French Teacher Suspended for Having Class Hold Moment of Silence for Suspected Jewish School Gunman

Mohammed Merah (AP)

A teacher in France was reportedly suspended Friday after having her class observe a moment of silence to honor the man who admitted to killing a rabbi and three young children at a Jewish school this week.

Mohamed Merah claimed he had links to Al-Qaeda and said he was proud of the school shootings in Toulouse, France, as well as of killing three French paratroopers in a separate incident. He died early Thursday after jumping from a window during a shootout with French police.

According to the Agence France-Presse, the unnamed 56-year-old teacher asked her students during an English lesson to pay their respects to Merah:

Student representatives in the final year class in the northern city of Rouen wrote to the principal to voice “shock” at being urged in an English lesson to pay respect to a self-declared Al-Qaeda militant who killed seven people.

Most of the class walked out, though some remained “to try to understand what she was talking about,” their letter said.

She “clearly said that Mohamed Merah was a victim, that the link with Al-Qaeda had been invented by the media and ‘Sarko’,” said the letter, a copy of which was published by the Paris Normandie newspaper.

“An immediate suspension has been decided along with a ban on entering the school,” a local education official told journalists, adding that the suspension did not imply the teacher is guilty.

The head of a local teacher’s union told AFP the teacher’s actions were not “the political act of an extremist but the act of a colleague who has health concerns, who is fragile and who is receiving psychological treatment.”

“She said something unfortunate in a particular context and she immediately regretted what she said,” Pascal Bossuyt said.