France’s First Lady calls out bullying

PARIS (AFP) – Brigitte Macron, wife of France’s President and a former teacher, on Thursday lashed out at online bullying, denouncing it as “relentless” in remarks to G7 education ministers.

Addressing delegates in Sevres near Paris, the former high-school teacher urged them to “encourage young people to speak out”.

Last month, an 11-year-old girl committed suicide after being repeatedly bullied by classmates and a teacher at a school near Paris in a case widely covered in the French press.

“It’s relentless. Before, we went home at 4pm and that was it, we could relax,” she said.

“Now, it’s day and night.”

She also read out letters she had received from parents and children, including one from a 16-year-old girl who told her, “I don’t live anymore, I survive.”

In June, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer unveiled plans to update teacher training on bullying, to extend the opening hours of a cyberbullying helpline, and to include bullying in school performance evaluations.

Although Brigitte Macron tends to keep a low profile, she regularly visits schools and charities to promote her anti-bullying work.

A former French and drama teacher, she used to work at a school in northern France where she famously met and later married now-President Emmanuel Macron when he was a pupil, 24 years her junior.