"THIS matter is not in the public interest and it is sad that the press pursues it."
So says Paul Kramer, SACS Junior School media spokesperson and chairperson of the school's governing body, in the wake of the third controversial incident at SACS in the past year, this time over alleged inappropriate sexual behaviour by a Grade 2 boy.
Last year an invigilator contracted to assist with Matric exams was relieved of his duties following a Department of Education probe into an incident in which the wrong set of examination papers was opened. In October, the school again made headlines when a learner was allegedly pushed into a manhole by newly elected prefects.
Last week SACS broke its usual "no comment" comment in an on-line newsletter to parents, posted on its website on Wednesday after details of a pending Cape High Court case appeared in daily newspapers the day before. The posting states that "despite the best efforts of the school, the child's behaviour regressed further [after counselling was given last year]. Recognising our duty to protect all our learners at the school, we followed due process by hearing the matter with the full participation of all parties concerned... making a recommendation of expulsion to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED). The WCED has not approved our recommendation, and the school has taken this decision on review.
"We are confident that all the correct procedures have been followed and that the school has acted both professionally and with empathy. The learner has not been attending the school since late February, and we can now advise that on Friday, 30 May, the parents requested transfer of the learner concerned out of the school".
The SACS governing body has filed an application to force the Western Cape Education Department to uphold the expulsion of the eight-year-old boy following his alleged involvement in "various sexual incidents" involving other Grade 2 learners since September last year. He had been receiving counselling from the school psychologist since last year. But in February another pupil reported that the boy had begun "making sex again".
The pupil said the boy had touched his genitals with his own and instructed him to perform oral sex on him in the school's toilets, threatening to kill him if he told anyone. But the boy's parents maintain their child was not the instigator, but merely one of a group of boys involved in the incident. Asked how many boys were involved, Kramer said, "Less than a handful". He would not divulge their ages, saying their "privacy is imperative".
On 5 March, the child was found guilty of "assault and/or immoral, unseemly behaviour" by the school's governing body and expelled. However, Western Cape Education Head Ron Swartz refused to confirm the expulsion of the child, saying the decision had been taken by only one member of the governing body. Kramer contends that the decision was taken by the entire board: "We are confident that we acted both legally and in terms of departmental protocol".
Speaking on behalf of Cameron Dugmore - the MEC for Education - Gert Witbooi says the Education Department is within its rights to reject a proposal for expulsion. He adds that the boy only just exceeds the age of seven at which expulsion is allowed. He says the department is also worried that "ongoing publicity would impact negatively on the child".
The boy will apparently be monitored by a state psychologist regardless of the outcome of the case.
Fearing the media interest in the case is detrimental to their child's wellbeing, the parents are now declining to comment.
The court case is set to start this Friday. According to family lawyer Igshaan Higgins, it seems unlikely that the case will be settled out of court. "The two parties differ too much in opinion on the matter," he says.