After interviewing pupils aged between seven and 20 at ten different locations around Sweden, the Children’s Ombudsman (Barnombudsmannen or BO) has presented four proposals designed to offer more help and support as part of its annual report on children’s rights.
These include giving pupils the chance to access school files on bullying cases and tightening students’ legal protection against abuse by adult staff in schools.
The ombudsman also recommends that schools should set up student-run agencies to which other pupils can apply for help and giving children over twelve years the right to decide whether or not their cases are examined by officials.
“Work towards violations [of rights] at school must become much clearer and have the child's perspective and rights in focus,” BO spokesman Fredrik Malmberg told SVT News on Monday.
“We have met children who are violated and discriminated against, but do not know how to get help,” he said.
BO is a government agency set up in 1993 and tasked with representing children regarding their rights and interests on the basis of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
It monitors how the CRC is put into action in society and pushes for its implementation in Sweden's municipalities, county councils/regions and government agencies.
Sweden currently has the least amount of school bullying in the western world, according to a recent report from the OECD, which suggested that less than one in 20 Swedish pupils experience bullying.
But BO researchers looked into examples of physical, verbal and online abuse as well as sexual harassment in schools ahead of its latest report and noted that some schools currently took tougher action than others on bullying.
“If the school and the adult world reacts at an early stage, it is easier to stop these violations. Teachers are also required to report all forms of discrimination and violation according to a zero tolerance policy,” the report said.
It added that it wanted to “create a climate where the adult world reacts and does not tolerate harassment, or discrimination” and to help students to learn “that it pays to talk to adults when they get into trouble”.
Sweden's centre-left coalition government was expected to react to the proposals later on Monday.