Murderous acts at educational institutions are not exclusively an American phenomenon – they have begun to spread to Europe as well. French schools will soon have panic buttons to alert police in case of terror attacks, after a teacher was killed by a young Islamist last month.
The system already operates in a few cities and towns, but Prime Minister Elizabeth Bourne plans to roll it out to secondary schools across the country. “What I’m looking for are effective measures” he said as he tried to calm the tension between students, parents and school staff.
According to the Times, Sophie Venetite, general secretary of a secondary school teachers’ union, says schools should not be turned into “shelters”, but Maxime Ripert, vice-president of another union, disagrees: “All measures are welcome” says.
Last month, 57-year-old Dominique Bernard was stabbed to death outside the high school where he worked in Arras, northeastern France. 20-year-old Muhammed Mogutsov, a former pupil at the school whose family had immigrated to France from Ingushetia – the Muslim republic in Russia – was charged with the murder, which happened shortly after he recorded a message declaring his allegiance to Islamic State.
Three years ago, Samuel Paty, a history and geography teacher, was beheaded outside the high school where he worked in the Paris area by an Islamist terrorist from Chechnya – also a majority-Muslim Russian republic.
Anxiety has been heightened by a series of bomb warnings that turned out to be malicious hoaxes, after Hamas attacked Israel last month. Bourne wants schools to install the panic buttons introduced in recent years in Nice, on the French Riviera, where 87 people died in a terrorist attack during a fireworks display on Bastille Day – the French national holiday – in 2016.
Primary and secondary schools have been equipped with panic buttons, which, once pressed, will alert the municipal urban surveillance centre. Operators at the center automatically hear what is happening in the school and can order police intervention if necessary.
However, critics of the measure claim that the system in Nice cost several million euros and that schools in poorer areas would not be able to afford it. A study has shown that many schools are already struggling to fund burglar alarms, which were due to be installed six years ago.
These alarms are cheaper and less sophisticated than the high-tech panic buttons now envisioned by the French government. When the intrusion alarm sounds, staff and students are supposed to “keep their cool” and either leave the school premises or barge into a classroom.
In practice, however, only 38.9% of schools have alarm systems, according to a study. “More schools than we thought have the sirens that activate the alarm» asserts Miguel Leroy, representative of a federation of local councils.
The system has its flaws and causes controversy between the government and educators, but at least it is the opposite of the proposal of US lawmakers, who are promoting the distribution of light weapons to teachers and school professors, so that they can face the invaders themselves, who responsible for countless mass murders of students in the US.
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