A teacher in southwestern France has been suspended after asking his class of 13-year-olds to write their own suicide notes.
The unnamed teacher gave the assignment as homework to his students at the collège Antoine-Delafont, a secondary school in Montmoreau-Saint-Cybard, reports the Daily Telegraph.
The assignment read:
“You’ve just turned 18 and have decided to end your life. Your decision appears irrevocable. As a final effort, you decide to explain the reasons for your act. In setting out your self-portrait, you describe all the disgust you feel for yourself. Your text must bring up certain events in your life at the root of this feeling.”
An anonymous group of appalled parents responded by sending a note to school officials saying, in part, “We are horrified that this type of topic should be proposed to children between 13 and 14 years old,” the Telegraph says.
According to Le Charente Libre, a regional French newspaper, the teacher was not satisfied with at least one student’s suicide note. “Not precise enough,” he offered as criticism.
The teacher has been roundly criticized across France. The local president of the FCPE — sort of a French PTA — said that the homework assignment was “practically inciting” suicide.
“Telling a pupil that he is about to end his life and that he must recount it appears troubling to us,” agreed Jean-Marie Renault, a local school official, according to the Telegraph.
Even France’s higher education minister, Geneviève Fioraso, found time to denounce the teacher.
“If the topic was launched in this way, without accompaniment, without context, it’s dangerous,” opined Fioraso, according to the Telegraph.
Condemnation has not been universal, however. Some students have offered support.
“He’s our favorite teacher, the best we’ve ever had in this school,” said a student named Lola, according to the Telegraph. “We don’t want him to be punished.”
A group of parents wants the teacher back as well, and has issued a statement calling for his prompt return.
“What do you think they talk about in the playground?” asks one supportive parent, according to Charente Libre. “The images they see on TV are far more shocking.”
“Suicide is part of daily life,” ruminated another parent. “Perhaps the teacher wished to raise their awareness of the issue.”