Suspended Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke teacher Elana Barkhuizen cries during a media briefing in Centurion. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

RUSTENBURG - Trade union Solidarity has served the North West education department with court papers asking that the suspension of Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke teacher Elana Barkhuizen be lifted, the union said on Thursday.

The papers were served on North West Education MEC Sello Lehari; the North West education department; and on Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke and its governing body.

Earlier this week, Solidarity announced at a press conference that it would take legal action on behalf of Barkhuizen.

In its urgent application, Solidarity requests the Labour Court in Johannesburg to give a ruling as early as January 24, arguing that Barkhuizen’s suspension was unlawful and should therefore be lifted. They request that she be reinstated immediately.

Head of Labour Law Services at Solidarity, Anton van der Bijl, said Barkhuizen should never have been suspended in the first place. He said that the manner in which Barkhuizen was suspended was in direct contravention of labour law.

"Not alone was she not given the opportunity to state her side of the case, but the wrong ‘employer’ – with reference to the North West education MEC – took steps against her. It was not within the MEC’s powers to suspend her because she is in the employ of the governing body."

Barkhuizen was suspended after a photographed she snapped of Grade R class went viral on social media.

In the photograph black children were separated from white children.

On Wednesday, Lehari said Barkhuizen was suspended by the school governing body, and he merely supported the school governing body and made the decision public.

Racial tensions simmer in Schweizer-Reneke following the circulation of the photograph on January 9.

Classes were disrupted last week when community members protested at the school.

In her affidavit, Barkhuizen said she snapped four photographs with her cellphone, two from her class and the other two from another teacher's class. The photograph that went viral and caused outrage was not from her classroom.

She argued that she was not granted a suspension hearing.

African News Agency (ANA)