Even the sky of Saint-Jean-de-Luz is in mourning. And with him, this Thursday, February 23, the whole Basque city is mourning the tragic death of Agnès Lassalle, the Spanish teacher murdered the day before by a student from Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin high school.
In pouring rain, the first students arrive around 9 a.m. in front of the establishment, very often with a yellow rose or a small bouquet in their hands. “We’re sad, it’s horrible, we don’t understand,” said Ainhoa simply, helplessly interpreting a general feeling.
The students arrive on foot in clusters or are dropped off by car by a parent and rush into the establishment, where the teachers are already gathered. In front of the gate, a mother tenderly hugs her schoolgirl daughter before leaving her.
A team of health professionals on site
“We welcome all students who wish, but there will be no class this morning,” explains Denis Vieillescazes, head of the rectorate’s mobile security team dispatched to the scene. The civil servant is the only one authorized to express himself. No one will speak before the press conference that the Bayonne prosecutor is to hold in the middle of the afternoon.
A team of health professionals is present in the school to support the colleagues of the 52-year-old teacher who had been in post since 1997. She was a figure in the school. Ainhoa, a pupil in first, had had her as a teacher in the fourth class. She salutes the memory of a “good” teacher, “rigorous”, certainly, without anything being able to bring the beginning of an explanation to this crazy act.
The profile of the young man is still very uncertain. The high school student was not known to the police or the justice services. Two sources familiar with the matter spoke to AFP of a young man making “incoherent remarks” and with “proven psychiatric disorders”.
No specific report
“To my knowledge, there was no particular report,” said Wednesday the Minister of Education, Pap Ndiaye, who came immediately to the scene. In front of the school, some high school students say, however, that other students in his second class would have shared morbid comments made by the young man. But not everyone I met knew him directly.
The Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin secondary school is a very large establishment of nearly 1,200 students, with seven second classes and many Spanish students enrolled in Bachibac, the section which prepares for the French and Spanish double diploma. “There are six or seven of us in each second class”, explains one of them, testifying to the very good atmosphere that exists between the pupils of the two nationalities.
A stab wound to the chest
Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin is a quiet and renowned establishment (100% of final year students had their baccalaureate last year, 91% with honors). There is a climate of benevolence between the educational team and the schoolchildren, report the students and elders of Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin who have been expressing their disbelief and their amazement for 24 hours on social networks and the media.
On Wednesday evening, the Catholic community celebrated the ash ceremony which marks the start of Lent. At the end of the office, on the square of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste church, a mother is there with her three children, all of whom attend college and high school. They are like everyone else in shock. The youngest was in the class next to the one where the tragedy took place. The scenario seems more or less known: a little before 10 a.m., a student would have got up calmly, to go and lock the front door, then would have turned towards Agnès Lassalle, at the blackboard, and would have planted a knife in the chest.
A minute of silence
“The students who had class in a half-group arrived suddenly in our room which communicates”, explains the second student who wishes to preserve anonymity. A movement of panic ensued, and it was a teacher who convinced the designated author to drop his weapon, before the rapid arrival of the police.
The older sister, who is in first, had had Agnès Lassalle as a teacher last year and also testifies to an excellent professional. The family is like the whole community stunned.
“We are all overwhelmed, flabbergasted and filled with immense emotion,” said Brigitte Caulier, president of the Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin parents’ association, in the evening. “We send our most sincere condolences to his companion and his family,” continues his message.
A minute of silence will be honored at 3 p.m. this Thursday in all secondary establishments in France which are not currently on leave.
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