When birthday party invitations are handed out inside classroom, none shall be excluded, authorities of a Swedish school have declared. The matter has now reached the Children's Ombudsman.
It was an eight-year-old boy who triggered off the furore. He handed out the invitations during class-time and when the teacher spotted that two children had not received one, he confiscated the cards.
AdvertisementThe boy's father has lodged a complaint with the parliamentary ombudsman.
He says the two children were left out because one had not invited his son to his own party and he had fallen out with the other one.
"My son has taken it pretty hard," the boy's father told the newspaper Sydsvenskan.
"No one has the right to confiscate someone's property in this way, it's like taking someone's post," he added.
But the school, situated in Lund in southern Sweden, says the boy violated the children's rights and has complained to the Swedish Parliament.
It argues that if invitations are handed out on school premises which are public areas, it has an obligation to ensure that there is no discrimination. It is irrelevant that the party will be held in a private household.
"I believe the staff acted correctly, in a model way," said Lars Hansson, a local deputy and belonging to the Swedish Liberal party, a constituent of the ruling coalition.
"It is their duty to reject any forms of insulting behaviour. To eliminate individual children from parties is not acceptable."
In other societies, exclusion from a party may be considered as a rite of passage. Many Swedes seem to believe, though, that equal treatment helps to reduce the unseemly scramble for classroom popularity and the splitting of pupils into groups of the socially attractive and those children perceived as unpopular.
A poll in Dagens Nyheter, a daily newspaper in Stockholm, showed that Swedes are divided on the matter: 56 per cent believed that a child should be free to choose who attends his party and 44 per cent backed the teachers.
The debate is likely to continue until a verdict is reached in September, in time for the next school year.
These issues are taken seriously in a society that has a very active Children's Ombudsman and which encourages children to voice their complaints about school and society.
Sweden is the best place in the world to grow up, according to the Save the Children Fund's 2008 index. So much so, apparently, that adults and school managers have been put on the defensive, reports Times Online.
The Swedish pressure group Children's Rights in Society publicised recently 1,895 complaints by children about the way their parents used the household computer to access pornographic websites or sex chatlines. The Government is now looking into the problem.
Lena Nyberg, the Children's Ombudsman, is waging a campaign against collective punishment in schools too. Children have been complaining to her about the way that entire classes are kept behind after hours to punish an offence committed by a single pupil. "Adults at work would never accept being punished for something which a colleague is guilty of," Ms Nyberg said.