Stockholm school sends pupil home for wearing face mask

UPDATED: A mother has told The Local her 13-year-old son was banned from attending classes at an international school in the Stockholm region until he agreed to remove the mask he was wearing. She is now complaining to the local municipality.

Linus (right) and his mother Sarah Jefford outside BISS.
Linus (right) and his mother Sarah Jefford outside BISS. Photo: Sarah Jefford

Linus decided to wear a face mask when he returned to classes at the British International School Stockholm (BISS) in Danderyd, outside Stockholm, on Monday. The school teaches around 550 children aged 3-17, according to its website.

“I decided to wear a mask to school. The first lesson [goes] fine with it on. But then in the beginning of lesson two, the teacher asks me to take my mask off, and I of course say that I didn’t want to because of the coronavirus,” he wrote in an email, forwarded to The Local.

Linus said he was then made to wait isolated in a room for three hours before his mother, Sarah Jefford, a wine educator who grew up in Switzerland, was able to pick him up. 

“I was fuming,” she said. “I am deeply shocked by these measures and find it unacceptable. It should be a matter of choice. I don’t think one should be prevented from wearing a mask.”

Linus stayed at home between Monday and Wednesday before deciding, along with his parents, that the damage from missing school was worse than the risk of not wearing a mask, and returning to school without one on Thursday. 


Jefford said that the school had showed little understanding or flexibility, particularly as it had shifted children to distance learning for the two weeks leading up to the sportlov school break last week, following a coronavirus outbreak in which a number of staff were infected (24 staff members and nine cases among students in the older year groups, according to an email the school sent to parents, seen by The Local).

She said she had contacted the local Danderyd municipality to complain, but had not yet had a response. 

Carl Hudson, the school’s headmaster, explained in an emailed statement to The Local that although the school could not comment on individual cases, on the subject of masks, it followed the advice of the Stockholm region’s infectious diseases unit, Smittskydd Stockholm.

“In the current recommendations from Smittskydd Stockholm it is explicitly stated that they do not recommend masks in the classroom environment at the moment,” he said.

“As we interpret it, it is their assessment that, at the moment, the benefit of masks, which they recommend elsewhere, is not large enough to outweigh the downside of reduced learning and communication in the classroom.”

He confirmed the school had moved to remote learning two weeks before the break, the first week on the recommendation of Stockholm’s infectious diseases unit, “due to a larger than normal number of cases among our staff”, and the second week “due to the absence of staff recovering from Covid”. He added that pupils aged over 13 were still being taught online, “so we are not fully open for in-school learning”.

Stockholm’s regional coronavirus recommendations currently include using face masks on public transport at all times, as well as in situations where close contact can’t be avoided, for example in the workplace, hairdressing salons, pharmacies or the supermarket.

It does not however extend to schools. “At school it remains the case that face masks are only recommended in the specific situation where you, as an adult, cannot maintain distance for an extended period of time. In general, the use of face masks is not recommended in school environments,” the region said in a press statement as it called for masks to be used on public transport. 

Stockholm’s acting infectious disease doctor Maria Rotzén Östlund told The Local: “We don’t have any recommendations concerning wearing face masks in school. It’s a question for the Public Health Agency of Sweden.”

The Public Health Agency does not advise against face masks for children in its guidelines, but states: “Children do not need to wear face masks. It is difficult for children to handle and wear face masks the right way, and children are not the drivers [of infection] in this epidemic and do not spread infection in the same way as adults.”

(updated on Friday to add quote from Stockholm’s infectious disease doctor)

Member comments

  1. I am delighted to read this.
    Keep the irradical panic out of the classrooms!
    Let children be children and let not them be regarded as threats by anyone.
    We have this here in Germany and the consequences are awful for both learning and social behavior.

    1. 100% agree with you. Breathing in the bacteria and fungus from the mask and having reduced oxygen intake is damaging for children. Masks belong in the hands of doctors who know how to wear them without increasing bacteria and fungus.

      1. Do you have any credible medical evidence for those claims?

        Here, for example, is some advice from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital which debunks your claim about the buildup of bacteria and fungus.

        Here is an article from the BBC which references both an infectious disease expert and the WHO in debunking your claim that wearing a mask reduces oxygen intake.

        1. Dude, on your skin alone lives 1.5 trillion bacteria, just after wearing your mask 20 minutes its fully contaminated. Seeing people touching their masks, putting them in their pockets taking them out again on their mouth is extremely unhygienic. Especially in the hands of kids… And i dont need laundering procedures as I dont wear masks, I prefer breathing fresh air 🙂

      2. Please do a proper research first and comment after. What you are stating here is just not true. People in Asia wear masks every day, even at times when there is no covid-19 to be afraid of, and they are just fine. Not suffering brain damage because of less oxygen intake, and not getting sick of bacteria and fungus. Oh Jeez… 😮

        1. True, masks help so much that is why there are never any virus pandemics hailing from Asia… LOL. Oh jeez as if masks help against viral infections…you really ate the propaganda

          1. Yes, they do. I have been living in Beijing for 5 years, travelled around in surrounding countries a lot. I saw it, believe me.

  2. What a ridiculous response from an academic institution. And in this case (markus) the kid was looked at as a threat BECAUSE he was wearing an mask…if they are brave enough to go against the WHO ‘masks are a thing’ grain and instead decide to blindly follow the authorities’ fluffy ‘recommendations’, they should grant the same freedom to that kid.
    It’s revealing though how this culture is so insecure that it has to hammer home so hard that it’s best for everybody if nothing is questioned and nobody steps out of line.
    Insecure, incompetent, incoherent and irresponsible.

    1. I agree. Completely hypocritical. Individual choice on what clothing you put on your body and a mask is no exception. We don’t police children’s bodies.

      1. I have tried a petition in that school with some kids but the principle is too stubborn to change.

  3. Individualism in Sweden is apparently only for some. We teach our children “stopp min kropp” but I guess children’s bodies belong to the state. That means the over 300 seriously sick kids in the Stockholm area alone don’t have the right to decide over their own bodies and to protect their own health. That’s objectively sick.

    His feeling secure with a mask outweighs anyone else who doesn’t like looking at it. Tough.

  4. The poor boy and his mum didn’t feel safe. I don’t blame them! After what looks to have been quite a significant covid outbreak at the school -why wouldn’t he wear a mask if that made him feel better? So much for upholding individual rights! Masks are not recommended …does that mean they are prohibited???? Noone enjoys wearing a mask and they probably aren’t that good for you either. But if a child feels happier wearing one, during what we have all been told is a high risk week , where’s the harm in that?

  5. The Swedish mentality about masks is a truly a conundrum. In Sweden a child has the personal freedom to change his/her/their gender (albeit with parental consent) but is not allowed to wear a mask. Go figure!

    1. Agree. It’s astonishingly incoherent and nonsensical: after an outbreak, they request kids are tested for head lice before returning to class, but they do not require the same kids to test for Covid after they had cases in class.

  6. Nikki! I don’t know! The Dark conspiring forces of government propaganda might have removed it…or maybe it just got lost during update of the article :-)? Anyway: I find the aggressive confidence of anti-maskers a bit unsettling. If WHO is saying it’s a thing I think some home-cooked line of argument should be at least issued with some level of care. Ultimately this particular debate here ain’t about mask vs no-mask but about the surprisingly uneasy reaction of the authorities.
    Public bodies who are confident in their MO wouldn’t deprive a kid of her education nilly -Willy like this for wearing a bit of fabric in their face. In Russia: maybe. In Sweden? That’s…sad.

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