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Police move in on school violence

FRANCE.

POLICE will be posted outside tough schools as the government struggles to combat rising violence. Other measures include closer collaboration with police and the courts, more school support staff and preventive action to start at primary level.

Term started with reports of bullying, racketeering and other anti-social behaviour by pupils, especially in colleges (lower secondaries), and with teachers striking and parents occupying schools in protest against violence.

Attempted murder charges were made against a schoolboy at Onzain on the Loire who stabbed another pupil, and against three teenagers at a college in Mantes la-Jolie, outside Paris. They threw a pupil who spoke Spanish downstairs because he refused to carry on doing their Spanish homework.

Teachers went on strike at a college in Roubaix, near Lille, after a classroom assistant was beaten up by a gang of pupils. A Parisian school has closed until February 21 following severe vandalism.

Parents who occupied a college in Montpellier for three weeks ended their action after education authorities appointed eight more support staff. As concern mounted, education minister Claude Allegre brought forward the second phase of his anti-violence plan.

Part one, introdced in November 1997, concentrated extra resources and staff such as school nurses, social workers and classroom assistants in 10 difficult districts.

The new proposals raise to 15 the number of "sensitive" areas which will receive extra help. They cover 470 secondary schools and more than 2,000 primaries, attended by nearly 700,000 pupils.

An extra 7,000 support staff will be employed during the year, with proper training for the increased numbers of young ancillaries.

For 75 particularly difficult schools reinforced security will include police supervision when pupils arrive and leave, and police intervention within schools on demand of heads.

At national level, representatives from the educational, police and magistrates' services will co-ordinate action; and officials from the ministries such as education, interior and justice will hold twice-monthly meetings.

Previous anti-violence plans - this is the fifth since 1992 - have mainly concentrated on secondary schools, but this time primaries are also targeted.

Five-year-olds will have an hour of civics every week intended to instil respect for school, teachers and classmates.

And the minister is keen to introduce a new disciplinary regime for all pupils.

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