Swedish boarding school shut down for hazing

AP News
Posted: Aug 28, 2013 11:21 AM

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Authorities in Sweden temporarily shut down one of the country's most renowned boarding schools Wednesday after repeated, shocking incidents of bullying and hazing — including one in which students were burned with an iron.

The Swedish Schools Inspectorate ordered the Lundsbergs school to close down until its management can assure the safety of the boys and girls enrolled there.

Lundsbergs, founded in 1896, is the oldest of Sweden's three national boarding schools. Located in Storfors, a small village outside Karlstad in central Sweden, it teaches about 200 students aged 13-18. Its graduates include many famous politicians, business leaders and royals, most recently Sweden's Prince Carl Philip, who graduated in 1999.

The decision to close the school for up to six months followed a weekend incident in which about nine older students burned two younger students with a hot iron as part of a new semester initiation ritual. The older students allegedly blindfolded the two younger boys, ordered them to lay face-down on the floor and put a hot iron against their backs until they screamed. One of the boys had to be taken to the hospital.

Sweden's schools watchdog had previously received numerous reports of bullying at the school — including degrading traditions in which younger pupils are forced to act as servants for older students — and violent initiation rituals there. It had warned school authorities to take action against these practices several times.

"Phenomena that are regarded as inacceptable in society at large have become normalized" at Lundsbergs, the watchdog said in its report ordering the school to close. That included informal rules among the students involving power games, assaults and degrading slurs, it said.

The school said it will comply with all the watchdog's demands and aims to restart its operations as soon as possible.