Old story of temporary ban on Swedish flag shared as recent

By: Emmi Kivi
September 13 2023

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Old story of temporary ban on Swedish flag shared as recent


The Verdict Misleading

A Swedish story from 2014 of a short-lived prohibition of the Swedish flag at a school is circulating as new.

Claim ID 4e30153b

What is the claim?

A viral TikTok post claims that an elementary school in Sweden banned the Swedish flag. The post includes an image that displays a school hallway with a large red ban sign covering the Swedish flag. The TikTok post has drawn in 12,900 likes during its first day. 

The image caption cites the Söndrumsskolan school in Halmstad, Sweden. While it is true that this school did provisionally ban the Swedish flag, it happened in 2014. Neither was the ban all-encompassing or permanent: use of the flag was allowed on national flag days and during international events. Moreover, the school retracted the ban after a few days. 

What we found

In 2014, a student at the Söndrumsskolan school wanted to wear a uniform bearing a Swedish flag and carry a toy weapon while playing nationalist music in the background. 

In response, the school principal, Hans Åkerlund, messaged a ban on using the Swedish flag except for national flag days and during international exchanges. The concern was that the student’s costume might be offensive or disrespectful to some, or it could be considered incitement against an ethnic group. 

After a myriad of public attention and heavy criticism, the school backed away from the statement, and the ban was revoked. The principal later commented on the event to Hallandsposten newspaper, “Of course, students are allowed to wear clothes with national flags or sports jerseys for national teams. We should be careful to use national flags in a way that honors both the event celebrated and the flag used.” It was the context, not the use of the Swedish flag, which had led to the provisional ban in the first place.

In 2015, the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman received a complaint on the event. In its 2017 decision, the Ombudsman asserted that the ban on the Swedish flag, as is the case with other symbols, can only be justified on grounds of public order. Otherwise, the ban would breach freedom of expression. Correspondingly, the Ombudsman declared that in the Söndrumsskolan case, the prohibition of using the Swedish flag was “an impermissible restriction of the student’s freedom of expression.”

At the time, the occurrence was falsely interpreted to mean that the school had banned the Swedish flag, especially by the far-right media. The old news story has re-circulated amid the ongoing debates on the limits of freedom of speech in Sweden. 

The Verdict

The Söndrumsskolan school did impose a ban on the Swedish flag; it was neither all-encompassing nor permanent: use of the flag was allowed on national flag days and during international exchanges. Moreover, the event occurred in 2014, while the post suggests it is recent and ongoing. The ban was also retracted a few days later. Therefore, we marked the claim as misleading.

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English , Svenska

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