[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] unanimously ruled [press release] Thursday that there was no human rights violation when a French school expelled two students for refusing to remove their headscarves [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Two French nationals, Belgin Dogru [judgment text] and Esma-Nur Kervanci [judgment text, in French], were expelled from school in 1999 at ages 11 and 12, respectively, when they refused to remove their headscarves for physical education classes. After the girls were unsuccessful in the French court system, they brought their claim to the human rights court. The applicants sought relief under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text], which provides for freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. The court ruled that there was no violation, reasoning in the Dogru case:
The Court considers that . . . the penalty of expulsion does not appear disproportionate, and notes that the applicant was able to continue her schooling by correspondence classes. It can be seen that the applicant's religious convictions were fully taken into account in relation to the requirements of protecting the rights and freedoms of others and public order. It is also clear that the decision complained of was based on those requirements and not on any objections to the applicant's religious beliefs.
Religious headscarves have been banned in schools in several European countries. In 2004, France banned religious clothing and symbols in public schools [JURIST report]. A German court has upheld a similar ban [JURIST report]. The Danish government announced plans [JURIST report] in May to prohibit judges from wearing religious headscarves, and the Dutch government announced plans [JURIST report] in September to ban burqas in school.