Task team set up to probe discrimination allegations at Sacs
Cape Town - South African College High (Sacs) has committed to review its code of conduct after a group of former pupils made allegations of discrimination.
The group, called the Sacs Anti-Discrimination Collective, criticised the school governing body (SGB) for failing to develop clear policies to deal with instances of racism, homophobia and religious discrimination.
The collective pointed out that the code of conduct does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Chairperson of the Sacs SGB, Dr Kerrin Begg, acknowledged the shortcomings of the school’s code of conduct.
“We are currently reviewing the Sacs code of conduct, ensuring it is aligned with the school’s values, which is aimed at promoting positive behaviours and responsibilities,” Begg said.
“We acknowledge that it currently falls short in specifically outlining discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
“However, the code of conduct is clear that pupils have the right to not be bullied or mocked and not to be discriminated against on grounds of race or religion.”
In response to the allegations, Begg said the school has established a task team to investigate.
“The Sacs leadership team and SGB will ensure the work of the task team is conducted in an open and transparent manner,” she said.
“The task team report and findings will be made public and its recommendations implemented.”
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said that schools throughout the province have been asked for a second time to review their codes of conduct.
“In 2016, the WCED requested that all principals take a close look at their codes of conduct and ensure that they comply,” she said.
“Recently, the head of department asked schools to do the following: Re-state that the school condemns racism and prejudice, and, as a state school, supports the South African Constitution and the Bill of Rights; (and) again initiate a review of the school’s Code of Conduct with the SGB, as was done a year or two ago, to ensure that all potentially discriminatory aspects are removed.
“This should be done with a diverse group of people, so we can take all views into account.”
While the Department of Basic Education as well as the WCED stipulates the principles that a school should follow, it is up to the school’s governing body to develop and implement a code of conduct and disciplinary procedures in line with this.
“Should a person/persons feel that a code of conduct is not representative of the principles and rights of the Constitution, then they may bring it to our attention for review,” Hammond said.
“Similarly, if any pupil feels aggrieved about how a case was handled at a school, or feel they are being discriminated against, for whatever reason, they should also bring it to our attention if not dealt with by the school.
The WCED will investigate cases of discrimination and necessary disciplinary steps or advice to schools will be taken based on the investigation.”
In a template created by the DBE for schools to base their code of conduct on, racist remarks or insults are classified as a grade 2 offence, with grade 1 being the least serious and grade 4 offences the most serious and necessary to report to the police. The recommended disciplinary procedure for grade 2 offences is a final written warning followed by a disciplinary hearing and a tribunal hearing.