Weekly Highlight: 12.08.2008


Bullies bring lawyers to school

Primary and secondary school administrators’ efforts to punish students for misbehaviour and truancy is often being met by parents defending their children with lawyers.
More and more parents are fighting schools’ crackdown on truants and bullies by retaining lawyers and threatening lawsuits against the institutions if their children are disciplined, according to Berlingske Tidende newspaper.
A survey taken by the newspaper’s research department found that one in 11 schools – 36 in all – has experienced the dilemma – a development that worries Bertel Haarder, the education minister.
‘It’s a well-known fact that not only the students have become more difficult but also the parents,’ said Haarder. ‘But I strongly discourage the practice of hiring a lawyer in these situations.’
As current ministry rules stand, students from grades 3 to 10 are allowed to be punished by school administrators with up to an hour’s detention, suspension for up to one week, transfer of a student to another class at the school, or relocation of the student to another school. Expulsion can only be used against 10th grade students.
Anders Balle, president of the schoolmasters’ union, understands that parents want to stick up for their children. But he said bringing lawyers into the fold creates a huge challenge for schools. He wants the Education Ministry to draft new regulations that would prevent parents from making school disciplinary cases into legal ones.
But Solveig Gaarsmand, head of the Parents’ Advisory Council, said the schools themselves are often to blame for what she believes is a ‘communication problem’.
‘Parents feel that they’re not being listened to by the schools,’ she said. ‘I believe it’s the schools that have to overcome the barrier – they’re the professionals and they have a duty to see that things function properly.’
Gaarsmand also pointed out that it is not just bullies’ parents who feel the need to retain lawyers but also the parents of children who are being harassed by other students.
‘Many parents feel like the losers in the battle if they have to move their child to another school,’ she said. ‘But there shouldn’t be any battle, and there are limits as to what a child should have to go through.’
‘So in many cases it’s better for the parents to simply move the student to another school.’ (rc)


Traffic Safety Expert Wants Lower BAC for New Drivers
Published 10.08.2008, 17.44

The Central Organisation for Traffic Safety, Liikenneturva, wants to lower the blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for young motorists and professional drivers.
The organisation’s director, Matti Järvinen, told the Centre Party’s online paper Apila that he is especially worried about the penchant for young drivers to drive drunk and cause accidents. For the first two years after getting a license, he says, the limit should be lowered from the current 0.05 percent to 0.02 percent BAC.
“The first two years are still a practice phase, and it makes sense to have a lower permille limit during this time,” says Järvinen.
As for repeat drunk drivers, Järvinen feels that social and health workers should be given the tools to get involved and break the habit early. He says this requires better co-operation with police.


Little backing for Amsterdam’s English plan
Monday 11 August 2008

A majority of Amsterdam city councillors are not in favour of making English an official second language, the Parool reported at the weekend.
Last week D66 councillor Jan Paternotte suggested that by becoming bilingual, Amsterdam would become a real ‘world city’ and be more attractive for both tourists and industry.
‘The city is already English enough,’ says Labour councillor Daniël Roos. ‘It would be too much hassle.’
And Socialist councillor Carlien Boelhouwer tells the paper that the suggestion is ‘ridiculous’. ‘Why not go for Moroccan or Turkish?’ she asks, adding that ‘expats could learn a little Dutch as well.’
But Liberal councillor Huub Verweij sees merit in the plan. ‘And then we should adopt the American attitude to service, German discipline, the beauty of northern Scandinavia and a real Liberal government for the city,’ he says on his weblog.


Children safer than ever
First published: 11 Aug 2008, 16:04

The chances of a boy dying of an accident today, is one tenth of what it was 50 years ago.
At the beginning of the 1950’s, more than 55 boys in 100.000, between the ages of one and three, died in accidents. The figure has now come down to six per 100.000 for the same age group. The trend is the same for girls and also applies to toddlers and bigger children, according to Statistics Norway (SSB).
“Even though these results are very good, they may also show that children today live lives where critics may say that they are overprotected,” says SSB sociologist Dag Ellingsen.
Ellingsen notes that life as a child was most dangerous during the 1950’s and 1960’s, when mothers were often at home with their children. He thinks the reason for this was that they would send their children out to play on their own and that the accident figures indicate how children spend their time.
Today, most children under ten, spend most of their time under adult supervision and a lot of play takes place in front of computer screens.
The differences between accident rates for boys and girls are disappearing. Only when children grow into teenagers do differences become visible again.
The causes of death have also changed. In the 1950’s most died by drowning. Towards the end of the 1960’s more died in traffic accidents, whereas the 19 deaths, effecting ten year-olds and younger, in 2005, were evenly divided between drowning, asphyxiation and transport-related accidents.


Swedish pharmacies’ sex toys ‘discriminate against men’
Published: 11 Aug 08 10:06 CET

Swedish state-run pharmacy Apoteket has been reported to the Swedish Equal Opportunities Ombudsman agency JämO for only selling sex toys suitable for women, thus apparently discriminating against men.
As of June this year Swedes have been able to buy sex toys from their local pharmacy, but now the state-run pharmacy chain has been reported by two men who apparently feel insulted and excluded by the wide selection of clitoris vibrators, vagina balls and dildos that are marketed mainly to women.
One of the men complaining wrote that he thought the pharmacy’s selection clearly showed that the pharmacy chain “had a misguided and untrue view on sexuality where a woman with a dildo is seen as liberated, strong and independent, whereas a man with a blow up plastic vagina is viewed as disgusting and perverted.”
Eva Fernvall is head of products at the state-run pharmacy chain and told Expressen newspaper that they had no such thoughts whatsoever.
“As I understand it, there are no products of good quality for men on the market. Should there be such products specifically for men, then there is nothing stopping us from selling them”, she said.
The Equal Opportunities Ombudsman agency JämO has already decided that one of the reports filed has no grounds, and doesn’t discriminate against men.
“Apoteket’s goods are made available to men and women, and therefore Apoteket does not break the law regarding sex discrimination”, JämO writes in its decision.

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