Staff misconduct at Oprah's South African school

Filed under: In The News, Day Care & Education

Despite Oprah Winfrey's obvious good intentions, things aren't going so well at her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. After weathering some bad PR back in March involving claims of prison-like rules, the South African girls' school is back in the news. This time, the allegations are much more serious.

According to the Rapport, an Afrikaans-language newspaper, a matron at the school allegedly grabbed a student by the throat and threw her against a wall. Another person, a "dorm parent", is said to have swore and screamed at the girls, assaulting them and sexually fondling at least one of them.

In a statement, John Samuel, the Chief Executive of the academy, said that the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS) of the South African Police Service has been told of the of the internal investigation. "The inquiry is being conducted in a manner that supports the safe and nurturing environment of the academy, with minimal disruption to campus life. In addition, the academy is providing psychological support and counseling services to our learners," he said.

Oprah herself has flown in to help manage the crisis, but has had very little to say publicly about the allegations. Oprah, who as a child was sexually abused herself, issued a statement in which she says, "Nothing is more serious or devastating to me than an allegation of misconduct by an adult against any girl at the academy."

This is serious stuff and I wonder if the school can - or should - survive this scandal. Could this possibly spell the end of Oprah's dream to provide the gift of education to these underprivileged girls?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.