Suffolk teacher sexually assaulted by pupil paid £52,000 in compensation
PUBLISHED: 12:47 07 November 2017 | UPDATED: 08:34 08 November 2017
A teacher sexually assaulted by a pupil at a Lowestoft school has been awarded £52,000 in compensation after a judge ruled she was discriminated against and unfairly dismissed.
An employment tribunal at Bury St Edmunds heard that a teenage pupil put his hand up a teacher’s dress and assaulted her at the Warren School last year.
She returned to school the next day, but soon went on a period of leave and later resigned in December.
The tribunal heard the teacher felt the incident was not properly handled by senior management, accusing headteacher Jan Bird of suggesting it was part of the job to deal with “challenging behaviour”.
The teacher also said she read an incident report written by the head, which she felt was “criticising her for wearing a dress”.
A doctor who assessed the teacher after the assault told the tribunal: “She was obviously very shocked and upset by the episode and I suggested that she undergo some counselling.”
At a return to work meeting after a period of sick leave, the teacher was presented with a document offering advice on working with the pupil, which she said implied she had acted inappropriately.
Employment judge Martin Warren said the teacher described herself as “utterly devastated” after the return to work meeting.
He added: “[The teacher] says that she would now like to leave Suffolk because she does not feel able to work there.
“She speaks of grieving for the loss of her job and her career and that she does not feel able to trust people in charge to keep her safe whilst she is in a classroom. She is consumed by grief in this respect and that she finds it difficult to motivate herself to get up and get dressed every day.”
The tribunal found that requiring the victim to continue working with the pupil amounted to sex discrimination and said events between the assault and resignation breached “mutual trust and confidence”, enabling the teacher to claim she had been constructively dismissed.
She was awarded £52,493 – £33,642 for sex discrimination and £18,851 on the grounds of unfair dismissal, which will be paid by the respondents, Suffolk County Council and the governing body of Warren School.
A spokesperson for the council said: “The council has supported the school in reviewing process and procedure around risk assessments and best practice and will continue to do so. Due to ongoing processes it is not possible to make further comment at this time.”