France: Another brutal act of violence at school: 14-year-old witness to knife attack suffers cardiac arrest

An attacker in France slightly injured two elementary school students with a knife on Thursday and terrified an entire town near Strasbourg.

France: Another brutal act of violence at school: 14-year-old witness to knife attack suffers cardiac arrest

An attacker in France slightly injured two elementary school students with a knife on Thursday and terrified an entire town near Strasbourg. After the attack on Thursday in Souffelweyersheim, a suspect was arrested, the public prosecutor's office in the Alsace metropolis said. The man, aged around 30, was taken into police custody. The two students, aged seven and eleven, suffered superficial cuts. They were able to leave the University Hospital in Strasbourg after a short treatment.

Nevertheless, there is one fatality to mourn: During the police operation, the affected and neighboring schools were cordoned off and the students had to wait in the locked buildings. According to the public prosecutor's office, a 14-year-old suffered a cardiac arrest during this time. As headmaster Olivier Faron announced on Friday, the teaching staff quickly rushed to help the young people and alerted the rescue workers. Nevertheless, the student died late in the afternoon.

The school director assured that the staff had implemented the school's lockdown rules "extremely precisely and strictly." Unfortunately, the 14-year-old student got into an extremely stressful situation and suffered a cardiac arrest. Strasbourg prosecutor Yolande Renzi announced an investigation into the exact circumstances of the death. It was initially not known whether the girl suffered from heart problems.

After the elementary school's lunch break around 2 p.m. on Thursday, the attacker suddenly stabbed the eleven-year-old in the neck at the entrance and ran away while the school alerted the police. As he fled, the man crossed the path of a mother with her seven-year-old daughter, whom he stabbed in the neck. Gendarmerie officers pursued the perpetrator and arrested him shortly afterwards, although he resisted, the public prosecutor's office said. The authorities emphasized that the perpetrator did not break into the school.

The attacker's motive is still unclear. As the public prosecutor announced on Thursday evening, there was no evidence of radicalization of the perpetrator or a terrorist background for the crime. So far there is no evidence that the attacker, who was born in 1995, had a connection to the school. However, according to initial findings, the man could be mentally unstable.

Education Minister Nicole Belloubet assured the girls who were attacked and their families full support. “In view of this new intolerable act, a decisive response must be taken immediately.” Security measures would be taken and psychological support would be organized.

The highest terror alert level currently applies in France and schools have been given special protection for a long time. “I panicked, I immediately thought of my son,” a mother told broadcaster BFMTV outside the school. "It hurts to know that something like this can happen in a school."

Recently, several brutal acts of violence in front of schools shocked France. On Tuesday last week, a 15-year-old was stabbed to death in Romans-sur-Isère while trying to settle a dispute.

The week before, a 15-year-old student was beaten to death by four young men in the Paris suburb of Viry-Châtillon. The three 17-year-olds and a 20-year-old arrested on suspicion of murder are said to have beaten the student on the way home from school and left him unconscious. He was taken to a Paris hospital but died there. Previously, a 13-year-old girl was attacked near her school in Montpellier and beaten into a coma.

The attack in Souffelweyersheim came as Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced a series of measures to combat increasing violence in school environments. According to the French daily "Le Monde", Attal traveled with ministers and state secretaries to Viry-Châtillon on Thursday, where a 15-year-old had died. From the lectern in front of the town hall, he called for a "real boost in authority" that would make it possible to curb the violence of some of the youth. “Today it is the republic that is fighting back,” he told community representatives. "This is what we want to initiate from Viry-Châtillon: the general mobilization of the nation to reconnect with its young people and curb violence." According to Le Figaro, he also said: "The culture of apology is over."

Attal announced that France's law enforcement forces and legal system would be upgraded "financially and materially." According to “BFMTV,” the former education minister also said: “No, our young people are not broken.” However, he acknowledged that it was difficult to "include youth into a common ideal." He announced that he would “name things correctly, look for the causes and, above all, find solutions.”

As is so often the case, the first are calling for harsher punishments in view of the current youth violence. In France there is no fixed age of criminal responsibility, but minors are brought before a juvenile court. The penalties there vary depending on the age range (under 13 years old, 13 - 15 years old, 16 - 18 years old). Only when an offender reaches the age of 13 can a prison sentence be imposed. The debate as to whether this is still appropriate is likely to gain momentum soon.

Sources: AFP, DPA, "Le Monde" on Attal's measures, "Le Figaro" on Attal's measures, "BMFTV" on the Souffelweyersheim attack, "Bundestag.de" on criminal responsibility in EU states (PDF).

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