French Jewish school denies students ‘mutinied’ over female chaperones

(JTA) — Teachers from a Jewish school near Paris denied reports that their students had “mutinied” against the presence of female test watchers.

According to Jforum, a French-Jewish news site, the reports concerned some  50 students aged 14-15 from the Mercaz HaTorah private school in Gagny, an eastern suburb of Paris, taking a state exam earlier this month at a nearby public school.

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The news site Atlantico reported that the Mercaz HaTorah students who came to the Pablo Neruda School to take the test in a controlled classroom refused to do so and “mutinied” because they had been assigned female watchers.

Atlantico reported that the students finally agreed to take the exam after male chaperones replaced the two women.

But Jforum wrote in an article published Friday that teachers from the Jewish school said the gender issue was “simply invented” by a teacher of the public school who was not present during the exam.

The Jewish teachers interviewed by Jforum said staff at the Pablo Neruda School segregated the Jewish pupils from other pupils “because of safety issues.” One Jewish teacher, Benjamin Tagger, told Jforum that he asked his counterpart from Pablo Neruda not to set apart the Jewish pupils from non-Jews in the future “because we are all French citizens.”

Tagger said the test “went ahead as normal.”

The article, which appeared on the website of Marine Le Pen, the French far-right politician, characterized the alleged incident as “testimony of the crisis around our values” and a “problem with religious tolerance in France.”