Linus is a pseudonym to protect him and his parents.
The parents say that schooling started well for their son. Everything felt safe and orderly. But when there was a reorganization of the teaching, his school life became turbulent and messy. The parents believe that this may have made it harder for the teachers to see when there were problems with recognizing children's need for support, and with accepting there were violence and threats.
Linus has today been diagnosed with ADHD and is taking medication for it. But before this, it was a tough time for him and his parents.
– He ended up in fights. There were many meetings and calls. We did what we could and also asked questions about whether we could get a diagnosis, but the school didn't help, says Linus's mother.
At the same time, some boys were bullying other students. It started with verbal bullying and then turned physical. Linus was one of those affected. When the parents realized what was going on, they tried to get the school to fix the problem. They also tried to arrange meetings with the parents of the worst bully.
Several reports were made, and finally a police report was lodged after Linus was punched, an incident that was witnessed by others.
Linus was terrified of the bullies. After five years, filled with futile meetings and anxiety, the family gave up and applied to change schools.
– There were an incredible number of meetings. The focus was always on Linus and his difficulties, but none at all on the actual bullying. We wanted the school to understand that the bullying was affecting Linus. But they refused to acknowledge that, says Linus' mother.
Finally, a meeting with the parents of one of the bullies and the school was arranged.
– The father would not talk to women and referred all the questions to his wife, who was not very good at Swedish. There was no interpreter, so no progress was made
– I think that the teachers must sometimes have a very difficult time when they have to communicate with parents and to reach a solution, she says.
It turned out that the educators had followed a set of measures to stop the bullying. It was the first time Linus' parents had found out. They could see that the bully had been given many chances, but that his behavior had not improved.
– We then decided that Linus had suffered enough. It was too late. For his well-being, it was time he was given a second chance, says Linus's mother.
They said that Linus is now beginning to regain his calm and security in his new school, and that he is healing, even if his self-esteem is damaged.
According to his parents, Linus was not the only one affected. They describe how a gang took over the schoolyard and how children ran home to escape them. A culture of silence is said to have also developed in the school, for fear of being exposed.
Linus's parents do not want to blame anyone for what happened. They want to look forward and share their story so that other people's children don't have to go through what Linus went through.
Their criticism of the old school is that it had a "laissez-faire mentality". In Linus's new school, there are clear frameworks and rules. If they are not followed, there will be consequences.
– On one occasion in the old school, two guys were outside kicking a ball around during lesson time. The teachers excused it by saying they had had a difficult day.
Linus's parents question what kind of signals it sends to the other students.
– I feel that the educators were fantastic, but that they were completely exhausted. They must be having a tough time. They let it go because they didn't have the energy to confront the kids, Linus's mother thinks.
– If it is accepted that students can get away with doing small disruptive things all the time, and it becomes normalized, it will eventually become a big problem, says his father.
They think that the principal and educators should take control and that a small minority of parents should not rule.
–The principal once asked if it was okay, when students were not on time for class, to lock the door and mark the kids down as absent. And there was a parent who objected. At the new school, they wouldn't even ask, says the mother.
They think that whoever is responsible for the school must add resources and accept that there are individual parents who will be offended. Linus's mother does not think that educators should be ashamed to make demands.
– I feel that they are too careful.
The extra staff resources, they have noted, are often young and inexperienced.
Developments in the old school worry them.
–What kind of society are we creating? Children cannot rule over adults. It doesn't matter if you come from Jokkmokk, Skåne or abroad. You need to be clear about what applies at school, says Linus's father.
–The children spend an incredible amount of time at school and all parents want the children to feel safe. There must also be security and respect for the educators, he adds.
How has this affected you as parents?
–An awful lot, says Linus's mother.
– More than we could handle. It's lucky that we're not both equally angry at the same time so at least one of us has been able to think straight. It's been gnawing on us for several years, says Linus's father.
They count on 13–14 meetings with the school and in addition daily contacts.
– Unfortunately, it has recently come to light that this had hurt Linus so much more than we thought. His self-esteem is at rock bottom, and it hurts to know that. Now with the right adults in his everyday life, he blossoms. Nobody should have to be exposed to something like this because of a lack of resources, says Linus's mother.
– I wish the school worked hard with soft values. It is extremely important.
Henrik Bolin, head of primary schools in Skellefteå, does not want to comment on the individual case.
If students are misbehaving, what do you do?
– First the incident is investigated. When it is investigated, the matter is reported. The case then goes to the education office so that the committee can get information, not about the individual but an overall picture.
–Then you have follow-up meetings and see if the trouble has ended or if you to escalate matters further. Until you consider it resolved.
And if there is no improvement, what happens?
– Then we use the action steps in the School Act. First a written warning, the next step is to move the offending student — first, within the school, then the student may have to change school units and the student can also be suspended if necessary.
What is required for that?
– If you feel that there is a threat to other students or staff.
What does suspension mean?
–The student is not educated on the school's premises, but by another method.
How often does this happen?
–Maybe four to five times a year.
If parents suspect that their child has a neurodevelopmental disorder diagnosis, how do you act?
–I know that there are guardians who want the school to push for a diagnosis. Sometimes the school does not see the same problem as guardians, and then there can be friction — people think 'why can't the school carry out an investigation?' .
The entire process for Linus's family has taken five years. Is that reasonable?
– No, our goal is to get this sorted out as quickly as possible and to follow up so that it ends. It is clear that no student should suffer for five years.
Bolin says he has not seen signs that the children have "taken over" at the school in question.
– As a guardian, you don't see the whole way a school works and all the efforts that are made. It can perhaps be perceived that the students get to rule, but that is not my experience.
Bolin admits that it is difficult to get school support staff.
– I would like to be able to put more experienced educators in these problematic situations and not rely on the young and inexperienced staff. But that is difficult to achieve, as today we need all our teachers in teaching.
He adds that for the past year they have been trying to improve assistants' working conditions and training as well as offering them permanent employment, which was not common before.
–We need to give our assistants good jobs and conditions to develop in the profession.
You said earlier that it is mainly children with neurodevelopmental disorders and trauma who are vulnerable. How is it discussed within the school world?
– That is the big challenge in the school environment: students who do not find it easy to absorb the teaching as it is currently offered. The big discussion is about how we make adjustments and what management and stimulation in the classroom should look like.
It's about creating routines, management, treatment and classrooms that suit the majority, according to Bolin.
–Today we have introductory training for newly-trained teachers on how to handle conflicts and different situations. Now we have also included in our work environment a process to annually address threats and violence with the teachers. I don't think that the great learning always comes from the outside — it often happens that you solve this type of situation collegially. There is an incredible amount of know-how out there in the schools.
What to do if your child is being bullied:
Continue to have a dialogue with the school. Ensure that the school carries out investigations and produces action programs. If you meet resistance, appeal to the principal. If you are still not satisfied, you can turn to the department heads, or appeal formally.
Source: Henrik Bolin