South Africa


Family to sue over failure to prevent Gauteng pupil’s violation

Family to sue over failure to prevent Gauteng pupil’s violation
Illustrative image by Geronimo Gonzalez/(Unsplash)

A teenager was sexually violated at her school in October 2015. Her teachers, the principal, and the Gauteng education department all failed her. The family is suing for R1.5 million.By Lee-Anne Bruce and Sheena Swemmer

First published by GroundUp

Late last week, the trial of convicted sex offender Bradford Kyd finally came to an end when he was sentenced to eight years in prison (with four years suspended) by the Wynberg Magistrates Court in Johannesburg. He is now serving time for a crime he committed in October 2015, on his 18th birthday, when he was coming to the end of his matric year at a Johannesburg school. He coerced and threatened a Grade 9 girl (we’ll call her Chloe) into meeting him alone in a secluded part of the school during break. Then, Chloe testified during the trial, he forced her to pull down her pants and anally raped her.

The court did not find him guilty of rape, however. He was sentenced for attempted rape, because – according to the presiding magistrate – Kyd had not left his victim’s body scarred by the incident and so it was possible that he had not penetrated her but had only intended to do so.

Chloe and her family are pleased that the man who violated her has been convicted of a sexual offence and will serve time for it in prison. But, at the same time, they are distressed that the verdict doesn’t reflect Chloe’s experience. And, finally, they remain deeply troubled by the way her teachers, principal and school handled the incident from the very beginning.

The way Chloe was repeatedly failed by the very people and systems meant to protect her is set out in detail in a damages claim Chloe and her mother have filed for R1.5-million, with the help of their attorneys at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies.

In October 2015, when Chloe was 15 years old, the WhatsApp messages that had started as a flirtation with an older boy at school suddenly changed tone. He started demanding that she meet him alone and, when she refused, threatened to send naked pictures of her to the entire student body.

Afraid of what might happen if she went to see him, Chloe immediately sought help. She told her class teacher about the threats she had received and asked the teacher to patrol the area where Kyd wanted to meet her during break. But Chloe received no more help other than some advice to “put her foot down”. Her teacher did not patrol the area as Chloe requested. Neither did any other member of staff. (That’s 1.)

Without the support of her teacher, Chloe felt compelled to meet Kyd during break. Afterwards, she told her friends what happened to her and they reported it to a prefect who in turn went to the matric grade head. Chloe was then asked to recount the details of the incident to her own grade head teacher – without her parents or a social worker present. (That’s 2.)

Once her teachers had informed her parents of the incident, Chloe’s mother took her to a doctor and laid a charge of rape at a police station the next day. At no point did any of the teachers at a Johannesburg school who were aware of the incident report it themselves to SAPS – as they are obliged to do by law. (That’s 3.)

Chloe’s grade head advised her family that the man who violated her would be given a written warning by the school for “having sex with her on the premises” and would face a disciplinary hearing. To date, the family is not aware of any such hearing taking place – Kyd left the school several years ago. (That’s 4.)

The Grade 9 head teacher also assured Chloe’s family that she would report the incident to the relevant authorities. Neither she nor any other educator at the school who were aware of the incident, including the principal, ever informed a child protection organisation or the Department of Social Development – as, once again, they are obliged to do by law. (That’s 5 and 6).

When Chloe wanted to change schools because she no longer felt safe, her mother approached the principal at Hyde Park for help. Though he undertook to assist her with this, eventually she had to go to the Gauteng Department of Education herself. (That’s 7.) The principal was later found guilty of misconduct by the department for his failure to report the incident – but the penalty imposed on him of a fine of one month’s salary was hardly an appropriate sanction. (That’s 8.)

And the list goes on. Everyone, from Chloe’s teachers to her principal to the Department of Education, failed in their duty to care for her and protect her from harm. Kyd is serving time in prison for the violence he perpetrated – or “attempted” – but he is not the only one who should be held to account for what happened to a Grade 9 girl in a quiet part of a school and the trauma that resulted.

Chloe and her mother are trying to hold her teachers and principal accountable for failing to protect her and report the incident of sexual violence perpetrated against her. They have filed a damages claim for R1.5-million against the educators, the school governing body and the Department of Education and they will get their day in court. DM

Lee-Anne Bruce and Sheena Swemmer are based at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Wits University. Views expressed are not necessarily those of GroundUp


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