School watchdog probes teacher over Nazi allegations

A teacher who went to a Nazi meeting and joined anti-Semitic groups on social media is being investigated by the Swedish school watchdog.

School watchdog probes teacher over Nazi allegations
File photo of a school not related to the story. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

The teacher, who works at a school in Kävlinge municipality, attented a meeting held by the militant far-right Nordic Resistance Movement where the group's manifesto was discussed. Sweden's security police has described it as one of the most dangerous far-right groups in Sweden.

The Swedish Schools Inspectorate is now investigating the teacher after receiving an anonymous complaint about her last week, writes regional newspaper Sydsvenskan.

“I have never seen such serious reports about a teacher. We have immediately launched an investigation,” Elizabeth Malmstedt of the education watchdog told the daily.

In a podcast published by a far-right site, the teacher, who Sydsvenskan reports is also active in nationalist and anti-Semitic groups on social media, confirmed that she attended the meeting, but denied being a member. “I actually had a really nice evening,” she told the podcast.

When approached by Sydsvenskan and its sister paper HD by e-mail, she declined to answer questions, adding: “I have people behind me you don't want anything to do with.”

A spokesperson for the Schools Inspectorate confirmed to The Local on Wednesday that they have launched an investigation, as is normal procedure.

“The investigation will lead to a decision on whether or not there are grounds to report the teacher to the teachers' disciplinary committee and request a warning or that their teacher certificate be revoked. The case is pending and it is not possible to assess how long it is going to take,” press officer Carina Larsson said.

The teacher is still working at the school, reports Sydsvenskan. The principal told the newspaper that the school has been told by lawyers that they have no right to ask questions about a teacher's political views.

“My work extends to ensuring that the education is based on democratic values. In the current situation there is nothing about her teaching that gives me reason to question that.”

The Schools Inspectorate is unable to comment on a specific case during an ongoing investigation, but asked about the general rules, Larsson told The Local: “In general, public sector employees including teachers enjoy freedom of speech as all other citizens in Sweden. But it is important to remember that the teacher in their teaching should always uphold those values shared by the school's values and clearly distance themselves from conflicting values. In Sweden's school act it says, among other things, that a teacher should promote human rights and actively discourage all forms of degrading treatment.”

Police are also investigating after posters with the teacher's picture, name, address and her parents' address were put up at the school by far-left group Anti-Fascist Action.

According to police reports filed by the teacher, last month a rock and smoke bomb were thrown through her window, her tyres were slashed and the word “Nazi” sprayed on her balcony.

The Local has e-mailed the school for a comment.


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.”