A heavy-handed sniffer dog drugs raid by gendarmes in a class of young teenagers has been been criticised.
Parents organised protests, while the FSU, the leading public service union, called it “lamentable,” and said it was necessary to “stop confusing prevention with repression.”
The government distanced itself from the affair - Education Minister Xavier Darcos said he was “astonished” at the raid, while government spokesman Luc Chatel said “it is not really a good method that was used.” Interior Minister Michèle Alloit-Marie has asked for an internal inquiry.
The alert was raised after a father put his 14-year-old daughter’s account of the search on the internet. “I want to say ‘yes’ to prevention, ‘no’ to terrorisation,” he said.
The girl described how the youngsters were told to put their hands on the desks and not look at the dogs as they sniffed bags and clothes “because when they bite it stings.” She added she was one of a number of pupils searched, and a female gendarme felt inside her bra and over her underpants.
Local prefect Chantal Firmingier-Michel gave permission for the raid on the 3ième class (ages 14-15) - one of 25 carried out this school year in the Gers department. Sixty searches were undertaken the previous year. Nothing was found in the school in question, but some cannabis resin was found in a similar raid two days before, the prefect said. Interviewed in La Dépêche du Midi she said: “The pupils are afraid of the checks, but it creates ‘good insecurity,’ which is satisfying in the long-term in terms of prevention.”
The local education authority head has said that in future any drug searches will be preceded by an “educational meeting with the pupils.”
Photo: Lee Coursey