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Rape accusations stun Swedish high school

An employee at a high school near Uppsala, in eastern Sweden, has been detained by police on suspicion of rape and the sexual harassment of some of his students.

Rape accusations stun Swedish high school

“We view this as extremely serious and have brought in extra resources to support students, parents and staff that are affected,” said Håkan Bertilsson, head of the education department of Håbo municipality, to Sveriges Radio (SR).

According to SR, the man has been employed at the school for many years.

Now he has been remanded into custody by police on suspicion of several cases of rape, sexual coercion, and harassment.

The rapes are said to have taken place on several occasions over the course of almost two years, and a source closely connected to the investigation revealed to SR that the case involves several students at the school.

The man has been detained by police since January and the matter has been treated with utmost confidentiality due to the sensitive nature of the case.

Neither police nor prosecutors wanted to divulge the ages or the number of the victims, but prosecutor Annika Bokefors on Thursday filed for the man to remain in custody pending the ongoing investigation.

According to municipal education officials, there had been no earlier indications that any sexual abuse had been taking place at the school.

“It was like a bolt from the blue,” said Bertilsson to SR.

The man, who denies all allegations, has been suspended from his job since November 2011, shortly after the suspicions became known.

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EDUCATION

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.”

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