A Pretoria school has been accused of suspending a learner for missing a day of school.
NOTE: THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED TO REFLECT AN APOLOGY. READ IT HERE.
The parent told Pretoria East Rekord that his daughter was summarily suspended after taking a day off to see a doctor.
The parent explains that on May 16, he sent an email to Cornerstone College informing them that his daughter would be going to the doctor the following day.
He alleged that when his daughter returned to school the following day, she was accused of feigning sickness and summoned to the principal’s office, where she was told to look for another school for next year as she would not be re-registered.
The parent said the grade 11 learner had a medical certificate with her, but the principal had not even given her an opportunity to present it.
“She did not even bother to ask for a medical certificate which my daughter had on her at the time,” he said, adding that at the school, learners were not allowed to speak unless given permission to.
“She would have been in more trouble if she had spoken without being permitted to do so.”
The unhappy parent said he was denied a meeting with the principal to sort out the problem. He also accused her of racism.
“She is happy to receive money from black parents but she does not want to speak to them,” he said, adding his daughter had become despondent.
“I had to move her to another school but Cornerstone was making that process difficult.”
He claimed his daughter was denied a transfer letter and term report which were required by the new school.
Cornerstone Director Rob Hurlin said the parent had embarked on a smear campaign after the school declined his request for the learner to be readmitted.
“His request for readmission to the school proves that his racism accusations are unfounded.”
Hurlin said the school had not received the transfer letter and portfolio requests.
Last year, another unhappy parent protested outside the school demanding reasons for their child’s expulsion.
That parent also accused the school of racism.
More learners have since come forward alleging bad treatment by the school management.
Hurlin said the isolated allegations of racism against the school were by disgruntled parents whose children had failed to comply with the school’s code of conduct.
“Proof of racism has never once been produced,” he said.
He said the school was obliged by law to carefully monitor learner absenteeism.
The parent said the Department of Education had told him it could not meddle in the affairs of Independent schools when he reported the incident.
The department was yet to respond to the Pretoria East Rekord query at the time of going to print.
UPDATE: 13 September 2018
On August 28, 2018 The Citizen published an article titled “‘Racist’ Pretoria school suspends sick pupil” on its website.
It was originally published by the Rekord East, a Citizen partner website in the Caxton stable, and reproduced on our site on the same day.
The article stated that Cornerstone College had suspended a learner for missing a day of school. Her father stated that he had informed the school of his daughter’s doctor visit on May 17 and resultant absenteeism. According to him, she was expelled upon her return and not offered the chance to produce a medical certificate explaining where she had been. The article stated that he was denied a meeting with the principal following the incident. The parent accused the school of racism and claimed Cornerstone College denied his daughter a transfer letter prior to her moving schools. It was alleged that more parents had aired similar complaints.
The school’s reaction to the Rekord was comprehensive. However, Rekord East published only excerpts stating that director Rob Hurlin accused the father of conducting a smear campaign and that no request for transfer-related documents were received from the father. The school added that isolated racism allegations were made by disgruntled parents whose children had failed to adhere to the school’s code of conduct during the course of 2017.
Rekord East did not publish the following comments from the school:
Cornerstone College explained that the learner was never expelled, but that her parents removed her from the school by the end of the second term. Hurlin stated that the learner was asked for a doctor’s letter, but could not produce one and faced disciplinary consequences as she was also absent on May 9 without a doctor’s letter.
“She missed vitally important assessments on that day,” he said.
He added that the absenteeism of learners in the senior phase posed challenges as they missed cycle tests and their educators, education and that of their classmates was hampered.
The outcome of the disciplinary proceedings was a final written warning and four detentions, which were earmarked for the student to catch up on the missed schoolwork. In reaction to the allegation that children at the school speak only when spoken to, Hurlin stated that it was untrue. He also denied the veracity of the father’s claim that “she is happy to receive money from black parents, but does not want to speak to them”.
“The allegations of racism on the part of the principal are false,” said Hurlin.
He added that the school was started for the purpose of providing affordable quality education to learners who would have been previously disadvantaged.
“The learners at the school are all black and are proud of the school’s 100 percent matric pass rate over the last 20 years,” he said.
According to Hurlin, most of the learners proceed to tertiary education.
The school also stated that the parents had requested Cornerstone College to furnish the learner’s new school with a confidential report, which was done on June 12, 2018. According to the school, this proves that the school has not in any way been party to interrupting her education. The school stated that the unhappy parent was not denied a meeting with the principal to sort out the problem, but that the principal invited the parent to attend a meeting and discuss the matter.
This meeting, the school said, was attended by the parent who apologised for not knowing about the school’s procedures.
The Rekord East and The Citizen apologise for previously publishing only part of the school’s comments in reaction to the allegations.
The Rekord East apologises to anyone who may have been affected as a result.