Portrait of slain French teacher Samuel Paty during a tribute ceremony at the Bois d'Aulne school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, outside Paris, France, 16 October 2023. EPA-EFE/BERTRAND GUAY


French school system in danger ‘due to radical Islam’, Senate report finds


A damning report by the French Senate paints a dire picture of the situation in French schools.

The “terrible loneliness” of teachers in the face of threats and attacks were among issues highlighted.

With the situation worsening, the Senatorial report published on March 6 urged the State to initiate a “proactive approach” and the French Ministry of National Education to “take back control” to restore safety and defend against radical Islamism.

Senators François-Noël Buffet and Laurent Lafon, co-rapporteurs of the report, said violence was on the rise in schools and pointed to a “discrepancy between the figures of the Ministry of Education and the reality on the ground”.

“Figures from the Ministry of Education tell us that 0.2 per cent of middle- and high-school teachers say they have been threatened with a weapon [during the school year 2021-2022].

“It may seem very small but it’s close to 900 teachers. That’s four a day,” they said.

In the same year, the number of teacher resignations increased by 36 per cent compared to the previous school year, both in primary and secondary education.

“The most striking observation is the terrible loneliness experienced by members of the educational staff in the face of a daily life marked by tensions and conflicts,” said Buffet.

Lafon noted a growing “mistrust” between teachers and their administrative hierarchy, which resulted in a “wall” having been erected between them and the relevant authorities.

Buffet noted that the “educational community is caught up in violence”. He cited multiple “forms of pressure and aggression” – from “misogynistic insults” to physical assaults.

He also pointed to the fact that more than half of all French teachers choose to self-censor when faced with angry parents and students who do not agree with school curricula.

“They choose not to address certain works, certain subjects,” the Senator said. Before scheduled cultural trips, for example, “some parents call to find out [the subject], what will be on stage, if there will be naked people”.

The same was true for principals, who are often confronted by parents in their school offices, while so-called education advisers see sanctions questioned by both parents and students, sometimes accompanied by lawyers.

A major problem within the school population was radical Islam, the Senators said. Islamism “is becoming commonplace”, they stated.

They also noted a rise in the use by some pupils of the threat made to a teacher to ‘make a Paty’ of him”.

Samuel Paty was a teacher who was beheaded in Paris 2020 by a radicalised Muslim and his murder spurred the French Senate to initiate its report at the request of the victim’s family.

The Senators said the current situation was the product of the rise of ethnic communitarianism and identity politics, fostering the manifestation of “radical Islam”, adding that “certain new forms of spirituality should not be ignored”.

They also noted such issues were being amplified by social media networks “where rumours are instrumentalised by pressure groups”.

The two Senators made 38 recommendations, including expanding the prohibition on wearing ostentatious religious symbols to events scheduled after school hours, as part of an effort to re-establish educators’ authority.

They also suggested the introduction of a new charter, where parents would have to promise that the decisions of schools “cannot be disputed and do not have to be justified”.

The two co-authors of the report further recommended the installation of video-surveillance cameras outside schools “without the agreement of [a school’s] board of directors” and suggested the establishment of a direct communication link between schools and the police.

Furthermore, they suggested enhancing education-staff training, highlighting a concern that “a number of young teachers may be [negatively] swayed by the rise of terms like ‘open secularism’ or ‘plural secularism’, along with public discussions that muddle secularism with tolerance”.