The recommendations of the Defender of Rights to protect the privacy of children

“It is not always easy to understand the subject of the private life of children”, recognizes Claire Hédon during the presentation of the annual report of the institution, on November 17. “You have to balance the protection of these children with their right to privacy and their freedoms. The question arises for parents, teachers and more broadly for all public actors.

Article 16 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides that “No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, or to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation”. If the concept of private life is voluntarily wide and evolving, it includes in particular the intimacy of each one, what one does not wish to subject to external glances (sentimental life, state of health, religious belief…) but also all data to personal character (address or telephone number).

“Toilets are often seen as areas of no-rights”

The 1,100 children questioned, as well as many professionals working with them, mentioned all the collective spaces, hence the importance of the school, and in particular the toilets. “We have the right to have a door to the toilets”, testifies one of the young people questioned.

“Toilets are often perceived as no-rights areas where there can be scenes of harassment. We have seen establishments where supervisors, a man and a woman depending on the toilet, managed the entrance flows. This is a good idea,” says Eric Delamar, Defender of Children.

Many young people also mention the problem of toilet hygiene in schools. “Cleaning has a cost, but for us the cursor must always be placed in the interest of the child. And this interest should not be overwhelmed by budgetary constraints,” says Claire Hédon.

The Defender of Children also mentions the organization of the sanitary facilities, “with large spaces left between the floor and the door”, which raise questions about the preservation of children’s privacy. “During a municipal youth council where college students were discussing these issues, a mother came to see me. She told me that when she picked up her 4-year-old child from school, he would rush home to go to the bathroom: he would hold himself back all day. We also find this same problem with the common showers in the sports locker rooms, observes Éric Delamar. “Even in new colleges built with a concern for ecology and space, the question of toilets remains. It is necessary to think materially and humanly this place so that the children feel safe there. »

Unpaid canteen: the child is not an intermediary

If all children have the right to the protection of their private life, the report mentions particular attention for the most fragile, in particular young people in precarious situations. “We were seized by a family whose child had been given, in front of his entire class, a sheet mentioning the late payment in the canteen and his ban on registering at the summer camp. A form of violent stigmatization, says the Defender of Rights. However, the child does not have to serve as an intermediary between the adults and the institution. »

In her report, Claire Hédon recommends that local authorities “provide procedures for requesting unpaid canteens, avoiding any involvement or stigmatization of children, by transmitting canteen bills and engaging in a dialogue with a view to their collection directly with the parents, and in compliance with the procedures provided for” by these communities.

A charter for the use of video surveillance

In her report, the Defender of Rights warns of the development of “public control” systems for student movements within schools, primarily video surveillance. It cites the “recommendations of the CNIL concerning the adoption by the heads of establishments of charters for the use of video surveillance by involving all the actors concerned, including the representatives of the parents of pupils and the pupils themselves. , in the reflections undertaken on the adaptation of the device to the respect of the private life of the children”.

More broadly, many recommendations are addressed to the Ministry of National Education. Among which, make children aware of their private life and that of others by registering compulsory digital education modules and guaranteeing the effectiveness of the law of April 21, 2017 providing for 3 annual sessions of sexuality education.

“I am aware that we ask a lot at school, recognizes Claire Hédon. But this is the place where we can train and inform everyone. Other resource centers exist, at the local level, which can also take over from the institution, in particular for the information of the parents. »

The recommendations of the Defender of Rights to protect the privacy of children