'Threat is real': France to deploy 3k troops, prepare students for terror attacks on schools

© Charles Platiau
France will deploy around 3,000 reserve troops to provide security to schools, education and security ministers have announced. Anti-terror drills aimed at preparing students for potential attacks will also be ramped up.

Around 12 million French students are preparing to head back to school on September 1, but the government is also making plans of its own. Those plans are aimed at protecting pupils and preparing them for possible attacks on their schools.

All students aged 13-14 will be adding basic life-saving measures to their portfolio of skills, in case they need to provide assistance to classmates in a worse-case scenario. Right now, only 30 percent of students are trained, Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said in a Wednesday press conference, according to AP.

Around 500 school administrators will also be trained each year at the national gendarme training center to manage crisis centers and act as liaisons with security officials.

Vallaud-Belkacem said during the press conference that the new plans are “not about ceding to panic or paranoia,” but conceded that “the threat is high, it is real.”

In addition to training students and staff stepping up to the plate, security forces have been ordered to be particularly vigilant around schools, and some 3,000 gendarme reservists will be deployed to provide reinforcement for local authorities, including police, Reuters reported.

"Throughout the year, particular attention will be put around schools. Active surveillance around schools, high-schools and universities will be reinforced by roving patrols," Security Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said during the press conference in Paris.

The government has decided to provide 50 million euros ($56.2 million) to local councils to help them pay for security equipment such as video door phones and new alarm systems.

Anti-terror drills in schools will also be increased to three per academic year, up from the current requirement of two drills per year. During those drills, students will be taught how to hide or escape. At least one drill will include a mock assailant entering the premises.

Children aged two to six should not be told of any attacks or dangers during the drills, but will be taught to hide and keep quiet through games.

The ministers said that most of the new security measures were put in place after the November 2015 attacks in Paris, which claimed the lives of 130 people and injured over 300 others. The terror attacks were the deadliest to ever take place on French soil.

France continues to experience heightened security across the country, following a series of Islamist attacks since January 2015.

The most recent of those attacks took place in July, when two Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists killed a priest in the city of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray by slitting his throat.

Less than two weeks prior, 86 people were killed and over 300 injured when a box truck plowed into a crowd of spectators watching a Bastille Day fireworks show in the city of Nice. IS claimed responsibility for the attack.

In June, another attack claimed by IS saw a police officer and his wife stabbed to death in their home in the city of Magnanville.