Museum banned private school

The museum exhibits an old-fashioned classroom, like this one

A body running a museum has been accused of discrimination for refusing a visit by a Catholic school

A MUSEUM has been temporarily closed after controversy over a ban on private Catholic school children visiting it.

Catholic school teacher Marie-France Beaugenre complained after the Conservatoire de l’Ecole Publique, at Rennes, refused to allow her class to visit.

The museum includes a reconstruction of a 19th century school classroom, with its ink pots and old-fashioned desks and chalkboard.

Mrs Beaugenre said the website of DDEN 35, the body running the museum, said it was open to all, free to state school children and €2 to others. However on ringing to book, she was turned down.

“Is it possible that in 2012 we are still experiencing such sectarianism and discrimination?” she said to Ouest France.

DDEN president Jean-Louis Robert told the paper: “It’s in our statutes and that’s how it is. We don’t want Catholic school pupils coming to our museum. We stand up for state education and there’s no question of private school pupils visiting.”

However according to Ouest France the latest version of the statutes, updated last year, does not mention this.

DDENs are bodies, one for each department, that check on good conditions for children in state schools.

Other official bodies contacted by the paper did not support the DDEN’s stance, including the departmental council, which said it “did not know the museum practised this discrimination” and the local education authority head, who said: “This doesn’t have my approval.”

The president of the national federation of DDENs, Jean-Michel Lemuet, said he was “amazed by this practice”, adding: “Relations between state and public education is still a touchy subject, especially in Ille-et-Vilaine. There are still a lot of tensions.”

The DDEN 35 has closed the museum temporarily since the controversy because it says its “volunteers who run it are not able to cope with this unusual situation”.

A lawyer consulted by Ouest France said the legal position was unclear, though the action was “morally blameworthy”. He added the DDEN was making children undergo consequences of something that was not their free choice – the fact their parents sent them to a private school.

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