24 November 2023

How to count attacks on secularism at school? The debate will not fail to resurface with the publication on Wednesday March 8 of the first survey carried out on the subject by the SNPDEN-UNSA. The main union of heads of institutions has just set up an observatory of internal secularism and has surveyed its members. Nearly a thousand management staff from 10,700 French colleges and high schools responded.

Result ? 42% of staff questioned observed between September 2022 and January 2023 the presence of pupils with “so-called cultural clothing but which can be used in the context of a religious practice”, such as qamis (long tunics) or abayas (long dresses of Middle Eastern tradition, worn over other clothes). Among them, 43% did not report the facts to their hierarchy.

On the Ministry of National Education side, there are ultimately between 360 and 280 reports depending on the month since the start of the school year, with a peak of 720 in October. A third to a half concern disputed outfits, or around 800 reports since the start of the school year.

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The reasons given for not listing everything? The management team has solved the problem directly, or the headteacher does not see the point of it, convinced of not being followed by the institution. The lack of time, the fear of being considered incompetent or that this rise will harm their career are also highlighted. For Didier Georges, co-president of this new internal observatory, “Even if things have changed for several years, and particularly since the assassination of Samuel Paty, the idea of ​​a “no waves” demanded by the institution remains very present”. Even if “this is no longer the reality”it stays “the perception of colleagues”insists the union official.

Request for “clear instructions”

Lydia Advenier, national secretary of the SNPDEN, recounts another experience. She was confronted at the start of the school year with a young girl who came “covered head”. She reminded him of the terms of the law and the student returned the next day without a bandana. “I did not report it to the rectorate because the problem was solved. We must agree on what we want to measure: all attacks on secularism or serious facts that we cannot manage. » The reporting procedure thus seems unsuitable for many heads of establishments.

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Bruno Bobkiewicz, the general secretary of the union, says to himself, whatever the case, ” very surprised “ by these figures which are concentrated in high schools and in urban and sensitive areas. They come to give weight to the demands of the heads of establishments. The latter have been asking since the fall “clear instructions” on the issue of wearing abayas and qamis for “adapting to new circumvention strategies”. Pap Ndiaye spoke out on several occasions when judging the 2004 law on the wearing of religious symbols in schools “perfectly clear” : “There is no question of establishing a catalog of all the clothes that could be religious”he insisted each time. “We must clarify the status of these outfits: either it is a subject or it is not, but leaving us in the middle of the ford is not tenable”replies Bruno Bobkiewicz.

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