Denmark, like most of Scandinavia, likes to see itself as a good and equal society, with a nonhierarchical construction, excessive ranges of happiness and reliable establishments devoted to everybody’s well-being.
However one of many nation’s most well-known boarding faculties, lengthy attended by the kids of the elite and members of the royal household, has not too long ago change into embroiled in a scorching scandal, in jarring distinction to Denmark’s trademark values.
A number of accusations of intercourse abuse and bullying have overrun the purple brick lecture rooms and austere dormitories of the boarding college, Herlufsholm, revealing brutal pecking orders and unsanctioned violence amongst college students.
“We’re deeply shaken by the stories,” Crown Prince Frederik and his spouse, Princess Mary, who pulled their son from the college in June, mentioned in a press release. “Bullying, violence and indignities are by no means acceptable.”
The scandal, which led to a number of resignations and drew widespread outrage, was fueled by a tv documentary aired in Could on Denmark’s TV2 that reported disturbing episodes, together with an assault on a boy who was digitally penetrated by schoolmates, and older college students’ merciless domination over youthful ones.
The scholars interviewed mentioned that such episodes had been “regular” and known as the tradition on the college “harmful, unique and oppressive of the youthful college students.”
The stories of abuse, which Denmark’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, known as “unforgivable,” drew swift motion. Two days after the documentary aired, the college’s principal was fired.
Specialists mentioned the revelations confirmed that inside the partitions of Europe’s elite boarding faculties, issues look a lot the identical throughout nations, with social privilege outweighing any perceived cultural norms.
“The individuals who can afford this are a smaller group of fairly rich Danish individuals,” mentioned Peter Allerup, a professor emeritus at Denmark’s Institute for Pedagogy and Schooling.
“In these circles,” he mentioned, “they don’t have the warmest emotions for nonhierarchical buildings.”
Shortly after the abuses had been revealed, the Danish Board of Schooling launched a damning preliminary report concerning the college, the results of an inspection it had began final yr upon studying that reporters had been wanting into the case. Calling the abuses it discovered “fully unacceptable,” the board urged the college to repay funds it had obtained from the state, and mentioned it will make a last resolution on requiring that compensation after the college submitted its response.
Herlufsholm was based in 1565 in a former monastery about 50 miles south of Copenhagen by Herluf Trolle, a Danish admiral, and his spouse, Birgitte Goye, alongside the ideas of Christian humanism. The college was meant to welcome 40 college students, serving “not solely the the Aristocracy, but in addition kids with capacity and want for studying and schooling,” in response to the college’s web site. The phrases of Ms. Goye — “Worry God, do proper and don’t depend on individuals” — nonetheless embellish the coat of arms on the college’s facade, the web site notes.
At this time, the college has greater than 500 college students, together with boarders and day college students who pay about $6,000 to about $20,000 a yr — an exception in a rustic the place schooling is basically free. Herlufsholm is known for its ties to the royal household, tutorial high quality, straw hats and quirky traditions.
After the Board of Schooling’s report was printed, the college’s total board resigned, and the crown prince and princess eliminated their son, Prince Christian, from the college and mentioned that their daughter, Princess Isabella, wouldn’t enroll there this fall.
“We as a household are burdened by the unlucky state of affairs at Herlufsholm,” the couple mentioned in a press release. The crown princess has a basis centered on countering bullying and selling well-being among the many younger.
“We count on that the college will do what it should do to rectify the unacceptable circumstances,” the couple wrote.
The college has come below scrutiny earlier than. Experiences of bullying have emerged prior to now, and there have been two separate accusations of rape by a male scholar of a feminine scholar, one in 2006 and one in 2016. Within the earlier case, the boy who was accused was discovered not responsible, and within the different, the police dropped the costs.
The TV2 documentary’s claims had been supported by new proof, which oldsters submitted to the Board of Schooling in January, that included movies of youthful college students being compelled to drink older college students’ urine, a scholar being choked after which dragged down onto the toilet flooring, and one other having his underpants pulled up forcefully.
Shortly earlier than the documentary aired, one other boy on the college was convicted of raping a male scholar. He has appealed the decision.
Patterns of predatory conduct have emerged at a number of boarding faculties all over the world and particularly at elite faculties in Britain. Psychologists have studied how in these cloistered environments, away from their households, kids might have a tendency to hide their feelings, faux to be adults and set up domination over weaker college students.
Such conduct stands in stark distinction with a Danish worth system that prizes a flat society with out inflexible social rankings. Danish residents have the very best “willingness to delegate authority to subordinates” of 137 nations, in response to the World Financial institution, and Mr. Allerup mentioned that in latest a long time, Danish faculties had carried out modifications to make faculties extra horizontal, chopping the distances amongst college students and employees.
“In Denmark, there’s a tendency to eliminate hierarchies,” Mr. Allerup mentioned. “You shouldn’t present an excessive amount of that you’re greater than everyone else.”
Within the case of Herlufsholm, nonetheless, he mentioned that folks might need been keen to simply accept some skirting of these values to make sure profitable futures for his or her kids.
“They shut their eyes so long as their son can come out of Herlufsholm,” he mentioned.
The college has apologized to the victims and enacted a number of measures to attempt to enhance college students’ experiences. Earlier than his resignation, the board’s chairman, Torben Lowzow, mentioned that the prefect system could be abolished and that traditions reminiscent of one through which graduating college students have to guard a small island from youthful college students, wrestling and combating them, could be prohibited.
He additionally mentioned that college students could be given non-public rooms and that the college was trying to substitute the dormitories the place among the abuse happened.
In response to questions concerning the scandal, the college mentioned in an e mail, “We deeply remorse that this has taken place at Herlufsholm,” including, “We would like each scholar to really feel and be secure.”