What to do if your child is harmed by a teacher

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - METRO - SACHA VAN NIEK­ERK sacha.van­niek­[email protected]

IF YOUR child re­turned home from school with tear-stained cheeks and red welts across their thighs, your first in­stinct might be to call the school and de­mand an ex­pla­na­tion.

But, what if it was a mem­ber of staff who in­flicted the harm in the first place? What’s the pro­to­col then?

Spank­ing, a ruler to the knuck­les or even a slap of the wrist are ex­am­ples of cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment.

In the school con­text, it’s de­fined as the in­ten­tional ex­er­tion of phys­i­cal force against a pupil by a teacher, or an­other su­per­vis­ing adult, in re­sponse to un­de­sired be­hav­iour.

For the past 22 years, any form of such pun­ish­ment has been banned by the SA Schools Act Sec­tion 10(1) which states that no per­son may ad­min­is­ter cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment at a pupil.

Any per­son who con­tra­venes sub­sec­tion (1) is guilty of an of­fence and li­able on con­vic­tion to a sen­tence which could be im­posed for as­sault.

Although this law has been in ef­fect for the past two decades, sta­tis­tics from Sta­tis­tics SA re­veals a har­row­ing re­al­ity.

Their 2016 sur­vey found that 11.5% (1.2 mil­lion) chil­dren at­tend­ing school aged 7–17, re­ported hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced some form of vi­o­lence at school in the three months prior to the sur­vey pe­riod.

What should you do if your child has re­ceived cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment at school by a su­per­vis­ing adult?

The South African Coun­cil for Ed­u­ca­tors (Sace) shared how to lodge a com­plaint against a teacher on their web­site (www.sace.org.za):

It is highly pre­ferred that com­plaints be in writ­ing and signed by the com­plainant, his or her le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive, union rep­re­sen­ta­tive or any other per­son lodg­ing the com­plaint on be­half of the com­plainant.

It may be faxed, emailed, posted or hand de­liv­ered. Com­plaints may also be lodged via tele­phone.

A com­plaint must be com­pre­hen­sive and must con­tain all the rel­e­vant dates, facts, sup­ported by rel­e­vant doc­u­men­ta­tion and other ev­i­dence.

The fol­low­ing in­for­ma­tion must also be sup­plied: the com­plainant’s name, mail de­liv­ery ad­dress and con­tact tele­phone num­bers.

If the com­plainant is rep­re­sent­ing a vic­tim, the name of the vic­tim must also be in­cluded.

Should a com­plainant wish to re­main anony­mous, the fol­low­ing in­for­ma­tion must be sup­plied; name of the per­son(s) against whom the com­plaint is lodged; name of the school in­volved if a pupil is in­volved, the name of the learner, the school he/she is at­tend­ing and the grade, and full par­tic­u­lars re­gard­ing the com­plaint (what hap­pened) date of the in­ci­dent, etc.

A let­ter of com­plaint should be for­warded to chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, SA Coun­cil for Ed­u­ca­tors, Pri­vate Bag X 127, Cen­tu­rion 0046.

The let­ter may be hand de­liv­ered to chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, SA Coun­cil for Ed­u­ca­tors, 240 Lenchen Av­enue, Cen­tu­rion 0046 or emailed to [email protected] sace.org.za.

What the pro­ce­dure for deal­ing with a com­plaint en­tails:

Sace said upon re­ceipt of the com­plaint, it was reg­is­tered; the per­son com­plained of (al­leged ac­cused was in­formed about the al­le­ga­tions against him/her) and re­quest for a writ­ten re­ply with re­gards to the al­le­ga­tions within 10 days and in some cases within 5 days depend­ing on the na­ture of the com­plaint.

A let­ter will also be sent to the other par­ties men­tioned in the al­le­ga­tions, in­clud­ing the com­plainant.

Once a re­sponse is re­ceived, it is read and a rec­om­men­da­tion will be pre­pared for the Ethics Com­mit­tee.

The Ethics Com­mit­tee guides the pro­cesses and will de­ter­mine whether a com­plaint war­rants an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, me­di­a­tion, or dis­ci­pline.

Re­fer the com­plaint to the rel­e­vant author­ity or body such as the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, the Ed­u­ca­tion Labour Re­la­tions Coun­cil, the po­lice.

A com­plaint must be com­pre­hen­sive and con­tain all the rel­e­vant dates, facts, doc­u­men­ta­tion, ev­i­dence

South African Coun­cil for Ed­u­ca­tors


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