Abuse claims were ignored

6th July 2001 at 01:00
FRANCE: The French education system found itself in the dock during the trial of a paedophile primary teacher when it emerged that officials, including a school head, had failed to follow up parents' complaints about sex abuse by the teacher 25 years ago.

Jacques Kaisermertz, who taught at a primary school in Cosne-sur-Loire, Ni vre, was sentenced last week to 18 years' imprisonment for rape and sexual abuse against minors by a person in authority. He had committed offences against more than 70 boys over a period of 30 years, dating from 1967.

During the trial the court heard evidence of Kaisermertz's crimes from victims, now grown up, and their families - including the father of Thierry Debain, the young man whose accusations, written on a mirror before he committed suicide, finally led to the teacher's arrest in 1996.

But the victims have also accused a former head of the school and education inspectors, now retired, of complicity in Kaisermertz's crimes. Parents first told the head, Jean Fouchard, in 1975 that their children had reported incidents of abuse.

But although he informed the education authorities, and Kaisermertz was interviewed by inspectors and placed under surveillance, no further investigations or legal proceedings were taken, contrary to procedures laid down in the penal code.

Frank Natali, one of Kaisermertz's lawyers, said the trial was "also about a deafening silence", and condemned the officials for their lack of action and the precedence they gave to protecting the education system. Kaisermertz was not the only one responsible, he said.

Retired education inspector Jacky Poitevin said he had put the parents' allegations into an envelope and hidden them in a drawer, intending to pass them on to his successor. He said that he "had not wanted to make waves, out of consideration for Mrs Kaisermertz who was very frail".

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