Sans Souci shoots down sexual harassment claim

Sans Souci Girls’ High School.

The father of a San Souci Girl’s High pupil says he is unhappy with the way the school has dealt with the sexual-harassment accusation his daughter made against a teacher.

The father, who is not being named to protect his daughter’s identity, says the alleged sexual harassment happened in November 2019, but he is coming forward now after a different teacher allegedly told his daughter, last Wednesday, that she was “too fat” for the outfit she was wearing.

The father says the pupils were wearing civvies at the time while protesting at the school, accusing it of running a dictatorial system and harbouring sexual harassment and “body shaming”.

The father claims a male teacher said something inappropriate that made his daughter uncomfortable. The father would not say what was allegedly said.

He said after complaining to the principal he had been told that his daughter needed to make a written statement. After providing the statement in November 2019, he had been told that the principal and school governing body would set up a committee to investigate.

He said that by the end of February last year he had been told that the school had investigated the matter but further investigations were needed.

The father said he had also reported the alleged body-shaming incident to the principal after his daughter had been in tears when he had picked her up from school last Wednesday.

Principal O’ Shea did not respond to our questions, which were referred to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED). The department sent us a copy of a governing body letter dated Friday February 26 and signed by Ms O’ Shea. The letter seeks to reassure parents that no pupil at the school has been sexually harassed or body shamed.

“Allegations were made and through investigations they were found not to be true, the school governing body established a committee last year that looked into the matter and found no evidence of sexual harassment against any staff member,” Ms O’ Shea says in the letter.

The letter says the school held several meetings with male staff to impress upon them the importance of not making girls feel uncomfortable.

The father said he wanted the committee to give him a copy of its report on the issue.

WCED spokeswoman Bronagh Hammond confirmed that the sexual-harassment allegation had been reported in November 2019, and the grade head, school counsellor, principal and the girl’s father had all been present.

The school, she said, had reported that it had found no evidence to substantiate the claim that the male teacher had said something “inappropriate” to the girl.

The father was welcome to contact the school about the outcome of his daughter’s case and its details, she said. She claimed he had not followed up with the school, but he denied that, saying he had asked several times for a report.

He accused the WCED of failing to take the matter seriously and investigate it objectively, and said he would approach the South African Human Rights’ Commission.

The school governing body letter meanwhile, notes there will be no more civvies days at the school and that pupils’ grievances about the closure of the school library and a lack of extra-mural activities are no longer valid as those measures were enforced because of Covid-19 regulations that have since been eased.