Strike averted over National Front fear

19th December 1997 at 00:00
France. A school head accused of being too close to the extreme-right National Front went on sick leave last week, ending the threat of a strike of teachers and pupils at her lycee, writes Jane Marshall.

The target of the protest was Monique Lehman, principal of the Pierre-Mendes-France lycee in Vitrolles, near Marseilles. Staff allege that she was authoritarian. She also refused last June to enrol a pupil, who then took legal action against the school for "racial injury".

According to the SNES, the secondary teachers' union which called the strike, conditions at the school have deteriorated since Lehman arrived in 1993. They became even worse after the NF took control of Vitrolles town council. The 70 per cent of teachers who threatened to strike considered the head "too close" to the party.

An inspectors' report on the school was due to be sent to the education minister last week.

Vitrolles is one of four town councils in southern France controlled by the NF, whose national leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, recently repeated claims that the Nazi gas chambers were only "a detail" of history.

In Orange, another National Front-run town, library books judged "too cosmopolitan" or left-wing were replaced by works written by NF officials. In Marignane, alternative school meals without pork for Jewish and Muslim children were cancelled.

Last month in Toulon, where the NF took over the local bookfair, there was a rival anti-fascist fair.

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