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The French government on Wednesday defended the arrest of a teenage boy in the middle of class over claims of bullying a transgender classmate, a rare move that angered many pupils and parents despite widespread support for a crackdown on harassment.

The 14-year-old boy was put in handcuffs and marched out of his classroom in the Paris suburb of Alfortville on Monday.

Government spokesman Olivier Veran said the arrest had been made "in compliance" with policies against abusive behaviour, and aimed to send "a very strong message" to bullying students.

"This is how we end this plague of harassment, it's also how we are going to protect our children," he said.

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