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EXPULSIONS BEGIN IN BAN AGAINST RELIGIOUS ITEMS

Two Muslim girls who refused to remove their head scarves in class have been expelled, and two more faced the same fate today as officials began taking action against those who defy a new French law banning conspicuous religious symbols from public schools.

Two girls, ages 12 and 13, were expelled from a school in the eastern city of Mulhouse on Tuesday -- the first to be expelled under the new law, officials said.

Two 17-year-old girls face the same fate when their schools convene two disciplinary councils today, said Gilles-Jean Klein, spokesman for the Academy of Strasbourg, which oversees schools in the area.

There are 72 cases of students who face expulsion for refusing to remove conspicuous religious signs or apparel. Most are Muslim girls who wear Islamic head scarves. But some Sikh school boys who refuse to remove turbans are among the 72. Three Sikh boys have filed the first lawsuit challenging the ban.

The law bans conspicuous religious signs and apparel, including Jewish skull caps and large Christian crosses. But Muslim head scarves were the main focus.

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