“It's a courageous testimony and a very scary reality that's being described,” said Swedish Education Minister Gustav Fridolin.
Hundreds of girls and young women who are currently attending or have recently graduated from primary school or high school shared their stories, published in Dagens Nyheter under the hashtag '#tystiklassen' (silence in class).
The testimonies include allegations of rape at school, girls being urinated on during swimming lessons, and teachers assaulting girls.
The 17-year-old who set up the petition told DN that the stories had come from girls of all ages including primary school. She said that she was “shocked and disgusted” by some of the stories, but also “surprised at how little surprised I was”.
One girl said that her IT teacher told her he was giving her the top grade because she “had nice breasts”, and another remembered a male sports teacher who repeatedly entered the girls' changing room.
Another said that a woodwork teacher pressed his crotch against her behind whenever she asked for help. “I quickly learned not to ask for help,” she said.
The testimonies also related to assault from other students, including boys who exposed themselves to their female peers or groped them during school.
Education Minister Fridolin said that when abuse happens at school, as with workplaces, it should be reported to and investigated by police.
He said that next week he will meet with teacher unions and other authorities to discuss the situation in Swedish school and work on possible solutions:
“From teacher training, clear guidance for teachers […] to reinforcements in the curriculum and legislative changes.”
In the wake of assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and the global '#MeToo' movement in which women shared their own experiences of assault, similar petitions have been created across several different industries in Sweden.