Parent to sue after Parktown Boys ruling

10 September 2010 - 14:09 By Sapa

A Gauteng parent intends to sue the provincial education department over a barbaric school initiation ritual inflicted on her son.

He move follows the department's announcement on Thursday that the deputy principal of Johannesburg's Parktown Boys High, Brent Saunders, had been found not guilty by a departmental disciplinary hearing.

Pene Kimber said she was not satisfied that the department had followed due process in dealing with the February 2009 assault on her 17-year-old son.

After an unsatisfactory meeting with education MEC Barbara Creecy on Thursday, she had instructed her attorney to file a damages claim, she said.

She had also lodged a complaint with the Public Protector.

"I'm concerned that the message going out to the public is that initiation, assault, bullying, corporal punishment, whatever you call it, it's okay," she said in a statement.

"In other words your child is not safe at school."

Kimber's son, now preparing to write his matric exams at another school, said he had deep heat rubbed into his genitals and was assaulted with cricket bats, a whip and golf clubs during a Parktown hostel initiation ceremony.

Kimber said she did not believe the disciplinary hearing had taken proper account of Saunders' role as head of the hostel, and the fact that he therefore acted in loco parentis (in the place of a parent).

Nor was she happy that disciplinary charges were dropped against the headmaster at the time, Tom Clarke, when he retired, and not pursued against a member of the school governing body.

"Educators who are in loco parentis have a legal duty to protect and care for the learners in their charge."

"The finding of not guilty... clearly shows the department of education's lack of backbone to deal with and eradicate initiation and abuse in our schools today, as well as their clear lack of knowledge in terms of SA law.

"When will they step in? Perhaps only once an innocent child is killed -when it is too late!"

She said she and her husband had always disciplined their children by withholding privileges, not by physical abuse.

"When this happened it was absolutely devastating [to her son]," she said. "It was horrific for all of us."

She said she understood from Creecy the department might pursue disciplinary charges against some of its own officials in relation to the affair.

The department said in a statement on Thursday night: "Mr Saunders has been found not guilty. The department is in the process of assessing the finding and is taking legal advice on this issue."

Twelve matrics were punished through disciplinary measures initiated by the school itself.

Criminal charges were also brought against some of the boys.