Worker at Oprah Winfrey school under investigation

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A staff member responsible for children's welfare at Oprah Winfrey's girls' school near Johannesburg has been suspended for misconduct.

The unnamed worker, or "dormitory parent" as they are known, was removed from the premises and child protection officers notified.

John Samuel, chief executive at the school at Henley-on-Klip in Meyerton, said: "The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls has initiated an internal inquiry based on one serious claim of misconduct involving a dorm parent at the Academy. We have engaged professional investigators of the highest standing from South Africa and the United States to conduct a fair and impartial inquiry into these claims."

He said studies would continue as normal and children would be offered counselling, but declined to give details of the complaint or the worker's identity.

Ms Winfrey said: "Nothing is more serious or devastating to me than an allegation of misconduct by an adult against any girl at the academy. I will do everything within my power to ensure their safety and wellbeing."

Mr Samuel said the head of academy and the school's administrative body had mutually decided that the head should take a paid leave of absence in order to ensure an impartial investigation. The head of academy is not the person involved in the complaint.

Ms Winfrey spent $40m (£20m) of her own money building the school for children whose parents earn less than $700 a month. The talk-show host and author helped to interview many of the 3,500 girls from low-income families who applied for the initial 150 places at the school. It will eventually offer 450 places. The girls live in modern dormitories and enjoy a student-to-teacher ratio of 15 to one.

On a visit to the school last August, she told parents: "I want you to know that these are our daughters. I want you to trust me with them."

Police confirmed they were investigating a case of misconduct at the school.