School bus driver fired for egging on bullies

A Swedish school bus driver was caught on video telling students to hit a young disabled boy, adding to the systematic abuse of the pupil. Authorities said on Wednesday that the boy had not been adequately protected by the school.

School bus driver fired for egging on bullies

The boy has repeatedly been at the mercy of bullies in his school throughout the academic year, forced to moon female students and to stand on all fours to act as a foot stool for another pupil nicknamed “the king”.

The incident in which he was goaded into removing his trousers was reported to the school staff, and from there reached the ears of the boy’s parents. Both the bullies and their victims were called in with their parents to talk about what had happened. The Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper further reported that the school issued a ban on all types of power abuse.

The turn of events, however, was not yet over.

Things took a turn to the macabre when the school bus driver was pulled into the spiral of abuse in April this year.

Aboard the school bus, a group of students taunted and encouraged the boy, who has a physical disability, to say out loud all the swear words he knew. The bus driver, instead of putting a stop to the goading, told the students to “Hit him, so we can get going”.

DN reported that the entire incident was caught on camera and the video later posted to Facebook, where viewers could clearly hear the bus driver not only encouraging the students to hit the boy, but also seemingly egging them along in the bullying.

The Schools Inspectorate has now criticized the school and the municipality for not taking adequate action to protect the boy. According to laws that regulate the education sector, a school bus driver has the same level of responsibility as any other member of staff, including teachers, at school.

“The Inspectorate takes the view that the pupil was abused several times during the school year of 2012 to 2013,” the state agency wrote in its verdict.

“On April 19th, 2013, the pupil was also subject to abusive behaviour by a member of staff.”

While the municipality did remove the driver from his job and reported the incident, the inspectorate said the local authorities had not done enough to protect the boy.

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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.”