Category Archives: Language Education (Aspect)

Lars Wollebekk taken to court by Danish parents

Lars Wollebekk is the owner of Language Education (Aspect), Denmark and Speak High School, Denmark. In Denmark and Finland exchange student travels are equated with package tours. After all is said and done, that is exactly what these trips are. The exchange organizations arrange the flight, housing (host-parents), a guide (local representative) and activities (school and travels). The Danish newspaper, BT, wrote a great piece covering the process the exchange student family has gone through: from signing the contract until the judgement was passed in Østre Landsrets.

“Det var den 13. november 2013. Kristian var blevet sendt hjem fra et udvekslingsophold i USA mere end et halvt år før tid efter kun to måneders ophold……

»Han blev meget nedtrykt og lukkede sig meget inde i sig selv. Han følte, han havde svigtet, men også at der ikke var blevet lyttet til ham. Det tog ham over to år at komme nogenlunde på fode igen,« siger Jesper Hjorth til BT.

Men allerede kort efter, at sønnen kom hjem i utide, begyndte Jesper Hjorth at undre sig. Hvorfor fik de som forældre ikke noget at vide om problemerne, før sagen allerede var eskaleret? Og hvorfor blev Kristian sendt hjem af udvekslingsbureauet Language Education Danmark uden at have fået de foregående advarsler som deres regler ellers foreskrev?

Jesper Hjorth var også uforstående overfor, at Kristian endte hos en mormonfamilie i Utah, selvom forældrene flere gange gennem hele forløbet havde krævet, at sønnen netop ikke fik en værtsfamilie med den trosretning.

Splittede familien

Nu har Jesper Hjorth efter en lang og opslidende kamp gennem mere end tre et halvt år fået Østre Landsrets ord for, at udvekslingsbureauet Language Education Danmark forbrød sig mod deres egne regler og procedure, da de sendte Kristian hjem. Dels havde han ikke modtaget nok advarsler, før bureauet skred til hjemsendelse, og dels fandt retten ikke beviser for, at det ifølge loven i Utah er ulovligt at se pornografi…….

Pakkerejse-ankenævnet dømte til familien Hjorths fordel, men ankesagen ved Retten i Lyngby vandt Language Education Danmark, før Østre Landsret i april slog fast, at bureauet havde forbrudt sig mod deres egne regler i forbindelse med hjemsendelsen…..

‘Blev udsat for psykisk pres’

Under retssagen kom det frem, hvad der skete i Utah i tiden op til at Kristian pludselig fik en returbillet til Danmark. Og det er oplysninger, som chokerede Jesper Hjorth dybt.

Efter at Kristian var blevet taget i at kigge på Side 9-piger på sin egen computer hjemme hos værtsfamilien i Stansbury, Utah, hev koordinatoren fra Education Danmarks amerikanske samarbejdspartner Aspect High School pludselig fat i ham.

BT er i besiddelse af en udskrift af den omkring 30 minutter lange samtale, hvor Kristian blandt andet blev spurgt ind til sin barndom, mentale tilstand og om han havde et pornografi-problem. Kristians svar fik koordinatoren til at konkludere, at den 17-årige danske dreng burde tage til lægen, så han kunne henstilles til en psykiater.

Som sagt så gjort. På Kristians 18 års fødselsdag tog værtsfamilien ham med til lægen. I retten bevidnede Kristians amerikanske værtsmor, at det var Language Education Danmarks partner i USA, Aspect, som bad hende tage det skridt.

»Det fortæller noget om det psykiske pres, junior har været udsat for derovre,« siger Jesper Hjorth.

Han og Kristians mor hørte først om samtalen med Aspects koordinator og lægekonsultationen, da sagen kom for Pakkerejse-ankenævnet i efteråret 2014, selvom Language Education Danmark var blevet informeret, allerede mens det stod på.

Lægen i Utah konstaterede, at Kristian var lidt bedrøvet på grund af tilvænningen til livet så langt væk hjemmefra, men at han ellers var en ganske normal teenager. For en sikkerheds skyld henstillede lægen dog Kristian til en psykiater, fremgår det af lægeerklæringen, som BT er i besiddelse af. Muligheden for medicinering mod depression blev endda diskuteret.

»Jeg er meget chokeret over, at det her overhovedet kunne ske uden vores samtykke – og at vi ikke engang fik noget at vide om det,« siger Jesper Hjorth.

Men Kristian nåede aldrig at tale med en amerikansk psykiater. For en uge senere blev han uden yderligere varsel sendt hjem til Danmark.

Mentale problemer som undskyldning for hjemsendelser?

I Education Danmarks regelsæt står der, at det er hjemsendelsesgrund, hvis ’den studerendes fysiske eller mentale helbred er i fare.’ Jesper Hjorth sidder med en fornemmelse af, at netop den formulering var årsagen til, at Aspect pressede på for at få Kristian til lægen.

»Jeg tror, de bruger det som undskyldning til at få unge sendt hjem, hvis der opstår problemer,« siger Jesper Hjorth.

Han påpeger, at en norsk pige, som døjede med hovedpine efter at have pådraget sig hjernerystelse i en motorcykelulykke, pludselig fik konstateret depression af en læge, som Language Education Danmarks samarbejdspartner Aspect havde sendt hende til. Kort efter blev hun sendt hjem på baggrund af bekymring for hendes mentale tilstand.

BT har forelagt Jesper Hjorts kritik for Language Education Danmarks direktør Lars Wollebekk, men han ønsker ikke at kommentere den. Men i retten lod han forstå, at det ikke er ’sædvanligt, at en student hjemsendes på grund af mentale problemer, men hvis sådanne problemer opstår, må man reagere på det.’

Det fremgår af Østre Landsrets dombog fra retssagen.

Pas på bureauernes fælder

Ovenpå sine og Kristians oplevelser med Language Education Danmark har Jesper Hjorth en klar opfordring til de mange danske forældre, som overvejer et udvekslingsophold til deres børn:

»Jeg vil ikke anbefale andre at sende deres børn på udvekslingsophold.«

Jesper Hjorth savner kontrol med bureauerne fra myndighedernes side og mener også, at forældrene burde have mere indflydelse på, hvilken værtsfamilie deres barn havner hos…..

Language Education Danmark blev af Østre Landsret dømt til at tilbagebetale Jesper Hjorth 40.000 kroner, svarende til prisen for den del af Kristians udvekslingsophold, som sønnen på grund af hjemsendelsen gik glip af. Men på grund af nogle tidligere udtalelser til medierne om Language Education Danmark i sagen blev Jesper Hjorth sideløbende dømt til at betale Language Education Danmark 20.000 kroner i injurier. Derfor ender den samlede tilbagebetaling til Jesper Hjorth på 20.000 kroner.

Derudover skal udvekslingsbureauet betale Jesper Hjorths sagsomkostninger på 25.000 kroner. Ifølge Jesper Hjorth dækker det dog på ingen måde de advokatudgifter, han har haft i løbet af de tre et halvt år, sagen har kørt.

»Jeg undrer mig over, at jeg efter at have fået rettens ord for, at hjemsendelsen var i strid med reglerne, skal stå tilbage med et underskud på næsten 100.000 kroner på at have kørt sagen,« siger Jesper Hjorth…..”

The entire article is found BT’s website.


Translation to English:

Something was the matter. Jesper Hjorth could see it right away when he saw his 18-year-old son Kristian for the first time in three months. Kristian had been looking forward to living one of his dreams. Instead, it became a terrible – and several years long – nightmare, both for him and the rest of the family.

It was November 13, 2013. Kristian was sent home from an exchange stay in the United States after only two months stay, more than half a year before time. He was embarrased, depressed and the feeling of having failed shone from the young man.

During the exchange in a Mormon family in the state of Utah, Jesper Hjorth’s son had watched Page 9 girls, although the rules stated he could not watch pornography. Therefore he was sent back to Denmark in disgrace. Even the parents were disappointed with Kristian’s behavior.

“He was very depressed and became introverted. He felt he had failed but also that he had not been listened to. It took him two years to recover, “says Jesper Hjorth to BT.

After his son had been home for a while, Jesper Hjorth started to wonder. Why did they, as parents, not know anything about the issues before the case escalated? And why was Kristian sent home by the exchange agency Language Education Denmark without getting the prerequisite warnings?

Nor did Jesper Hjorth understand why Kristian was placed with a Mormon family in Utah, in spite of the parents having repeatedly stated that their son was not to be placed with a  family of that faith.

Now, after a long and difficult struggle, and more than three and a half years, Jesper Hjorth has finally received judgement from Østre Landsret that Language Education Denmark  broke  their own rules and procedures when they sent Kristian home. First of all, he had not received enough warnings before repatriation, and secondly, the court found no evidence that watching pornography in Utah is illegal.

“This matter has split our family apart. I’ve felt really, really bad for a long time, and spent several years getting justice for my son. It has affected my family a great deal, “says Jesper Hjorth, after the Østre Landsret settled the case and sentenced Language Education Denmark to repay the family 20,000 kroner.

Pakkerejse-ankenævnet had previously passed sentence in favour of the Hjorth family, but the appeal case by the Court in Lyngby favoured Language Education Denmark, and then finally Østre Landsret found in April that the agency had violated their own rules in connection with the return.

“We were incredibly happy that judgement had finally fallen. Junior is happy that he now has the word of the court that the return was not his fault. This was the end of a three and a half years nightmare for our entire family and of course our son, “continues Jesper Hjorth.

BT has been trying to get a comment from Language Education Denmark’s director Lars Wollebekk, but he has not wanted to comment. In an email, the exchange organizantion’s attorney, Thomas Donatzky, says that Language Education Denmark is “happy with the verdict, and that it has been noted and followed”. He notes that the bureau lost the case because they could not prove that Kristian had received enough warnings before repatriation – not because Language Education Denmark was not entitled to repatriate Kristian on the basis of breach of the rules.

‘Was exposed to mental pressure’

The trial revealed what happened in Utah previous to Kristian suddenly getting a return ticket to Denmark. This is information that shocked Jesper Hjorth deeply.

After Kristian had been caught looking at page 9 girls on his own computer at home with the host family in Stansbury, Utah, the coordinator of Education Denmark’s American partner Aspect High School suddenly took charge of him.

BT is in possession of a printout of an approximately 30-minute interview, where Kristian, among other things, was asked about his childhood, mental state and if he had a pornography problem. Kristian’s answers led the coordinator to conclude that the 17-year-old Danish boy should go to a doctor so he could be referred to a psychiatrist.

As said so done. On Kristians 18th birthday, the host family took him to the doctor. In court, Khristian’s US host mother stated that it was Language Education Denmark’s partner in the United States, Aspect, who asked her to go to that step.

“This says something about the psychological pressure that the junior has been exposed to over there,” says Jesper Hjorth.

He and Kristian’s mother first heard about the conversations with Aspect’s coordinator and the doctor’s consultation when the case came up at the Pakkerejse-ankenævnet in the autumn 2014, even though Language Education Denmark had been informed at the time this was going on.

The doctor in Utah found that Kristian was a little sad because of the cultural adjustments so far away from home, but that he was otherwise a normal teenager. Just in case, the doctor referred Kristian to a psychiatrist according to the medical certificate that BT possesses. The possibility of medication against depression was even discussed.

“I am deeply shocked that this could happen at all without our consent – and that we did not even know anything about it,” says Jesper Hjorth.

But Kristian never got to speak with an American psychiatrist. Without further notice, he was sent home to Denmark a week later.

Mental problems as an excuse for repatriation?

Education Denmark’s rules state that the student’s physical or mental health is at risk is one reason for repatriation. ‘Jesper Hjorth feels this wording was the reason Aspect pushed for a doctor’s appointment for Kristian. “I think they use it as an excuse to repatriate young people if problems arise,” says Jesper Hjorth.

He points out the Norwegian girl who suffered from a headache as a result of a concussion from a motorcycle accident, out of the blue was diagnosed with depression by a doctor that Language Education Denmark’s partner Aspect sent her to. Shortly after, she was sent home on the grounds of concern for her mental condition.

BT has submitted Jesper Hjort’s criticism to Language Education Denmark’s director Lars Wollebekk, but he does not want to comment on them. But in court, he said that it is unusual for a student to be repatriated due to mental problems, but if such problems arise, one has to react. ‘

As shown in Østre Landsret’s judgement journal from the trial.

Watch out for the traps of the agencies

Due to his and Kristian’s experiences with Language Education Denmark, Jesper Hjorth has this advice for the many Danish parents who are considering an exchange stay for their child:

“I do not recommend that others send their children on an exchange.”

Jesper Hjorth wants more control of the agencies by the authorities and also believes that the parents should have a greater influence on the host family to which their children are sent.

“The agreement you sign is the agency’s agreement. It is formulated by the agency. I recommend that parents request a parallel agreement in which the agency is legally required to inform in writing about any problems during the stay as soon as they arise and how they will be handled. This allows parents to take action immediately if problems arise, “says Jesper Hjorth, adding:

“After all, you can’t expect the young person to contact mom and dad if there are problems.”

Language Education Denmark was sentenced by Østre Landsret to repay Jesper Hjorth NOK 40,000, corresponding to the price of the part of Kristian’s exchange stay that his son missed because of repatriation. However, due to previous statements to the media about Language Education Denmark about the case, Jesper Hjorth was sentenced to pay Language Education Denmark $ 20,000 in damages. Therefore, the total repayment to Jesper Hjorth is DKR 20,000.

In addition, the exchange agency must pay Jesper Hjorth’s legal costs of 25,000 kroner. According to Jesper Hjorth, however, this does not begin to cover actual legal expenses he has incurred during the three and a half years the case has been going on.

“I find it strange that after receiving the court’s judgement that the return was in violation of the rules, I am left with a loss of almost 100,000 kroner due to keeping the case going,” says Jesper Hjorth.

The editor is informed about Jesper Hjorth’s son’s real name.

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