Beeld’s article “Klag kom ná k-woord” (05/03/2010, p. 5), by Hilda Fourie and Sonja Carstens, violates children’s rights and sensationalises violence by children. The article revolves around a classroom fight, access to cell phone footage of which has been provided. It is not clear what journalistic purpose this serves and seems salacious. The story identifies the children involved and the school they attend, while criminal charges have been laid. There is a race component to the story, yet insufficient care has been taken to minimise harm.
There are two issues in the story: the first one being the fight between the children, which was apparently started by a White boy hitting a fellow Black pupil on the back of his head. The article describes the nature of the injury the Black learner suffered. This issue has been supposedly dealt with by the school, with disciplinary action being taken against both children.
The second issue is the use of the k-word by the White pupil, towards the Black learner, after the conflict between the two of them had supposedly been resolved by the teachers. The principal claims the issue has been solved, by giving the White pupil a warning, and making him apologise in front of the class.
The mother of the victim reported the incidents to the Department of Education and the police. Police confirmed they are currently investigating a case of assault.
Since charges have been pressed, and considering the nature of the incident it is not unlikely that the case may end up in court. It is unlawful, according to the Criminal Procedure Act, to publish names of child witnesses. It may also lead to secondary trauma for the children involved. This is especially true of the Black learner, since his mother’s behaviour has been described by the principal as ridiculous. Further, the principal himself tried to encourage the media to not publish the names of the learners. This would clearly have been in the children’s best interests.
Providing video footage online seems simply salacious. It could potentially have caused further harm to the children, inflame racial tensions and perpetuate negative stereotypes of violent children being the norm in schools.
The report is clearly not in the best interests of the children involved. The story could have been told with the omission of details. The names of the children and the school they attend should have been left out, and the footage not placed online.