Police, pupils in tense stand-off at Heathfield High School: 'They're fighting one another'



Published Aug 17, 2022


Cape Town - There was a tense stand-off between learners of Heathfield High School, police and metro police after the school called in the authorities to deal with unruly behaviour of its pupils.

Police vehicles were stoned and fighting broke out between learners.

Tensions at the school stem from the Western Cape Education Department’s (WCED) decision to fire former principal Wesley Neumann after a disciplinary hearing found that he had failed to follow a departmental directive to keep the school open during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

The City’s law enforcement officials searched learners and found a variety of weapons and drugs. They arrested two men who entered the school illegally, pretending to be learners.

On Monday, a circular issued to parents informed them that law enforcement would be stationed at the school every day from Tuesday.

The school said some learners were still disrupting and bunking classes and the unsafe environment had compelled the school to “urgently request law enforcement” at the school.

Officers would be manning the school gates and learners found in possession of illegal substances and weapons would be charged by the police.

“We are especially concerned about the violent aggression displayed by learners when fights break out, and also about the evidence of illegal substances found in the possession of some learners,” the circular read.

Education MEC David Maynier said dagga, drugs, knives and cellphones were confiscated from learners by law enforcement, on Tuesday morning.

“More concerning was that two males who were not enrolled in the school had attempted to enter the school premises dressed in Heathfield High’s school uniform. The two males were apprehended for trespassing. Additionally, one male was arrested for drug possession,” he said.

“Disappointingly, some learners decided to cause a disruption, which resulted in violence towards the law enforcement officers. The SAPS was called to the scene to assist, and the situation was stabilised.”

Up to 15 police and law enforcement vehicles were on site, including a metro police tactical response unit.

School management informed teachers to notify parents – via class WhatsApp groups – of the unrest, and that they could fetch learners.

Before 12pm, via a loud hailer, an officer announced that learners had been dismissed. Several physical altercations had broken out between learners, with officials intervening.

Speaking anonymously, a parent said the school was no longer safe for children.

“My child is not safe here, I want my child out of this school. I feel very scared to send my child to this school. I'm in tears because it's horrible right now, he even asked me to take him out of this school. It's like small gangsters.

“They are not learning, he had to teach himself to pass the June exam. They are fighting one another for stupid stuff. I saw a parent hit a boy this morning.”

Parent Jason Cozett had trouble locating his daughter. Cozett said he found out about the unrest from a family member.

“I’m removing her from the school. I can't take the risk anymore.”

Cozett said this started after former principal Wesley Neumann left. “It flared up after the incident with the principal.”

Law enforcement spokesperson Wayne Dyason said WCED requested the assistance of officers.

“The school experienced challenges with regards to violent behaviour from some learners outside the school grounds,” Dyason said.

“Thirty law enforcement officers were present at the school to prevent any drugs or dangerous weapons being brought on to the school premises."

Some learners started stoning City vehicles, damaging two vehicles, Dyason said.

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Cape Argus