.

Two minutes later, after ending the call, the child’s mother called using her own Arabic name and asked if there was space since her request was previously denied.

The secretary allegedly replied “rather angrily” that “there was no place, that it was full, that there was a lack of space.” Instead, the mother was offered to return later in the autumn if the situation changed, but everything was full.

“I, my mother and my sister, as well as our whole family was deeply offended by this treatment and want the Discrimination Ombudsman to act speedily to defend our rights and help us obtain redress,” the complainant wrote.

The girl attached transcripts of the phone calls made on June 18th to her complaint, adding that the Office for Equal Rights (Byrån för Lika Rättigheter) had the original audio files.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


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.”