France is preparing school children and teachers for terrorist attacks by utilising drills that will include mock assailants attacking classes. France is also deploying around 3,000 troops to help protect schools.
These new preventative measures follow several horrific terrorist attacks in the country, notes Laura Connor writing for The Mirror, including the Bataclan and Nice massacres. All students that are 13 or 14 will receive the anti-terrorism training, but some are concerned that they will generate fear:
Francette Papineau, spokeswoman for the Snuipp-FSU union said, “Security is above all an adult affair and I’m not sure that it’s a good thing to place [children] in a situation of fear.”
Critics of the policy say that some of the younger children may be too frightened and possibly jeopardized just from the training. There are several different methods available to alleviate at least some of the stress the drills would produce in smaller children, however.
The drills will happen three times a year, The Guardian reveals. The goal of the drills is to reduce the risk of attacks, but still teach useful skills should one occur.
In 2015, terrorist attacks claimed the lives of 130 people and injured over twice that number. These attacks, the deadliest to ever take place in France, and continuing issues in early 2016 are the primary reasons for the increase in security. France has 12.2 million students returning to school this year and few of them have had any sort of training in dealing with terrorism. Schools have been cited as important centres of social security:
Barnard Cazeneuve, the Interior Minister, said, “Throughout the year, special attention will be given to areas around educational establishments.”
Henry Samuel, writing for The Telegraph, notes that French schools were singled out for teaching the principles of secularism. Dar al Islam, the jihadist group’s propaganda magazine, have even called for Muslim parents to kill teachers, with the government responding by taking stronger steps on surveillance:
“Active surveillance around schools, high-schools and universities will be reinforced by roving patrols,” Says Cazeneuve.
New equipment is also being utilised to better prepare for terrorist attacks and to provide for the safety of children. The French government has given €50 million to local councils to help them pay for all of the updates and programs. Included among the tech is new alarm systems and video phones on doors.
As reported by RT, the attacks haven’t stopped, so countermeasures are more important than ever. As recently as June there was an attack on a police officer and his wife. The couple were stabbed to death by an Islamic State terrorist.
In light of the attack, France has decided to extend its state of emergency until January 26, 2017. Headteachers will be holding meetings with parents to discuss the new countermeasures:
Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, France’s Education Minister, said, “It’s not a question of succumbing to panic or paranoia but simply to face our responsibilities.”
Some were questioning the security of schools already, stating that the lack of dedicated security guards exposed a potential risk. The education ministry had stated that mobile patrols would be sufficient since schools should not be readily open to the public in the first place.
Small children, ages 2-6, won’t be a part of the most intense drills and won’t be made aware of the potential dangers. They will be taught through games how to be quiet and stay hidden to keep them safe.