Decision Making by School Administrators in the United States and South Africa Using Two Different Standards: The Best Interest of the Child and the Right of Parents to Make Decisions for Their Children

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2006

Publication Title

International Journal of Educational Reform


Educational Decision making, South Africa, United States, parents, constitutional rights


This article examines the different approaches taken in two countries, the United States and South Africa, with regard to the rights of students in schools. In the United States, although a tradition of using a best-interest standard exists for certain kinds of decisions involving children, the emphasis in school-related matters has been on rights of parents grounded in the U.S. Constitution and in federal and state statutes to make educational decisions for their children. On the other hand, the drafters of the 1996 constitution in South Africa have enshrined the best interest of the child by including a constitutional provision specifying that the best-interest standard shall be the one used in addressing all matters pertaining to the child. How these two approaches differ and how they have influenced decision making regarding students in schools is the object of this article.