Judgment on school bodies welcomed
A court ruling that education departments may not directly interfere with adopted school policies has been welcomed by the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools.
"This judgment reaches further than just school pregnancies," said deputy CEO Jaco Deacon.
The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) earlier in the day found in favour of two schools which took their education head to court.
The matter related to the authority of education heads to instruct a public school principal to act contrary to a policy adopted by the school governing body.
In this case the issue was management of pupils' pregnancies.
At two Welkom schools where pupils became pregnant they had to leave school temporarily under pregnancy policies adopted by the respective governing bodies.
The school principals received written directives from the Free State education department head, instructing them to withdraw their decisions and to re-admit the pupils.
The SCA held it was clear from the South African Schools Act the governance of a public school was the responsibility of the governing bodies.
Deacon said education department instructions to principals had to adhere to policy as determined by governing bodies.
If a department was of the opinion that a school policy, as decided by a governing body, was unlawful it should follow specific procedures.
Deacon said the judgment confirmed that a policy considered unlawful should be set aside in a court of law.
The National and Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) also welcomed the judgment.
However, the union said it was deeply concerned that schools had to use the courts in order for the department of education to uphold the South African Schools Act.
"The custodians of the law should be the very same department of education," said Louwrens Strydom, CEO of Naptosa in the Free State and Northern Cape.
He said governing bodies should ensure their policies were up to date and that the correct procedures were followed.