Jawbreaker! School lashes Lollipop Trafficker!

Flavien Roger is clearly a budding future French entrepreneur, but the business flair of this 12-year-old Vaucluse collégien is about to be crushed by a headmaster who is formally disciplining him …. for trafic de sucettes — trafficking lollipops!



Mammouth Balls get schoolboy a jawing for being entrepreneurial in the playground

Flavien’s Dad you see has a bakery at Entraigues-sur-la-Sorgue (near Avignon) that does a roaring sideline trade in out-sized, multi-coloured spherical suckers known to local school boys as Couilles de Mammouth, Mammouth’s Balls or jawbreakers in their native Ireland. This is technically hard candy in multi-colour layers around a gum centre that the company says takes your average chewer eight hours to demolish.

Flavien Roger reportedly has a weakness for Redbull sweets but it was when his mates saw him chewing on an outsized blue jawbreaker one day that a buzz went around the Denis-Diderot de Sorgues school grounds. The teenager told the La Provence newspaper his friends all wanted some but they were only available from his father’s bakery at Sorgues and in the newsagent’s next door.

“This was too far for my school buddies to come and buy, so I started taking orders. It was a favour because you can’t find the candy anywhere else,” Flavien told the paper. He said he thought it was a good idea and started carting in supplies which he sold at a slight margin or at cost in some cases, putting aside the money for a flat-screen he wanted to buy.

Lollipop trafficking – a jawbreaker problem for at least one French school. Photo credit: Max PPP

Flavian may not have yet started business studies but he clearly had a good sense of the basics of capitalism. First he created a need for the lollipops, packaged as they are in a wrapper bearing a picture of a Mammoth, and once market demand grew, he supplied it, delighting his consumers.

He had only sold four boxes of 36 lollipops each, earning the princely sum of 28 euros, when disaster, in the shape of the market supervisory authority, struck.

This was not because he had hidden anything — trading in Couilles de Mammouth went on openly with his classmates on a level playing field in the recreation yard. The sweets hit a market barrier when teachers noticed their classes filling up with pupils struggling to finish off the jawbreakers, designed to be ‘an 8-hour challenge’ by their Irish manufacturers.

Headmaster Jean-Pierre Lahutte was clearly not amused but when challenged by the newspaper, adamantly insisted that he was right to take action. He said: “The problem with this is where is the limit. If today we allow a schoolboy to sell lollipops, tomorrow what will it be, cell phones, tomatoes?”

So today the principal, who clearly considers jawbreakers to be a serious matter, has on his desk a file marked Flavian’s Mammouth Couilles and the pupil has been summoned to a formal school disciplinary committee on February 17 to be browbeaten in what he mother Sandrine calls an “excessive” over-reaction.

Is this a proportionate response La Provence wanted to know, a question it reported the headmaster “stubbornly refused to reply to”.

So instead of praising the budding businessman and his 28 euros lollipop profits, M. Lahutte seems bent on crushing the young entrepreneur.

When reminded that school rules do not clearly state that it is illegal to sell candy or anything else for that matter on school property, the headmaster, getting a little carried away perhaps, replied: “No matter, if needs be we will just add to the rules — set it out in black and white that that is indeed the case.”

The Jawbreaker Tetine, a soother shaped jawbreaker is a favourite for jawbreaker lovers in France.

The saga has upset Flavien’s mother who told the newspaper … “I was summoned on Monday by the school who told me there was a problem over the sweets. Flavien was obliged to write a confession for a file to be examined by the disciplinary council … my son was treated like a criminal,” she said. “When the college called they told me that my son had been detained for trafficking lollipops and that the principal wanted to see me urgently! At first I thought he was joking. I told the headmaster ‘well at least he’s not selling drugs’! But the headmaster was not amused. My boy is a good student who has never given any problems and there is nothing in the school regulations to say that he can’t sell lollipops”.

Nevertheless the authorities are proving implacable. A few days ago Sandrine Roger’s postman delivered two recorded delivery envelopes. Inside were a summons to a disciplinary board on 17 February.

“I know that my son now faces a risk of being excluded from school but I do not accept that the charges refer to trafficking lollipops. I do not want that to dog him for the rest of his time in school someone might think he was selling drugs. Yes he might have made a small mistake but this is completely disproportionate. A couple of hours of detention after school would have been enough”, she told the newspaper.

Over the top indeed. This writer is clearly of another generation for in his school days the playground was a hotbed of traders giving and taking the odds on marbles and spinning-tops, and there was even one enterprising chap who undersold the school tuck-shop on its liquorish rolls. This did admittedly earn him a caning….. not for being a businessman I hasten to add, but because he ripped off the prefect who caught him.

Story: Ken Pottinger

UPDATE: Following a formal hearing on February 17 the school disciplinary committee took 15 minutes to decide that the affair possibly served in part to alert pupils to the perils of running a business (selling goods on school premises is against the school code). As a result they opted to deliver a verbal reprimand to Flavien. His mother however was upbraided by the committee for having gone to the papers. The story was picked up by national and international press and the adverse publicity more than likely helped to focus minds when the school authorities sat down to consider their verdict!

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