Parisian headteacher is forced to quit fearing for his life due to death threats after insisting a teenage girl remove her Islamic head-covering in line with French law


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  • Maurice Ravel Lycée head said he quit for his own safety and that of the school

A headteacher in Paris has been forced to quit over fears for his life due to death threats made against him after he told a teenage pupil to remove her Islamic head-covering in line with French law.

The teacher asked three female pupils at the Maurice Ravel Lycée to remove their headscarves, a request two complied with while one refused, prompting an altercation.

Threats appeared online in the following days, with a police patrol launched at the  school, which is in the 20th district of the French capital. 

An investigation into cyber-harrassment was opened, and a 26-year-old man has since been arrested for making death threats against the principal online. He is due to stand trial in April. 

The teacher, who had worked at the school for seven years and in education for more than four decades, announced on Friday that he felt he had to quit over concerns for his own safety ‘and that of the establishment.’

His resignation has sparked indignation in France, where concerns for educators’ safety have grown since the murders of two teachers in attacks linked to Islamic extremism.

The head of Maurice Ravel Lycée, in the 20th district of Paris, received the threats on social media after an altercation in February

In 2020, Samuel Paty was decapitated in the street in Paris by a Chechen refugee after reportedly showing students a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad. 

And last October, Dominique Bernard was killed at his school in Arras by a knifeman who witnesses said shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ during the attack.

At a time when French teachers are saying they are scared of attacks and online abuse, with many leaving the profession, politicians and school staff have vented their fury and distress at the intimidation of the headmaster.

One Maurice Ravel Lycée teacher, who did not wish to be named, told French media: ‘We are shocked, we are shocked. We find it lamentable… But hey, if we can’t protect him otherwise.’ 

Threats began to emerge following the incident on February 28, when the student refused to remove her Islamic headscarves on school premises and an altercation ensued, according to prosecutors.

The student went on to lodge a complaint against the principal, accusing him of mistreating her during the incident.

She told French daily Le Parisien that she had been ‘hit hard on the arm’ by the headmaster, but the Paris prosecutor’s office said that her complaint had been dismissed.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced today the state would be filing a complaint against the student over falsely accusing the headmaster of mistreatment during the incident.

One teacher at Maurice Ravel Lycée, who did not wish to be named, said of staff there: ‘We are shocked… we find it lamentable’

‘The state… will always stand with these officials, those who are on the frontline faced with these breaches of secularism, these attempts of Islamist entryism in our education establishments,’ he said during the evening news on the TF1 television channel.

Education Minister Nicole Belloubet had visited the school in early March and offered the headteacher her full support, deploring the ‘unacceptable attacks’.

Politicians from across the spectrum on Wednesday expressed their shock at the headmaster’s resignation, and criticised the management of the situation.

‘It’s a disgrace,’ Bruno Retailleau, the head of the right-wing Republicans faction in the Senate upper house, said on X (former Twitter).

Boris Vallaud, the head of the Socialist deputies in the National Assembly lower house, told television broadcaster France 2 the incident was ‘a collective failure’.

Education Minister Nicole Belloubet visited the school in early March and offered the headteacher her full support, deploring the ‘unacceptable attacks’

Marion Marechal, the granddaughter of far-right patriarch Jean-Marie Le Pen and a far-right politician herself, spoke on Sud Radio of a ‘defeat of the state’ in the face of ‘the Islamist gangrene’.

What are France’s laws on religious head-coverings?

In 2004, French authorities banned school children from wearing ‘signs or outfits by which students ostensibly show a religious affiliation’ such as headscarves, turbans or kippas on the basis of the country’s secular laws which are meant to guarantee neutrality in state institutions.

The government last year said it was also banning the abaya – a garment worn by Muslim women that covers the body from the neck to the feet – in schools.

Maud Bregeon, a lawmaker with President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party, also took aim at ‘an Islamist movement’.

‘Authority lies with school heads and teachers, and we have a duty to support this educational community,’ Bregeon said.

Socialist Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo called the principal to ‘assure him of her total support and solidarity’, said her office, adding she was ‘appalled and dismayed’.

The education ministry earlier said that the principal’s decision to leave his post was ‘understandable given the seriousness of the attacks against him’.

The uproar comes as dozens of French schools have received attack threats in separate incidents over recent weeks.

Attal has pledged to ‘hunt down’ the people responsible for sending them.

Around 50 schools in Paris received new bomb threats on Wednesday, some including a ‘very violent video’, education authorities said. The mayor’s office said classes were briefly interrupted for security checks.

The prime minister pledged to increase security, including near schools, after the Islamic State jihadist group claimed responsibility for the killing of 137 people at a Moscow concert on Friday.

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