Complying with the founding values (human dignity, equality and freedom) of the South
African Constitution is one of the most important challenges of creating and maintaining a safe, disciplined environment where effective teaching and learning can take place. All school principals, educators and school governing bodies – bearing in mind the diversity of South
African societies and the vast differences between rural, township and urban schools – have to fulfil their functions as stipulated in the South African Schools Act of 1996. This article focuses on the legal structure within which schools must operate to guarantee equal educational opportunities and create a positive disciplined school where learners and
educators not only know what is expected, but also feel secure. Examples from South African case law and newspaper reports indicate that many school principals and their school governing bodies do not acknowledge the supremacy of the Constitution. These officials seem to be ignorant of basic procedures regarding, amongst other things, the suspension and
expulsion of learners. This article also considers the effect of different disciplinary actions as reflected by a
qualitative study. Coping strategies aimed at ensuring a positive disciplinary climate, resulting in an enhanced culture of teaching and learning, are discussed.