Teacher killed in front of class
Published 04/07/2014 | 12:17
The mother of a pupil at a French school stabbed a teacher to death in front of her class.
The education minister said the mother had "serious psychiatric problems", and pledged support for teachers in the face of angry or violent parents. The mother was taken into custody.
Deadly attacks in a school are extremely rare in France, and the stabbing in front of a class of five and six-year-olds raised concern at the highest levels. French president Francois Hollande expressed outrage at the attack at the Edouard Herriot school in Albi in southern France.
Education minister Benoit Hamon travelled to the school, and told reporters that the mother of a pupil "committed this abominable act in a class against a remarkable teacher". A police official said the mother stabbed the teacher with a knife soon after school started on Friday.
Hamon said the attacker's child had been in the school only for a month and a half, and the mother had had very little contact with school staff. It was unclear whether her five-year-old daughter was in class at the time of the attack.
Police and city officials would not comment on possible reasons for the attack on Fabienne Terral-Calmes, 34. The teacher had two small daughters, Hamon said.
"The children were immediately taken in by another teacher who brought them to another classroom to talk to them, to tell them stories, to try to break them away from what they had just lived through," Hamon said.
Marie-Odile Gay, a member of the regional health and safety committee for the Education Ministry, said the mother thought the teacher had called her daughter a thief, and that misperception might have played a role in the attack.
Gay said that the mother, 47, had received psychiatric counselling in the past, and had been accused by police earlier this year of abandoning her 15-year-old son.
Gay said the five-year-old daughter had not had any difficulties in school, and had been transferred to the care of social services.
"This is something that will stay with her forever," Gay said. "It's very important to ensure that she is cared for."
Some teachers complained that staff cuts have left teachers more vulnerable, and urged better attention to the tensions they face with some parents.
But fellow teacher Robert Couffignal of the regional teachers union insisted that the attack was an "isolated case" that had nothing to do with this particular school, and warned against going overboard with security measures as a result.
"Metal detectors at schools are not the answer," he said. "We want to have close contact with the parents that creates a link of trust."
He said the larger problem for schools in his region and around France is tension over economic decline and lack of job prospects for young people, especially those from poor or immigrant backgrounds.
The education minister lamented the especially painful timing of the attack.
"This July 4, the moment when we should be happy for all children that school is over, that vacations are beginning, that teachers successfully completed the school year, has been turned into a day of mourning ... by this abominable crime," Hamon said.