PARIS (AFP) - France's education minister on Thursday defended school staff in the southern town of Nice for calling in police to talk to an eight-year-old boy who voiced sympathy for the Paris attackers.
"I say forcefully: not only did they act correctly, but their monitoring, teaching and social work is useful and I thank them," Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said.
She was responding to a furore over news that police had interviewed the schoolboy along with his father the previous day.
The boy had refused to take part in the minute's silence following the attacks in Paris earlier this month that left 17 dead, reportedly saying "I am with the terrorists."
Their lawyer, Sefen Guez Guez, said he was "shocked" by the meeting at the police station.
He tweeted extracts from the interview, saying police had asked the boy to define terrorism, to which he responded: "I don't know."
The school had referred the boy to social workers after his outburst over the Paris attacks, but only involved the police after his father came into school and allegedly threatened staff.
The father, named only as Mohammed K, defended his son before television cameras outside the police station on Thursday, saying he was sorry for his outburst.
"I said to him 'My son, do you know what terrorism is?' And he said 'No'."
The police claimed the boy made other outbursts in the school by saying "French people must be killed" and "The journalists deserved what they got", referring to the killings at magazine Charlie Hebdo.
A local security official, Marcel Authier, told AFP that the boy and his father had been called in "to try to understand how a boy of eight can come to say such radical things."
But many have criticised and ridiculed the move on social media as evidence of "hysteria" in the wake of the Paris attacks.
"Father and son are deeply shocked by their treatment which illustrates the collective hysteria that has engulfed France since early January," said the Collective Against Islamophobia in France in a statement.