France to teach children how to react to school attacks

AP News
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Posted: Aug 24, 2016 9:44 AM
France to teach children how to react to school attacks

PARIS (AP) — French schools will now hold three security drills a year — including one in which an alleged assailant enters their premises — as the French government ramps up security measures after a string of deadly extremist attacks.

Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced a series of measures Wednesday to improve how French schools and children handle terror threats.

Students will be taught how to hide or to escape, depending on the situation and where they are.

All students aged 13-14 and class representatives will also get a basic training on life-saving measures. Vallaud-Belkacem said, as of now, only 30 percent of students are trained.

In pre-school and kindergarten, for children aged 2 to 6, no mention of an attack or a danger should be made but children must be taught to hide and keep quiet through games, Vallaud-Belkacem said.

"It's not a question of succumbing to panic or into paranoia, but simply to face our responsibilities," Vallaud-Belkacem said, noting Islamic radical Mohamed Merah's attack on a Jewish school in 2012 in the southwestern city of Toulouse.

Cazeneuve said the plan aims at "preventing the risk of an attack and at the same time guaranteeing a serene atmosphere in schools."

Other security measures are already in place since last year's deadly attacks in Paris. Some police forces patrol in school areas and parents and students are requested to avoid gathering near schools and systematically report any suspicious behavior or object.

School principals will hold meetings with parents to detail the security measures at the beginning of the school year in September.

The government has also decided to provide 50 million euros ($56.2 million) to local councils — in charge of the school buildings — to help them pay for security equipment such as video door phones and new alarm systems.