School clashes with parents of pupil ‘bullied’ for being ‘gay’
Dad intervened to protect his son because, he says, teachers watched and did nothing
The Gauteng education department is investigating allegations that a 13-year-old child at a Johannesburg primary school was bullied and called “gay”, and his nine-year-old brother was kicked when he tried to protect him.
The situation was so tense at Theo Wassenaar Primary School in Robertsham, south of Johannesburg, on Friday afternoon that the police and local community policing forum arrived to defuse the situation that is said to have involved the father, pupils and a school employee.
The parents, who cannot be named to protect the identity of their children, claimed the bullying has been happening for months, but the school said it was unfortunate the media had been alerted while an investigation was ongoing. The school added: “There was no gun and no blood was shed.”
The mother said her son had tried to commit suicide last month after he had been taunted and called “gay” by other children.
On Friday after school, the 13-year-old was targeted again, according to his parents. He was apparently approached by a group of boys who teased him, hit him and pushed him around. His younger brother, who was nearby, intervened, but he was kicked and pushed away.
Their eldest 14-year-old brother, who was waiting with their father outside the school premises, noticed the commotion.
The father said he then intervened to protect his sons from violence, but the school said the father himself started behaving violently.
“I was surprised and shocked as teachers and other kids were looking, seemingly cheering at what was happening. I noticed that my boys were in trouble and I tried to save them … The next thing, this woman came and assaulted me. It was the school against me and my kids. My little one was crying and the teachers were just watching,” the father said.
He called his wife, who later arrived with the police and community policing forum members.
The school said: “Today we experienced an unfortunate incident where a parent got violent and threatened a school employee and a learner.
“The local CPF and SAPS were called in to defuse the situation. Some of our learners and teachers witnessed this unruly behaviour which has traumatised them. Please note that the school takes the safety of our learners very seriously and will not tolerate this kind of behaviour.
“It is a bad example for our young children, and it is against the law. We are aware that rumours are rife around what has happened. An update will be provided to the relevant authorities.
“Suffice to say, there was no gun and no blood was shed.
“Please ensure that if your child is being bullied at school, that you bring this to the attention of the teacher.”
School government body chairperson Jack Chirwa said he had heard about the bullying incident but would only respond in full once he had all the information.
“It is unfortunate that the parents are running to the media without this matter being investigated. You know we have to hear both sides of the story, but we will comment when the time is right,” said Chirwa.
The parents claimed that was not the first time. They alleged their first-born child had once been assaulted in 2010 by other older boys in the same school, and was locked in a toilet.
“All these cases are reported to the school, but there’s no feedback from them,” said the mother.
She added that her 13-year-old wrote a suicide letter early last month.
“In that letter he said he could not take it anymore. He said: ‘Allah, I had enough.’ He said he was being bullied at school. I just cried when I saw that letter.”
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said ill-discipline would not be allowed.
“Bullying will not be allowed to persist in our environment, and we are resolute,” he said.
“It is shocking to receive an allegation that a school failed to act on such a serious matter. The department will conduct an investigation and where necessary advise the SGB to conduct a disciplinary hearing.”