Parktown Boys’ High School.
Johannesburg - Parktown Boys' High and the Gauteng Department of Education have been accused of failing to protect dozens of pupils who have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of an assistant water polo coach.

Now a group of teachers at the school are under investigation by the department for their alleged secondary victimisation of the pupils.

This is after a group of concerned parents accused the teachers of making light of the sexual scandal during classes, making inappropriate comments directly to victims and perpetuating a “culture of silence” that prevented other abused teenagers from coming forward.

Last year, it was revealed that at least 20 pupils had been abused by the coach during his tenure, although the number is understood to have grown significantly since then.

While the coach's criminal trial is set down for the middle of this year, parents at the school, including parents of some of the victims, have revealed how they have been fighting with the school's administration to investigate the teachers’ conduct since the last few months of 2016.

Some of the parents approached the Saturday Star this week, saying that even though the acting principal had been alerted to the teachers’ numerous inappropriate comments, they had been forced to approach the department after about a year of inaction.

In the initial complaints, it was alleged the coach had been hired despite the school's knowledge of a previous drug-related criminal conviction and even of inappropriate sexual behaviour in the past.

Five teachers were named for making jokes about the sexual abuse while victims were in their classes, as well as making disparaging comments about those who had come forward.

One teacher reportedly told a pupil that “just because (the pupil had) been raped, doesn't mean (he should be) so sensitive”.

The parents said the school had perpetuated a culture of silence since news stories emerged in 2009 of violent grade 11 initiations.

“The boys are told if they speak up about bullying or abuse, they will be targeted,” one parent said. “It's because of this that (the coach) was able to sexually abuse them and no one came forward until he was caught on camera.

"It was just seen as the norm.”

When the school failed to act on the initial complaints, the department was contacted in August, according to the parents. Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi was contacted directly.

“But since then, nothing has happened. In November, we were promised an investigation, but nothing has happened," another parent said.

But department spokesperson Steve Mabona said on Friday that a probe had been initiated to investigate alleged staff misconduct.

Saturday Star