Frame grab of SMS msg from student to his mother. To go with story by Lebo on racist slurs at National School of the Arts, Braamfontein Picture: Handout/Supplied 020614

Johannesburg - The National School of the Arts in Braamfontein, Joburg, has launched an internal investigation into allegations of racism against one of its teachers.

The school expressed dismay at the allegations and defended the teacher in question, a Miss Nel, who teaches history in Grade 8 and “holds a master’s degree in apartheid history”.

This came as two more parents phoned The Star on Tuesday to complain about the same teacher.

The paper published a story on Tuesday about a parent who had complained to the Gauteng Department of Education about the teacher’s alleged racism.

The parent received an SMS from her 13-year-old daughter last Thursday, complaining that Nel had told her pupils that black people were demons and the reason the government was failing was because it was led by blacks.

The department said it was investigating the matter.

On Tuesday, the prestigious school said it had launched a probe of its own.

“We are taking this allegation extremely seriously and have commenced an internal investigation. Should the allegation prove true, appropriate steps will be taken. We will not tolerate even a hint of racism in our school,” said Brenda Sakellarides, chairwoman of the school’s governing body.

Sakellarides said an early probe indicated “the possibility that the learner could’ve misconstrued class discussions”.

“She commented that the earliest Europeans to arrive on South Africa’s shores - as with other ‘new’ countries that were being ‘discovered’ during that era - in their ignorance often viewed indigenous populations as savages and, in some cases, demons due to their traditional dress and demeanour,” Sakellarides said.

She added: “The teacher states that at no stage did she call black people demons, but used the word in the historical context of the origin of racism.”

Two more parents complained about Nel’s conduct on Tuesday.

“My child has been telling me this (about alleged racist remarks) all along and I now feel I have failed her. I won’t let my child be subjected to the same kind of prejudice that I experienced. It’s so depressing,” said one parent.

Said another: “One day my daughter said: ‘Mama, why do you vote for the ANC? Our teacher said it was stupid to do so and I believe her’.”

The teacher declined to comment, citing Gauteng Education Department policy which requires comments to go through head office.

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The Star apologises to the National School of Arts (NSA) for causing it unnecessary harm by falsely and unfairly implying that it may have been supportive of possible racist behaviour by one of its teachers in the classroom. The school had complained to the press ombud about a front-page story, published on June 3, 2014, headlined “‘Racist’ teacher outrage – pupils upset at the denigration of blacks”; about an online article (School backs “racist” teacher); and about a street poster (“Racist” teacher uproar). The stories were about a Grade 8 history teacher at the NSA who reportedly was “in trouble” with the Gauteng Department of Education for allegedly using racial slurs in class. Ombud Johan Retief found that the subhead of the lead story, the headline on the second one and to a lesser extent the street poster, as well as one sentence in each of the stories, were incorrect and/or unfair. He reprimanded the newspaper for incorrectly reporting that two other parents had visited the school to complain of racism, when in fact they had not done so. However, Retief dismissed several parts of the complaint, such as that we had been wrong to name the teacher in question, and for having used the word “racist” (in inverted commas) in the headlines. To see the full judgment, go to Press Council.