French PM seeks ‘jolt of authority' in bid to tame violent teenagers

France  Bertrand guayPool via AFP
© Bertrand guay/Pool via AFP

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has called attention to youth violence on his 100th day in office, laying plans for a “jolt of authority” in the face of what he says is an increasing disregard for authority by teenagers.

Attal marked his 100th day as PM with a speech in Viry-Châtillon, the southern Paris suburb where a 15-year-old boy was beaten to death two weeks ago outside his middle school.

It was the latest in a series of attacks on schoolchildren by their peers.

“What is needed is a jolt of authority. We are ready to give it,” he said, accompanied by Education Minister Nicole Belloubet and Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti.

Common rules were too often defied by a minority of adolescents, Attal added as he repeated a phrase he's used before: “You break it, you fix it; you make a mess, you clean it up; you defy authority, we teach you to respect it”.

The 35-year-old said there were twice as many teens involved in assault cases, four times more in drug trafficking, and seven times more in armed robberies than in the general population.

He also noted increased Islamist influences.
Attal called on France to mobilise on the issue, confirming there would be an eight-week public consultation to come up with concrete measures – an answer to President Emmanuel Macron's call for a consultation on the “surge of ultraviolence” among young people.

Flexing on security

In his own brief stint as education minister, Attal focused on restoring authority in schools – making waves with a move to ban schoolgirls from wearing abayas, long robes that he said were religious symbols.

As prime minister, Attal heads a government that is looking ahead to European elections in two months. Polls indicate a strong showing for the far right, which has accused the government of not doing enough on security.

Among the measures proposed by Attal is increasing referrals to boarding schools for disruptive students to remove them from the “bad influences” around them, as well as imposing community service on “negligent” parents.

Another proposal is to flag "troublemaker" behaviour in the final marks of particularly disruptive students, a move that could impact their future education prospects.

Attal also spoke about the need to regulate social media and young people's access to screens – an issue already raised by Macron, who is waiting for an expert commission to report on possible measures at the end of the month.

(with newswires)