Danielle De Bruyn used the popular novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” to highlight farm murders and land expropriation in South Africa. Picture: HarperCollins Publishers/AP/African News Agency (ANA)

Durban - The National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) has weighed in on allegations of racism at Westville Girls’ High School, saying that educators with racist tendencies have no place in the classroom.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the union’s provincial chief executive officer for KwaZulu-Natal, Thirona Moodley, said that racist educators “had the power to influence young minds and undo the strides our democracy has made”.

The statement follows the outburst of teacher Danielle de Bruyn, who resigned on Monday after it was found that she used the derogatory “K” word while “debating” with pupils last week.

According to reports, De Bruyn used the popular novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” to highlight farm murders and land expropriation in South Africa and the land grabs that took place in Zimbabwe in the early 2000s. The book is set in a fictional town in 1930s Alabama and deals with racism in the so-called Deep South.

Moodley said it was unfortunate that educators, who were supposed to be “agents of democracy and the custodians of our children rights”, resorted to racism when delivering the curriculum.

“It is alleged that the educator alluded to the land expropriation debate and went so far as to compare South Africa to Zimbabwe. Naptosa appeals to educators to be guarded, do not to share your personal views with young impressionable minds,” she said.

“Although the educator in question has subsequently resigned, she may still be investigated by [the South African Council for Educators]. Parents must be alert to this conduct and report to the management of the school. It is the responsibility of the Principal to treat all complaints seriously and investigate and report back to the parent. It often happens that complaints from parents are ignored,” she said.

In a “general letter” sent to parents by Westville Girls High on Tuesday, principal Catherine Raw said she was “sad and troubled” by the incident, in which De Bruyn had shared “her biased opinion of the South African political situation”.  

“By doing this, not only did she break the law and violated the code of the school, but she also created a hurtful and unsafe environment for the learners in her class.” An investigation was launched into the incident on Friday, she said.

Raw said that de Bruyn had asked for an opportunity to apologise to the class, but that this “did not alter the investigation process in place”.

African News Agency/ANA