Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister of Education, wants to reestablish the possibility for veiled women to accompany classes on school field trips. This change would also apply to women who wear kippot or Sikh turbans.
The debate promises to be quite polemical, given the extreme opinions on the subject. Since March 27, 2012, the Chatel Circular, instituted by one of Vallaud-Belkacem’s predecessors Vincent Peillon, prohibits mothers from expressing their religious convictions during school trips. Vallaud-Belkacem explains that “Parents accompanying their children on school trips are not subject to religious neutrality. They cannot be considered as part of public service and are not subject to public service rules. The principle is that when mothers (the parents) are not subject to religious neutrality, as the Supreme Court indicates, acceptance of their presence in school trips should be the rule and the norm, the exception.”
Vallaud-Belkacem opposes a combative secularism and believes the solution is to apply exceptional refusal, in the case of proselytizing, but a relaxation of the principle if the mother is willing to accompany the class on a trip without bringing up the theme of religion other than their attire.
For those who support the Chatel Circular, their interpretation is quite different: “When they are chaperones on school field trips, they also represent the institution, just as the teachers do,” said Jean-Remy Girard, National Secretary of the National Syndicate of Middle Schools and High Schools (SNALC).