School shooting ‘likely’ in Sweden: agency

There will likely be a school shooting in Sweden sometime in the foreseeable future, according to the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (Myndigheten för samhällsskydd och beredskap, MSB), which warned that local authorities are woefully unprepared to deal with such an event.

School shooting 'likely' in Sweden: agency

“Many people have access to hunting weapons, even if you can’t go to just any store and buy a gun, access to them is nevertheless pretty wide,” MSB risk analyst Magnus Winehal told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

In a report looking at Sweden’s capacity to deal with a number of possible disasters and unforeseen events, MSB concluded that there is a “high probability” of a school shooting in Sweden.

According to the agency, a school shooting is more likely than a hydropower dam bursting or a major fire on a passenger ferry.

While the agency explained that police, emergency services, and the healthcare system could likely cope with a school shooting, a massacre at a Swedish school would overwhelm local authorities.

“There would likely be too much pressure when so many students and relatives need crisis counselling,” said Winehal.

Neighbouring Finland has been shaken by school shootings and a number of threats of school shootings have cropped up in Sweden in recent years.

However, Sweden hasn’t experienced a school shooting since 1961 when a 17-year-old boy entered gym during a dance at a school in Kungälv in western Sweden and opened fire.

Seven students were wounded in the shooting, and one later died from his injuries.

Last week, guns were found on the roof of a school in Malmö, prompting administrators to order students to stay home for the day.

An investigation revealed the weapons were legally purchased, but had been stolen from the owner several years ago.

Police have classified the incident as a suspected case of preparing to commit murder, allowing them broader investigative powers.

While they have few clues as to who may have placed the weapons at the school, police say one scenario they are investigating is that the guns were meant to be used in a school shooting.

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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.”