LES ECHOS

French Mayor Slaps Backtalking Teen, Sparks National Debate About Discipline

The mayor of Cousolre, a small village in northern France, was recently sentenced by a court for slapping a wisecracking teenager. The verdict led to an outpouring of support for the 63-year-old “disciplinarian,” and has even entered the French president

Mayor Boisart straddles no fence (France 2)
Mayor Boisart straddles no fence (France 2)


*NEWSBITES

PARIS -- Maurice Boisart's decision to smack an insolent teenager earned him a slap on the wrist last month from French authorities, who placed the 63-year-old small-town mayor on probation. The surprise came when the legal sentence triggered an avalanche of support from people in France and elsewhere who defended Boisart's behavior.

The incident occurred in August 2010, when the mayor of Cousolre, in northern France, spotted a 15-year-old boy climbing over a fence. Boisart reprimanded the boy, who responded with an insult. That's when the mayor gave the adolescent a quick slap across the face.

For many people in France, the l'affaire de la gifle (the slap affair), as it's been dubbed by the media, has triggered a wave of nostalgia for times when titles like "Mr. Mayor" and "Mr. Teacher" still meant something for the youth, and when old-school discipline didn't automatically lead to trials. Indeed, Boisart has received more of 1,500 letters and e-mails of support from all over France, as well as from nearby Belgium, Switzerland, and even the United States and Bangkok.

In the heap of letters Boissart received, several teachers point to a failure in parental education. Others praise the mayor's reaction to what they see as France's alarmingly "laissez-faire" approach to child discipline. A psychiatrist has even volunteered to testify in favor of the mayor in an appeals court.

The slap affair also caught the eye of national politicians, especially with the French presidential election approaching fast: leaders of the National Front, an extreme right-wing party, have announced their support for the mayor, while the incumbent, President Nicolas Sarkozy, has publicly made reference to the slap several times – much to the mayor's dismay.

The only support Mayor Boisart actually cares for is a letter from a father, which reads: "I've just lost my 15-year-old son who was playing in a fenced construction site near our house. Why wasn't there anyone to slap him on that day, and keep him from climbing over that fence?"

Read more from Le Monde in French, original article by Pascale Robert-Diard

Photo – France 2

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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