Red flags: Disciplinary practices and ‘school-to-prison’ pathways in South Africa




Testing positive for drug use at school turned into a horror story for four learners, who were channelled into the criminal justice system by their school and detained for months under ‘compulsory residence orders’ at child and youth care facilities. This occurred even though the referral of children to the criminal justice system following a school-administered drug test is explicitly prohibited by legislation. S v L M & Others draws startling attention to the failure of school officials, prosecutors and magistrates to comply with legislation, and the devastating impacts that a direct ‘school-to-prison’ pipeline can have on children. The case also raises red flags around broader punitive and exclusionary school disciplinary mechanisms, which – even where lawful – may also adversely affect children and potentially contribute to school-to-prison pathways in South Africa. We argue that S v L M highlights the need for restorative and preventative approaches to school discipline, which can transform not only learners and schools but society more broadly. 


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Author Biographies

Nurina Ally, University of Cape Town

Nurina Ally is a lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Cape Town and former Executive Director of the Equal Education Law Centre, a public interest law organisation based in Cape Town, South Africa.

Robyn Beere, Equal Education Law Centre

Robyn Beere is the Deputy Director of the Equal Education Law Centre. She is the former Director of Inclusive Education South Africa, a civil society organisation specializing in advocating and building capacity for the implementation of inclusive and supportive school environments.

Kelley Moult, University of Cape Town

Kelley Moult is an Associate Professor of Criminology in the Centre of Criminology, Faculty of Law at the University of Cape Town.






Research articles