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Parents in hot water over missed swimming lessons

Several Muslim families have been fined for keeping their children out of mandatory school swimming lessons, the first time such a punishment has been handed down.

Education authorities in canton Basel-City said on Thursday that seven children from five families had missed the lessons. Five of the children were removed on religious grounds. All of the students were girls under the age of ten.

A revision of cantonal school policies made the lessons obligatory one year ago and each parent can be fined as much as SFr1,000 ($957) for not sending his or her child to the classes. Fines in these particular cases were set at around SFr350 per child per parent, meaning a two-parent family with two children who missed the classes must pay SFr1,400.

Basel-City schools offer swimming lessons that separate boys and girls past puberty, while younger children take the classes together.

Christoph Eymann, director of the canton’s education department, said it is important for schools to avoid creating parallel societies. There are a total of 1,033 Muslim boys and girls registered in the canton’s primary schools.

Four-digit fines for non-cooperative parents are in place in other cantons across Switzerland, including Aargau, Appenzell-Outer Rhodes and Basel-Country. Basel-City is considered to have the most comprehensive parent-responsibility laws in place.

The canton decided to tighten laws governing parental obligations toward school children because it saw an increase in students doing housework rather than homework and more instances of parents sending children off to school without breakfast.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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