Posted on December 14, 2023

French Schoolgirl, 12, Threatens to Kill Teacher With a Knife

David Averre and Elena Salvoni, Daily Mail, December 13, 2023

A 12-year-old schoolgirl threatened a teacher with a knife at a school in northern France on Wednesday, the latest in a growing number of incidents that have raised tensions in the French education system.

The schoolgirl is said to have challenged her teacher at the Hautes-Ournes high school in Rennes and brandished a blade in the middle of the classroom, judicial sources told French media.

Other staff members managed to restrain the girl before she was able to commit any violence, and promptly handed her over to gendarmes who were called urgently to the premises.

The motive behind the armed threat made by the student, who was born in 2011 in Marseilles, is currently unknown.

But Rennes prosecutor Philippe Astruc said the schoolgirl went to class ‘with the apparent intention of killing her English teacher’, adding local authorities had opened a criminal investigation into the incident.

The unsettling threat comes less than a week after a French court convicted six teenagers for their role in the 2020 beheading of Samuel Paty outside his secondary school near Paris, after they helped to identify him to a radicalised Islamist.

And it is not the only incident of tension between staff and students. Last week, a teacher at Jacques Cartier school in Issou, west of Paris, was said to be fearing for her life after a group of Muslim students threatened her and accused her of racism when she showed an Italian Renaissance painting to the class.

The students are said to have expressed outrage after the teacher showed the 17th century masterpiece – ‘Diana and Actaeon’ by the Italian painter Giuseppe Cesari – in an art class on Thursday.

The work portrays a Greek mythology story in which the hunter Actaeon bursts in at a site where the goddess Diana and her nymphs are bathing. It shows a naked Diana and four nude female companions, and is held at the Louvre museum in Paris.

Fellow staff members refused to work on Monday in solidarity with the teacher, as Minister Gabriel Attal visited the school and said that a disciplinary procedure would be launched ‘against the students who are responsible for this situation and who have also admitted the facts’.

The name of the female teacher and false claims that she had made racist remarks to Muslim students were subsequently circulated on social media, reports said, raising fears that she could be targeted by extremists.

Sophie Venetitay, secretary general of the Snes-FSU secondary school teachers’ union, told broadcaster BFMTV: ‘We know well that methods like that can lead to a tragedy… We saw it in the murder of Samuel Paty.

‘Our colleagues feel threatened and in danger.’

Paty, a 47-year-old history and geography teacher, was stabbed and beheaded in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine in October 2020, just 12 miles from Issou, after being tracked down by an Islamic extremist who saw his name online.

Paty had shown his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo during a discussion about free speech.

And in October, another radicalised Islamist stabbed his former teacher Dominique Bernard to death in the northern town of Arras.

In an email sent to parents on Friday, teachers in Issou said they were exercising their right to stay away from classrooms over the ‘particularly difficult situation’ at the high school.

They described ‘palpable discomfort’ and ‘an increase in cases of violence’ as their daily reality.

Teachers said the students had admitted to making things up in posts online but that it was too late to quell the anger.

‘We’re dealing with vindictive parents who prefer to believe their children than us,’ they said in a statement.

Teachers at the school said behaviour had been deteriorating even before the row, with students fighting and threatening rape.

‘We feel we are clearly in danger. We are supported by our direct superiors but not from higher up,’ one teacher told The Times. ‘This is a real call for help’.

Minister Attal said that a disciplinary procedure would be launched ‘against the students who are responsible for this situation and who have also admitted the facts’.

A team would also be deployed to the school to ensure it adhered to the ‘values of the republic’, he said.

The same school reportedly logged 10 incidents of discrimination or racism in the school term this year, according to French broadcaster BFMTV.

‘The climate within this college has been tense since the beginning of the year, in particular due to parents of students who systematically question the content of the courses and the punishments,’ a source said, noting that several complaints have been filed by teachers.