Private schools can’t victimise kids when parents don’t pay, judge rules

“[The school’s] conduct in isolating [the boy] and placing him in the art room while other learners wrote examinations was degrading, humiliating and inhumane,” Judge Mokgere Masipa said in the Durban high court.

She rejected John Wesley’s argument that as a private school it could not contravene the constitutional right to education, because parents and pupils could choose a public school instead.

The school’s exclusion policy, which it said it had applied for many years, “results in a standard inferior to that which is applicable in public education”, said Masipa.

“It is clearly contrary to public policy and is aimed at humiliating, degrading and victimising learners.”

The 10-year-old’s father went to court in May 2016 when pleas for clemency to John Wesley principal Darron Tarr were unsuccessful. He insisted that the man’s son could not write exams until arrears of R3,830 were paid, and refused to negotiate payment terms.

In court papers, the school said threats to prevent pupils writing exams reduced its total arrears of R621,000 by 68% during 12 days in May 2016.

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