French teacher on trial over pupil's accidental hanging acquitted

TARASCON, FRANCE (AFP) - A French teacher on trial after her pupil accidentally hanged himself from a coat peg in a school corridor was acquitted on Tuesday.

Ms Agnes Lelong, a primary school teacher, was charged with manslaughter over the death of her student, Khoren Grimaldi, whom she sent out of class in May 2011 in a school in the southern city of Arles. Three-quarters of an hour later, the 11-year-old was found hanging by his T-shirt from a coat peg, unconscious. He died four days later in hospital.

According to other pupils interviewed during the probe into his death, Ms Lelong punished the student by saying: "Pupils work in class, you don't behave like a pupil, you don't work, go with the coats."

Ms Laure Grimaldi, Khoren's mother, said her son had no doubt wanted to play a practical joke in response to the "humiliation", which went tragically wrong. According to the court hearing, Grimaldi asked to come back into class half-an-hour after being sent out, but Ms Lelong refused and said she no longer wanted to see him. On Tuesday, the court acquitted the 42-year-old, saying she had not violated any laws or regulations and had merely made a mistake.

The court president, however, added that Ms Lelong still "personally contributed to setting up the circumstances that led to the tragedy". Both parties welcomed the judgement, which Ms Lelong's lawyer said respected the law, and the parents' attorney said highlighted the responsibility of the teacher in their son's death.