Hyde Park High sex pest case reveals more sexual assaults

The mother of a Hyde Park High School pupil who was reportedly sexually assaulted by an assistant sports coach has come forward to talk about the ordeal, under strict conditions of anonymity to protect her son's identity. Video: eNCA
CEO of Rape Wise South Africa, John Buswell, talks about the increase in school-related sexual assault cases being reported to his organisation; and gives parents tips on what to do if their children are involved in sexual misconduct. Video: eNCA
October 09 - A highly regarded Johannesburg high school is under scrutiny following reports that a teacher has been sending indecent photos of himself to a pupil. Video: eNCA

JOHANNESBURG - The week began with news that a teacher had been suspended from the prestigious Hyde Park High School earlier this year, a full eight days after a mother revealed he had been sending her 16-year-old son -- a pupil at the school -- pornographic material.

Now it has emerged that this is just one of at least three incidents of sexual misconduct linked to the school in the past 18 months. 

In July last year, the parents of a 13-year-old grade eight pupil of Hyde Park High opened a case of rape at the Mayfair police station after the teenager said she was attacked by an intruder in the girl's bathroom. 

The parents chose not to be interviewed to protect their daughter, who moved schools shortly after the incident. 

In response to their request to inform the school community of what had happened, the then-principal, Matthew Davies, put out a list of tips for keeping pupils safe on school property in the August newsletter, without mentioning the attack. 

The girl's mother sent a letter to Davies, who has since taken up the position of principal at Dainfern College, expressing her disappointment in his failure to communicate the incident adequately. 

She also pointed out that security cameras outside the bathroom, in which her daughter was reportedly raped, were broken at the time of the attack, and remained broken for weeks afterwards. 

The mother of a current pupil, who also asked to remain anonymous, said she recalled that parents were sent letters following the attack, simply informing them there had been an intruder at the school.

"We were told not to drop off the kids too early and to pick them up on time as a precaution, and that was about it," she said. 

"I wasn't informed that there was a rape at the school." 

 

Coming forward

A second incident of sexual misconduct occurred in April, when three school boys were reportedly molested by an assistant sports coach on a bus trip back from a match. 

One of the boys told his parents the coach had rubbed and thrust up against him and two others several times, in an extremely sexual way, pushing him to the back of the vehicle before the teenager kicked him. 

His mother immediately reported the incident to the school, but said her complaint was met with total silence.

"When this incident happened, I phoned Hyde Park -- the front office -- to speak to the person in charge of the disciplinary committee," " she said in an anonymous interview. 

"[I] left [a] number. They never came back to me," she said. 

"It's absolutely appaling that [there was] no communication from Hyde Park." 

The coach was dismissed following the incident, but nothing further was communicated to parents. 

In a statement made through his secretary at Dainfern College, Matthews said he was no longer affiliated with Hyde Park and would therefore not comment on the incidents. 

 

Inappropriate messages

In the latest case, Eyewitness News on Monday reported that a teacher had been suspended several months ago, after he was caught sending sexual messages to a student. 

He'd also sent him a photograph of himself sitting naked in a bath, holding his genitals, and referred to sexual deeds with other boys in his class. 

The teenager's mother said she saw the photograph on her son's phone and pretended to be him on the chat platform Whatsapp, where the teacher unwittingly engaged her in a disturbing conversation.

"I kinda get a perverse pleasure from making you horny," one of the chat messages from the teacher said. 

The mother then took the conversation to the school. She said it took more than a week before the decision to suspend him was made. 

In a statement on its website, Hyde Park High School said its governing body was satisfied acting principal Manolis Vogiatzis had dealt with the matter "as expeditiously as possible." 

It would not comment further, saying the matter was sub-judice. 

The teacher has been charged in connection with child pornography and will appear in court.

 

Increasing incidents of sexual misconduct

"The dynamics of education are becoming very difficult," said John Buswell, head of sexual education group, Rape Wise. 

"We are seeing more cases of sexual assault happening at schools, where children are sexually assaulting others, and teachers are assaulting kids." 

"The impression here is, I think [Hyde Park High School] have almost passed the buck on to the Department of Education, where they should've acted immediately and taken steps against the perpetrator here," he said. 

"The risk here is that the school can actually be charged as an accomplice." 

The Department of Education has criticised the school for failing to suspend the teacher immediately. 

It said it has opened an investigation into the matter. 

 

eNCA

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