Race trauma ruined career

26th November 2004 at 00:00
Tribunal reprimands head for failing to support black teacher accused of assault by a pupil. Sue Whitehead reports.

A black teacher said this week that he would never set foot inside a classroom again after winning a race discrimination case against his former local authority.

Dr Winston Williams, who was suspended as head of science at Ian Mikardo school in Bow, east London, would have been treated differently had he been white, an employment tribunal ruled.

A hearing will decide next month how much compensation he is to receive from the London borough of Tower Hamlets.

Dr Williams was suspended in July 2002 from Ian Mikardo, a school for boys with behavioural problems, amid allegations that he physically assaulted a pupil.

He is now on anti-depressants and sleeping tablets and said: "I don't think I could ever go into a classroom again to teach."

Stratford employment tribunal, east London, heard that the pupil made the allegation after he was expelled over another incident. He had a history of making false allegations.

Clare Lillis, the new headteacher of four weeks, took up the complaint against Dr Williams and referred the case to the child protection unit. A full police investigation followed.

The tribunal heard how Ms Lillis:

* invited three members of white staff from her former job at Medway young offenders' institute to take up positions. The tribunal said this was a "poor and potentially discriminatory employment practice";

* denied the existence of an incident book to record physical restraint of pupils. The book was later produced;

* prevented Dr Williams from attending a governors' meeting, demonstrating a "lack of trust and failure to recognise the important position of responsibility he had achieved";

* decided to make Dr Williams move rooms without consulting him as she had done another white member of staff - leaving an embarrassed caretaker to tell Dr Williams the news.

The tribunal concluded Ms Lillis skipped the stage of assessing or considering whether the allegation was likely to be correct, even though the pupil had a history of making false allegations.

The judgment said: "Ms Lillis was subconsciously influenced by Dr Williams'

race so that she treated him less favourably than she would have treated him had he been white."

The school did not comment, referring The TES to Tower Hamlets council. A spokesman said it would not comment on the case until the settlement was decided.

Dr Williams had worked at the school for boys with behavioural problems since 1999. He had a masters in psychology and education for special needs pupils. He also had a PhD and masters in biochemistry.

He said: "The council just took Ms Lillis's word against mine and gave her all the support and absolutely none to me - the longest-serving member of the governing body. They didn't want to know."

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