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Headteachers of private school resign

The Sonnenberg Institute in canton St Gallen is at the heart of a physical abuse scandal Keystone

Two headteachers in charge of the "Sonnenberg" private school in canton St Gallen, which is under investigation over allegations of physical abuse, have resigned. The school, which has been closed, admitted that a series of incidents took place.

The newly appointed headteacher, Hans-Peter Koller, announced on Saturday that the former heads Bruno Wistawel and Louis Hüppi regretted what happened at the school in Vilters.

Koller added that their resignation was necessary to obtain permission from the education authorities to re-open the school.

The education department of canton St Gallen decided on Friday that the school would not re-open after the summer holidays while an investigation was carried out.

A school teacher at the private school in canton St Gallen was suspended on Friday, after admitting to a series of incidents in which he struck pupils.

A spokesman for the school in Vilters confirmed a report in the newspaper “St Galler Tagblatt” in which a teacher had given a pupil a bloody nose by striking him. The teacher was suspended after the incident and agreed to take councelling.

Several pupils have alleged that before and during the summer holidays they were regularly hit by teachers and members of the school board.

Corporal punishment has become a regular occurrence at private primary and secondary schools, according to the cantonal education department.

Proceedings to withdraw the institute’s licence have begun, but a final decision will be made at a later date, said the authorities.

The institute, which has 70 pupils between 10 and 17, is mainly a boarding school. Fees are around SFr 22,400 ($14,000) per year.

It is not the first time a Swiss private school has made negative headlines in recent times. A high-class boarding school in Villars was embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal.

Other cases included a school in canton Graubünden at which a music teacher sexually assaulted a 12-year-old.

swissinfo with agencies

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