Tribune de Genève.
Teachers in the Swiss canton of Basel-Landschaft will soon have the right to demand school children shake their hands. Under new rules, the parents of children who don’t comply could face fines as high as CHF 5,000. In addition, the dispensation, granted to two muslim pupils at Therwil secondary school earlier in the year, will be overturned.
The canton’s authorities think teachers should be able to compel pupils to shake hands and consider the practice a sign of respect towards teachers. Furthermore, they decided the reasons behind the refusal are motivated by gender and religion.
Cantonal authorities arrived at their conclusions after a legal analysis. In a statement they said « public interest is best served by placing gender equality and the integration of foreigners, before the religious freedom of students.»
Management at the school in Therwil at the centre of controversy, will overturn their decision to grant two pupils an exemption from hand shaking. If the pupils continue to refuse, their parents risk a warning and a fine as high as CHF 5,000.
- Muslim school pupils’ exemption from hand shaking causes stir (Le News)
- Family involved in Swiss hand shake refusal applies for Swiss citizenship (Le News)
- Muslim pupil in Geneva refuses to be touched by teacher (Le News)
The drama started in early April this year when Swiss-german media revealed that two Syrian pupils, 14 and 15 years old, had refused to follow the Swiss custom of shaking teachers’ hands before and after class. Swiss interior minister Simonetta Sommaruga voiced her disapproval of the school’s decision to exempt the two students on Swiss television.
Swiss schools have also had to deal with other similar issues, such as parents of muslim students refusing to let their daughters take swimming lessons, and objections to gym teachers correcting pupils’ posture during gym classes.