Tribunal: dinner lady sacked for telling parent her daughter had been bullied

November 2, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A school dinner lady was sacked after she ‘blew the whistle’ and told a parent that her daughter had been brutally bullied, an employment tribunal heard today.

Carol Hill, 61, dragged four boys away from Chloe David, seven, after discovering they had tied her to a chain-link fence and whipped her with a skipping rope.

Deborah Crabb, headmistress at Great Tey Primary School, Colchester, Essex, wrote to Claire and Scott David claiming their daughter had been ”hurt in a skipping rope incident”.

Carol, who was suspended for breaching pupil confidentiality after she told Claire how the injuries occurred, claims she was made a ”scapegoat” and sacked as part of a ”cover up”.

She appeared at an employment tribunal in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, today where she alleged unfair dismissal against the school.

Before the hearing Carol said: ”I just want my job back because I haven’t done anything wrong.

”I love the job and I love the school.”

Giving evidence Mrs Crabb, head at the school since 2007, claimed Chloe was ”playing a game” when she was restrained by eight knots and had not been bullied.

She said: ”They said that they were playing a game of prisoners and guards with Chloe.

”She was playing the part of the dog and as such the skipping rope had been tied around her wrists. I told them that such games were inappropriate.”

The following day Chloe’s father Scott met with Mrs Crabb and told her that Carol had revealed the full extent of the incident to his wife Claire.

Mrs Crabb said: ”He told me that at a Beavers and Scout meeting Mrs Hill had approached his wife to ask how Chloe was.

”Mrs Hill proceeded to tell her all she knew of this incident.”

On the 30th June Mrs Crabb received legal advice that Carol should be suspended and invited her to a meeting in her office.

Mrs Crabb: ”Her response was ‘what about you and what you have done not informing the parents’.

”Mrs Hill then got up from her seat then she said to me laughing ‘I have to apologise now for what is about to happen to you’.

”I was very shaken by it and I had to spend half an hour calming down with my secretary.
She thought that I should be suspended as I didn’t fulfil my duties as the head.

”Mrs Hill also wrote in a letter that she thought I was making her a scapegoat to cover my tracks.”

Mother-of-three Carol, who lives in Great Tey, Essex, with husband Ron, 65, was one of three dinner ladies working five hours a week at the 61 pupil Church of England school.

She discovered Chloe tied to a fence by four boys, two aged seven, one nine and one ten, on June 24 2009 and found them whipping her with a skipping rope.

Chloe allegedly suffered rope burns on her right wrist and thigh but the boys, one of whom is the son of a school governor, were punished by losing five minutes of break.

Headmistress Mrs Crabb sent a letter to Chloe’s parents Claire, 29, and Scott, 33, a steel worker, from Chappell, Essex, explaining she had been hurt in an ‘incident’.

But Carol told Claire the details of the bullying and abuse later the same day at Beaver Scouts where they volunteered together.

Father-of-four Scott demanded to see the school’s own official report on June 25 2009 and immediately withdrew his son Cameron, five, from the school.

Mrs Crabb, who is trained in first aid, told the tribunal that she checked Chloe herself following the incident and claimed she had ”no visible injuries”.

She added: ”There were no burn marks only some red marks. She said what had happened was only a game. She seemed to have recovered.

”Her class teacher reported that she was happy that afternoon and that she attended an after school swimming club.

”I didn’t receive identical stories from all four children but they all pointed in the same direction when I took statements from them.

”In my view this incident was not one of bullying but rather an inappropriate game that had gone too far.”

Carol, who earned #6.20-an-hour as a dinner lady, was called into Mrs Crabb’s office a week after the incident and suspended for breaching confidentiality.

She was dismissed from her post for gross misconduct in September 2009 after she appeared before a disciplinary hearing chaired by a panel of three governors.

An internal appeal against the dismissal was thrown out in November 2009 despite former education minister Ed Balls writing a letter demanding an investigation.

Carol has lost over a stone in weight since her dismissal and is suffering from stress induced high blood pressure.

She claims unfair dismissal because her rights have been infringed under article 10 of the European Convention, the right to freedom of expression.

Carol also claims she wasn’t given sufficient notice before her dismissal.

Mrs Crabb told the tribunal that the school has received 80 hate mail letters, 150 emails and ”numerous” phone calls following the incident.

She said: ”I remember seeing the school secretary literally shaking when one email was received from an unknown sender.”

The four-day employment tribunal continues today (Tues) and a verdict is expected on Thursday.

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