Parents of Michaelhouse, St John's boys involved in racial spat agree to mediation process

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Michaelhouse (Picture from Michaelhouse website)
Michaelhouse (Picture from Michaelhouse website)
  • An independent investigation into the alleged racial incident that saw the sporting derby day between Michaelhouse and St John's being cancelled has recommended a mediation process.
  • That course of action will be followed after the St John's boy, who was subjected to a racial slur, and his family agreed to such a process.
  • The report noted that a fully fledged disciplinary hearing would potentially have had undesirable consequences. 

An independent investigation's report into an alleged racial incident during the annual sporting derby day between two of South Africa's most prestigious private schools, Michaelhouse and St John's, has "strongly" recommended that a mediation process between the two boys be followed.

The event, which was to take place on the last weekend of May, was abruptly cancelled a Michaelhouse first-team hockey player was alleged to have used an "egregious" racial slur against a St John's College opponent.

Both schools agreed at the time that it wouldn't have been appropriate for further matches to continue.

The Heads of the institutions as well as their council chairpersons considered the findings and recommendations, mutually agreeing with the respective boys and parents to commit to mediation.

READ | St John's, Michaelhouse derby day cancelled after alleged racial slur during hockey match

In a statement to its school community, St John's Head Stuart West and council chair Thulani Khanyile - while emphasising the confidentiality of the report - noted that the concluding finding was that "there is sufficient evidence to corroborate and support the [St John's College student’s] report that a racial slur was said to him. His key assertions are supported and corroborated by the video evidence or the evidence of others. The probabilities therefore support his assertion that a racial slur was said to him."

The findings and recommendations were based on interviews with key witnesses, witness statements, and video footage, but no adversarial cross-questioning took place.

In turn, a joint statement by Michaelhouse's Head and chairperson, Antony Clark and Anthony Hewat, stated that its pupil had denied the allegation from outset and that clear ruling wasn't made.

"If the findings had demonstrated guilt, we would have proceeded with our normal process involving a disciplinary hearing," it read.

Extensive consultation by St John's relevant parties "solicited diverse views", which prompted the school to lay out various legal options to student's family.

Yet, seemingly based on the report's recommendation that "a disciplinary process - involving adversarial cross-questioning by lawyers - may further traumatise all students involved, prolong this issue considerably, 'polarise' [the] respective school communities, and possibly produce an uncategorical outcome, because of the stricter evidentiary standards", the family chose mediation.

Both schools confirmed that an experienced mediator and child psychologist will be appointed to work with the two boys, with both sets of parents permitted to be present too.

Furthermore, St John's noted that the report "recommends that both schools develop specific procedures, protocols and policies for future sporting and other events".

The two schools expressed their mutual gratitude towards each other for identifying a "restorative resolution".     

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