Has the rectorate taken all the necessary measures to put an end to the school harassment which led to Nicolas’ suicide in Poissy? The Minister of National Education promised to study the situation and draw conclusions, “including sanctions” accordingly.

A “shameful” letter and failures that call for sanctions? The Minister of National Education, Gabriel Attal, promised to shed light on the situation which led to the suicide of Nicolas, the high school student who killed himself in Poissy on September 5, 2023, the day after the start of the school year. The ongoing judicial and administrative investigations have already proven that the 15-year-old teenager was the victim of school harassment and that the verbal and physical violence he suffered had been reported to the management of the Poissy vocational high school in which the teenager was studying.

So have the school and the rectorate done enough to protect Nicolas from school harassment? The parents of the high school student assure us that no. “It is incomprehensible that you can let a teenager suffer such verbal and psychological violence in your establishment without reacting in some way,” they denounced in a letter addressed to the management of the Adrienne-Bolland high school in Poissy and made public by BFMTV. They further warned that they would consider the school “responsible if a disaster were to happen to [their] son.” Accusations which the teaching team defended.

Accused of not responding to the school harassment which targeted Nicolas, the school responded to the high school student’s parents in a letter sent at the end of April indicating that “no significant class facts related to Nicolas have been reported by the teaching team since March 10” and that the teaching staff could in fact “consider that the situation was in the resolution phase”. This situation explained, according to management, the non-implementation of the measures announced during previous meetings with Nicolas’s parents.

But the Versailles rectorate went further by threatening the high school student’s parents with “slanderous denunciations” of “supposed harassment”. A “shameful” letter which shows the great “failure in the type of response addressed to parents”, judged the Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne.

The ongoing investigations into Nicolas’s suicide must determine whether school bullying was the only factor that pushed the high school student to kill himself and, consequently, identify those responsible. The harassing students would then face a sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment and a €150,000 fine, a sanction provided for by article 222-33-2-3 of the Penal Code when the harassment led the victim to commit suicide.

But the question arises of the responsibility of the educational establishment, or even the rectorate, which admitted not having taken measures to put an end to the harassment. Which was no longer characterized according to management. This lack of response can be understood as “reckless or negligent behavior” and therefore a breach of the security obligation owed by the educational establishment to its students. Schools are notably required by the Education Code to respect article L. 111-6 which provides that “no pupil or student must suffer acts of harassment resulting from comments or behavior committed within the school. “educational establishment or on the fringes of school or university life”.

Teachers who would have witnessed Nicolas’ harassment without intervening, such as the management of the establishment who would not have taken the necessary measures, or the rectorate who would have minimized the acts of harassment could therefore be partly responsible according to article 121 -3 of the Penal Code: “There is also an offense, when the law provides for it, in the event of recklessness, negligence or failure to comply with an obligation of prudence or safety provided for by law or regulation, it is established that the perpetrator did not carry out normal diligence taking into account, where applicable, the nature of his missions or functions, his skills as well as the power and means at his disposal.”

If the criminal liability of the educational establishment in which Nicolas was enrolled appears to be possible, what sanctions would be applied? Article 223-7 of the Penal Code provides that “anyone who voluntarily refrains from taking or instigating measures enabling, without risk to himself or to third parties, to combat a disaster likely to create a danger for the safety of persons is punishable by two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 30,000 euros. If the establishment has voluntarily renounced putting in place anti-harassment measures, as indicated in the letter from the high school principal, this article could be invoked.

Furthermore, the Minister of National Education who promised to clarify the situation also announced on September 16 that he would draw “all conclusions, including in terms of sanctions” within “15 days”. The deadline is therefore set for October 1, 2023.