Legal student body calls for more action against Sans Souci Girls High teacher

Sans Souci Girls’ High school teacher Clarissa Venter is seen outside the Wynberg Magistrate's Court. (Jaco Marais, Gallo Images, Netwerk24, file)
Sans Souci Girls’ High school teacher Clarissa Venter is seen outside the Wynberg Magistrate's Court. (Jaco Marais, Gallo Images, Netwerk24, file)

The Chamber of Legal Students has called for more action against a teacher who allegedly assaulted a pupil at Sans Souci Girls High School in Cape Town.

The call comes after criminal charges against Clarissa Venter were withdrawn at the Wynberg Magistrate's Court in August.

Earlier this year, a clip of the altercation between Venter and a Grade 9 pupil went viral on social media.

During the fracas, Venter slapped the pupil, before grabbing her by the shirt. The girl then held on to the teacher's arm and saying, "You hit me!" Venter then replies that the girl pushed and swore at her.

News24 earlier reported that Venter was subjected to a disciplinary hearing where the school governing body (SGB) found that she should receive a fine, final warning and attend anger management sessions. The pupil was ordered to complete community service. 

Venter has since returned to work, while the pupil has left the school.

The pupil's mother then took the matter to the Equality Court where she is claiming R150 000 in damages.

READ: Sans Souci: slapped scholar's mother says teacher's body language 'told a story'

Yolisa Nocanda from the chamber, which is representing the pupil, said it was pleased the national Department of Basic Education had this week begun an investigation into the school, its SGB and the Western Cape provincial Department of Education.

Nocanda said the chamber had asked the national department to investigate Venter's conduct, all aspects of the principal's conduct and the SGB, including choosing the most extreme form of censure for the pupil and their lack of support for the pupil in the aftermath of the event.

Western Cape education department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said they would be complying with the investigation and "and avail the relevant officials with whom they wish to consult with during the investigation".

"The provincial education department must also be investigated for its alleged failure to protect the pupil's constitutional rights, the language discrimination by the school both in its code of conduct and in practices; and the way in which pupils were intimidated in the wake of the events to support only the teacher and some pupils being victimised for supporting the pupil. 

"There is an epidemic of violence at schools in the country and teachers should be in the lead of stemming it, instead of being the perpetrators as Venter was. It is noteworthy that the school quickly moved to initiate a disciplinary process against the pupil who was a victim of the assault while failing to subject Venter, who was the perpetrator, to a disciplinary hearing. 

"The Western Cape Department of Education stood aside and did nothing to protect the pupil's rights, despite the mother's appeals for them to help.

"In the course of representing pupils from various schools in the Western Cape in disciplinary hearings it has been our experience that the Western Cape Department of Education routinely sides with school governing bodies no matter that the rights of pupils are being infringed," said Nocanda.

Hammond would not be drawn into Nocanda's claims, saying "we have no further comments on the matter". 

Another disciplinary hearing 

Nocanda said the chamber was also pleased that the South African Council for Educators (SACE) was expected to hold a disciplinary hearing into Venter's conduct in Cape Town on October 15.

"The pupil's mother has vowed to pursue all avenues to ensure the teacher is held to account for the assault and to obtain justice for her daughter. We will support her fully. No pupil should be traumatised like in an institution that is supposed to be a safe space."

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