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.
The 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,"
But the school, situated in Lund in southern Sweden,
says the boy violated the children's rights and has complained to the Swedish
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
"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.