'Pantomime' head played it for laughs

21st January 2005 at 00:00
The head of St Roch's Secondary in Glasgow, who denies bullying and sexually harassing an English teacher at the school, said this week he had "shorn" his behaviour since she complained.

Chris Nairn said he was still "larger than life" when dealing with pupils but added: "I have shorn the pantomime comments, certainly to staff."

Mary Robinson, who teaches in the English department but is on sick leave, has taken Glasgow City Council to an employment tribunal complaining that she was bullied and sexually harassed by Mr Nairn and then victimised after she complained. She told the Glasgow tribunal earlier that Mr Nairn had commented "Phwoar, aren't you a babe" when she approached him in the corridor and that a few days later he had called her a babe in the dinner hall in front of pupils.

Mr Nairn admitted saying she was a babe but apologised when he realised she was embarrassed and uncomfortable. He said that "babe" was a Glasgow expression meaning someone who is "smashing, fits in, crackin'." There was no sexual connotation.

Andrina Robson, depute head, told the tribunal that Mr Nairn "lightens the atmosphere" at the school. She heard him comment "what a babe" when Mrs Robinson arrived in the dining hall but there was nothing unusual and she had not appeared upset.

Mrs Robson said he called other women teachers on the senior management team "babe". When they produced information on time, he would respond:

"What a babe." His pantomime behaviour was intended to provoke laughter, to make the person feel good. "He is kind. He would never do anything to try to upset somebody."

Mr Nairn said Mrs Robinson was a good teacher and he had no ill feelings towards her. But he conceded it would not be easy were she to return to St Roch's.

Earlier George Gardner, depute director of education in Glasgow, confirmed that Mr Nairn had been cautioned about his behaviour, but the council did not consider that the use of "Glasgow-type terms" amounted to sexual harassment.

Mrs Robinson, who has suffered from depression following a series of family tragedies, including the death of her husband, is claiming compensation for lost earnings and injury to feelings. The hearing has been adjourned until April.

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