Pupils outraged over nude painting shown at French school 'to be disciplined' as teachers fear for safety

13 December 2023, 05:26

Diana and Actaeon, the 1603 Giuseppe Cesari painting that sparked the row at Jacques Cartier school
Diana and Actaeon, the 1603 Giuseppe Cesari painting that sparked the row at Jacques Cartier school. Picture: Alamy/Google

By Kit Heren

Muslim pupils who were upset after a teacher at their French school showed them a nude 17th-century painting will be disciplined, France's education minister has pledged.

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Staff at the Jacques Cartier school in the town of Issou walked out on Friday and Monday in fear for their safety in a period of heightened tension in schools after two teachers were murdered by Islamist terrorists.

A female French teacher sparked outrage after showing pupils a painting that shows nude female figures.

Some students spread false rumours that she had insulted Muslims, teachers at the school said.

Education Minister Gabriel Attal visited the school on Monday and vowed to take action "against the students who are responsible for this situation and who have also admitted the fact".

Read more: Six teenagers convicted in connection with beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty in 2020

Read more: French teacher stabbed to death 'saved many lives' says Macron as 7,000 officers placed on high alert

Diana and Actaeon, the 1603 Giuseppe Cesari painting
Diana and Actaeon, the 1603 Giuseppe Cesari painting. Picture: Alamy

The teacher showed students a 17th century picture of Diana and Actaeon that features nude female figures, which is typical for that style and period of painting.

Some Muslim children in the class turned away, saying their religion meant they couldn't look at pictures depicting nude figures.

Untrue rumours then spread that the teacher had insulted Muslims and made racist remarks.

Parents complained to the school about the teacher, and her name was published online alongside false rumours.

Staff walked out in response, and the French education ministry sent officials to the school.

Issou is a small town about 30 miles from Paris
Issou is a small town about 30 miles from Paris. Picture: Google

The teachers union SNES said that the atmosphere in the school was similar to the situation around Samuel Paty, when claims about the civics teacher circulated on social media before his murder by an 18-year-old Chechen refugee.

Sophie Vénétitay, the union head, told BFMTV news: "We know well that methods like that can lead to a tragedy.

"We saw it in the murder of Samuel Paty. Our colleagues feel threatened and in danger."

Samuel Paty
Samuel Paty. Picture: Alamy

The teachers said the students had admitted making things up, but that it was too late. "We’re dealing with vindictive parents who prefer to believe their children than us," they said.

Teachers at the school said discipline was deteriorating anyway before the row, with fights and threats of rape among students.

Dominique Bernard was killed in October
Dominique Bernard was killed in October. Picture: Alamy

One said: "We feel we are clearly in danger. We are supported by our direct superiors but not from higher up," the Times reported. "This is a real call for help".

It comes after six teenagers were found guilty in connection with the 2020 beheading of Samuel Paty, who was accused of showing his students a cartoon image of the prophet Mohammed.

Five of the six teenagers on trial, aged between 14 and 15 at the time, stood accused of identifying the teacher to the attacker and helping monitor his exit from school.

Another defendant, 13 at the time, was found guilty of lying about the classroom debate.

She told her parents that Mr Paty had asked Muslim pupils to leave the class before showing the images, but it later emerged that she was not in the class and went on to tell investigators she had lied.

The attacker himself, Abdullah Anzorov, was shot dead by police soon after the incident.

Meanwhile another teacher, Dominique Bernard, was stabbed to death by a Muslim man in the playground of his school in Arras, north-west France, two months ago.

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