France to sue teen for falsely accusing school head in headscarf row

The headteacher insisted that the pupil remove her head-covering inside the school, in accordance with French law.

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France's prime minister says a teenage girl will be sued by the state for falsely accusing her headteacher of striking her in a heated exchange over her wearing an Islamic head-covering.

The headteacher insisted that the pupil remove her head-covering inside the school, in accordance with French law.

He resigned after death threats circulated on social media.

The Islamist threat to French schools is taken extremely seriously since the murder of two teachers.

Samuel Paty was decapitated on the street in a Paris suburb in 2020 and Dominique Bernard was killed at his school in Arras five months ago.

The Paris school headteacher, whose name has not been made public, announced his decision in an email sent on Friday to colleagues at the Maurice Ravel Lycée in the 20th district of Paris.

"I have finally taken the decision to quit my functions," he explained, "out of concern for my own safety and that of the establishment."

"I leave after seven years, rich and intense, spent at your side, and after 45 years in public education," he wrote, thanking his colleagues for the support they had shown him over the past three weeks.

In the incident, which took place on 28 February, the head told three female pupils they should obey the law by removing their head coverings.

Two complied, but the third did not and there was an altercation.

In the days that followed, the head was the object of death threats on social media, which were signalled by the school to an interior ministry hotline.

Prosecutors said two people had been detained in connection with the death threats. Their identities have not been revealed, but the education ministry said they had no link with the school.

Police were sent to patrol around the school, which also received a visit from Education Minister Nicole Belloubet.

Officers found no evidence that the headteacher had struck the girl, and now Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has stepped in to say she is to be taken to court for making false allegations.

"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.

Politicians from both left and right expressed outrage that the career of a respected teacher should be ended by a hate campaign on the Internet.

"This government is incapable of protecting our schools," said Marine Le Pen of the hard-right National Rally on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"It is defeat for the state… and the gangrene of Islamism gains yet more ground," said her niece Marion Maréchal of the rival hard-right party Reconquest.

"This is where you end up when your policy is 'don't make waves'. This is where all those little surrenders lead to," said Bruno Retailleau of the centre-right Republicans.

"It's unacceptable. When a headteacher steps down because of death threats, it is a collective failure," said Boris Vallaud of the Socialist Party.

In a separate development, several Paris schools were forced to close on Wednesday after they received bomb threats from apparent Islamists.

Last week around 30 other schools in the Paris area received similar threats, accompanied by a video of a beheading.

While investigators are obliged to take the threats seriously, they cannot rule out that they are part of a Russian disinformation campaign.

Prime Minister Attal warned earlier this month that the Kremlin had embarked on a "massive destabilisation enterprise" to undermine French support for Ukraine.