Media

Karel | May 26, 2021

Why I am suing St Stithians over false allegations of racism

Martin Humphries describes having to defend his daughter against allegations of racism at a private school that has implemented the contentious approach of Critical Race Theory and anti-racism. This article first appeared in the Daily Friend.

There have been numerous articles and posts in recent times about identity politics, some of them about accusations of racism at schools and colleges in South Africa.

Stories are being told about unfortunate cases at various institutions, including St John’s College in Johannesburg, Michaelhouse in KwaZulu-Natal, St Mary’s DSG in Pretoria, Herschel Girls School in Cape Town, and my daughter’s former college in Sandton, St Stithians.

There appears to be a common thread: a handful of activists and their yay-sayers who are hell bent on seeking and amplifying division and cancellation*. These activists are allowed to flourish and are perhaps even encouraged by those in charge. This is not only destructive for any innocent victims, but it is also not what the institutions themselves, or the country, need right now.

It is also very expensive. Yet it seems these schools have lots of spare cash for consultants and lawyers in helping to drive the activists’ agenda and narrative.

I believe there are many innocent victims out there, including students, parents, and teachers, who want to tell their stories but who are too scared to do so for fear of further reprisal. Or perhaps it’s because it takes time and energy to fight back. Either way, it’s not going to help our children if parents sit back while standards of leadership and governance are allowed to decline.

I am a father whose daughter was in Grade 12 at St Stithians College in 2020. I am now suing St Stithians and three of its officials, and, if I succeed, it’s going to cost college management a lot of time and money.

Summons has been issued in the Randburg Regional Court against St Stithians College, Dr Sally James (Head of Girls’ College), Ms Leanne Horwitz (Head of Diversity and Transformation, Girls’ College) and Mrs Ntombi Langa-Royds (former Deputy Chair, now Chair of Council).

Background

What follows is a summary of the case and public record.

For broad context, St Stithians and its officials had a legal duty not to infringe or impair my daughter’s right to a basic education, and to act in her best interests. However, on 31 May 2020, Dr James made false, unfounded, and defamatory allegations against my daughter.

On 1 June, Ms Horwitz was appointed as ‘Chief Investigator’. Interviews and discussions were held with my daughter, while I was prohibited from attending.

On 5 June my daughter was issued with a notice to attend a disciplinary hearing on 12 June. She was charged with ‘Racism, racist conduct or other offensive behaviour’ and with ‘Dissemination of a WhatsApp communication with an (sic) alleged racist content’.

On 12 June my daughter pleaded not guilty to all charges at the disciplinary hearing chaired by Mrs Langa-Royds, who proceeded to find my daughter guilty on both charges and recommended the following sanctions:

  • A written warning valid for 6 months with expulsion for any offences of a similar nature; and
  • A ‘Restoration and Reflection Task’ of purchasing and reading ‘Waking up White: and finding myself in a story of race’ by Debby Irving, followed by a two-page essay.

My daughter maintained her innocence throughout and appealed against the findings and sanctions.

Advocate Ngwako Hamilton Maenetje SC was appointed by St Stithians to chair the appeal process. Despite the appeal having been noted, St Stithians and Dr James proceeded to implement the sanctions.

On 5 October 2020 Adv. Maenetje SC ruled against St Stithians, Dr James, Ms Horwitz and Mrs Langa-Royds, and dismissed both the finding of guilt and the sanctions imposed upon my daughter.

Intentional conduct

St Stithians, Dr James, Ms Horwitz and Mrs Langa-Royds intentionally and deliberately failed to act in my daughter’s best interests; they failed to properly investigate the veracity and origin of the false allegations and acted with undue haste in their quest to prosecute her.

It appears that this was due to pressure from certain groups within and without the St Stithians community (which they referred to as the ‘greater school community’) and in the context of the ‘Black Lives Matter Movement’. Dr James, in her capacity of Head of the Girls’ College, decided to make an example of my daughter and to punish her in an attempt to quell the pressure from mainly black students and negative publicity on social media targeting several white students and teachers.

Ms Horwitz, as Chief Investigator for St Stithians, persisted with the prosecution of my daughter without having conducted a reasonable and proper investigation and without having investigated the origin of the allegations.

Mrs Langa-Royds, chair of the disciplinary hearing, found my daughter guilty on all charges, despite finding that she could not determine whether my daughter disseminated the alleged WhatsApp communication with the alleged racist content. Mrs Langa-Royds nonetheless found her guilty of racism, racist conduct or other offensive behaviour.

Negligence

St Stithians management failed to consider the damage and devastating consequences for my daughter of being found guilty of serious charges of racism.

St Stithians management failed further in their duties to my daughter when they opposed the appeal brought by her, at which they introduced a large volume of documents, most of which had not been introduced at the initial disciplinary hearing and were therefore irrelevant to the appeal process.

My daughter was denied legal representation during the investigative, disciplinary and appeal processes and was represented where possible by me, her father.

Claim

I had to prepare to be able to assist my daughter properly and spent many hours preparing for defending her against the conduct of St Stithians and its officials.

I set out the time I had had to spend, as well as the relevant costs attendant thereon, in an invoice to St Stithians.

It is for payment of this invoice that I am now suing St Stithians and its relevant managers. St Stithians in turn is suing me for outstanding fees for the year in question; I am defending this claim strenuously. If I win both matters, it will likely cost St Stithians over R500 000.

The college’s management may have felt under pressure to be seen to be dealing with several allegations of racism. However, they were obliged to thoroughly investigate any allegations being made. In the current climate, being falsely accused and found guilty of racism can destroy a child’s schooling and prospects.

This may be hard on management, but they are obliged to manage these fraught scenarios fairly and professionally.

*cancellation is the ostracism of someone from media, social media or in person, for doing or saying something that is contrary to the view held by those promoting the cancellation.

[Image: https://www.stithian.com/girls-college/news/category/girls-college/]

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR

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Press release: Fish Hoek High ‘social justice’ saga: we told you so – IRR

The FSU, a division of the Institute of Race Relations, issued a press release about the Fish Hoek High School debacle over the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion intervention initiated by the Western Cape Education Department to conscientise 800 pupils about their racial biases. It didn't end well and parents were outraged.

Media contact
Sara Gon
FSU SA Director
083 555 7952

Email: info@freespeech.org.za

Fish Hoek High ‘social justice’ saga: we told you so – IRR  

On 4 July 2022 the Free Speech Union of South Africa (FSU SA) addressed a letter to the MEC for Education in the Western Cape, Mr David Maynier, copied to the Shadow Minister of Education for the DA, Mr Baxolile Nodada.

The FSU SA warned about the potentially detrimental effects on social cohesion and free speech of social justice initiatives at schools. The program used to achieve this purpose is referred to as Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI)

We expressed concern that strictures on free speech were increasingly being experienced in schools where Critical Race Theory and Critical Gender Theory were being inserted into curricula. 

CRT’s premise is that white-on-black racism is the normal state of affairs. As such, anything to do with ‘whiteness’ should be identified and ‘dismantled’. Therefore, schools seeking social justice must teach students to focus on the immutable characteristic of a person’s skin colour only. 

The FSU SA supports schools being proactive in tackling discrimination. Creating school environments free of discrimination and where all members of a school feel a sense of belonging should be a priority.

We stated that ‘the FSU has come to understand that this hyper-racialism is routinely taught to schoolchildren of all ages by external consultants and teachers, and is reflected in recommended readings’.  As a consequence, race relations are bound to suffer and often found do. 

We appealed to the ‘Western Cape Education Department specifically and the Democratic Alliance generally to reconsider any use of DEI to sensitise students. There are more appropriate ways to deal with incidents of racism et al when they occur. Children are remarkably able in managing their socialisation to good effect without the intrusion of well-meaning adults’.

On 12 July we addressed another letter to the WCED, noting, with reference to our original letter, that Fish Hoek High School was being subjected to the same DEI processes due to allegations of racism.

Ms Kelly Mauchline, Mr Maynier’s spokesperson, said she would bring our letter to his attention. We heard nothing further.

Then four months later, on 3 November 2022, the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) issued a press release alleging that pupils at Fish Hoek High were so traumatised by a ‘diversity course’ on racism and faith, that they had to receive counselling. The press release is summarised below. The nature of the alleged circumstances are not unusual.

 

About 800 pupils had to attend the session where they were told that ‘only white people can be racist’.

 

Three officials and six psychologists from the WCED presented this ‘course’. Teachers were not allowed into the session. 

 

The presenter was Asanda Ngoasheng, a well-known DEI consultant, but she is controversial. Her biography makes no mention of her being a psychologist. The approach used by many DEI consultants is to berate children on the grounds of their “whiteness”, this being assumed to amount to eternal culpability for the sins of previous generations and for which there is no forgiveness.

A pupil who managed to leave the session told a teacher what was happening. The teacher returned with her, but was ordered to leave the hall.

 

The WCED ordered this intervention because earlier this year, in teaching the setwork, Fiela se Kind, a teacher used a word – we have not managed to clarify with certainty what it was – that resulted in some pupils complaining. As a consequence, the WCED charged her with misconduct. She was found not guilty.

 

Regarding the subsequent intervention, the principal was unhappy about holding the session so close to exam time, but was given no choice.

 

It appears that the WCED has adopted a very illiberal approach to dealing with allegations of racism at schools, despite the FSU SA communicating its misgivings.

The FSU SA believes that the processes that the WCED is applying are completely antithetical to the DA’s classically liberal policies.

There are other ways of tackling these issues without ruining the confidence of pupils and dividing them on the grounds of race.

The FSU SA welcomes Mr Maynier’s commitment to a “review” of the WCED’s approach – which is precisely what was recommended in its letters to the department in recent months. Such a review is now a matter of urgency.

 

Media enquiries:

Sara Gon, Director Tel: 083 555 7952 Email: info@freespeech.org.za;

Caiden Lang, Researcher Tel: 072 239 6145 Email: caiden@irr.org.za

Michael Morris Tel: 066 302 1968 Email: michael@irr.org.za;

 

Capture by committee

A description by Martin Humphries of how wokeness became embedded at St Stithians which saw his daughter wrongfully charged with racism.

The article appears on Martin's Newsletter his substack here.

 

How woke language distorts the world

Peter Boghossian writes on how the woke use ordinary words and fills them with new ideological context. So words with a set meaning come to mean something else entirely - an ordinary meaning and then an activist meaning.

This article was originally published by sp¡ked on 8 November 2022 - read here.

24 days to capture St Stithians

In part 5 of Martin Humphries series on wokeness at St Stithians College, he uncovers the truth about what happened at the school in June 2020, he discusses bringing the perpetrators and accessories to account, and trying to stop the ongoing damage that is being done to children and teachers.

Part 5 can be found in full on Martin's substack, Martin's Newsletter here.

DBE sets unattainable gender identity goals

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) is going full Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) by formulating a policy based on the gender identity politics that have bedevilled schooling in the United States and Britain according to Sara Gon

The DBE is seeking to implement the praxis of Critical Gender Theory which evolved in American academia. This approach is highly contentious, subject to dispute and criticism.

‘Consultations are currently under way after which ‘a formal public engagement process is scheduled to take place’ on the ‘Guidelines for the socio-educational Inclusion of diverse Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Expression and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC) in schools’. (Our underlining). The Guidelines will be published for public comment during 2023.

The note about this issue on the DBE’s website seeks that utopian ideal (unattainable goal) of eliminating gender discrimination in the same way that the woke seek to ‘eliminate’ racism or gender-based violence. They pretend that unacceptable attitudes and human behaviour can be entirely eradicated from society.

‘The focus of the discussions is the elimination of gender discrimination in all spheres of society and creating a socially conducive and welcoming environment in schools.’ No small ambition that.

Apparently, the document ‘includes pertinent questions about inclusion of sexually and gender diverse children pertaining to school admission; curriculum; co-curricular programmes; uniforms; and ablution facilities’.

All of these issues, particularly those pertaining to exclusion in admissions and the changing of curricula, suggest that these are not “guidelines”. As described, these issues suggest a rather more obligatory requirement to be met by school administration.

The Department says that it is probing relevant response mechanisms to ensure the constitutional obligation for socio-educational inclusion of sexual minorities in respect of school governance and School Governing Bodies (SGBs) across Provincial Education Departments.

What constitutional obligation is the minister talking about? There is nothing in Section 29: Education that provides for such an obligation. The only pertinent section can be:

9(3). Equality

The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.

There is no requirement for the DBE to create ‘response mechanisms’ to make sure that no discrimination takes place.

One does not argue against children being educated about issues of gender and race, and  promoting tolerance. But a whole programme to remedy the problems that children with gender dysphoria or identity have, is bizarre.

Religion, belief and culture

It may also conflict with the right to religion, belief, and culture.

To address gender discrimination, the DBE should instruct school management and teachers about the constitutional provision. Schools should acknowledge that the Constitution applies even if they hold a personal objection, religious or otherwise. Staff are expected to treat children without discrimination irrespective of their personal views.

The DBE can create a module in Life Orientation to explain the phenomena, and also explain that whatever attitudes or beliefs children may have, they are expected to behave tolerantly towards other children. Any bad behaviour will result in disciplinary action being taken. The DBE should warn of the same vis-a-vis the teachers. Schools should be expected to use psychologists to assist in supporting a child.

No one, however virtuous, can hope to eliminate gender, racial, or religious discrimination. You can try, and in some cases succeed, but there are too many factors that shape attitudes in the wider society, not just the school.

Attitudes are very difficult to change. What society has to strive for is teaching tolerance and decent behaviour despite any thoughts a child may have about another child. It is only through changing behaviour that attitudes will change. Unless the DBE’s intention is to indoctrinate children.

But is it the DBE’s intention to apply critical gender theory to advance the National Democratic Revolution? ‘The document provides International and Regional Frameworks that create an enabling environment for the United Nations (UN); the African Union (AU); and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Member States to include diversity and inclusion in education and training. Constitutional and Education Policy mandates that protect children of diverse sexual and gender identities are also stipulated. The focus of the document is on how the education system supports schools to create safe and caring environments for all children to receive teaching and learning without discrimination or prejudice’.

In other words, Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness (underpinned by Critical Race Theory and Critical Gender Theory) are going to be forced on our schools. I say this is indoctrination, because these are political theories, and there is no intention to teach alternative political theories. The idea is to teach children what to think, irrespective of what anyone else, including parents, may say.

The DBE’s extensive proposal is bizarre because in the grand scheme of schooling in South Africa, prejudice is a problem that affects a relatively small number of children. Teachers and administrators can be trained to manage a problem if it arises. If the school doesn’t resolve it, then the parents can approach the relevant provincial education departments.

Ablution facilities are the obvious area where the most resistance will be met.

Children, particularly teenage girls going through puberty, are likely to be very uncomfortable with unisex toilets. They need privacy, and they need to be away from the sort of inappropriate behaviour teenage boys often indulge in.

Dire straits

Educational infrastructure is in dire straits. Many schools don’t even have proper toilets, which has been a huge bone of contention, educational and legal, for many years.

The DBE is likely to face resistance for both reasons. Is it going to require better resourced schools to use after-tax school fees to create such facilities? These are intended to be only guidelines after all. 

‘Many stereotypes exist about how boys and girls should look, speak and behave,’ explained Mr Likho Bottoman, Director for Social Cohesion and Equity in Education.

‘Early learning environments are important places to help children feel safe and accepted, whilst being encouraged to reach their full potential as every child has a gender identity, along with their personal understanding of how they perceive themselves. In addition, there is increased inequality in schools perpetuated by racism; xenophobia; gender stereotypes; harmful gender norms; and discrimination and related intolerances, including against vulnerable populations such as the LGBTQI+ communities. The Directorate has been conducting its first leg of stakeholder consultations on the Draft Protocol for the Elimination of Unfair Discrimination in Schools and Guidelines for the socio-educational inclusion of diverse SOGIESC. Diversity, in all its forms, should be embraced and entrenched by all actors of society in the ethos of every school community.’

Mr Bottoman’s assertions require supporting evidence, and they deserve to be challenged, but they give the flavour of what the DBE has in mind.

An article by the Freedom Front Plus’s Dr. Wynand Boshoff in Politicsweb provides more detail which exacerbates our concerns. Dr. Boshoff asked questions in Parliament over a two-month period to get information about the guidelines. He has seen a hard copy of the document.

Dr. Boshoff addresses the following matters:

1.         Children who want to undergo medical procedures to prevent puberty or change their gender should, according to the document, have the right to decide to do so from twelve years of age – without consent from their parents. And schools are meant to help make this possible.

2.         These guidelines are not applicable to Early Childhood Development (ECD) because ECD centres are already participating in a purpose-  made intervention programme called “Gender Responsive Pedagogy for Early Childhood Education” (GRP4ECE), which follows a play-based learning approach. Learning materials amounting to R20 million were funded by the ETDP SETA in 2022.

3.         Groups created to help formulate policy comprise the “Social Inclusion in Education Working Group”. They are a group of like-minded organisations to which the DBE reached out, because the Department’s own ability is limited.

4.         ‘The DBE has previously attempted to incorporate civil society organisations representing family values in the working group. However, this approach to group composition proved to be a challenge due to extreme differences in opinion. As such, the DBE has opted to openly engage with civil society organisations representing family values separately, as their voice is valuable and essential in addressing discrimination and oppression of children from a family values perspective. These engagements have already begun.’ There were 27 groups involved: 3 were from government; 1 was “conservative” and the remaining 23 were either left-leaning legal centres or gay, lesbian or transgender groups of one kind or another.

The Minister is obliged to consider extreme differences of opinion. If the best that the department could do was consult with organisations that supported its views, it must expect pushback when the full document is published, and public participation begins.

[Image: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay]

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Not seeing colour is not racist

The woke insist that 'I don't see colour' or 'I am colourblind' are actually expressions of racism in that you ignore a fundamental feature of a person. We don't agree. We believe they are positive terms that merely reflect that a person's colour is not the basis upon which a person is judged.

The point of language, to the best of my understanding, is to create shared intentions between the communicators involved. When I speak or write, what I genuinely want is for you to understand the idea I have in my head the same way I understand it. I want to get my idea into your head, and I want the shape and texture of that idea—its meaning—to be the same as what I have.’ – Dr. James Lindsay, author, cultural critic and mathematician.

Lindsay goes on to say that words that are frequently used in respect of Critical Social Justice (CSJ) arguably are for the greater good and to be striven for such as : diversityinclusionequityantiracism, and justice. Others we would oppose like racism, sexism, misogyny, hate and white supremacy. According to Lindsay, however,  none of these ten terms mean what we know them to mean when they’re used in the context of CSJ – even critical and social justice aren’t used to mean what most of us think they mean. 

One of these words or terms is ‘colour blindness’ or ‘I don’t see colour’. The term traditionally means that race is not a factor in the way in which we respond to people or regard people. It’s not intended as insulting or racist. It means to show tolerance and a regard of people as equals. Colour blindness has not been seen as indicative of being racist or unduly hurting people. Until recently, that is.

Heather McGhee inWhy saying “I don’t see race at all” just makes racism worse reflected the CSJ movement’s view that ‘color blindness is a form of racial denial that took one of the aspirations of the civil rights movement — that individuals would one day “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” — and stripped it from any consideration of power, hierarchy or structure’. 

According to the movement, “I don’t see colour” is to say one is blind to the racism people face. This definition by the movement has amended the common understanding of the words.

Typically, a 2015 article in The Atlantic said: ‘Many sociologists, though, are extremely critical of color blindness as an ideology. They argue that as the mechanisms that reproduce racial inequality have become more covert and obscure than they were during the era of open, legal segregation, the language of explicit racism has given way to a discourse of color blindness. But they fear that the refusal to take public note of race actually allows people to ignore manifestations of persistent discrimination’.

In the course of some research, colleague Caiden Lang came across a few school disciplinary codes and procedures which refer to the term “I don’t see colour” as being listed as a specific example of unfair discrimination on the grounds of race. 

The Free Speech Union of South Africa wrote letters to a few schools in mid-October 2022 pointing out that proscribing the use of the term did not comply with the limitations placed on free speech by the Constitution or by the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000.

Further, the prohibition on the term denies the opportunity for robust debate at school. We requested each school to consider removing the exemplar for the above reasons. 

One response was that the pupils wanted the inclusion of the term because it was hurtful to them. The cynic in me suggests that most pupils will never have heard the term used or if they had, their instinct wouldn’t have been to be hurt by it. They would probably consider the utterer an idiot. I would suggest that any sense of hurt from the term can only have come from being taught by the CSJ movement that the term is  offensive and hurtful.

Most if not all of CSJ language is imported wholesale from American academia and progressives.

Another school agreed with our points and said the example would be removed, but to date has not removed it. A third school did not reply.

In an article written in anticipation of two American Supreme Court decisions about striking down race-based affirmative action in college admissions, Coleman Hughes notes that these cases have ‘reignited the long-running national debate over color-blindness‘. 

Twenty-seven-year-old Hughes is a black writer, podcaster and opinion columnist who specialises in issues related to race, public policy and applied ethics. Hughes has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, National Review, Quillette, The City Journal and The Spectator. He was a fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. He has appeared on TV shows, and with amongst others Bill Maher, Sam Harris, Glenn Loury and Jordan Peterson. He has a BA in philosophy from Columbia University and is a professional jazz musician. The Washington Post in 2018 called Hughes ‘an undergraduate at Columbia University but already a thinker to be reckoned with’. In September 2020, Stéphanie Chayet, writing in the French newspaper Le Monde, identified Hughes as one of four “anti-conformists of anti-racism” along with Glenn Loury, Thomas Chatterton Williams and John McWhorter.

Hughes says that “color-blindness” is neither racist nor backward. ‘Properly understood, it is the belief that we should strive to treat people without regard to race in our personal lives and in our public policy’. 

Only after the Civil Rights Movement achieved its greatest victories was colour-blindness abandoned by progressives.

Hughes says these activist-scholars have written a false history of colour-blindness in order to delegitimise it. 

‘To paint color-blindness as a reactionary or racist idea—rather than a key goal of the Civil Rights Movement—requires ignoring the historical record’.  

Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to be an Anti-Racist, argues that ‘the most threatening racist movement is not the alt right’s unlikely drive for a White ethno-state but the regular American’s drive for a “race-neutral” one’.

Robin DiAngelo, in White Fragility, describes the color-blind strategy as: ‘pretend that we don’t see race, and racism will end’. 

Hughes correctly calls this argument ‘no more than a cheap language trick’. He says we do see race; we can’t not. He acknowledges that race can influence how we’re treated and how we treat others. ‘But to interpret “color-blind” so literally is to misunderstand it—perhaps intentionally’.

Hughes compares the expression “colour-blind” to “warm-hearted”: it uses a physical metaphor to encapsulate an abstract idea. It endorses striving to treat people without regard to race, publicly or privately. 

Hughes argues that ‘not only is class a better proxy for true disadvantage, but class-based policies also avoid the core problem with race-based ones: to discriminate in favor of some races, you must discriminate against others’. 

For Hughes, ‘color-blindness is the best principle with which to govern a multiracial democracy. It is the best way to lower the temperature of racial conflict in the long run. It is the best way to fight the kind of racism that really matters. And it is the best way to orient your own attitude toward this nefarious concept we call race’. Hughes’ full article can be read here.

Lindsay suggests that one reason for the woke use of words we know, understand and use is deliberately deceptive: initiated audiences will be left to understand that the concepts that the CSJ movement are ‘as we have always known them’.

‘Language is, in some sense, then, a set of conventions for what various words (and sounds and inflections and so on) mean, and the people who speak the same language can generally assume that from one person to the next, there is some agreement upon those meanings. 

‘This ambiguity creates space for people who would manipulate us with language through deliberate or deceptive misuses of words that generate the wrong intention in the hearer that creates an advantage for the speaker.’

[Photo: John Giustina/GETTY IMAGES]

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