With the French population furious at both its president and prime minister for being woefully slow and ineffective in the government’s reactive measures to deadly terrorist attacks, the government – which has imposed a state of emergency for the past nine months – has taken proactive steps, even if these may not be what many had expected or hoped for, and announced that starting in September, French 14-year-olds will receive lessons how to survive a terrorist attack on their schools, following a spate of Islamist killings in recent months.
To protect their lives from suicide bombers, machete attackers and deranged truck drivers, pupils aged 14 and upwards will be taught basic “life-saving” measures.
According to the Telegraph, head teachers will be required to carry out mock attack exercises and to secure “vulnerable areas” of their schools. It is unclear if as part of these mock attacks the teachers will be required to blow themselves up in the name of a realistic simulation.
“The recent attacks and the context of the terrorist threat means heightened vigilance is required,” said a joint statement from the interior an education ministries. It underlined how schools are a “top priority” target for the ISIS which delivered a direct threat last December. The terrorist group’s francophone propaganda magazine, Dar al Islam, urged Muslim parents to remove their children from French schools and to kill teachers, who were called “enemies of Allah” for teaching the French principle of secularism.
Each school will now hold three exercises per academic year, covering the “ability of schools to react and not be taken by surprise”. A text messaging alert system will warn pupils, along with a specific alarm different to the one used for fires.
The Telegraph adds that Head teachers have been asked to hold meetings with parents to explain the new security measures. In January, several Paris secondary schools were evacuated due to bomb threats, although these turned out to be hoaxes. In March 2012, Mohamed Merah, a jihadist with links to al-Qaeda, killed three children and a teacher outside a Jewish school in south-western France.
Perhaps ironically, just as France was unveiling these new measures aimed at giving teens at least some semblance of self-defense skills, one of their peers, 16-year-old French girl was charged in Paris with supporting ISIS and trying to plan an attack, prosecutors said.
The girl, whose name has not been released, was allegedly using a social media app to spread calls by ISIL to commit violent acts, the Paris prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday. According to AP, a judge charged the teenager with taking part in a “criminal terrorist association” and “inciting to commit terrorist acts through an online communication medium”.
Investigators said the girl was “extremely radicalised” and was the administrator of a chat group dedicated to ISIL propaganda on the Telegram app, which has been used by suspected fighters to communicate, deputy prosecutor Laure Vermeersch said.
The girl was arrested on Thursday in the Melun region, a southern Paris suburb, during a police operation.
It was not immediately clear what contingency plan the government had for students when some of the biggest threats facing them come from their own peers.
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