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Police haul girl, 5, out of school over meals bill

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17:28 CET+01:00
A five-year-old French girl was pulled out of her school canteen by police because her parents had not paid her school dinners bill, French media reported on Thursday.

The incident, which has caused uproar in France and left the girl’s parents fuming, took place at the private Saint-Vincent d'Ustaritz school in the town of Ustaritz in the South West Pyrénées Atlantique region.

It emerged the youngster, named as Léa, was kicked out of the canteen in the middle of dinner earlier this week, after authorities decided it was time for tough action after parents had failed to cough up the €170 debt.

“I understand the fees should have been paid but less than 200 euros worth of debt is laughable compared to the damage done to Leah,” her father Laurent told French TV station TF1 on Thursday.

The incident has shocked the local community and Ustaritz’s mayor Dominique Lesbats has been forced to step in to try and calm the rumpus.

Lesbats told AFP he regretted “the events” but noted the parents had been sent four separate orders asking for the bill to be paid. The mother of the child had also been warned her daughter was not allowed to eat in the school canteen, Lesbats said.

“We deal with numerous cases like these and implement solutions but it is still necessary for parents to respond to summonses,” he said.

It remained unclear who exactly was responsible for giving the order to remove the girl from the canteen, with the headteacher of the school condemning the action as “irresponsible”.

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“We do not take children hostage in this manner,” said Laurent Aguergaray.

France's Education Minister Vincent Peillon added his voice to the outcry on Thursday, when he called the ejection of the girl from school a "scandalous act of violence".

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