Man charged with abuse of disabled students

A teaching assistant who allegedly sexually molested students 15 times at a school for children with learning difficulties in Sweden was charged on Wednesday.

Man charged with abuse of disabled students

The sexual assaults took place at a school near Uppsala, eastern Sweden, from 2008 until November 2011, when he was suspended from the school.

He was allegdly behind five rapes, six cases of sexual coercion, and four of sexual molestation, over half of which took place on school grounds. It is reported that the assaults occurred in a training hall, in the school, and in the swimming area.

“The grounds for rape and sexual coercion are due to the fact that he abused the students who were in a helpless situation,” said prosecutor Annika Bokefors to TT news agency.

The three victims of the abuse, who today are aged between 18 and 20 years, were responsible for bringing the crime to the attention of authorities after telling their families about the school employee’s actions. The school reported the man after receiving their reports.

The man, 40, denies the charges.

According to the indictment, the teaching assistant abused two female students and one male, one of whom could not be heard in court due to their disability.

In an open letter to the media, the parents have begged for respect and consideration.

“It is especially painful for us that the charged man has abused their position of dependence. Our children have had to struggle with their bad lives because of their various disabilities, and now they filled with confusion and insecurity,” they wrote.

“The police who have held the preliminary investigations have treated our children with great respect and have suited their working methods to our children’s disabilities”.

The trial is set to begin in Uppsala on April 2nd and is expected to last eight days.

The suspect was arrested on January 9th, and has been in police custody since January 12th.

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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.”