A teenager points a fake gun at his teacher who sits, immobile, at her desk. "Move your head", the teenager orders. "Move your head! Here you go." His classmate laughs as he films the scene for his Snapchat account. The teacher looks petrified.
For many French teachers, the scene is familiar. After the video - filmed at a high school in Créteil near Paris - went viral this weekend on social media, teachers have been posting their own stories of abuse at school with the hashtag #PasDeVague, meaning "no repercussions". On this "teachers' #metoo", they share accounts of threats, insults, harassment and violence in class, and in many cases regret the lack of support they received when they reported the events to school authorities.
"I've been spat on and threatened to be "beaten up" after school", tweeted one Latin teacher. "There were no sanctions." One recalled a colleague that "received death threats signed by an entire class of 7th grade: "He received no support." The absence of support from school management, or the decision not to take action, is present in most of the testimonies. "I wish I was supported when a student beat me up in a school corridor a few years ago", tweeted another one, "but the school board didn't even expel her. And I was told I shouldn't feel so strongly about it. This is the reality."
Macron: "To threaten a professor is unacceptable"
By Monday morning, the hashtag had been posted in more than 7,000 tweets. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, reacted firmly: "To threaten a professor is unacceptable", he said. "I have asked the Education minister and the Home Secretary to take all necessary measures for sanctions to be taken and for these incidents to be definitely banned from our schools."
Macron's Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer told the French newspaper Le Parisien that "a series of educative responses and sanctions" would be taken, and added: "I have told school boards that disciplinary hearings must be held whenever necessary."
School boards skip disciplinary hearings
In the past, boards have tried to avoid disciplinary hearings, because school inspectors were not always keen on having to find new schools for expelled students, Philippe Vincent, secretary general for the union of French head teachers, SNPDEN, told Euronews. "After a certain number of disciplinary hearings, we would receive a phone call."
Vincent, who stresses the union's solidarity with the teacher on the video, says it is important to have a "functioning chain of information, from the education officer to the Education ministry." According to Vincent, Blanquer's arrival at the ministry will bring change, but he maintains that all the tools they need are already in place - including a software to report a problem to the board, "in five clicks".
The teenager holding the gun on the video will turn 16 next month. He has been indicted and will be referred to a children's judge.