KING DAVID schools are suffering from a “pattern of intolerance” despite having made the right decision not to discipline its deputy head boy for his support of Palestinians, and expert and alumnus said.
King David in Victory Park deputy head boy Joshua Broomberg triggered controversy when a picture of him wearing a keffiyah and Palestinian badge was posted to Facebook. A petition was soon circulated demanding that he be stripped of his position.
The SA Board of Jewish Education, which oversees King David, refused to do so after Broomberg made an apology to the school.
However, Eye Witness News on Thursday reported that a second King David pupil, this time at the Linksfield branch, was bullied and victimised over his views on Gaza. The family of the matric pupil, who wishes to remain anonymous, has laid a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission.
Jane Duncan, a professor in the department of journalism, film and television at the University of Johannesburg, applauded the decision not to discipline Broomberg.
However, Duncan, who was a pupil at King David, said that tolerance for freedom of expression at King David was not trickling down to the schools as a whole.
“If this is the climate we are seeing at school level, where people are supposed to be learning how to embrace ideas, then we have got a serious problem.”
“Intolerance is still happening,” she told Wits Vuvuzela. “If this is the climate we are seeing at school level, where people are supposed to be learning how to embrace ideas, then we have got a serious problem.”
“I think the leaders of the schools, the South African Board of Jewish Education, need to take responsibility for what is happening on the ground in their schools. They can’t say that they promote tolerance if that tolerance isn’t filtering down,” she said.
Duncan said she recalled students being victimised for their beliefs when she was a student 30 years ago.
“I remember classmates being beaten up in the playground because of their beliefs. So the events that are happening currently are not new, and there seems to be a pattern of intolerance at the schools,” Duncan said.
Although the South African Board of Jewish Education decided on Monday night not to take action against Broomberg for the social media post, the matter has raised the issue of freedom of expression, particularly on social media platforms.
Social media as a platform
Duncan Wild, a senior associate at Johannesburg law firm Webber Wentzel, said social media is a good thing for freedom of expression because it gives normal people access to a wider audience than would otherwise be possible.
“The downside to this is that if you say something controversial there could be a huge backlash,” he said.
“What you post may be aimed at a few people, but could potentially be shared all across the world.”
Wild cautioned that people need to be aware that they have no control over how far posts on social media can go, particularly in the case of Twitter. “Saying anything on there is like pputtion it up on a billboard,” he said.