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France's parliament approves new law criminalising school bullying

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By AFP  with Euronews
Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said the new bill sends a message to the whole of France.
Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said the new bill sends a message to the whole of France.   -   Copyright  Thomas Coex, Pool Photo via AP, File

France's parliament has adopted a new law that will make school bullying a criminal offence, which either students or staff can be prosecuted for.

Those found guilty under the new legislation face a €45,000 if the victim of bullying is unable to attend schools for up to eight days.

But more serious incidents can be punished with up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of €150,000 for longer periods of school absence or if the victim commits suicide or attempts to.

The French government had pledged to strengthen the measures against school bullying, which up until now could only be punished under harassment laws.

According to recent studies, nearly one in ten students are affected by school bullying each year in France.

The bill "adds a new stone to the structure" put in place by the government, said French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer.

"This sends a message to the entire nation [that] harassment has no place in schools," he added.

The new law will also provide further training for teachers to prevent bullying on school grounds, as well as imposing a "duty of vigilance" on social media companies to moderate harassing content.

A total of 86 MPs voted in favour of the law on Thursday, while there were two abstentions. Critics had expressed concern about the need for a specific offence on school bullying, arguing the law is "not the appropriate response".