Staff at your place of education may not discriminate against you if you are a school pupil or a university student, or are engaged in some other training course, e.g. at a folk high school. Children and pupils in preschool and school-age childcare are also protected against discrimination.
The Equality Ombudsman (DO) ensures compliance with the Discrimination Act. If you have been discriminated against and this is related to your sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation or age, you can report this to the Ombudsman.
Other forms of abusive behaviour, such as bullying, should be reported to the School Inspectorate’s Child and School Student Representative. (See contact information on the right!)
Who can file a complaint
You can report discrimination if you are a pupil at a compulsory school, an upper secondary school, a special-needs school särskola or a Sami school, or are attending a Swedish for Immigrants course, a special school for the deaf and hard of hearing specialskola, a municipal adult education programme komvux or an adult education course for people with learning disabilities särvux. People studying at a university or college, or at a folk high school, or attending an adult education course or some other type of organised course can also report discrimination to the Equality Ombudsman. Other groups entitled to file complaints are training course applicants and children and pupils in preschool and school-age childcare fritids.
Discrimination is prohibited if it is related to your:
- transgender identity or expression
- religion or other belief
- sexual orientation, or
Age discrimination is only prohibited at universities and colleges, at folk high schools and in certain other educational spheres – but not, for instance, at preschool, compulsory school or upper secondary school level.
What can I report?
Discrimination is present when for instance staff treat you less favourably at school, university or some other educational institution because you are bisexual, for instance, or because you were born in a country other than Sweden. It may also involve being harassed by a teacher, a head teacher or some other member of staff.
Discrimination may sometimes be indirect. One example is when seemingly neutral rules in practice put people from a certain group, e.g. girls or women, at a disadvantage. Nor may staff at the school, university or other educational institution order someone else to discriminate against you.
Family-related discrimination is also prohibited under the Discrimination Act – if, for instance, your parents are homosexual and you are harassed because of this.
You can also report your school, university or other educational institution for failing to investigate a report of harassment, or failing to deal with harassment on the part of other pupils or students there.
Examples of discrimination at school, university/college or other educational institution
Here are some examples of what may constitute discrimination and which you can report to the Equality Ombudsman.
- If you are not allowed to resume your studies after a break and this is related to your pregnancy.
- If a teacher harasses you and this is related to the fact that you are a transvestite.
- If a university or college always arranges exams during your religious holidays.
- If you as a girl are not allowed to attend school dances with your girl partner.
- If you are not allowed to attend classes because you have been diagnosed as ADHD.
- If a teacher paws or “gropes” you.
- If you are forbidden to attend gymnastics lessons because you wear a head shawl.
- If a folk high school only admits people in their twenties to a course, without good reason.
- If a study association refuses you admission to a course because you have impaired vision.
- If you are openly bisexual and a course teacher keeps asking you things like “Bisexuals are a bit indecisive, aren’t they?”.
Punishment is forbidden
If you have reported your school, university or education provider for discrimination, you may not be punished for this, i.e. subjected to reprisals. Punishment or reprisals may take the form of lower school grades or harassment in class.
What is harassment?
You have the right not to be subjected to harassment during your education. This applies regardless of whether the person harassing you is a teacher, someone employed on the course, or another pupil or student.
What constitutes harassment?
Harassment is prohibited if it is related to your:
- transgender identity or expression
- religion or other belief
- sexual orientation, or
Harassment is behaviour that violates the integrity or dignity of a pupil or student. It may involve using contemptuous or degrading generalisations about “female”, “homosexual” or “Bosnian” behaviour or characteristics. Or it could involve someone being called a “wog”, “spazz”, “poof”, “whore” or the like. Alternatively, it might involve ignoring you, freezing you out, whistling or staring at you, or making insulting gestures, where such behaviour relates to one of the grounds for discrimination.
What the various forms of harassment have in common is that they make the pupil or student feel insulted, threatened, abused or unfairly treated.
Harassment is behaviour that is unwelcome. It is you as the victim who decides what is insulting or abusive. The same type of behaviour may be considered harassment by one pupil or student while another may not find it disturbing at all.
What is sexual harassment?
Harassment may also be of a sexual nature, in which case it is referred to as sexual harassment. This covers things like touching, pawing, jokes, suggestions, looks or images that are sexually allusive. It may also involve sexual jargon.
Sexual harassment differs from ordinary flirting in that it is unwelcome. It is you as the victim who decides what is abusive or insulting.
It is the person subjected to harassment who decides what she or he considers insulting or abusive. Sometimes it is clear that the person responsible should know that their behaviour constitutes a violation. But in many cases it is important that you as the victim make clear to the person concerned that their behaviour is unwelcome and must end. You can do so verbally, in writing or with the help of someone you trust.
If an education provider learns that someone on the course considers themselves harassed, the provider is required to investigate the matter and, if harassment is confirmed, to put a stop to it. Failure to do so can be reported to the Equality Ombudsman.
Harassment may be discrimination
If someone representing the education providers subjects you to harassment, this is classed as discrimination under the law. In such cases, you can report the matter to the Equality Ombudsman. The representative may be a head teacher, a school manager, a teacher, another member of the school staff, a university board, staff at a folk high school or someone else providing or holding a course. You may be able to get financial compensation or some other form of recompense from the education provider.
If another pupil or student subjects you to harassment, this is not counted as discrimination under the law. However, an education provider who has learned that someone considers themselves harassed at the workplace is required to investigate the matter and, if harassment is confirmed, to put a stop to it. This means you should report harassment on the part of other pupils or students to your education provider.
It is the education provider’s responsibility to ensure that harassment does not occur.
Taking preventive action
If you attend a school, a preschool or some other activity regulated by the Education Act, the body responsible for that institution is required to take active steps to prevent harassment. This also applies if your are a student at a university or college.
You have the right not to be punished for filing a complaint!
If you have reported your education provider for harassment, you have the right not to be subjected to reprisals, i.e. be punished (by being given lower grades, for example, or being harassed in class and so on). This also applies in certain other situations, for instance if you have reported that a school or a university is not taking active steps to prevent harassment as required by the Discrimination Act.
If you are subjected to reprisals, you can report this to the Equality Ombudsman.
How do I file a complaint?
If you feel that you have been discriminated against on your course and this is related to your sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation or age, you can report the matter to the Equality Ombudsman.
You can also report your school, university or other education provider if it has failed to investigate a report or to take measures to stop harassment on the part of other pupils or students.
If, as a person with a disability, you attend a university or college and find that the premises are inaccessible, you can report this to the Equality Ombudsman. There may for instance be no ramps or listening equipment. This kind of protection under the Discrimination Act is not currently available in the case of other educational forms.
It is always the school, university or education provider that is responsible for the situation at your place of education. This means you can report any of them to the Equality Ombudsman, but you cannot report private individuals.
The parents or custodians of preschool children or of school pupils under the age of 18 can also file complaints on their children’s behalf.
How to proceed
You can only file a complaint if it is you personally who feels discriminated against. Family-related discrimination affecting you is also forbidden under the Discrimination Act – if for instance your parents are homosexual or your brother has a disability and you are discriminated against because of this.
Complaints must be in writing and include your name, address, telephone number, and preferably your email address, plus the name of the school, university/college or education provider. Also, describe why you think you’ve been discriminated against.
Report the matter promptly. If too much time elapses between the discrimination and the complaint, it will be too late for the Equality Ombudsman to investigate the case. Events that occurred more than two years earlier are not usually investigated.
Complaints about discrimination and harassment are investigated by the Ombudsman’s case officers. The Ombudsman adopts a neutral stance, which means it draws on information both from the person who reported the matter and from whoever was the subject of the complaint. If an investigation shows that discrimination can be assumed to have occurred, the Ombudsman can represent you. The first step is to try to negotiate a voluntary agreement – a settlement – between you and the school, university/college or education provider. If a settlement cannot be reached, the Equality Ombudsman can take the case to court. If you are under 18 years of age, your parents or custodian must first give their approval for such a course.
Getting help from the Equality Ombudsman costs nothing.
Punishment is forbidden
Your school, university/college or education provider must not punish you for having reported discrimination. Nor may you be punished for having reported a university/college or school for failing to take active steps to prevent discrimination. If you are punished – subjected to reprisals – you can report this to the Equality Ombudsman.
The Equality Ombudsman is a government agency. This means that your complaint is registered and becomes a public document that both the general public and the media have access to. In special circumstances, the Equality Ombudsman is allowed to classify data as secret, which means the document is not released.
If you have questions concerning the filing of complaints and how this is done, please feel free to contact the Equality Ombudsman and to ask an investigating officer for advice. (See contact information on the right!)