French Minister of Education and Youth Nicole Belloubet leaves the Elysee Palace at the end of the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris, France, 13 March 2024. EPA-EFE/TERESA SUAREZ


France creates ‘national mobile force’ as radicalised students threaten schools


France’s schools now face such security dangers from radicalised students that education minister Nicole Belloubet has announced the deployment of a “national mobile force” to try to keep threatened schools safe.

The mobile force will attempt to ensure the “physical security, digital security, but also legal security” of schools threatened by radicalised students, the minister said on March 29.

This force will aim to “reassure teachers and educational teams” in “schools that are experiencing difficulties”, and can be deployed in a “fairly long” time, she added.

The announcement comes days after a Paris headteacher, who had asked a student to remove her face veil before taking an exam, resigned March 26 after receiving death threats.

In 2020, history and geography teacher Samuel Paty was stabbed to death and beheaded after giving a class on freedom of expression. Paty had discussed Charlie Hebdo‘s 2012 cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

The new mobile force will be organised nationally, starting in September 2024 for the new school year, said Belloubet, who spoke during a visit to a vocational high school in Bordeaux.

It will have the capability to deploy nationwide within 48 hours, providing additional support to local security forces as needed.

The force will recruit a multidisciplinary team of approximately twenty National Education agents to begin with. Its primary mission will be “to ensure security, appeasement and pedagogy in the establishment concerned”.

When violent incidents occur, and teachers or schools file a complaint, the state will systematically file a civil suit against perpetrators, the minister said.

“The state must be able to claim compensation for the school. Schools and their teachers suffer material damage, physical, psychological and moral, which deserves reparation. And that’s what we’re going to do,” she added.

A video of a decapitation was distributed to multiple schools the previous week, the education ministry said.

Other schools received threats of attacks and malicious acts.

Police investigations have begun, and messaging is now suspended in the French educational digital workspaces system (ENT), as a preventive measure, says the minister.

The digital workspaces serve as a link between teachers, students and parents, but recently have been used by radicalised students threaten teachers.

Suspending the messaging service aims to “reset our students’ accounts and enhance their security,” says Belloubet.

The headmaster’s resignation was the latest of a string of incidents plaguing schools in France, which has seen an increasing number of teachers threatened and targeted by religiously radicalised students.