The extent of physical violence and threats at Swedish schools has increased dramatically over the past five years. Reports of violence in schools have more than doubled, signaling of an increasingly insecure work environment, national broadcaster SVT reported.
Between 2012 and 2017, reports of physical violence in primary and secondary schools have spiked by 129 percent. During the same period, notifications of threats of abuse have increased by 46 percent. Sweden's Teacher Union also stressed that sexual harassment against teachers has increased, emphasizing that far from all cases were reported, SVT informed.
In 2018, the numbers continued to grow. So far this year, the Work Environment Authority has received 544 reports compared to 474 during the same period last year. This is an increase of 14.7 percent. The Work Environment Agency admitted that the increase in reported school violence is significantly higher than in other workplaces.
The chairwoman of the Teachers' trade union, Åsa Fahlén, ventured that increased violence in schools reflects the general increase of violence in Swedish society, calling the numbers "scary" and urging principals and teachers to "dare to report."
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"I'm worried, but not surprised," Fahlén told SVT. According to her, Swedish society has been expressing itself in a more violent way, which is particularly apparent in school. "However, it's not just talk. Look at the numbers, and you'll see more blows and kicks. There is more physical violence now," Fahlén said.
According to her, the lack of teachers also plays a role, as schools with a high turnover of staff tend to be particularly vulnerable to threats and violence. This leads to a vicious circle of violence, where the absence of teachers willing to confront an aggressive work environment escalates existing problems.
"If you change teachers every now and then, you cannot form trustworthy relationships," Fahlén said.
In Sweden's "vulnerable areas" (politically correct term for blighted urban zones with a high percentage of immigrants, soaring unemployment and rampant crime), it is not uncommon for schools to close down, because the staff is unable to maintain order among students. For instance, the Värner Rydén School i Malmö's Rosengård.
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While the reports include everything from trashed school rooms to knife fights and murder, according to SVT, though, the number of reports alone doesn't give the entire picture, because the will to report serious crimes may vary over time due to various factors. While some students may refrain from revealing threats, abuse and violence for reasons of security, there may be also employers refusing to report them to keep their reputation intact.
"Whether threats and violence at school actually increased, I do not know. We only have the reports with work with," Kjell Blom at the Work Environment Authority explained.