Slapped pupil's mother decides to 'withdraw' her from Sans Souci, plans legal action

Sans Souci Girls High School teacher Clarissa Venter receives support outside the Wynberg Magistrate's Court. (Tammy Petersen, News24)
Sans Souci Girls High School teacher Clarissa Venter receives support outside the Wynberg Magistrate's Court. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

The mother of the Cape Town pupil who was slapped during an altercation with her Afrikaans teacher has decided to "withdraw" her daughter from the school, her lawyers said on Thursday.

"The decision to withdraw the learner from the school was prompted by concerns for her well-being, in the face of the unfair and unlawful treatment she has been subjected to and the extremely hostile environment the school has created for her," the Chamber of Legal Students, which has been representing the Grade 9 pupil, said in a statement.

"This is not an environment conducive for her to study in."

The "prolonged unlawful suspension" has effectively deprived the pupil of her right to education, it charged, and it accused the provincial education department of refusing to "step in and protect the learner's constitutional rights".

"In such circumstances, the mother has no alternative but to take her child out of the school. This is in the best interest of the learner."

Department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond previously told News24 that in terms of regulations, if disciplinary proceedings were not conducted within seven school days after the suspension of the pupil, the governing body should obtain approval for the continuation of the suspension.

The total period of suspension of a pupil should not be longer than 21 school days, but in this case, the school applied for a continuation of the suspension which was approved, she explained.

According to the department, the pupil started receiving school work two school days after her suspension.

The child's lawyers said the mother had no confidence that the disciplinary hearing scheduled for Friday would be "fair or impartial".

"Based on the submissions made previously to the school regarding the procedural irregularities and since she is no longer a learner at the school, there is no basis for her to participate in it. The mother will proceed with legal action against the school, the SGB (school governing body) and the Western Cape Department of Education for the violation of the learner's rights."

Pupils and members of the public came out in support of the teacher, Clarissa Venter, 34, who was captured on video when she slapped the Grade 9 pupil after the child shoved her during an altercation over a book.

They laid assault charges against each other.

Hammond earlier on Thursday confirmed "rumblings" of a protest at the Newlands school if the pupil returned.

"The principal has explained that a process is being followed and they have to await the outcome of that process."

"The school will explain carefully how the process works and manage the situation so that the learners accept the outcome."

A day after the assault in February, a group of pupils staged a demonstration in support of the teacher. They made a poster which read: "It's not about race."

Others contacted a Cape Town radio station after it was claimed on air that the girl was a troublemaker.

After her in camera court appearance in the Wynberg Magistrate's Court on Wednesday, the pupil told News24 she never wanted to return to the school again. Her mother, however, at the time said she would decide later because they "first need to clear this up".

According to the pupil, she has been receiving threatening messages from her schoolmates, warning her not to return to Sans Souci.

Hammond, however, said the school was not aware of the threats.

The mother claimed that on the day of her daughter's disciplinary hearing, the principal told her to find another school for her child to attend because she had brought Sans Souci "into disrepute".

Hammond denied this.

"The principal did not tell the mother that she 'must' find another school. She allegedly advised the parent that if they do not want the child to have a record - should the outcome be negative for the learner - then the learner can deregister before the disciplinary is complete. She also allegedly said this in reaction to the mother bad-mouthing the school."

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