French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has announced measures to crack down on teenage violence in and around schools, as the government seeks to reclaim ground on security from the far-right two months ahead of European elections.
Attal revealed his plan hours before a man stabbed two young girls, aged six and 11, outside their school in the east of the country, further underlining concerns of security at educational establishments.
Their wounds were not deemed serious.
France has in recent weeks been shaken by a series of attacks on schoolchildren by their peers, in particularly the fatal beating earlier this month of Shemseddine, 15, outside Paris.
The issue has come to a head with the far-right National Rally (RN) accusing Attal of not doing enough on security as the anti-immigration party soars ahead of the government coalition in polls for the June 9 election.
Speaking in Viry-Chatillon, the town where Shemseddine was killed, Attal condemned the “addiction of some of our adolescents to violence”, calling for “a real surge of authority... to curb violence”.
“There are twice as many adolescents involved in assault cases, four times more in drug trafficking, and seven times more in armed robberies than in the general population,” he said, also noting increased “Islamist” influences.
Measures will include expanding compulsory school attendance to all the days of the week from 8am-6pm for children of college age.
“In the day the place to be is at school, to work and to learn,” said Attal, who was also marking 100 days in office since being appointed by President Emmanuel Macron to turn round the government’s fortunes.
Parents needed to take more responsibility, said Attal, warning that particularly disruptive children would have sanctions marked on their final grades.
Promoting an old-fashioned back-to-basics approach to school authority, he said: “You break something – you repair it. You make a mess – you clear it up. And if you disobey – we teach you respect.”
The prime minister also floated the possibility of children in exceptional cases being denied the right to special treatment on account of their minority in legal cases.
Thus 16-year-olds could be forced to immediately appear in court after violations “like adults”, he said.
In France, the age of majority is 18, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
A man born in 1995 was arrested after stabbing an 11-year-old in front of the school in the town of Souffelweyersheim just outside the main eastern French city of Strasbourg, and then a six-year-old nearby.
Both received superficial wounds, police said, adding the attacker did not appear to have any known links to radicals and was not previously known to the security services.
Both girls are being treated in a paediatric hospital.
The attacker was arrested in the area where he attacked the second girl, the police said.
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