PARIS – Authorities say the mother of a pupil at a French pre-school stabbed a teacher to death in front of her class Friday, the last day of the school year.
The education minister said the mother apparently had "serious psychiatric problems." Police said she was taken into custody.
Deadly attacks in a school are extremely rare in France, and the stabbing in front of a class of 5- and 6-year-olds raised concern at the highest levels. French President Francois Hollande expressed outrage at "this abominable drama" at the Edouard Herriot school in Albi in southern France.
Education Minister Benoit Hamon traveled immediately to the school, and told reporters that the mother of a pupil "committed this abominable act in a class against a remarkable teacher." A police official said the mother stabbed the teacher with a knife soon after school started Friday morning.
Hamon said the attacker's child had been in the school only for a month and a half, and the mother had had very little contact with the school staff until Friday. It was unclear whether the daughter was in class at the time of the attack.
Police and city officials would not comment on possible reasons for the attack. The regional prosecutor was expected to speak publicly about the case Friday evening.
After Friday's attack, "the children were immediately taken in by another teacher who brought them to another classroom to talk to them, to tell them stories, to try to break them away from what they had just lived through," Hamon said.
The slain teacher, 34, had two small daughters, Hamon said.
Fellow teacher Robert Couffignal of the regional teachers union told BFM television that the school had experienced tensions in the past but had never seen such violence.
"We are not going to put metal detectors in front of the schools to keep the parents from entering. We are in a relation of trust with the parents," Couffignal said. "This is the relation we want to keep."
Other teachers urged better protection for teachers and attention to the tensions they face with parents.
The education minister lamented the especially painful timing of the attack.
"This July 4, the moment when we should be happy for all children that school is over, that vacations are beginning, that teachers successfully completed the school year, has been turned into a day of mourning ... by this abominable crime," Hamon said.
France still feels scars from a shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse in southern France in 2012 that left three children and a rabbi dead.