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Principal sacked at elite Swedish boarding school

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Principal sacked at elite Swedish boarding school
08:27 CEST+02:00
The principal of the elite Swedish boarding school Lundsbergs was sacked on Wednesday night and school's entire board resigned in the latest fallout following a hazing scandal in which two students were burned with irons at the weekend.

The developments took place following a crisis meeting by the Lundsbergs school board in the wake of a decision by the Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) to close the school temporarily.

"The ultimate responsibility rests with the operational leadership, which is headed by the principal. It's come to light that school administrators sanction some form of hazing that is strictly prohibited according to our rules. We've decided to relieve the principal of his duties immediately," Ulf Rehnmark, a member of the school's board, told the TT news agency.

The Schools Inspectorate's report detailed a hazing ritual referred to as "the submarine" ('ubåten') that took place with the consent of the school leadership.

The ritual involves a student lying on his or her back and having water poured through a pipe inserted into his or her mouth.

According to Rehnmark, the decision to sack Staffan Hörnberg, who has served as principal at Lundbergs for ten years, was unanimous and that the board felt it had no choice to resign following a "failure" to prevent students from being injured.

"There was really no realistic alternative. We haven't been able to look through and understand why the measures we took weren't sufficient," he said.

A new board is expected to be in place within two weeks. However, the removal of the principal and the board won't affect the Schools Inspectorate decision to close the school for up to six months in what was labeled a possible "first step" toward shuttering the school for good.

Earlier in the day and prior to his sacking, Hörnberg criticized the agency's decision.

"It was no bloody picnic hearing students running around and screaming and crying like there had been a car wreck," he told TT.

"It's almost like collective punishment. Here we have maybe 199 students who are totally innocent and who are quite chummy and love their school."

Education Minister Jan Björklund said the situation at Lundsbergs was "very upsetting", but that the government would refrain from commenting on the decision to close the school.

"No one should be afraid to go to school," he told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.

Wednesday's tumult at the school follows reports that two boys, aged 14 and 15, were burned with an iron in an initiation ritual. Nine students are suspected for their involvement in the assault and were asked to leave the school on Tuesday.

The school, which is the alma mater of Sweden's Prince Carl Philip and many other members of Swedish high-society, has been hit with a series of reports of students being assaulted in hazing rituals.

In May last year, students at the school spoke out after being forced into oral sex and eating manure. Speaking with Svergies Television (SVT), a former vice principal described the situation at Lundsbergs as something out of Lord of the Flies.

In 2011, a student had their nipples burned with an electric fly swatter. .

Founded in 1896, Lundsbergs was inspired by British boarding school tradition and currently has an enrollment of around 200 students, around 60 percent of which are boys.

TT/The Local/dl

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