Thursday, a seven-year-old child attending school in the village of Saint-Médard-de-Guizières, in Gironde, was escorted home by a municipal police officer because of a canteen debt of 800 euros that has been running since 2019. The ‘ The case caused a lot of noise and as of Monday, the Defender of Rights “seized the matter ex officio” to investigate the situation. “Children must be left out of conflicts between their parents and the administration,” Claire Hédon recalled in a statement.
Contacted by 20 minutes, Mireille Conte Jaubert, the mayor of the small town remains upright in her boots: “I do not regret anything because the conditions in which this child was recovered are more than honorable and gentle. He was told that his mother forgot to tell him that he did not eat in the canteen and that as she knew the municipal police officer, she had asked him to come and pick him up ”. She goes so far as to assure that some of her comrades found her lucky to get into the police car. “This child was not traumatized that it is the municipal police officer who brings him back, he is traumatized by all the hype that his mother has generated around this story”, believes the elected, convinced to have opted for the solution “The least penalizing for the child”.
“No solution to make him listen to reason”
The mayor believes that she has been patient enough. “I made a note before the start of the school year, to say that if the canteen debts were not settled, I would not be able to accept the children. The majority of parents have sought and found a solution to regularize their debt. Except her, who was aggressive and quite threatening towards me, telling me that if I did not keep her child in the canteen, she would not pay her debt. There was no real solution to make him listen to reason ”. The town hall would have asked her to find a possible deadline, in connection with the Public Treasury which takes over on this type of file, but in vain.
The chosen one does not hide her anger, in front of the support that the mother of the family has obtained from other parents of students. “She is setting a precedent since I have parents who no longer want to pay for the canteen given what she has done. A surge of solidarity has been created around her. I pass for the naughty at the moment but I assume completely and that does not pose any problem to me of conscience. For the moment, the mother no longer puts her child in the canteen.
The school catering budget of this small town weighs around 50,000 euros per year, out of an operating budget of 2 million euros. She practices a single pricing with a meal at 2.30 euros based on organic products “knowing that it costs us much more”, underlines the mayor.
“The children have nothing to do with it”
According to the school catering survey conducted by the Association of Mayors of France in 2020, nearly one in two municipalities (49%) encounter difficulties with unpaid bills but 44% in a moderate way. “Even when we are faced with unpaid bills, it is not for the children to suffer these situations because they have nothing to do with it,” said Virginie Lanlo, co-chair of the working group on collective catering at the association of mayors of France (AMF), and first assistant in charge of education in Meudon. We have costs but we are responsible for the children and it is up to us to work with the family to find a solution instead of pushing it down and leading to humiliation ”.
The implementation of a tariff based on income, degressive or according to the rate of effort can make it possible to limit these unpaid debts. According to the survey, cities with less than 10,000 inhabitants make more use of single pricing. An observation which can be explained, analyzes the study, by “an administrative overload linked to the establishment of a scale of family contributions, or even by the direct recourse to CCAS or CIAS which can also provide assistance to families. difficulty. “