Children in French schools will be taught how to survive a terror attack, following a year of Islamic terrorism that shook the nation.
The French government has released a statement instructing headteachers on “enhanced measures for school safety”, which outlines new security measures including preparing school children on how to survive terrorist attacks.
After the Bataclan massacre in November, the French government published several circulars advising schools on increasing security. But it was after the Nice Bastille Day attack that the Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Minister for Education Najat Vallaud-Belkacem signed new measures, stating that the “security of schools is a top priority”.
From September, children will undergo three ‘exercises’ during the school year, including one bomb threat drill. Schools will also install a second bell, distinct in tone from the fire alarm, which the pupils will be taught to recognise as signalling that they are under threat, and administrators will also implement SMS text messaging warnings to all pupils in the event of an attack.
In addition, pupils in the third form (14-year-olds) will be taught first aid, and “resilience” – i.e., preparedness and how to react when caught up in a terrorist attack.
Headteachers will be responsible for securing all vulnerable areas of the schools’ premises, increasing surveillance on public roads in the vicinity, and appointing a “security manager” to oversee security and crisis management.
With schools and schoolchildren considered targets by Islamic State, school administrators have been advised to hold meetings with parents and pupils at the beginning of the academic year outlining the new security measures.
The online francophone Islamic State-produced Dar al-Islam (House of Islam) published an edict after the Bataclan attack commanding Muslims to pull their children out of French schools and to “kill teachers”, who Dar al-Islam refer to as “corrupters”.
France has seen jihadist violence targeted at schoolchildren in the past.
On the 19th of March 2012 the French-Algerian terrorist Mohamed Merah drove up to the entrance of the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse on a motorcycle and began shooting. Yonatan Sandler, a rabbi and teacher at the school, along with his two sons, Aryeh, six, and Gavriel, three, were shot outside the school gates, Mr. Sandler shot first as he tried to shield his sons from the gunman. Merah then entered the school and grabbed Miriam Monsonego, the eight-year-old daughter of the head teacher, by the hair and shot her, point blank, in the head.
It was the worst school-related attack in French history.