French lawmakers are considering making school bullying a criminal offense. Under the proposed law, school bullies in France could face up to 3 years in jail.
If the victim attempts or commits suicide, the bullies could face up to 10 years in prison or pay a maximum fine of $235,000 (€150,000).
Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer and French President Emmanuel Macron support the proposed law. The law will be "a way of enforcing the values of the republic" and "send a strong message."
"We will never accept the lives of our children being shattered."
Estimates show that about one in every 10 French kids has been victims of bullying.
Cassie d'Espargne, in conjunction with the e-France association study, showed that 20% of children had been confronted with cyberbullying. 51% of them were 13-year-old girls on average.
In March, a 14-year-old girl's beaten body was found near the river. Two teenagers were arrested on murder charges. The girl's mother said the girl had been a victim of bullying since a photo in her underwear circulated on Snapchat.
In July, 11 people, all over the age of 18, were convicted by a French court for harassing and, in one case, threatening a 16-year-old via social media because they posted what they considered to be anti-Islamic.
In October, there was another case of a 14-year-old girl taking her own life after being subjected to racist and homophobic bullying, says her mother.
Brittany MP Erqan Balanant drafted the legislation, and a lower court has approved it. Now it needs to be reviewed by Senate.
He says the law is not about "sending children to prison" since "there is a justice system for minors that takes into consideration the accused's age and powers of discernment."
Instead, it aims at educating on the outcomes of bullying and why they should steer clear of it.
If approved by the Senate, it will take effect in February 2022, making France one of the countries with the harshest bullying policies.
The law will apply to students in schools and universities. The "school bullying" crime will carry a maximum jail time of 3 years and a fine of $71,000.
The legislation plans to provide more resources for the prevention and education of children across the country. This includes provisions for children to partake in community education schemes.
Some members of parliament have criticized the bill. Michele Victory, a socialist MP, said:
"We are not in favor of criminalizing minors and increasing repression."
While social media has its merits, supporters of the bill believe that bullying has become an epidemic.