The establishment of school governing bodies represents a significant decentralisation of power in the South African school system. Whilst such decentralisation could well be expected to mean an increase in democratic participation in the governance of schools, this is not necessarily the case. The State, its functionaries, and organs of the State have been endeavouring to assert themselves to an increasing extent by limiting or interfering in the real authority that can be exercised by school-level governance structures. Since 1996 parents have had no other option but to appeal to the court, in cases where provincial heads of education departments and their officials have taken illegal actions against schools, or where officials have failed to carry out their duties towards schools. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how the rights of parents, to have a say in the governance of a public school, are being violated by interference of the State or by officials who jeopardise the smooth functioning of schools by failing to carry out their duties.