MUST READ: Cloud of fear hangs over parents after allegations of sexual assault at a school

Allegations of sexual assault involving minors in primary school spark anger. Photo: Pexels.com

Shocking details of a sexual assault at IR Griffith Primary School in Blairgowrie have emerged.
One parent of a child who attends the school complained that the school dismally failed in handling the incident.
The mother, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation, said the school should immediately have alerted the parents rather than wait for a whole month. According to the mother, a Grade 2 child was allegedly sexually assaulted by three boys from the school between the ages of 12 and 14.

It is rumoured that the boys took the little girl out of class and took her to the bathrooms, where they allegedly sexually assaulted her.
The three boys were arrested and have since appeared in the Randburg Magistrates’ Court. The police refuse to reveal details of where the boys are being held.

Linden Police Station confirmed that the incident occurred at the school during school hours and is said to have involved three minor boys and a minor girl.
Police spokesperson Captain Walter Spencer said the incident occurred on 4 April and was reported at the station the following day. He said the first arrest was made after the school holidays on 20 April. The suspects first appeared in court on 21 April, then on 16 May. They are expected to appear in the Roodepoort Magistrates’ Court on 18 July.

Apparently, the father of the victim made contact with the principal a week before the school closed for the first term.
Randburg Sun attended a school meeting on 15 May in which the school governing body (SGB) informed parents about the incident and addressed the rumours that were circulating. The SGB explained to parents that they were unable to inform the parents because all the children involved were minors, and the school followed its internal procedure. The school had held a disciplinary hearing for four boys, three of whom have been expelled and were arrested and have appeared in court. The details surrounding the fourth boy’s role in the incident and his expulsion remain unclear.

The SGB indicated that the identities of the perpetrators and the victim remain confidential and added that the incident has left emotional and social scars on the school.
The SGB said that in response to the incident, an additional social subject will be introduced to educate the schoolchildren on sexual harassment. The children will now go to the bathrooms in pairs, and educators will go on a six-hour course with a specialist from Teddy Bear Clinic to learn how to deal with vindictive children and bullying. The school is also waiting for a quotation for the installation of cameras in the passageways leading to the bathrooms. Members of SGB further said they would not allow a shadow of secrecy to descend on the school.

Although the disciplinary hearing is complete and the boys were expelled immediately, parents wanted to know the circumstances of the incident and why they were kept in the dark.

“We want to know how it was allowed to happen. We are not happy about it and the manner in which this case was handled,” said one parent.

Another parent pointed out that the school should have communicated with them sooner.”Our kids have been coming to the school since the incident occurred while the school wasn’t communicating anything this with us,” said another parent.

Meanwhile, the Gauteng Department of Education confirmed that they were aware of the incident and are very concerned.

“The school conducted a disciplinary hearing and the recommendation was that the involved learners must be expelled from the school. The school has prepared the recommendations and it is now with the HOD for his consideration,” said the department’s acting spokesperson Oupa Bodibe.

He said all the affected children were referred to the Teddy Bear Clinic to receive psychological support. He confirmed that the matter has been reported to the police and the alleged perpetrators will be appearing in court.
“We urge learners to abide by the school code of conduct at all times and refrain from acts of misconduct. We also appeal to parents to assist the department to enforce discipline in and outside the school environment,” he said.

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  AUTHOR
Phathu Luvhengo
Journalist

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