Pinnacle College Kyalami teacher Sonya De Vynck Picture was fired after she said to her pupils: "If you don’t hand in your practice drawings when we get back, then I will give you something to protest about, and maybe sit on your necks.”  Facebook
Pinnacle College Kyalami teacher Sonya De Vynck Picture was fired after she said to her pupils: "If you don’t hand in your practice drawings when we get back, then I will give you something to protest about, and maybe sit on your necks.” Facebook

Joburg private school principal fired over teacher's racist George Floyd comments

By Tebogo Monama Time of article published Jul 8, 2020

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A Joburg private school principal has become the second person to be fired following a racism storm ignited by a teacher’s comments about the killing of George Floyd in the US.

Violent protests sprang up across the world when video footage of a Minneapolis police officer killing Floyd went viral, rousing outrage at the racism and brutality it showed in the US.

Last month, life orientation teacher Sonya de Vynck was the first Joburg teacher to be fired after threatening her learners at Pinnacle College Kyalami that she would do what American police officers did to Floyd before he died.

Floyd died after a confrontation with four US police officers. A white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes and ignored his repeated warnings that he could not breathe.

During an online Grade 10 class at the beginning of June, De Vynck said: “If you don’t hand in your practise drawings when we get back, then I will give you something to protest about, and maybe sit on your necks.”

De Vynck was fired by the private school last month despite apologising for the remarks. In her apology, she said it was not her intention to offend and that she was not a racist. She said her comments were instead “a silly thing that popped into her head”.

“I do not condone it at all. 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,” she said in her letter of apology.

Now principal Angela Barnard - who had volunteered to be placed on special leave pending investigations into the De Vynck incident - has also lost her job.

In communication sent to parents on Monday, it was announced that since last week, Barnard was no longer employed at the school.

The letter from Pinnacle College’s chief operating officer Christo de Wit said: “During our investigations into this incident, further information came to light which necessitated disciplinary action against Ms Angela Barnard, and we hereby wish to inform you that the employment contract with Ms Barnard has been terminated, effective July 2.”

A parent at the school said she was comforted that the matter was dealt with swiftly after parents complained about it.

“Now we just have to see if the school will in fact follow up and ensure the school is rid of racism,” said the mother, who declined to be named to protect her child.

De Wit informed parents that the school was not looking for a new principal.

“We are not currently looking into replacing the principalship position, instead we are in the process of securing an executive head for the Kyalami Campus as a collective,” he said.

While this is done, deputy principal Shaun Young will be the acting principal for the high school.

Yesterday, De Wit confirmed Barnard’s firing and said she could still appeal the decision.

“The full process, which includes the right to appeal, is not complete, but as of July 2, Ms Barnard’s current employment relationship with Pinnacle Kyalami College has ended. I am sure you understand we cannot discuss the details.”

He said the school was serious about reform.

“We are committed to anti-racism and are systematically engaged in a range of processes to ensure we live out this commitment,” De Wit said.

In communication to parents last month, De Wit said they would be rolling out a “sustainable anti-racism programme” across campuses affiliated with ADvTECH. The programme would concentrate on dealing with individual and institutional racism.

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