He was shocked and offended when he first saw the doctored picture of himself and the principal of Hoërskool Waterkloof in Pretoria naked and touching themselves inappropriately.
“I just thought I didn’t deserve that,” says Dr Louis Dey (47), who was deputy of the school at the time but has since left. The three boys who were responsible for producing the picture and distributed it among their school friends by cellphone didn’t even know him.
But they had chosen the wrong man to mess with. Because one of the things that makes this Afrikaans teacher’s eyes flash is teachers’ rights. He took his fight for rights to SA’s highest court.
Now, several court cases later, the three young men owe him R25 000 plus his legal costs amounting to an estimated R800 000 for their little “joke”. That’s what the Constitutional Court ruled on 7 March.
“For me it was never about the money. It was about the principle – someone had to finally support teachers against bullies in the school system,” he says.
After seeing the picture Louis managed to track down the culprits and confronted them about three weeks later. They owned up but didn’t offer an apology.
And that’s when he decided enough was enough. He felt the detention the boys were penalised with after a disciplinary hearing at the school was not sufficient punishment under the circumstances. He went to the police and laid a criminal charge.
“At any stage I would have accepted a decent apology and dropped the whole thing,” Louis says.
“Other people are held in high regard in society but teachers must be content with being bullied by children daily and their parents back them up. This case was about a lot more than ‘poor me’.”
He’d spotted an opportunity to expose this issue and grabbed it, he says. “I’m just glad I’ve had the chance to stand up for teachers in society and tell my side of the story. It may be a drop in the ocean of what really goes on in schools but it’s a step in the direction of change.”
Read the full article in the YOU of 24 March 2011