Transcript of French TV doc 2007 2/3
We have found another woman. She asked us to be addressed as Muriel. You won’t see her face. She too has known the school, in the community of Tabitha’s Place, in Sus
The school at Tabitha’s place was nothing like other schools. There you mainly study the Bible within the religion, also a bit of French, Maths, History, But that was at a very minimum level compared to the normal school curriculum.
- So who provides the classes?
- It could be any person, with no qualifications, could have been me now. I could be now a teacher there and I have no qualifications.
In this internal community document we have obtained it is clearly stipulated :
TO GIVE TO THE SCHOOL SYSTEM A PART OF RESPONSIBILITY IN THE INSTRUCTION OF OUR CHILDREN WOULD BE AN UNFAITHFULNESS TOWARDS GOD.
ANY COLLABORATION WITH THIS EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM IS TANTAMOUNT TO ACCEPTING TO PUT OUR CONSCIENCE IN JEOPARDY.
By these words the need for an internal school is legitimised and isolation accepted.
Where you aware of what was going on outside of the community? – No, not at all. -For example?
- Well, I was young, so I didn’t have yet an interest in politics but even at a minimum level, like wars that are going on…I didn’t even know who was the president of our republic. It is presented and understood as having no significance. Because the outside life is ruled by Satan so it is of no interest to know about.
- Why have you decided, Muriel to testify hiding your identity?
- Because I still have family in there. And so I am afraid of retaliation, that they would be shifted to other communities in any other country and that I would never be able to see them again.
Children cut-off from the world, a school within a religious community, with their own curricula and their own unqualified teachers.
We went and demanded clarifications from Education Nationale [Department of Education] by heading to Inspection Academique of Oloron Sainte Marie [National Inspectorate of ….OSM ] . Philippe Vol is in charge of this dossier.
Every year, the community’s children’s school achievements are academically assessed..
Philippe Wolf, Inspection Nationale of Oloron Sainte Marie [National Inspectorate of ….]
Here are the different tools we need to classify the different elements.
We have the work produced by the children when under examination in the different subjects, language skills, maths, opening to the world…etc.
- And so, what is the verdict on the Tabitha’s Place children?
- Among the 12 children we evaluate there is a basic grasp of the fundamentals reading and writing, counting and as far as opening to the world, same as every year we see quite a limited scope.
In France it is totally legal to teach your children at home. A declaration to the Inspection Académique [Academic Inspection] is sufficient. But the law from 5th March 2007 is very restrictive.
The instruction of children at home is only possible for children of a same family.
And so the parents commit themselves to teach their own children in place of a teacher. But in Tabitha’s Place the children are put together.
So this is not a case of home schooling then, it is more of a school situation set up within a community.
- A school is accredited
– But this one is not
- No, so we don’t call it a school, to be a school it has to be accredited by the Rector and that is not the case. So what we have is a bunch of children being schooled by their parents as a group which falls into home-schooling.
- And, and….. – It’s a play on words
- And everyone finds this very convenient!?
-It is a compromise, effectively. We know that if justice heads the way and increases the pressure we will see an escape into foreign countries.
Evidently, the school of Sus is outside of the law. The state turns a blind eye to keep a contact with the children.
We find also that the Education Nationale [Education Department] doesn’t take advantage of the inspections to check on the health of the students.
Are you accompanied by school doctors that can see the children?
- For now, we have conducted according to the protocol which has been redefined in connection with Inspection Generale in 2003 mainly on elements which are of the pedagogical order, and we could say in terms of physical development and of motor skills within the context of physical education and sports.
- So there is no medical examination of the children ?
-No, no medical examination on the children takes place.
But some more thorough unannounced medical checks from the Education Nationale or the Conseil General could be necessary.
As he was escorting us, our host had made some strange confidences:
“Your kid, he will become what you want him to become in his life. And this is called the exercise of authority.
-Your kid who I just saw with the brown top. If he plays up, what do you do?
Well, I go and get a small stick and let him know that he needs correction because what you just did is not correct
-so what do you do then?
And so I discipline him. I discipline him making sure to let him know that it is fair that he gets disciplined
-with a stick?
-yes, with a stick. And so he bends down and I hit him with a stick 3,4,5 times on the bottom.
- Well it has to hurt but you can’t get carried away. But it has to convey that what he did was not good so as to convince him to not do it again. But that doesn’t mean that when you beat him one time he is going to change straight away. So it is a process that takes time.
Children chastised in the name of God. Muriel is well acquainted with this kind of discipline. But listening to her it is obvious it goes much further than an old styled education.
I have seen a little boy getting 20 beating sessions in a day.
– By his parents?
- Yes, by his parents, by his pseudo teacher, everyone had access to the stick
- was it a humiliating process to get disciplined?
- Yes, definitely, it was VERY humiliating to get disciplined. I was asked to excuse myself. I was talked to being told you’ve done this wrong, that wrong…this is not good and on and on and on and I was supposed to say thank you, thank you for disciplining me, thank you..
- You had to accept the discipline
– You had to accept, yes, the punishment and express gratitude for it by thanking the person.
These are rare documents, that circulate around the community alone. They are called the Teachings.
This particular one is about children’s education.
Page after page you learn: Parents are the authority, whether just or bad, Children have to pay for their sins with their own sufferings.
You have to make it hurt enough to produce the desired result.
Physical chastisement is the justifiable physical force that parents have to use when correcting or repressing the rebellion of a child.
Anne-Marie and Michel’s children were subjected to this discipline for 5 years.
This is the first time they talk about what they had to endure.
What is it about the community you didn’t like? – correction
- what was that?
– it was done with a stick, there were beatings
- was it you beating?
-that was you getting beaten?
-sometimes by my father, or others
-why were you getting beaten?
- sometimes because I talked
- because you talked?
- and that was a serious offence?
- because we were doing activities
- and you were not allowed to talk?
- so that hurt?
- yes, for sure
- and it happened often-time?
- how many times?
- I don’t know, maybe 2, 3 times a day
- 3 times in a single day? – yes
The two oldest ones, two girls were 9 and 11 years old. And so they recall with details the many beatings and the deprivations.
Did you have toys?
– no, they were burnt
– because toys are not allowed
- did you often asked your parents to leave the community?
- would you have like to leave?
- yes, often I would go to the gates and look at the school on the other side of the street, it is the primary school. And I would say to myself it must be nice over there with everyone there. And I was thinking about it.
- and you were considering escaping?
– yes, but I didn’t know how.
- can you tell me of one of the corrections that happened to you?
- well, I actually had done nothing wrong, but the person believed I had done something. I had raised my eyes to the window because we were sitting on the floor. And she thought I had raised my eyes to the heavens.
- and that was forbidden…an what’s that about?
- well I didn’t know what that meant to raise your eyes to heavens and so the person said you have raised your eyes to heaven, come behind the board. She ordered me to put my pants down and that, And I said to myself :”But I have done nothing, why is she doing this to me” but I could not say anything because it wasn’t right for me to come against their will,
- And so what happened?
- Well I told my parents that I had done nothing and that this person had no right to do this to me but they didn’t believe me and the person forced my parents to correct me and they did. And for this…I could not forgive them.
- it is not easy to talk about all this?
- no, because I am revisiting my bad memories and sometimes I break down.
Anne-Marie, ex-member of the 12 T.
It has to be known that even babies are corrected, to stay still, from 6 months of age. And youths, having thick skin are corrected with palm branches which is a lot harder, a lot stronger.
- Years later, with hindsight I can see it is a very deep abuse and all the more perverse because you cannot see it.
MICHEL EX-MEMBER OF THE COMMUNITY IN SUS
We are not talking about a child savagely beaten who is covered in bruises, swellings, obviously traumatized or has a black eye, no, not at all
This is a child which is getting broken since birth, his will, his independence, his flourishing,
his freedom of choice for his future life all that he cannot even conceive.
- do you blame yourself for what you have done to your kids
-YES, yes, yes
For sure the children will always have that in their pasts. We carry that with us all the time and we think about it all the time. It’s in us.
While members they were allowed to see their families only once. When they return the community ostracises them and puts them through a quarantine, as a way to retaliate for having contacted the world outside.
The penny drops.
All their doubts catch up with them and they decide to leave the community in Sus.
The parents have lost everything, the trust of their children and all their savings which they had handed over to the community.
Today they have lodged a complaint against X, for breach of trust, abuse of weakness, violence against minors of less than 15 years of age.
There is an ongoing enquiry here in the Pau Tribunal.
Here, the Procureur de la Republique [State Prosecutor] who has come to greet us.
Here the dossier on Tabitha’s Place is a sensitive dossier which is followed closely. But the state authorities have difficulties even knowing how many children reside there.
ERIC MOREL PROCUREUR DE LA REPUBIQUE IN PAU
This community in Sus, as this present moment, do you know exactly how many children live there?
- Give or take, because it is a very mobile population, there could be around 20 children in the community,