BRUSSELS (AFP) - Dutch-language public schools in Belgium will ban the wearing of Muslim headscarves in classes, school officials in the Flanders region announced Friday. The ban affects 700 schools in the northern region of Flanders, including some in Brussels. It follows protests after two schools in Antwerp this month joined other schools where the Muslim headscarf, which covers the hair but does not conceal the face, is already banned. Responding to a complaint by a student at one of the schools, Belgiums highest administrative tribunal ruled on Tuesday that schools could not take such decisions on their own. The tribunal will rule on the students appeal next Tuesday - prompting the communitys education board to make public its unified stance on Friday. Belgian schools have previously enjoyed autonomy in such decisions, with one-third authorising the wearing of Muslim headscarf, another forbidding them and the remainder giving no formal guidance. The Flemish school board said the ban in communal schools would be introduced gradually to give time to those establishments which have not banned the scarf to do so. Schools in Flanders that are financed by other Belgian communities - mostly Catholic schools run by municipalities - are not bound by the order. School authorities in the main Flemish town of Antwerp announced a ban on the headscarf from the start of the next academic year. A similar debate is underway in Belgiums French-speaking Wallonia, and the Brussels capital region. Controversy has raged in a number of European countries in recent years over the wearing Muslim headscarves and other religious garments in state or public institutions.