Parktown sex case leaves ‘gay’ problem in its wake
Principal furious that the school's rugby players are being 'sledged' about their sexuality
As the trial of the former assistant water polo coach of Parktown Boys’ High School winds down, it has emerged that pupils are pejoratively labelled as gay by their opponents during rugby matches.
Times Select was reliably informed that the school’s rugby players were victims of sledging on the field perpetrated by rugby teams from at least two different schools.
Sledging commonly refers to players insulting opposition players during a game to make them angry and lose focus.
School principal Malcolm Williams, who took over as headmaster last month, confirmed to parents in a letter dated August 27 – which Times Select has seen – that his pupils had been victims of sledging.
“I am also aware of the upset caused for boys and parents by ‘chirps’ or sledging by opponents on the sports field alluding to these terrible events [the sexual assault case] to put our players off their game, and the frustration of our parents when they are repeatedly asked about their school,” he wrote.
“It is sad that these ‘cheap’ shots are taken when such a serious and emotive matter is at hand.”
Williams was writing to parents to keep them abreast of developments in the case involving Collan Rex.
Rex, 22, was found guilty of 144 counts of sexual assault and a further 12 counts of assault on Friday in the high court sitting at the Palm Ridge Magistrates’ Court in Katlehong, east of Johannesburg.
In response to the sledging incidents, Williams asked pupils and staff to wear a blue ribbon on their left lapel during the period when the victims would be testifying in court “to show support for those affected and having to testify”.
He told parents in another letter dated August 30 that the blue was chosen, as it was associated with creating a sense of confidence, calm, friendship and support.
Furious about the sledging incidents, Luke Lamprecht, advocacy spokesperson for Women and Men Against Child Abuse, posted a message on his Facebook page slamming the conduct of the players from the opposing teams.
He wrote: “Mainly rugby opponents of Parktown Boys’ High showed no empathy for the abuse case in the courts. That is sad enough, but the opposing teams went further. They wanted to win so much they used sledging. What did they do? Taunted the Parktown Boys calling them gay.”
Describing the conduct of Parktown Boys’ opponents as “totally insensitive”, Rees Mann, executive director of South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse, said they created the impression that “if you are sexually abused you will become gay”.
“Sexual abuse is not going to change your gender identity. What these young boys are doing is that they are continuing ensuring that the code of silence for people who have been abused is perpetuated.”
Meanwhile, Williams confirmed to parents that measures taken at the school to ensure the safety of the boys included the Guardian App, the installation of cameras and the proper vetting of all members of staff.
In a response to Times Select in June, Jim Pooley, chairperson of the school’s governing body, said the school had introduced the Guardian App, a reporting mechanism where any form of misconduct or suspicious activity can be reported anonymously.
Pupils can download the app for free.
He said The Guardian, a security vetting company that developed the app, would provide regular reports to the school’s management while protecting the identity of the whistleblower.
“The initiative has been undertaken in line with the governing body and school management team’s commitment to a culture of openness, transparency and good governance.”
He said the review of the school’s code of conduct was placed as a priority item on the agenda.
Meanwhile, sentencing proceedings, which were scheduled to start on Monday, were postponed to Thursday as a report from the probation officer was still outstanding.
Rex desperately tried to hide his face as he left the court building as photographers tried to photograph him.