ConCourt Says Independent Schools Need to Follow a Fair Process Before Parent Contracts Are Terminated

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On Wednesday the Constitutional Court ruled that independent schools will have to follow a fair process and substantiate their reasons for expelling a student.

The ruling was made after a contractual clause was declared unconstitutional.

In 2016 the Pridwin Preparatory School in Johannesburg terminated contracts and expelled two students because their parents allegedly disrupted school sports events. During one of the alleged disruptions, the father of the children, who were in Grade R and Grade 4 respectively, offended a cricket umpire after his son was declared out for a leg before wicket.

The school was able to expel the students based on clause 9.3 in the school contract stating that, “the school has the right to cancel the contract at any time, for any reason provided that it gives you a full notice, in writing, of its decision to terminate the contract”.

Countering the decision, the parents then took the case to the High Court in 2017, where it was dismissed. It was later appealed in the Supreme Court in 2018 where it was dismissed again. It was eventually appealed and taken to the Constitutional Court, where it was declared in the interest of justice to hear it despite the children no longer attending the school.

The emphasis of the case was to declare whether it was constitutional to expel students based on their parents’ alleged disruptions and whether the clause was constitutional.

One of the court judgements said that the school was obligated to consider the needs of the children and that there was no clarity from the school how the termination of the parents’ contracts was done by considering the children’s needs. The ConCourt added that the school could have taken other measures such as issuing a warning to the parents that further disruptions would lead to termination.

As a result of the ruling, independent schools will have to undergo a fair process with parents and children and allow them to voice whether termination of a contract would be in the best interest of the child.