Midrand teacher suspended over remarks linked to George Floyd's death
Pinnacle College Kyalami teacher Sonya De Vynck has been suspended and the principal of the Midrand school has gone on special leave after De Vynck made remarks in an online class which were deemed offensive to the manner in which George Floyd had died in the US.
De Vynck allegedly threatened pupils that if they do not submit their practice drawings when school reopens, she would give them something to protest about and sit on their necks.
Many had linked her comments to the death of the 46-year-old Floyd, who lost his life at the hands of four police officers, with one of them pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck for nine minutes – despite his protests that he couldn't breathe – in a video that went viral.
Millions across the world have taken to the streets and social media to call for justice under the banner of Black Lives Matter.
De Vynck subsequently penned a lengthy apology, stating she was not a racist and describing her comments “as a silly thing that popped into her head”.
“I am really sorry, you know that Afrikaans often deals with fear and pain with humour. We also try to make jokes about everything to ease the pain…
"I am not racist, I will never put anyone down. I have shed many tears about Mr Floyd, any person killed like that is upsetting.”
In a letter to parents on Friday, the school said: "Pinnacle College Kyalami is deeply shocked by the comments made by one of its high school teachers during an online class.
"We apologise unreservedly for the hurt and distress caused and for the initial handling of the matter. As you are aware the teacher has been suspended.
"The principal has chosen to take special leave after reflecting on the pace and manner of the first response to the reports. Investigations are urgent and ongoing.
"This has caused significant hurt. We are in the process of meeting with the students directly involved and commend them for the courage displayed in these discussions. We have also engaged with the staff…
"We have committed to broader reflection and conversation in the school and that process has started. There is no doubt that there is significant work to do.
"Pinnacle Colleges has zero tolerance for racism and we will handle this matter with the attention it so clearly deserves.
"Education is more than just the receiving or giving of instruction. It should develop the whole (mind, body and spirit), essentially preparing students for the next step in their lives, while developing character and independent thinking."
Gauteng Education spokesperson Steve Mabona said earlier that if such utterances were attributed to an educator, it was concerning.
“We will launch our investigation into the circumstances. We have been promoting non-racism and will always advocate for the same in our schooling environment irrespective of whether it’s a public or independent/private school,” Mabona said.IOL