In April this year a secondary school in Therwil, not far from Basel, exempted two school pupils from the customary Swiss handshake between teachers and pupils. Because their teacher is a woman, the two male pupils requested an exemption on religious grounds. After triggering a wave of indignation, the decision was reversed. In response, the parents of the two Syrian pupils went to Basel Landschaft’s school governing body to challenge the position taken.
On 14 September 2016, the canton’s schools authority, Das Amt für Volksschulen (AVS), rejected the parents’ claim, confirming that teachers have the option to require pupils to shake their hand.
- Muslim school pupils’ exemption from handshaking causes stir in Switzerland (Le News)
- Muslim pupils in Basel must shake teachers’ hands (Le News)
State Councillor Monika Gschwind, who directs the canton’s education department, says pupils shaking teachers’ hands is an act of respect anchored deeply in our society and culture.
In response to this decision, a further challenge could be submitted to the canton’s government. Should this happen, Monika Gschwind says she will approach other members of the state’s executive to ensure the ruling is maintained. In addition, she said a proposal for a new law to deal with such cases, will be discussed in November. The plan includes granting powers to schools’ management to report cases of hand-shake refusal to the migration authorities.