Killing schoolchildren by the dozens may have seemed to the French people like the kind of nightmare that could come true only in the United States, or perhaps a onetime evil perpetrated by a lone madman in some far-off part of Scandinavia. No longer.
The ISIS-inspired attacks in Paris and Nice have left parents there with an ever-present fear that new violence will strike at any time, in any place. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the fevered run-up to the rentrée scolaire—France’s annual return of its schoolchildren to classes after summer vacation. Concerns voiced by parents and teachers—often loudly—caused the French Interior Ministry to list new steps, along with some planned ones, to thwart attacks.
“To our schools, our colleges, and high schools, families entrust their children…. Their security is a major imperative for the government and a priority for the entire educational community,” wrote Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve in a statement. “This summer, following the Nice attacks, we decided to raise our level of vigilance to protect students, teachers, and staff.”
This raised level of vigilance means France is rolling out a new strategy to secure educational institutions based on three pillars: anticipate, secure, and ready to react.
The anticipate pillar will increase coordination between local stakeholders to create academic crisis cells and other tools, such as directories for principals to allow school leaders to directly contact stakeholders on mobile phones to “ensure optimal transmission of information,” Cazeneuve explained.
The secure pillar includes creating mobile patrols of regular security forces to “ensure optimal coverage of the territory,” he added. The ready to react pillar will focus on educating and informing students and staff about what to do in the case of a terrorist attack.
French school kids will now have regular terrorism-preparedness drills with Run. Hide. Fight. supplanted by something more like Hide. Hide. Hide.
Older students will receive first aid training, including field treatments for gunshot wounds, while teachers and principals will learn about crisis management. Some schools will also create safe havens, or classrooms reinforced for use in a prolonged lockdown.
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