How France will crackdown on the scourge of school bullying

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
How France will crackdown on the scourge of school bullying
A student walks past a banner against bullying in a high school in Nogent-sur-Marne, outside Paris in 2023 (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

On the heels of another child's suicide the French government is under pressure to take measures to stamp out bullying in French schools. Here's what is planned.


France's government unveiled a new 'anti-bullying' plan on Wednesday, which several measures from new standards to refer serious bullying cases directly to prosecutors to empathy courses.

Ministers representing the education, health, sport and justice all took part in the press conference.

The French prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, had first discussed plans for an anti-bullying apparatus following the suicide of a 13-year-old girl in northern France in June.

These are some of the measures that were included in the plan:

Heavier consequences for bullies

The prime minister said that children found to have bullied others will have to take 'citizen training courses' focused specifically on bullying.

When bullying cases are formally reported, they will also be directly sent on to state prosecutors. "Prison sentences are possible for the most severe cases," the prime minister said. The justice minister clarified that the maximum penalty for the crime of bullying (harcèlement scolaire) is a 10 years prison sentence.

French courts will also be able to order "a ban on contact with the victim".

Assessing bullying

To better identify when bullying is taking place, Borne said that the government will standardise a self-assessment questionnaires for pupils. This device is already in existence, but it will be expanded to help teachers get a better picture of the classroom.


The questionnaire will be offered to all pupils from CE2 (8 years old) and upwards on November 9th, to be the new national day against bullying. Two hours will be set aside for it in all schools in France.

Keeping cyberbullies offline

France's justice minister said that in very serious cases, the "permanent confiscation" of mobile phones may be ordered by a juvenile court.

Lawmakers are also considering legislation that would ban individuals for six to 12 months from social media after online harassment, but this sanction would only be possible if the offender is convicted of a criminal offence. 


Anti-bullying brigades

French education minister, Gabriel Attal, said that the government would create 'anti-bullying brigades' within each académie (regional school authority). 

These units would be made up of people trained to handle issues of bullying, including child psychologists. 

READ MORE: Explained: Why is school uniform controversial in France?

Coaches and sports educators will also receive more training to detect and respond to bullying.

Empathy courses

A pilot school in each French département will launch 'empathy courses' - modelled after those in Denmark - starting in the 2024-2025 school year. 

French media 20 Minutes previously reported that these types of classes would be for younger pupils, namely those in pre-school (maternelle) and primary school. 

Lessons might involve a teacher offering for pupils to choose a discussion between topics like friendship, mutual aid, courage and 'saying no'. Similar systems have been already attempted in Paris' 18th arrondissement, and one education professional, Brigitte Cervoni who works in the area, told 20 Minutes that a possible activity might be to bring pupils closer together in order to get them to respect one another and understand the other's perspective. 


A national anti-bullying day

November 9th will be marked as a 'national day against bullying' in French schools.

A bullying hotline

Pupils looking to report bullying will be able to call the phone number '3018' to get resources and assistance. Previously, two separate numbers existed for cyberbullying and in-person bullying. The new plan will combine them into one single number.

How much of a problem is bullying in France?

In the weeks leading up to the anti-bullying plan, Attal said that the ministry of education had received "a tsunami of reports".

A recent Isop study, based on interviews from 2021, found that 14 percent of French pupils experienced serious harassment at school. It also found that the majority - or 54 percent - of bullying incidents take place in collège (or middle school, ages 11-15). After that, 23 percent of incidents occurred in primary school and another 13 percent happened during lycée (high school).

The poll discovered that bullying occurs at the school in 92 percent of cases, but it can also happen outside as well. Respondents reported bullying during extra-curricular activities, while taking transport, and via social media.

Nevertheless, the 2021-2022 study by the French ministry for education found that the vast majority (93 percent) of pupils in collège - when bullying is most common feel "good or totally good" in their school, and 91 percent said they feel safe there. 

Still, one in five secondary school pupils said they had been the victim of at least one cyber-bullying incident, and almost half (46 percent) said they had been harassed at least one time in the last year. 

Harassment and cyberbullying have also become an increasing concern for French parents. In a recent parenting survey by OpinionWay cited in the French weekly the Journal du Dimanche, over half (56 percent) listed bullying as one of their major concerns when it comes to schooling.


About a quarter said they feared their child could become a bully.

Steps taken so far

In 2019, France introduced a nationwide programme - pHARe - to prevent and deal with bullying across schools. It was first rolled out in primary and lower-secondary schools in 2022, and in 2023 it was extended to high schools (lycées). 

Resource teams, made up of five members per school, were created to deal with individual instances of bullying.

The staff placed on these teams received eight days of training over a two-year period dedicated to preventing, identifying and dealing with bullying.

On top of that, schools increased programming for pupils to have at least 10 hours per year focused on preventing bullying and developing 'psychosocial skills."

The French government has also signalled that introducing more stringent age verification tools for social media is a priority. In June, the government approved a new law requiring social media platforms like TikTok to verify users' ages and obtain parental consent for those under 15 years in an effort to protect children online.

Why now?

Attal has been quoted saying he wants to "create an electroshock at all levels."

The topic of bullying has become all the more pertinent in recent weeks, namely after another suicide. In September, a 15-year-old boy named Nicolas died by suicide. The boy had complained of bullying during the previous school year, and was due to start at a new establishment in Paris at the start of the year. 

READ MORE: Fury at 'shameful' letter sent to parents of French schoolboy who committed suicide


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also