French schools fire 27 staff members over child abuse

Members of several schools in France are facing child abuse accusations

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (C) with French President Francois Hollande (R) and State Reform and Simplification junior minister Thierry Mandon at the School of Industrial Physics and Chemistry in Paris, France, March 14, 2016

Twenty-seven staff members in several French schools and high schools have been fired in 2015 due to paedophilia-related accusations, Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said on Wednesday.

The minister said that most of the people fired are male, without specifying the exact role they had in the institutions or when the offenses happened.

France has witnessed similar cases in the past. A headmaster, previously convicted of child pornography was still working at a school and was charged with the aggravated rape of several students.

According to a recent study, 19 staff members from schools and high schools got laid off in 2014 and 26 staff members in 2013 were fired over the same issue and 15 in 2012.

"We believe that a teacher, or an adult, or an administrative agent in contact with children can't work with children as soon as he has been sentenced for offenses as serious as pedophilia or child pornography," Vallaud-Belkacem told RTL radio.

A legislation forcing the Justice Ministry to keep education authorities up to date on the history of staff member’s previous convictions will soon be used, while the Education Ministry will be able to investigate teachers’ criminal records.

"It will take about one year as we are able to check about 3,000 dossiers every day," Vallaud-Belkacem said. "Every case will be checked to see if, in the past, we missed some convictions."

The minister also referred to the French Catholic Church's involvement in child abuse cases.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin said on Wednesday that he never covered up such cases.

"Whether it's school or church, I have a simple principle," Vallaud-Belkacem said.

"Paedophilia is something extremely serious that destroys lives. The principle is no silence, total transparency. Those who think that things can be settled internally or by remaining silent are making a serious mistake. I will be firm and sanctions will be issued when necessary. I'm expecting the same from every institution."

TRTWorld and agencies