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The assassination of Samuel Paty still haunts the educational world

Insults, death threats. The many messages that target a teacher at the University of Aix-en-Provence and have pushed her to ask for police protection are incredibly violent. The reason for this hatred? She had held on October 27, in front of her students, remarks at least inappropriate on the religion which one inherits from the mother, in Judaism, and from the father, in Islam. She then qualifies them as “Sexually transmitted religions” with reference to “Diseases”.

Terms that shocked. The case could have remained with the convocation of the teacher in disciplinary council. But the League of Human Rights took her to court and the Mediapart news site devoted a long article on December 8 to the teacher in which he gave her name. Revelations which have, according to his lawyer, Me Lucien Simon, triggered a cascade of filthy and threatening remarks. On behalf of his client, he lodged a complaint against Mediapart and against X for endangering the lives of others.

A fate “worse than that of Samuel Paty”

Since the tragedy of Samuel Paty’s assassination on October 16, the prospect of a proliferation of threats and violence has haunted the world of education. Friday, January 15, the father of a student from a Nîmes school made death threats against the director of the establishment and against a teacher, after an exchange on the difficult schooling of his son. He would have promised them a spell “Worse than that of Samuel Paty”, according to details from the local press.

→ READ. Religious separatism and self-censorship, the revelations of the Ifop study

Without going as far as such situations, not a month goes by without a teacher being taken to task, as in Lyon where, in mid-November, a student’s parent attacked a college professor in ‘history geography. Following erroneous information from his sons, the man accused the teacher of making Islamophobic remarks in class during a session on secularism which followed the tribute to Samuel Paty.

The impact of the reform will still have to convince

Following the terrible attack, the government undertook to strengthen the law reinforcing respect for the principles of the Republic. During the examination of the text in committee, last week, the bill was further strengthened. “We started from the specific situation of Samuel Paty to fill in the gaps”, assured, in front of the elected officials, the Minister of Justice Éric Dupond-Moretti.

However, the impact of the reform will still have to convince the teaching world. Because for some specialists, the legal arsenal which allows the administration to defend civil servants already exists. According to the education code, the head of the establishment, as a representative of the State, “Initiate disciplinary actions and initiate proceedings before the competent courts”.

Lawyer specializing in this field, Frédéric Weyl also cites article 40 of the code of criminal procedure which obliges the administration to report reprehensible facts to the prosecutor. In addition, when the latter compensates a civil servant within the framework of his “functional protection”, it allows him to turn against the perpetrator, instead of the victim. “There is already a legal arsenal, but it is underused”, assures the lawyer. “If the new tools are as badly implemented as what we already have, all this will remain pure communication”, warns Jean-Michel Harvier, legal manager of the Snes union.

Self-censorship by professors

Article 4 of the bill creates a new offense by punishing violence or any act of intimidation. During the examination of the text, an offense of obstructing education was also created.

“Today, nearly half of teachers give up certain lessons for fear of having to face the consequences from the students or their parents”, argued Annie Genevard, author of the amendment. According to a recent Ifop survey for the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, more than the majority of teachers say they have already observed a form of protest in the name of religion among students.

“With this law, we go further, observes Frédéric Weyl, but we must be careful because the excess of precision can on the contrary make it more difficult to bring the incrimination within the framework of the law. “ Before the Christmas holidays, the professor from Lyon announced that he was leaving the establishment. His defamation complaint was dismissed.


Reinforced protection measures

The deputies reinforced, Thursday, January 21, several provisions of the bill reinforcing the respect for the principles of the Republic, directly inspired by the assassination of the teacher.

Article 4 creates a new offense protecting persons entrusted with a public service mission. It punishes threats, violence or any act of intimidation in order to avoid the operating rules of said public service.

An amendment by Annie Genevard (LR) creates an offense of obstructing education by “insults or pressures”.

An amendment by rapporteur Laurence Vichnievsky (MoDem) aims to allow the administration to lodge a complaint in place of the agent.

Article 18 on online hatred creates an offense of endangering others by disseminating information allowing them to be identified or located. The penalties are increased when the person concerned is a public official.


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