The Constitutional Court has ruled that in the future private or independent schools may no longer rely on their contracts with parents as the basis on which a learner can be kicked out of school without a fair hearing.
The court found that schools have a constitutional duty to ensure that the best interests of children are put first – and that includes their right to basic education.
The case, related to a gr. 4- and gr. R learner at Johannesburg’s Pridwin Prepatory School, started in 2016. The children were forced to leave school after their parents repeatedly behaved badly.
The High Court and the Court of Appeal ruled against the parents, saying the cancellation of the contract, which allows suspension “for any reason”, was legal.
The Constitutional Court made four rulings on the issue, but all essentially came to the same conclusion. In the majority judgment, Judge Leonora Theron said it could be argued that the case is now purely academic because the children are already enrolled in another school. However, the precedent created by the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal has a wider impact on the rights of learners at independent schools.
“This is the first time the court has had the opportunity to tackle the issue squarely. It is also a rare opportunity because of the complexity and cost of doing things like this. “
The relationship between the parents and the school soured after three incidents during which the father acted aggressively and caused unpleasant exchanges at sporting events.
“The parents, as explained in the Supreme Court ruling, showed a worrying, overwhelming tendency of persistent and alarming harassment of staff on various occasions that came dangerously close to physical violence.
“Their misconduct is astounding and should be strongly condemned,” Theron found.