Many bullied students go without compensation

Five years after the law against abuse and discrimination in schools came into force, 66 students have received a total of 3.7 million kronor ($606,000) in damages.

However more than 3,000 cases have been written off and closed despite the fact that many of the students were subjected to bullying, as reported by Sverige’s Radio (SR).

“Although it is established that a pupil has been subjected to a serious violation, it is not enough for me to seek damages,” Child and Student Ombudsman Lars Arrhenius from the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) told SR.

“One must also have failed to have taken reasonable measures. In some cases, we found that the student had been subjected to insults, but the school took it seriously, investigated the situation and took strong measures to stop it. Then I cannot claim damages in those situations.”

Through February of this year, 3,215 complaints have been filed from students who felt violated.

Of them, 66 received compensation, with 27 of those having been violated by a teacher, not bullied by a student.

Amounts paid out have varied between 5,000 kronor ($820) and, at the highest, 246,000 kronor ($40,300), which was paid by south Sweden’s Höörs municipality to a seriously bullied pupil in Ringsjö School.

While 44 students are waiting to hear whether or not they will receive compensation from claims put forth by the Office of the Child and Student Ombudsman (BEO), the office has taken another 698 complaints directly to the principals, criticizing their negligence to stop bullying but not seeking any remuneration.

This means that a total of 3,105 cases will not advance for various reasons, such as some might not be offended, some are not sufficiently injured as stipulated by the law, and others may be difficult to prove if it’s word against word.

If a school has taken solid steps to stop bullying and measures are unsuccessful, damages are still not sought.

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Push for bullied kids to get more support

Sweden has a global reputation for promoting children’s rights, but the country’s ombudsman for children argues that school pupils need better protection from bullying.

Push for bullied kids to get more support
A Swedish classroom. Photo: Lena Granefeldt/Image Bank Sweden

After interviewing pupils aged between seven and 20 at ten different locations around Sweden, the Children’s Ombudsman (Barnombudsmannen or BO) has presented four proposals designed to offer more help and support as part of its annual report on children’s rights.

These include giving pupils the chance to access school files on bullying cases and tightening students’ legal protection against abuse by adult staff in schools.

The ombudsman also recommends that schools should set up student-run agencies to which other pupils can apply for help and giving children over twelve years the right to decide whether or not their cases are examined by officials.

“Work towards violations [of rights] at school must become much clearer and have the child's perspective and rights in focus,” BO spokesman Fredrik Malmberg told SVT News on Monday.

“We have met children who are violated and discriminated against, but do not know how to get help,” he said.

BO is a government agency set up in 1993 and tasked with representing children regarding their rights and interests on the basis of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

It monitors how the CRC is put into action in society and pushes for its implementation in Sweden's municipalities, county councils/regions and government agencies.

Sweden currently has the least amount of school bullying in the western world, according to a recent report from the OECD, which suggested that less than one in 20 Swedish pupils experience bullying.

But BO researchers looked into examples of physical, verbal and online abuse as well as sexual harassment in schools ahead of its latest report and noted that some schools currently took tougher action than others on bullying.

“If the school and the adult world reacts at an early stage, it is easier to stop these violations. Teachers are also required to report all forms of discrimination and violation according to a zero tolerance policy,” the report said.

It added that it wanted to “create a climate where the adult world reacts and does not tolerate harassment, or discrimination” and to help students to learn “that it pays to talk to adults when they get into trouble”.

Sweden's centre-left coalition government was expected to react to the proposals later on Monday.