Bryanston High School SGB denies allegations that it withheld information about sexual abuse of pupils

2019-03-05 17:55

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The school governing body (SGB) of Bryanston High School in Johannesburg has denied that it withheld any sensitive information, which an anti-abuse group says prevented more sexual abuse victims from coming out.

Founding director of Women and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA), Miranda Jordan-Friedman, addressed the media on Monday morning in Melrose, Johannesburg, saying they had been confronted with "roadblocks and gatekeepers" at the school since the sexual abuse allegations emerged.

On Friday, a sports coach accused of sexually harassing three pupils at the school was fired.

According to the SGB, the man faced a disciplinary panel of three presiding officers, who found him guilty on all counts of sexual harassment and financial mismanagement.

The 33-year-old coach, who has not pleaded yet, is facing sexual assault charges at the Alexandra Regional Court. He is expected back in court on March 12.

The alleged incidents of sexual assault were said to have taken place during netball matches and on school outings between 2017 and 2018. A parent of one of the complainants confirmed this to News24. 

READ: Bryanston High School coach guilty of sexual harassment, dismissed immediately

Jordan-Friedman said three girls had reported the alleged abuse to their principal. Two of them testified at the disciplinary hearing, and one of them - together with her mother - had laid criminal charges against the coach.

She said the school had persuaded the parents of the victims to follow the disciplinary instead of the criminal route.

"We believe that some teachers could have witnessed the abuse because they happened inside the school premises," said Jordan-Friedman.

'School has also misled MEC'

She added that Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi was also told that the matter was sexual harassment, when in fact it was sexual abuse.

"Some teachers don't want to be seen standing next to the investigating officer. The school has also misled MEC Panyaza Lesufi. We believe the abuse started a while back. We believe that the girls were sexually groomed by their coach. We demand that the SGB hand over those statements to the police," she said.

The organisation said it believed that there could be more victims of the coach. 

"The school should have followed the criminal process, rather than the disciplinary hearing. They believed that disciplining the teacher will save the reputation of the school."

ALSO READ: Outrage as George dentist gets 3 years for sexual assault on teen boy

SGB chairperson Aidan Hillebrand labelled the allegations by WMACA that SGB members were withholding information as incorrect, false and unfounded.

"When the matter first came to the school's attention, the department of education was notified. On the same day the department was notified, the parent of the learner opened a charge at Sandton police station. Throughout the process, the school has interacted with the police and the department and have always complied with every request for information.

"The school has also had a meeting with WMACA at their request. Throughout the process, the school has communicated with parents and learners. Learners have been encouraged to come forward if they have experienced anything similar and counselling has been made available," he said.

Hillebrand added that the school had met every request for information from the police. 

Read more on:    wmaca  |  johannesburg  |  education  |  crime  |  child abuse
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