Best interest of child argued in private school case
The Constitutional Court has been asked to decide how much emphasis should be placed on the best interests of children when private schools are terminating a contract with the children’s parents which ultimately leads to the children being expelled, says a Daily Maverick report.
Last week, the court heard arguments from the parents of two boys who were pupils at Pridwin Preparatory School but who were expelled following repeated incidents of what the school considered bad behaviour on the sports field by the boys’ father.
The parents challenged the school at both the High Court and the SCA but lost both times. Key to the Constitutional Court arguments is ‘crisp legal questions concerning the constitutional validity of (the school’s) interpretation and enforcement of clause 9.3 of the Parent Contract in terminating the children’s schooling’.
Clause 9.3 states 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’.
In court papers, the parents argued that the clause violates the Constitution in that it fails to consider that a child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child and that ‘everyone has the right to basic education…and to further education’.
In response, notes the Daily Maverick report, the school contends that because the boys no longer attend Pridwin Preparatory, the case is moot. It argues that ‘the applicants’ focus is solely on the interests of their children, to the exclusion of the other children at the school, the school itself, its staff members, its parents and its board’. ‘Well established principles of contract at common law do not require a hearing as a prerequisite to the termination of an agreement on notice,’ its papers read.
The Centre for Child Law as friends of the court submitted that ‘children are intrinsically linked to the provision of private education as they are the recipients of the education. To attempt to separate the nature of the right to education and the best interests of children from the business of the school is unreasonable’.
The CCL further submitted that ‘in the premises, failing to follow a clear, considered process that involves the determination of a child’s best interests when terminating a contract that not only provides education to a child but also a sense of community and identity is unreasonable’.
Judgement has been reserved.
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