A primary school head teacher was charged Wednesday with having tricked blindfolded pupils into oral sex during a workshop on experiencing new tastes, justice officials said.
Grenoble prosecutor Jean-Yves Coquillat said the suspect, a 45-year old father, had been charged with "aggravated rape, sexual assault on minors... procurement and possession of child pornography," and remanded in custody.
The move came a day after the school principal confessed to accusations he manipulated pupils into performing oral sex acts on him during the workshop. The children were blindfolded and asked to describe items they were given to taste.
"He did not want to discuss things in detail. He simply said he was sorry for what he had done, and that he will fully discuss it when he is ready," Coquillat said.
Coquillat added that nine complaints have been filed against the suspect by two boys and seven girls -- aged six and seven -- who had been pupils in his class in Villefontaine, near the city of Lyon in southeastern France.
The assaults, which are believed to have been committed between December and March, are qualified as rape under French law.
The shock and horror at the Mas de la Raz school and across France in reaction to the assaults deepened further with revelations on Tuesday that the principal had obtained his job despite a 2008 conviction for possessing child pornography.
However, that conviction -- which carried a six-month suspended jail term and an order to receive specialised treatment -- did not prohibit him from working with children, and in September 2008 the suspect was hired by a school in Grenoble.
Authorities responsible for the school in Villefontaine said they had received no information about the 2008 conviction when the suspect was hired in late 2014.
They also said they had gotten no indication his name was in a national database of child sex offenders, but noted systematic consultation of that list was limited to entry-level hires and interns.
France's education ministry responded to the news by launching an internal investigation parallel to the legal case to discover how a convicted sex offender could have been hired, and determine if any other victims were abused.
Local authorities were alerted to the assaults after two six-year-olds complained to their parents about what they had experienced.
Justice officials said the suspect tricked pupils into oral sex behind a screen at a far end of the classroom.
A search of the his house following his arrest allegedly turned up more child pornography.