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Cross-border education Court rules in favour of families left out of Geneva school system

Child carrying backpack on way to school.

Switzerland attracts large volumes of cross-border workers, notably in the Lake Geneva region and around the city of Basel.


A Swiss court has ruled in favour of more than a hundred families who would be unable to enrol their children in Geneva schools at the start of the upcoming academic year because of a new policy that caps placements for students domiciled outside the canton.

The appeal was presented by 141 families affected by a local government decision to limit the enrolment of students from outside the canton for budgetary reasons. The court said this decision violated equal treatment, according to the Swiss News Agency.

The cantonal government, in new rules made public in January, decided to admit pupils living outside the canton to compulsory education in Geneva only within the limits of the places provided for in the budget.

As a savings measure, it did not apply to the cantonal parliament for a credit, as it usually did, to finance an additional 194 places at the start of the 2018 academic year.

Out of 443 school applications made by families living outside the canton, 141 were refused, noted the court. It said these families could not have anticipated this situation and were notified too late of the change in practice.

The court said the new policy should not be implemented immediately. It accepted the parents’ appeal and annulled the cantonal government’s decision. The file will return to the department of education for further decisions.

‘No discrimination’

Confirming these details published on Thursday by the Tribune de Genève, lawyer Romain Jordan says he advises the 140 other Geneva school families “to call on the department so that an equal solution can be found for all”.

“We will closely follow the evolution of the problem, ensuring that there is no discrimination and that all these children can be welcomed back to school,” he told the Swiss News Agency.

On behalf of the municipality of Saint-Julien in neighbouring France, Jordan drafted a legal opinion denouncing the illegality of the new procedure which in his opinion constitutes a restriction to the agreement on the free movement of persons. The court did not rule on that point, he noted.

The case is far from over. The question will come up again in 2019 because, according to the amended regulations, no new pupils living on the French side of the border will be accepted from the start of the 2019 school year unless they have a brother or sister who is already attending compulsory school in Geneva.

Currently, nearly 2,000 border students are enrolled in Geneva.


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