School fairs canned over French terror threat

Oliver Gee
Oliver Gee - [email protected]
School fairs canned over French terror threat
Children in the schoolyard. Photo: AFP

Headteachers at schools across France are cancelling traditional summer fairs because they don't have the manpower to search parents' bags - one of the requirements demanded due to the increased terror threat in the country.


Ever since Paris was hit by a terror attack in January, security across the capital - and indeed much of the country - has been enforced in an effort to prevent a repeat.
But there are downsides to the operation, known in France as Vigipirate, which has seen soldiers and police standing guard at sensitive sites across the country, including schools. 
For one thing, it's seen a drastic reduction in school outings, trips, or parties over the last six months as school heads have had to alert authorities ahead of time.
The latest drawback is that some schools have been cancelling their traditional summer fairs, known as kermesses, where families gather to celebrate the summer holidays with their children and their teachers.
The head of one public elementary school in the 11th arrondissement of Paris is among those to put her foot down.
"I simply don't have the human resources to spend all day searching through the bags of every person's relatives," she told French newspaper Le Figaro
"I refuse to take responsibility for any incident."
The paper reported that similar incidents were being reported in areas including Vincennes, Saint-Mande, Meudon, and Roissy-en-Brie.
Not every school has clamped down, however, with some opting to make the event a public outing rather than one officially connected to the school. Teaching unions have noted that there are yet to be any "mass cancellations".
Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem has spoken out in defence of the fairs, saying that schools need only to "be vigilant and to make sure safety rules are respected".
She added the traditional fairs should be cherished, as they're an important opportunity to strengthen ties between families and schools. 
"We are working with the schools to make sure to make sure conditions of safety are adhered to," she said.


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