Calls for tighter school security after French teacher killed by pupil's mother
Distressed children and parents left flowers, drawings and messages on Saturday at a primary school where a popular teacher was stabbed to death in front of a class of terrified five and six-year-olds.
A day after the killing that shocked France and prompted calls for tighter security at schools, psychologists counselled families at the Edouard Herriot school, in the south-western town of Albi.
“Goodbye to a great teacher,” read one child’s tribute to Fabienne Terral-Calmes, 34, who was attacked with a kitchen knife by the mother of a pupil. The assailant, an unemployed and "mentally disturbed" single mother named only as Rachida, 47, is being held at a psychiatric hospital, Claude Derens, the local prosecutor, said.
He said that she had previously been placed in a psychiatric institution for neglecting her six-year-old daughter, but was released four months ago. If she is judged mentally unfit to stand trial, she will continue to be detained in hospital.
She was reported to be suffering from delusions of persecution that may have caused her believe that Mrs Terral-Calmes, herself the mother of two young girls attending the school, was picking on her daughter.
Several children told reporters that, during the attack, she complained that her daughter was being mistreated and said: "I am not a thief."
A six-year-old girl who witnessed the killing said she and her classmates had drawn pictures of the attack. She said they had been told “to throw away the pictures, so we can forget about what happened.”
Farid Djemmal, a deputy school inspector, said that counselling would be provided throughout the summer holiday, which started on Saturday.
"We will be with these children, the families, the teachers, all who need help until school reopens and for as long as is necessary," he said.
Benoît Hamon, the education minister, who was dispatched to the school by President François Hollande, said the stabbing was “an isolated act, but an appalling, abominable one and we must work to protect schools better, to calm them and protect them from such violence.”
Mr Hamon added that tighter security would not mean turning schools into fortresses but did not say what specific steps would be taken.
Amid alarm over rising threats against teachers in French schools, François Fillon, the opposition MP and former prime minister, said: “Security measures must be strengthened to protect our schools.”
The killing followed the release of a survey showing that while physical attacks against teachers are infrequent, 12 per cent of teaching staff had been threatened or insulted over the past year, compared with seven per cent for French employees as a whole.
More than half of teachers in France have taken out insurance to cover counselling, lawyers’ fees or medical treatment for job-related stress.
Florian Philippot, the deputy leader of the far-right Front National, commented on Twitter: “The Republic’s schools have fallen very low. We need to take another look at everything to bring them back up.”