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Scandal of paedophile teachers shocks France

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Scandal of paedophile teachers shocks France
Photo: AFP
17:25 CEST+02:00
France's education minister promised a thorough investigation on Wednesday into "systematic failures” after it emerged that numerous teachers were employed to work in schools despite having previous convictions for paedophilia.

What began with a headteacher at a school in the south east of France being accused of raping two pupils looks like ending in a huge scandal for the country's education authorities.

Last month parents at a school in the town of Villefontaine were left outraged after the headteacher was accused of having tricked blindfolded pupils into performing oral sex on him during a workshop on experiencing new tastes.

Parents' shock and anguish was heightened when it emerged the headteacher had a 2008 conviction for possessing images of child porn, but it had not prevented him from taking up a headship.

He later confessed to raping other children and was formally dismissed by France's education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem this week.

However other cases of teachers being employed despite a previous conviction for paedophilia have emerged at various schools around the country, notably one in western city of Rennes.

In that case a sports teacher was found to have had a 2006 conviction for holding images of child pornography. He was suspended immediately.

As the scandal began to make waves France's education minister was forced to admit on Wednesday that as many as 16 teachers had to be dismissed last year after it was discovered they had previous convictions for paedophilia.

“The case of the head teacher has prompted others to speak up," she said.

Vallaud-Belkacem (pictured above) has vowed a full probe into “the failures” of the system.

“We have ordered an investigation to shed light on the shortcomings of our system and to correct its dysfunctions,” Vallaud-Belkacem told French media after leaving a cabinet meeting.

“We will tackle the issue head on,” the minister told BFM TV. “It is intolerable.”

The headteacher in Villefontaine was not banned from working with children - a fact that may have made it difficult for education authorities to find out about his past before hiring him.

The school's supervisor, Dominique Fis, said local officials had received no information that the suspect was listed in France's national database of child sex offenders.
 
On Wednesday Vallaud-Belkacem made it clear that it's "not possible for anyone with a conviction for paedophilia to be in front of a class of school children".

The probe will look at how education authorities were not routinely passed on information from the Ministry of Justice regarding the previous convictions of teachers.

France's Justice Minister Christiane Taubira also spoke to the media on Wednesday saying authorities need to find out why the information was not shared. She threatened to make it law to to ensure all facts were brought to the attention of the relevant people.

Representatives from the two ministries will meet with attorney generals and local education chiefs to “strengthen the flow of information” between the services.

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