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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Quand les gendarmes traquent la drogue en classe

by Laurent Mouloud

Police raid on a classroom in search of drugs

Translated Friday 5 December 2008, by Edward Lamb

Education. Indignation among the population of the Gers over the heavy handed intervention of police officers in a junior high school in Marciac.

« She had never been accustomed to such violence », Frédéric David sighed . A father who has not yet gotten over it. Wednesday, 19th November, his daughter Zoé, 14 years old, and her classmates at a small junior high school in Marciac (Gascony), were the appalled witnesses to a scandalous police raid : right in the midst of a classroom, brandishing police dogs and actually "frisking" certain adolescents… An operation conducted within the framework of a drug « prevention » programme, which turned into a display of public humiliation for many of the pupils.

An incriminating account

The affair would never have gotten outside of the school, had it not been for the alertness of Frédéric David. It all came out in the course of a simple conversation between the divorced father and his daughter. « I just couldn’t believe it », he recalls. « It seemed so very serious that I asked her to write her own eye witness account of the scene on a piece of paper. » Her account is precise and overwhelming.

The cops penetrated into the classroom a few minutes after the lesson had begun. « We are going to bring in a dog! Put your hands on your desks, sit up straight, and don’t look at him! When he bites, it hurts! », one policeman interjected. The canine crept through the aisles sniffing each satchel. The pupils were scared stiff. The teacher, apparently taken by surprise, remained petrified. The dog came to a halt in front of the hand bag of one of Zoé’s girlfriends. « The K-9 officer snapped his fingers saying: "Gather your belongings, Miss, and leave the room!" » Even though the dog did not pay any attention to Zoé, the police ordered her out of the classroom, all the same. In the corridor, the adolescent was submitted to a formal police "shake down". She was forced to spill out the contents of her sack on the floor, take off her shoes and unroll the cuffs of her trousers. « She doesn’t seem to have any ’hash’; but, given the way she looks, we’d better check her out carefully! », one of the gendarmes [1] was reported as having said.

Nothing was spared them… « She, then, searched me even feeling inside of my bra and running her hands along my panties! The police officers did not express any surprise at that gesture, but I did! I told all of them: "That’s enough! Stop it! I’m not hiding anything!" » Finally, Zoé gathered her things and went back to class. « The teacher asked me what they had done. I told her that they had searched us. I returned to my seat but had a hard time concentrating on mathematics! » the young girl concluded.

Obviously, Frédéric David tried to get in touch with the Principal. "He never returned my call", Mr. David stated. "So, I decided to publish the story on the Internet [2]. Not to do anything would have been unthinkable." So much the more so that this is not an isolated case. On Monday, November 11th, sixteen policemen, including two K-9 officers, proceeding in the same manner, made an irruption into a Trade School at Auch-Pavie, also located in the Gers. According to the local parent’s association, the FCPE (Fédération des Conseils des Parents d’Elèves), which, along with the FSU (Fédération Syndicale Unitaire) teacher’s union, condemns these acts, no less than twenty-three such operations may have taken place since the beginning of this year.

L’inspecteur d’académie (Director of the Regional Education Authority), Jean-Marie Louvet, is not denying it. He finds the controversy « excessive ». « As in all the départments (geographical administrative divisions, roughly equivalent to counties), there are agreements with the Police, the gendarmes, the public prosecutor and the national education system in the struggle against drug dealing. We act, almost always, on the demand of (the school’s) Principals. » He very reluctantly admits that, in the case of Marciac, « the preliminary preparation of the intervention was insufficient ».

In an attempt to appease the affair, l’Inspection académique (please see above) announced, last Friday, that it intended to revise its procedures, notably by informing the students. « But, we are not going to suspend these operations », added Jean-Marie Louvet. « The law must be enforced wherever it applies. » For his part, Frédéric David has called for a public gathering next Friday, in front of the school, there, in Marciac. The slogan for the occasion being: « Yes, our kids need (drug) prevention; no, they do not need to be terrorized. »

Translator’s notes:

[1Gendarme n. 1. a member of the police force in France or in countries formerly influenced or controlled by France. 2. a slang word for a policeman… (from French, from gens d’armes people of arms) English Collins Dictionary - English Definition & Thesaurus

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