Pupils at elite Swedish school ‘burned with hot irons’
Top Swedish boarding school is shut down by inspectors after the latest allegation of severe bullying, with police probing the assault
A private school for children of Sweden's wealthy elite, including its royal family, has been shut down after accusations that boys were burned with hot irons by older pupils.
The latest allegations about severe bullying at Lundsberg boarding school emerged at the weekend after one of the boys was taken to hospital and the police were informed.
Nine boys were involved in the assault, police said.
After a visit to the school in rural Varmland, in southwest Sweden, inspectors announced its immediate and indefinite closure until measures are taken to prevent abuse.
The schools inspectorate said it had criticised Lundsberg on several occasions and repeatedly demanded that it take steps to address the problem.
The school has about 200 pupils, many of whom have wealthy parents working abroad but who want to send their children to a Swedish school.
Allegations of brutal bullying at Lundsberg first emerged in 2011, when several pupils made anonymous phone calls to the media and the schools inspectorate claiming they were victims of physical and sexual abuse.
One pupil told Swedish television: "It's like Lord of the Flies." Other former pupils have publicly defended the school and dismissed the allegations as motivated by social envy.
Lundsberg is one of only three boarding schools in Sweden. Established in 1896, it was explicitly modelled on England's elite public schools. The annual fee is around £20,000 (HK$240,700).
Alumni include Prince Carl Philip, the youngest child of Sweden's King Carl Gustaf.
Under Sweden's system of free schools, Lundsberg pupils receive money from the state to pay for their education, which is topped up by their parents.
This is only the second time the schools inspectorate has ordered the immediate closure of an educational institution.
Lundsberg director Sofia Orre said she was appalled by the decision.
"It is a disaster for the students who attend the school and who are happy in school. This is devastating for the students," she said.
Swedish media said the injuries to the boys burned with the electric irons were minor.
Petter Sandgren, a researcher at the European University Institute in Florence and a specialist on Swedish boarding schools, said that despite the bullying claims, Lundsberg could not be closed earlier because of the "old boys' network" surrounding it.
"Previously when the system of 'fagging' got too intense, it was resolved by the lawyers of the different families," Sandgren said.
"This is the first time in the school's history that pupils have gone to the press. There is less loyalty to the school among its nouveau riche students."
Anita Satereie, who worked in the kitchens at Lundsberg in the 1950s, said: "It's like time has stood still since I worked there.
"The school still lets the older pupils harass the younger ones and be cruel to them.
"I am so relieved that eyes have been opened and people see it for what it is."
Additional reporting by Reuters