Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne described it as “shocking”, while Gabriel Attal, Minister of National Education, spoke of it as “shame”. In an interview with Le Parisien, published on Saturday September 23, the former rector of the Versailles academy, Charline Avenel, explains the letter sent by the rectorate to the parents of Nicolas, a 15-year-old high school student who committed suicide early September after suffering harassment. The senior civil servant, who has since left her position, claims not to have “been aware” of this missive, the tone of which aroused general indignation.
With no response after contacting the establishment where their son was educated about the harassment he was experiencing, the parents of young Nicolas contacted the Versailles rectorate. In a response, dated May 4, 2023, the latter considered “unacceptable” the comments of the couple who would have “questioned” the attitude of the staff at their son’s high school. He enjoined parents to adopt a “constructive and respectful attitude” towards the institution, also recalling the criminal risks of slanderous denunciation.
“It is unacceptable that they received such a letter”
Unveiled in mid-September, this letter sparked strong reactions even within government. Charline Avenel swears to have discovered its existence “a week ago in the press”. “I regret not having been aware of these letters and not having been able to ensure that the distress of the families was taken into account,” she said in the columns of Le Parisien. When sending this missive in May, the former rector assured that she was on leave, just like her deputy, but recognized that “this has nothing to do with” this absence of information.
Recognizing a “dysfunction” which raises “the question of the human relationship with users”, she presents “apologies to Nicolas’s parents”. “It is unacceptable that they received such a letter. I was devastated when I learned of the death of this student,” she continues.
The family of young Nicolas is not the only one to have received a letter with the same tone. In recent days, other parents of students have assured that they have received similar letters from the Versailles rectorate, including a father who reported a sexual assault at the start of 2023 on his daughter by an after-school leader in Andrésy (Yvelines).
An audit soon to be launched in each academy
Here again, Charline Avenel explains that she was not aware of these responses. “I validated the principle of letters sent to families threatening teachers. But never for correspondence with families whose children are victims of harassment, explains the former rector. I discovered that these letters of disapproval were sent, and I fear in large numbers, indiscriminately to families in distress. »
According to the official, it is not yet possible to say whether these shipments are “a human error or a systemic problem which goes beyond the Versailles academy”. But “what I can say is that this rectorate is the largest employer in Île-de-France. This means that the number of cases of all kinds to be processed is impressive,” she said.
Faced with this controversy, the Minister of National Education announced the launch of an audit on the management of cases of harassment from September 2022 to September 2023 in each academy. Furthermore, Gabriel Attal “will go to the Versailles rectorate on Monday morning to take stock with the new rector”, appointed in mid-July, the ministry announced.