Belgium: school network may decide on headscarf ban, court rules

Belgium’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the official Flemish Community schools network has the right to decide for itself whether the Moslem headscarf or other religious symbols may be worn in their schools. However, it is another body, the Council of State, which will have the final say.

The matter came to a head after a school in Antwerp banned the wearing of the headscarf on its premises two years ago. The matter resurfaced at the beginning of last school year following controversy about a ban in two Antwerp schools. The Flemish Community schools authority then decided on a blanket ban on the wearing of ideological symbols in all its schools. The ban is set to become operational on 1 September 2011.

A year ago the Council of State suspended the introduction of the ban. Before making a ruling the Council wanted to learn whether it had the jurisdiction to rule in such a matter. The Constitutional Court on Tuesday ruled that this was the case.

Tuesday’s ruling does not change anything to the present situation in Flemish Community schools, but it does give the Council of State the authority to take a decision.

Flanders News, 16 March 2011