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Article by listed attorney: Fawzia Khan

There can be little to beat the joy a parent experiences than to see their children succeed in life, be it academically or on the sporting field, whilst they are minors, or in a professional or personal level, when they are adults. Almost all  parents want to give their children the best opportunities in life, that are available to them. That is an innate human nature trait. Proud parents will (often much to the embarrassment of their off spring) happily enthuse to all and sundry about their children’s success and achievements. Our children’s success is often considered a validation that the sacrifices made by parents and the hard work it took raising them was, at the end of the day, worth it.

What legal rights then do parents have if they believe that their minor children have been overlooked for any recognition or promotion at school or if they were not chosen, or worse, dropped from a sports team?  The case of a father who took his son’s school to court for failing to reinstate his then 17 year-old son into the first cricket team, came under the spotlight on 22 January 2014 when the High Court delivered its judgment. The court found that the father failed to prove either that the school adopted an unfair procedure or that the school’s decision, for the removal of his son from the first cricket team, was unfair.

In delivering his judgment, Judge Vahed quoted the words of American author Lisa Endlich Hefferman who said “…Parents pace the sidelines, twitching at every kick or pitch or shot of the ball, shouting exhortations at their children and the team. In many cases it becomes clear that it is the parents who want to win. Parents want the dopamine thrill of winning, the heady rush that adults feel with success. As parents we so identify with our kids that their success quickly becomes our own. As spectators, parents seek confirmation even at the earliest stages that great athletic possibilities exist for their child: a better team, starting spot, varsity experience or college scholarship…”. The judge said that this properly “ captured the ‘subliminal message’ that was prevalent in the case, even though it was not expressly stated in the court papers, nor raised in legal argument.

The court also found that there was no evidence of any racial prejudice, as alleged by the father. The Judge also ruled that as there was no alleged violation of any of the child’s constitutional rights, the court could therefore not intrude in the internal governance of the school. It accordingly dismissed the father’s claim with costs.

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