pound;20,000 payout for teacher sacked after sending a rude email to Year 9

Irena Barker

A teacher who was unjustly sacked from an international school for accidentally forwarding a rude email to Year 9 pupils has won around pound;20,000 in compensation.

A French employment tribunal found that Tanya Carlile's dismissal from the International School of Toulouse was "disproportionate" to what she had done, and ordered the school's sponsors, Airbus Mobility, to make the pay- out.

In an interview with The TES, Mrs Carlile said her sacking and subsequent legal ordeal had made her look at "how precarious life is, especially with the internet".

She also expressed concerns for other British teachers abroad who might be vulnerable to unfair dismissal because they did not know local employment law, belong to a union or speak the language.

The tribunal ruled that although the email had been of "dubious humour", the pictures it contained were not pornographic and it was unlikely that 13 or 14-years-old pupils would be shocked by them.

The email, titled "Why Women don't Take Men on Vacation", featured six photos, including one of a fully clothed man pretending to be sodomised by a gorilla statue. Others used perspective to make holidaying males appear to have enormous manhoods. One picture showed a man in jeans and a T-shirt sitting astride a huge phallic cactus.

Mrs Carlile had immediately gone to the pupils who received the email and told them to delete it.

Only three pupils actually saw the images and there were no complaints from parents, some of whom called for her to be reinstated after her dismissal.

She also informed the IT technicians and the headteacher, and confessed her mistake.

Less than a week after the incident, she was escorted off the premises of the anglophone private school, which caters largely for the children of workers at the nearby Airbus A380 factory and charges fees of EUR16,000 a year for Year 12 and 13 pupils.

In its dismissal letter to Mrs Carlile in October 2006, the school alleged that she had attempted to conceal the true content of the email from management, something she successfully contested at the hearing.

Richard Jones-Nerzic, a history teacher and union rep at the school, was also dismissed after informing other staff of the reason for Mrs Carlile's sacking. He will hear the outcome of his own claim for unfair dismissal next week.

Mrs Carlile, a special needs teacher, said: "The victory is knowing that I had done nothing wrong and that I had been as honest as I could be. The money means nothing as I have not been able to work for two years. No one in France would employ me because there has been this hanging over my head. I'm even renting out my house to pay my daughter's university fees.

"I really enjoyed working at the school. The children were good, with small classes, and I enjoyed the international atmosphere. I would have liked to have stayed on."

Mr Jones-Nerzic, who now works in Bratislava, Slovakia, said he believed the affair to be a case of "union bashing" by the International School of Toulouse. "Teachers at international schools can be particularly vulnerable in these kind of situations," he added.

The International School of Toulouse declined to comment on the case. The school has the right to appeal against the decision.

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Irena Barker

Irena Barker is a freelance journalist.

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