Court rules against headscarf ban in Swiss school

NZZ am Sonntag reports that the Administrative Court in the Swiss canton of Thurgau recently lifted a headscarf ban imposed by a school in Bürglen.

In the spring of 2011 the school issued written reprimands to two 14-year-old Muslim students of Albanian heritage and threatened to exclude them from attending classes because they wore headscarves, which it was claimed breached the school’s dress code. Later that year the students’ appeal against the decision was rejected by the Thurgau department of education, on the grounds that the headscarf was the kind of clothing that was likely to cause unrest in a group.

This contradicted a general recommendation from the department to the canton’s schools two years earlier, which stated: “A headscarf worn by a student does not disturb the class. There is therefore no reason to prohibit this.” The students’ lawyer argues that there is no evidence that they disrupted the class in any way, and that a number of their fellow students have in fact expressed support for their right to wear the headscarf.

In upholding the students’ appeal against the ban the Administrative Court found that there was not a sufficient legal basis for a prohibition of the headscarf and that the school’s action was disproportionate. The Bürglen school states that it will take the case to the Federal Court. In the meantime the two students continue to wear their headscarves.