Bloody school attacks stoke fear in France

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A 17-year-old boy who was slashed with a knife and beaten with baseball bats on Monday became the third bloody incident in a French school this year.

Paris – The French government came under pressure on Tuesday to curb violence in schools after a 17-year-old boy was slashed with a knife and beaten with baseball bats by a gang during a sports class.

The attack on Monday at a gymnasium in Thiais, a poor suburb of Paris, was the third such bloody incident in a French school reported this year.

In January an 18-year-old pupil was stabbed to death by a classmate at another school nearby and earlier this month, a 14-year-old was attacked with a knife in nearby Vitry-sur-Seine.

Teachers at the school in Thiais, southeast of the capital, refused to work on Tuesday and echoed the demand of staff at other schools for extra security guards.

"We are afraid. The pupils are afraid," Juliette Hay, an economics teacher, told AFP. "We can't go on as if nothing has happened."

"This attack is not a chance incident," said teachers from the school in a statement. "We demand the human resources necessary to re-establish the climate of calm that is indispensible for study."

Highlighting the problems facing France's education sector, hundreds meanwhile marched in eastern Paris to protest government reforms, under which up to 16,000 jobs could be cut, including security guards, critics say.

Education Minister Luc Chatel, announced that he planned official talks with various concerned groups on the issue in April.

"The whole of the education community must face up to new phenomena of violence," he said.

Security is a key issue in French regional elections in March and a policy priority for President Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing government.

Chatel's announcement "shows that the (protest) movement is beginning to worry the government," said Pierre Claustre of the teacher's union SNES-FSU.

"We have colleagues who are at their wits' end, faced with completely disrespectful classes," he said.

Political opponents of the right-wing government said cuts in education were giving rise to more violence.

"This violence is unbearable, but its aggravation was foreseeable," said Cecile Duflot, leader of the Green party, in a statement. She said job cuts and other reforms "have worsened the situation in our schools."

AFP / Expatica

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