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Graded unfairly because of a headscarf


Summarized: Teachers are subject to the duty of neutrality and are not allowed to use their own convictions as a yardstick for their duties at work. They are therefore required to respect the positions of their students and their parents and must hold back their own viewpoints in matters of faith. This naturally includes not grading a Muslim pupil badly based on her headscarf.  

The wearing of a headscarf for religious reasons is encompassed within the right to freedom of religion according to Article 4 of the Basic Law of the German Constitution and is, therefore, allowed on principle (see general article on this topic here). A public school is not allowed to forbid the wearing of a headscarf. Likewise, a teacher of such a pupil is not allowed to give her a lower grade on account of her headscarf. 

The Constitution guarantees the individual an encompassing right to the freedom of religion, ideology and conscience. This includes the freedom to dress according to the corresponding conviction. The state is principally barred from intervening and pronouncing any sort of prohibitions apart from when there exists a prohibition law which meets the requirements of the Constitution. There is no such prohibitive law which addresses the wearing of a headscarf by Muslim school students. For this reason alone, it is not permitted for a school to prohibit the wearing of a headscarf or indirectly making it difficult for a student to wear one by sanctioning her wearing of a headscarf with lower grades.  

Furthermore, it should be noted that the state must remain neutral with all its citizens regardless of their religious confessions and may not judge or specify the contents of a faith.1 Teachers are subject to the duty of neutrality stemming from Article 33 (5) of the Constitution due to their position as civil servants during the time they are practicing their profession. This duty prevents them from turning their own religious and ideological convictions into the standards by which they conduct their duties.2 Due to their obligation towards objective and neutral conduct while in service, they are required to respect the positions of their students and, in turn, their parents3 and must hold back their own viewpoints in matters of faith.4

Maunz/Dürig/Korioth in Grundgesetz-Kommentar, 81st update, September 2017.

2 Germann in Grundgesetz (BeckOK), 38th Ed, 18.8.2018, Art. 4 margin 56.3. 

Federal Constitutional Court, decision from 24.09.2003, 2 BVR 1436/02, margin 21. 

Maunz/Dürig/Badura in Grundgesetz, 82. Update, January 2018, Art. 33 margin 43. 

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