Two groups of eighth grade students, one from Malmö in Sweden and one from Odense, had been planning to meet in Sweden next month, but the Danish parents involved have put the kibosh on the meeting.
The eighth graders from Malmö’s Östra school had been in touch with their counterparts at the Hjallese school in Odense ever since the two classes connected over Facebook last summer. According to Sweden’s Sydsvenskan newspaper, it was the Danish school that had started the hands-across-the-Øresund initiative.
The Malmö students invited the youngs Danes to come to Sweden for a three-day visit that would include overnight stays with families in Malmö and participation in the Östra school's annual celebration of the Saint Lucia holiday on December 13th.
But the visit was scrapped at the last minute after parents of the students in Denmark expressed their concerns about the safety of Sweden's third-largest city.
"They were very worried about sending their kids there," Keld Gantzhorn, the vice principal of the Hjallse school, told Sydsvenska.
Gantzhorn said that the school tried in vain to address the concerns of the Odense parents.
“We held a meeting with the parents, but they were still concerned, particularly about an area called Rosengård,” he said.
Rosengård is a neighbour next to the centre of Malmö that is predominately made up of immigrants. It has been the scene of shootings and violence over the years, including violent clashes between local youth and authorities.
Gantzhorn said that the school had no choice but to cancel the trip.
“It was a large majority of the parents, and the school administration cannot support a trip if the parents do not feel safe,” he said.
Swedish students disappointed by stereotypes
Malmö students also expressed their disappointment by changing the title of a blog about their relationship with the Danish school to "From Malmö to Odense: The meeting that never took place" (Från Malmö till Odense – mötet som aldrig blev av).
"In December 2013, 16 students from the Hjallese school in Odense in Denmark were to come to Östra school in Malmö. We were really looking forward to it. Unfortunately these plans were stopped by the Danish parents' prejudices about Malmö," the site reads.
Some students used the blog to vent their anger.
“From the statistics that I found on the internet, it is more dangerous to go out at night in Odense than it is in Malmö,” wrote one.
Another took a swipe at stereotypes about Danes.
“So, all Danes are lousy at English, aggressive and are drunk in the bar all weekend? Is that the truth, or just what we hear here in Malmö?”
Karolina Linse, the teacher of the Swedish students, expressed disappointment that the trip was cancelled.
“I was pretty angry at first, and then sad that we have not come further and that there is still so much prejudice,” Linse told Sydsvenskan.