A primary school in southern France was in shock on Friday after a female teacher was stabbed to death in front of her pupils by a student’s mother, who was quickly detained.
Education Minister Benoît Hamon rushed to the school to coordinate the government response and later told journalists that the assailant appeared to have “psychiatric problems”.
The attack on the 34-year-old teacher took place around 9:00am as morning classes began on the last day of term at Albi’s Edouard Herriot primary school, which is attended by 284 students aged from three to 11.
“This morning, a mother showed up with a knife and stabbed a 34-year-old teacher in front of her students, for reasons that will be determined by the investigation,” Albi prosecutor Claude Derens told AFP.
“When I arrived at the scene they were trying to revive her. She was in cardiac arrest in her classroom,” he said.
The victim, a mother of two small children, taught five and six-year-olds.
Students and teachers were evacuated from the school immediately after the attack.
The assailant was described as a 47-year-old woman and it was not known if her child was in the classroom at the time of the stabbing.
“This is an appalling act, a murder of a teacher in her classroom in front of her students by a woman who... seems to suffer from significant psychiatric problems,” Hamon said after arriving in Albi.
RTL radio reported that the mother previously had problems with the police after allegedly abandoning her child earlier this year and failing to help police search for the child.
President François Hollande offered the government’s full support to those involved.
“All state services will be mobilised to take care of these children and the staff who witnessed this awful tragedy,” Hollande said in a statement.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls also expressed his “dismay” at the incident.
“The entire education community is in mourning today,” he said in a statement.
Increased teacher assaults
Robert Couffignal, another teacher at the Albi primary school, told BFM television that the school had never seen such violence, and urged better protection for teachers and attention to the tensions they face with parents.
Education Minister Hamon agreed.
“This tragedy confirms that there’s a need to fight against violence in and around schools and to protect schools, teachers and students,” Hamon said.
The incident comes amid growing concerns in France over the risks faced by teachers, with a study released on Thursday saying that education workers were twice as likely to be threatened and insulted than people in other professions.
The study by the INSEE state statistics agency found that 12 percent of education workers suffered threats and verbal abuse. Only 0.6 percent of education workers reported suffering physical attacks however.
Another study released in April said nearly half of primary school principals reported being verbally or physically abused. Of 4,000 principals questioned in the study, 49 percent said they had suffered from harassment, threats or insults in the 2012-13 school year.
Deadly attacks in schools, however, are extremely rare in France, which still feels scars from a shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse in southern France in 2012 that left three children and a rabbi dead.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)
Date created : 2014-07-04