Teacher cleared of rape charges

The 52-year-old teacher accused of raping a pupil at a southern suburbs girls’ school has been “fully exonerated” after charges against him were withdrawn and an internal school investigation found there was “no merit” to the allegations that had been brought by the pupil.

Police spokesperson Captain Angie Latchman this week confirmed the charges were withdrawn due to “insufficient evidence to prosecute the matter”.

The state had alleged the man had repeatedly raped the girl in a school classroom since 2014 (“Rape shock at girls’ school”, Tatler, June 2).

It has also emerged that the pupil who brought the allegations has subsequently left the school.

The man was arrested on Thursday May 26 and made his first court appearance on Friday May 27, where he was granted R2 000 bail.

The teacher had been scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday June 29, before the control prosecutor took the decision to withdraw the charges on Tuesday June 14. The teacher has been suspended by the school pending the outcome of the investigation.

On the evening of Tuesday June 21, the school principal and council chairperson sent out a letter, which is in the Tatler’s possession, to staff, parents and school council explaining these developments, and detailing how all the evidence gathered contradicted the pupil’s statements.

“The control prosecutor stated that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the matter. The school co-operated fully with the police investigation in the lead-up to the decision of the control prosecutor,” the principal said.

“(However), regardless of the conclusion of the control prosecutor, it was necessary and appropriate for the school to complete its own internal investigation into the allegations against the staff member, given that the conduct alleged, if established, would obviously amount to serious misconduct and would be in contravention of the School’s Staff Code of Conduct and the South African Council of Educators’ Code of Professional Ethics.”

He said an investigator was appointed and the school was provided with a copy of the affidavit deposed to by the pupil detailing the times and dates of the alleged rape and sexual assault incidents.

The school investigated all relevant, available evidence in its internal investigation. This included interviewing staff and pupils, examining timetable sche- dules, teacher allocations, CCTV footage and securing written witness statements.

“The school had formally requested, on two occasions, through the attorneys acting for the pupil’s family, that the pupil be made available for an interview to assist the school with the investigation. The attorneys representing the family advised the school that the pupil would not participate in the internal investigation for reasons described by them as including the pupil’s personal and emotional well-being and based on her medical practitioner’s advice.

“On Tuesday, June 14, they also informed the school that the family were severing all contact and ties with the school and that the pupil would not return to the school. In the circumstances, the school had to conclude its investigation without further input from the pupil.”

The teacher, along with his legal representatives, met with the investigator on Friday June 17 and answered questions regarding the allegations of rape and assault. The teacher categorically denied the allegations.

“The completed investigative report was presented to the head master and council chair on Tuesday June 21. This report concluded that all the material evidence that had emerged in the investigation had proven to contradict the pupil’s specific allegations, as detailed in her affidavit given to the police.

“Based on all the evidence gathered, including timetable schedules, teacher allocations, CCTV footage and interviews with and statements taken from various witnesses, the only conclusion that could be drawn was that there was and is no merit in the allegations contained in the pupil’s affidavit. In fact, the allegations are contradicted by the independent, objective evidence.”

The principal said the school had accepted the findings of the internal investigation and as a result would not be pursuing any disciplinary action against the teacher.

“The investigation has concluded that there is no truth to the allegations. The teacher has been fully exonerated by the comprehensive police and school investigations and consequently the principal has, in line with our policies, lifted the suspension of the teacher with immediate effect.”

The principal met with the teacher on Tuesday to discuss his return to duties. It was agreed that he would return to the school to meet with staff today, Thursday June 23, and resume teaching classes at the start of next term.

“The school takes allegations or reports by pupils of alleged teacher misconduct most seriously, especially when the allegations are of the nature made in this matter, and we remain committed to doing so,” the principal said.

“By the same token, the school expects its pupils to act responsibly when making such serious allegations. As the pupil and her family have severed all ties with the school and she is no longer a pupil at the school, the school is unable to proceed with a disciplinary process against the pupil to address her conduct in this matter.”

The principal said the school acknowledged the “significant pain and turmoil” these allegations has caused the teacher, his family and the school community.

“The teacher’s attorneys have advised the school that they intend writing to the pupil’s family on his behalf to demand a public apology, the payment of the legal costs he incurred in dealing with the allegations and an appropriate contribution by the family to Rape Crisis.

“The school is now in a position to move forward and put these traumatic allegations behind us. We pledge our full support to the teacher as he returns to assume his teaching and other duties.”

Patric Solomons, director of child rights NGO, Molo Songololo, said it was vital that all allegations of rape and sexual abuse were thoroughly investigated at schools.

“The first thing is that the child must feel that he or she is completely trusted when it comes to reporting such allegations. That is a very important area when it comes to investigating these matters,” Mr Solomons said.

“Certainly at Molo Songololo we have had cases where children have not been entirely honest, but the reasons might vary. They might be put up to it by their peers or they might feel ignored. However, the key to addressing cases like these is that they must be taken through a process where they are made aware of the dangers of telling lies.”

Mr Solomons added that in such cases it was unfortunate that children decided to leave a school.

“A child should be made to feel comfortable. This can come about by having trained educators who not only explain the dangers of sexual abuse, but also what can result if they are not honest. The interventions need to be centred on the pupil.”

Captain Latchman said no charges had been brought against the pupil.