French mayor calls for teachers to be armed with tear gas amid spike in student violence

By Thomas Brooke
4 Min Read

A mayor in France has called for primary school teachers to be armed with tear gas grenades to protect themselves from the violent attacks that are becoming increasingly common in French schools.

In a letter addressed to all primary school teachers in his town of Marignane — with a copy sent to the National Education inspector — Éric le Dissès bemoaned the lack of police officers available to help protect those working in education and suggested that all teachers acquire tear gas grenades and necklace or bracelet alarms to help diffuse a dangerous situation or, at the very least, to alert others to an immediate threat.

“(There are just) 180 police officers in an area which goes from Marignane to Vitrolles and Plan-de-Campagne, including 80 in fixed posts at the police station in Marignane, without looking at the staff on leave or off work. It’s ridiculous,” le Dissès wrote.

He cited the terror attack that claimed the life of teacher Dominique Bernard back in October last year as a case in point of a death that could have been avoided if teachers were suitably armed insisting the “matter would have been over.”

In a social media post on Tuesday, the mayor also referenced a recent attack in his town during which a teacher was attacked by four students.

“Providing them with defense spray is the least we can do in the short term,” he wrote.

“One in two teachers have already asked me to be equipped with one,” le Dissès added in an interview with BFMTV.

Teaching union staff and the local police chief dismissed the idea out of hand — the latter reminding the mayor that tear gas is “a category D weapon whose possession and transport without a legitimate reason is prohibited.” The punishment for such an offense is a fine of up to €15,000 and up to one year in prison.

The mayor acknowledged the point and accepted that “teachers who wish to be equipped will have to complete a declaration and submit it to the Prefecture. We will see if the state services accept it or not.”

“We must be careful not to transform teachers into vigilantes,” added Charlotte Bourgougnon, local co-secretary of the FSU-SNUIPP 13 teaching union. “That is not our role and that pushes us aside completely from our missions,” she added.

There have been a rising number of high-profile incidents concerning teachers across France in recent months with some offenders expressing their desire to emulate previous killers of educators.

Last month, a 12-year-old schoolgirl from a family of Mongolian refugees was arrested after taking a knife to school and threatening to kill her teacher. Several testimonies from fellow students suggested the girl had boasted about wanting to emulate the murder of Dominique Bernard last year.

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Secondary school teacher Samuel Paty was the first high-profile victim to be murdered by students when he was beheaded with a cleaver outside his school in Paris back in 2020 after showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to Muslim students during class.

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