Swedish city set to bus students to school in bid to curb segregation

Swedish city set to bus students to school in bid to curb segregation
Kronan school is one of the schools proposed to be closed. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT
A decision to close two schools in the Swedish city of Trollhättan and bus the students to other schools in the area, in a bid to reduce segregation, is expected to be made on Tuesday.

The plan is expected to be approved at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, which means the two schools in Trollhättan will close in the autumn of 2021 affecting around 300 students.

The proposal by Trollhättan's ruling centre-left majority is part of an attempt to create a better student mix in the schools. The goal is to reduce segregation in the municipality and raise school results.  

“We are prepared to make changes that will benefit all current, but also future Trollhätte residents who will be able to live in a society that stands up for all people,” said Sofia Andersson Dharsani, Social Democrat and chairman of the education committee in Trollhättan, in a statement.

One of the schools affected is Kronan in the Kronogården district, which became internationally known after a far-right school attack in 2015 when three people were killed.

The school currently teaches up to year nine (age 15-16) but from 2021, there will only be classes up to year three (9-10). The other school, Frälsegårdsskolan, will completely close. The 300 students will be bussed to five other schools in the municipality.

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“We are completely united but it has not been an easy decision,” Andersson Dharsani told a press conference on Monday. “During the last two months, we have visited both students and guardians as much as possible. We are aware that not everyone will be happy with the decision. Some people think that it is too early to change school from year four, but we do it to get a better student composition in the whole municipality as early as possible.”

A review from Swedish public radio earlier in the autumn showed that in Trollhättan, the proportion of segregated schools has more than doubled in ten years, from almost 40 percent to about 80 percent.

But the plans have caused lively debate. Several petitions have been made to save the schools concerned and parents of the schools have expressed concerns in the local press that their children's schooling may be adversely affected.

The concept of using buses to diversify schools is not a common practice in Sweden. It became widely used across America in the 1950s, after a US Supreme Court landmark decision in 1954 declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional. 

As the practice of bussing expanded in the US, with court orders for cities to desegregate schools, massive protests took place across the country and lawmakers came under increasing pressure from white voters to end the policy.

Dartmouth College Professor Matthew Delmont, told the BBC this summer after US Senator Kamala Harris defended bussing in a debate with Vice President Joe Biden, that the practice was successful when it was properly implemented. It declined in the 1980s, although some schools are still under court order to continue it.


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