Bryanston High School saddened by Elon Musk bullying

Cape Town - Bryanston High School principal John Skelton "was saddened" after reading about how 44-year-old SA born inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk was apparently bullied while a pupil at his school.

“Initially I felt very sad after reading what had apparently happened to him,” he told News24 on Thursday.

“The culture of our school is honour, dignity and respect. Every human being is unique and special.”

He said a lot had changed since Musk was a pupil in the 1980s.

“Bullying was accepted as a part of growing up and now we know the impact. In the 1990s, people started realising that bullying is a very destructive force.”

School takes bullying seriously

He said the school took bullying very seriously and it was listed as a “level two” offence in its code of conduct, which equated to assault.

Skelton said such cases were referred for a disciplinary hearing to the governing body. In serious cases, involving physical assault for example, the police were called in. The school could not expel students and had to recommend an expulsion to the education department.

A far more common problem they dealt with was cyber-bullying.

The school had an on-site psychologist who specialises in bullying and had conducted bullying workshops with pupils.

Skelton has been principal since 2013, but has served the school for 20 years - 11 of those as deputy principal.

Since taking up the top post, he could remember dealing with one “push and shove affair” between pupils.

The most serious incident he could remember since being at the school was the assault of Lindelani Khanyile, 17 at the time, by fellow pupils, which involved the education department, the police and the SA Human Rights Commission.

The pupil was kicked and punched by three other pupils - they were expelled, but the the decision was later overturned.

“At the end of the day, they shook hands.”

Attack at Bryanston High School

Errol Musk, father of Elon, recently told BizNews's Alec Hogg that his son was so injured after being attacked by fellow pupils at Bryanston High School that he "didn't recognise him at Sandton Clinic".

He was in hospital for two weeks. Errol also said that police did not want to do anything about it.

“I laid a charge of assault, but the Randburg police declined to prosecute, saying it was just 'skoolseuns wat rondspeel' [schoolboys playing around]. The school itself was non-committal."

Errol Musk told News24 on Wednesday this incident was "way past bullying".

"South Africa is seen as having a jock culture. It might produce intellectual people, but it is not an intellectual culture."

He said schools sometimes did not take action against errant pupils because they were playing rugby for the institution. 

"I don't believe boys should be forced to play rugby," Errol said.

Skelton said their strongest sport was hockey. Bryanston was recognised for being the top-performing Gauteng department of education school in the region.

Elon Musk is the founder, chief executive and chief technology officer of aerospace company SpaceX, as well as the chief executive of electric motorcar company Tesla Motors.

He was also one of the founders of online payment system PayPal.

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