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France plans mobile school force after headteacher resigns over death threats

France is setting up a mobile security force for schools “experiencing difficulties”, days after the headteacher of a Paris school resigned because of death threats. The head was falsely accused of striking a student in a row over her wearing an Islamic headscarf in school.

Education Minister Nicole Belloubet said the mobile force was intended to reassure teachers and boost security. Tensions in French schools are high since the killing of two teachers.

Samuel Paty was decapitated on the street in a Paris suburb in 2020 and Dominique Bernard was killed at his school in Arras five months ago. Former students who had been radicalised were involved in both killings.

“Teachers are not alone and we are all forming a shield around them, around our schools,” Ms Belloubet told reporters during a visit on Friday to a secondary school in Bordeaux.

The education ministry said the “mobile school force” would be composed of about 20 education officers who could be deployed within 48 hours from the start of the next school year, wherever local authorities needed additional support.

The team’s mission would be to provide security in a school in “acute crisis”, with the aim of providing internal security, reassurance and education skills.

In late February, the headteacher of the Maurice Ravel Lycée in Paris insisted his student remove her Islamic head-covering, in accordance with French law.

The student claimed the headteacher had struck her during a heated exchange, but police found no evidence to support her claims.

However, after numerous death threats posted on social media, the headteacher announced his resignation this week, saying it was “out of concern for my own safety and that of the school”.

Police have been patrolling around the school, and two people were detained in connection with the death threats. Police say they are not linked to the school.

Politicians on both the left and right have expressed outrage over the headteacher’s situation and Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced on Thursday the student would be sued by the state for making the false accusation.

MPs and local officials took part in a rally outside the school on Friday morning in support of the headteacher and to demand that secular rules remain enforced in French schools.

Ms Belloubet has suspended France’s ENT digital messaging system, used by teachers and students, because of a proliferation of threats.

Education officials have reported more than 320 threats made across France since the middle of last week, which the minister blamed on students’ personal accounts being hacked. In Paris alone about 50 schools had received bomb threats through the messaging system.

The ENT system enables students to access various educational resources online and Ms Belloubet said she hoped it would be up and running again next month after the spring break. Several arrests have been made in connection with the online threats, including a 17-year-old and a man aged 21.

Source: BBC

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