Draft legislation in France wants to make school bullying a criminal offense, with a maximum fine of €150,000 and jail time of up to 10 years.
This was supported by education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer who said it was important to ‘send a strong message’. Roughly one in 10 children experience bullying, which as Blanquer remarked, leads to ‘children’s lives being shattered’.
The bill now needs to be overviewed by the Senate and, if approved, will be adopted in February, and put France in the position of having some of the strictest penalties for bullying across the globe.
The new crime, school bullying, will apply to both children and adults in schools and universities. It carries a maximum three-year jail term and a fine of €45,000 which increases to ten years and €150,000 if the victim takes their own life or attempts to.
Brittany MP Erqan Balanant drafted the law and says that it isn’t about ‘sending children to prison’ but to help educate people on the outcomes of bullying and how they can be prevented. ‘There is a justice system for minors that takes into consideration the accused’s age and powers of discernment’, he added.
The legislation will also increase resources for prevention and education and improve provisions for children to take part in community education schemes.
However, some MPs have criticised the bill: ‘We are not in favour of criminalising minors and increasing repression’, said Socialist MP Michele Victory.
This comes after many cases of bullying in France ended in tragedy, including a 14-year-old girl who took her own life in October after her mother said she was subjected to racist and homophobic bullying.