Picture: Frank Augstein/AP/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Johannesburg - Jeppe Girls’ High School has agreed to review its code of conduct following threats of potential court action by a group of pupils who were prevented from wearing their hijab (headscarves) with their uniforms.

At the end of September, the Saturday Star reported how seven Muslim families were willing to take the Gauteng Department of Education and the school to court after pupils were ordered to attend disciplinary hearings for contravening rules on headscarves.

The school does not allow pupils to wear headscarves with the official blazer or colours. Instead, pupils have to cover their uniform with a black cloak alongside the hijab.

Law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr agreed to represent the pupils and their families pro bono. In September, it succeeded in having the disciplinary hearings indefinitely postponed.

In legal letters sent to the school, the pupils have argued that the rules are unconstitutional. At the time, head of the firm’s pro bono department, Jacquie Cassette, said the rules contributed to “othering” Muslim pupils and her clients were trying to find a way to allow pupils to express religious beliefs alongside their love of the school.

The legal letters also indicate the department had already instructed the school to review the code of conduct, and that the school must allow the pupils to wear the hijab with their school uniforms pending this process.

However, the pupils were still given letters of infraction, claiming they had repeatedly infringed on the dress code.

Yesterday, Cassette said she had received a written undertaking from the school governing body chairperson agreeing to fully withdraw the disciplinary hearings against the seven pupils, and that the school’s code of conduct would be reviewed.

“All educators, parents and learners will be invited to participate in the consultative process and a task team will be set up. The SAHRC (South African Human Rights Commission) will be involved in reviewing any proposed amended code. They have also supplied a management plan for the process,” she said.

Cassette said she was very happy with the outcome, and that she looked forward to working with the department and the governing body on the code going forward.

Multiple attempts were made over the past week to get comment from the department over its role in the process, but no response was received at the time of publication.

The SAHRC did also not respond to queries.

Saturday Star