Controversial Danish boarding school reports 23 incidents to police

Elite Danish boarding school Herlufsholm, the subject of a recent explosive television documentary revealing a longstanding culture of bullying and violence, has since filed 23 reports with police.

Controversial Danish boarding school reports 23 incidents to police
Herlufsholm School, founded in 1565, is the subject of a recent documentary exposing violence among students. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Police in Denmark have been contacted 36 times about private boarding school Herlufsholm since a documentary by broadcaster TV2 earlier this month revealed a culture of bullying and abuse at the elite school.

Information relating to police reports was provided by the Ministry of Justice in response to a parliamentary question.

25 files have been opened as a result of the 36 reports, and 23 of the reports were placed by Herlufsholm itself.

“23 of the reports were made by Herlufsholm which, following the documentary, has reported death threats against itself,” the ministry’s parliamentary response reads.

It is unclear whether all of the 23 reports made by Herlufsholm relate to threats, news wire Ritzau writes having requested that information from the National Police.

The TV2 documentary described a culture of unmitigated bullying and violence, alongside allegations of sexual assault.

READ ALSO: Culture of bullying and violence revealed at elite Danish school

In a separate parliamentary response, the Justice Ministry detailed historical complaints made about the school to police over the last decade.

According to the ministry, the local police district received ten reports between January 2012 and May 17th 2022 relating to violence, rape or indecency alleged at the boarding school.

One charge has been pressed for violence, according to police information disclosed by the ministry in parliament. One conviction for rape has resulted from the earlier complaints. The conviction, reached in April this year against a 16-year-old boy, has been appealed.

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Danish municipalities introduce shorter school days and new subjects

Staff and local government leaders in seven municipalities given more freedom over their administration in a 2021 trial scheme have introduced a number of new measures at schools and elderly care facilities.

Danish municipalities introduce shorter school days and new subjects

The increased autonomy in the seven pilot scheme municipalities have resulted in unconventional approaches in areas such as school timetables and subjects taught at some schools.

The experiences of the seven municipalities are detailed in a report that covers the scheme as it reaches its half-way point. The report was produced by independent research centre Danish Center for Social Science Research (Vive).

“So far, we can see that the greater autonomy encourages new approaches,” Vive project manager Ulf Hjelmar said in a press statement.

“That is not least due to staff in elderly care and individual schools and childcare being part of the decision-making process for changes that promote a better welfare,” he said.

The participating municipalities, Helsingør, Rebild, Esbjerg, Holbæk, Langeland, Middelfart and Viborg, are geographically spread across Denmark.

They have been given greater decision-making freedom in a pilot scheme in which the municipal governments themselves are obliged to give greater freedom to leaders at schools and in elderly and childcare facilities.

Esbjerg and Holbæk have both introduced shorter school days, more lesson with two teachers in classrooms and introduction of new subjects into lessons.

While it is too early to make any definite conclusions about the benefits of this, early signs are promising according to the Vive report.

“It’s generally too early to assess the effects of the specific trial activities. Based on Vive’s baseline measurements however, we can identify potential for increased quality for students,” the institute writes.

The potential benefits are particularly noticeable “in relation to students in vulnerable positions and the wellbeing of students generally,” it writes.

Other municipalities have changed working structures in elderly care. For example, Viborg and Middelfart have both introduced ways of providing increased contact time with staff and elderly residents. Vive also considers this to have potential benefits for users.

A final evaluation of the programme by Vive is due in 2024.