School Bullies Could Get 10 Years in Jail Under New French Law

And a €150,000 fine.
Simon Childs
London, GB
French President Emmanuel Macron​ during a school visit. Photo: IAN LANGSDON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
French President Emmanuel Macron during a school visit. Photo: IAN LANGSDON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

School bullying will become a criminal offence in France punishable by up to ten years in prison.

The French parliament voted in the new legislation after several tragic cases of bullying made the headlines in recent years.

The new law, backed by the majority of President Emmanuel Macron's ruling coalition, applies to children and adults in schools and universities. It carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of up to €45,000 (£38,300). If the victim kills themself the sentence could rise to ten years with a fine of up to €150,000.

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The law was approved by the lower house of French Parliament, the National Assembly, on Wednesday and will now have to be approved the the upper house, the Senate. It is expected to be adopted in February.

Bullying is believed to affect 700,000 French school children every year. 

In October, a 14-year-old girl from the Alsace region killed herself after she was harassed after telling classmates that she was gay. In December 2020 a trans teenager identified only as Fouad died by suicide after alledgedly being “humiliated” by school staff who told her that her decision to wear a skirt was upsetting other students. The school faced a backlash from students after it misgendered the 17-year-old in a statement about her death.

The nature of bullying has changed, with perpetrators using mobile phones and social networks to humiliate their victims outside school hours as well as during school.

Erwan Balanant, the Brittany MP from the centrist MoDem (Democratic Movement) party, who drafted the legislation, said it was designed to send a "shock wave" through society about the importance of tackling bullying.

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“It’s not about sending children to prison”, he said. “There is a justice system for minors that takes into consideration the accused’s age and powers of discernment.” But laws can set “the value system of a society” he said.

Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer who backed the legislation said it was “a way of enforcing the values of the republic”.

“We will never accept the lives of our children being shattered", he said

Opponents of the law said that bullying is already being dealt with under harassment laws.

Michele Victory, an MP from La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), a left-wing party, said, “We are not in favour of criminalising minors and increasing repression.”

Sabine Rubin MP from La France Insoumise called it “an “illusionary and demagogic over-reaction.”