The purpose of this study is to investigate how education managers conceptualise due process and how their understanding of due process influences the way in which they discipline learners. It adopted a qualitative approach that was based on an interpretative paradigm and followed a case study design. The data collection techniques that were used include semi-structured interviews and document analysis. Research was conducted in eight secondary schools.
The findings of this study indicate that the majority of education managers have a good understanding of preliminary disciplinary investigation, a right to information, the disciplinary committee, who should participate in a disciplinary hearing and the appeal process. The minutes of few selected schools provide that schools do consider the school’s code of conduct for learners when disciplining learners.
The study found that education managers lack sufficient understanding the implementation of due process and the correct steps to follow when conducting fair disciplinary hearings. Misunderstandings about the learners’ right to information, who should be involved in disciplinary committees, the involvement of witnesses and learner representation were common. Most schools did not include sufficient information in their notices for hearings. Some participants indicated that, for various reasons, they often avoid holding hearings and others avoid following correct procedures of learner discipline. In addition, there is a lack of understanding that the reasons given for a decision by a disciplinary committee must based on the evidence presented during the hearing. Some participants do not know which acts/laws/policies and learner disciplinary documents apply to learner discipline and did not ensure the safekeeping of minutes for their disciplinary hearings. Most schools do not keep detailed minutes of the hearings conducted and the majority did not have disciplinary policies. Moreover, thre is still a lack of understanding about which learner behaviours constitute serious misconduct and whether a disciplinary hearing should be organised for learners who have committed criminal offences in a school. Only about a half of participants consider the age of learners when they discipline them. Some are not sure about number of days that are required for learner and parents to lodge an appeal.