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    Crisis at Oprah's School

    Now we may know why Oprah Winfrey was surprisingly MIA from pal Julia Roberts' Hollywood gala last week.

    Eyebrows were raised when Winfrey missed the American Cinematheque tribute to the Pretty Woman on Oct. 12, but it turns out the daytime queen was apparently dealing with a crisis at her South African school.

    A dormitory matron at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls has been suspended "based on one serious claim of misconduct," Chief Executive Officer John Samuel said in a statement Friday.

    The woman was ejected from the campus, Samuel said, adding that provisions were in place "to ensure the safety and well-being of the academy's learners."

    "Nothing is more serious or devastating to me than an allegation of misconduct by an adult against any girl at the academy," Winfrey added in a statement.

    Indeed, sources familiar with the situation told E! Online senior editor Marc Malkin that Winfrey was absent from the Roberts fete because of an "emergency" trip to the facility, which opened last year at Henley on Klip, a town near Johannesburg.

    Additional details were not revealed, but local authorities, including Child Protective Services, had been informed of the allegation. However, police said they weren't investigating at this point.

    The academy has brought in detectives from both the U.S. and South Africa to probe the misconduct allegation. To ensure an impartial inquiry, the principal will take a paid leave of absence.

    Samuel said that while the school will not reveal any more about the incident out of respect for the privacy of the students and other faculty, psychological support and counseling services are being offered to students.

    Winfrey spent $40 million to open the Leadership Academy last January, creating a school for children whose parents earn less than $700 a month. She interviewed about 3,500 girls to fill 150 places at the school that will eventually house 450 students, all of whom live on site in dormitories.

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