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'Victimised' teacher awarded damages

A TEACHER who was excluded from departmental meetings after bringing a claim of racial discrimination against her school has won more than pound;10,000 in damages.

A London employment tribunal dismissed Laurie O'Garro's original claim of racial discrimination, but decided she had been victimised as a result of the claim.

The former German teacher was excluded from meetings and missed out on team-teaching sessions after her department head, Rachel Jones, was advised by her union not to be alone with her, following the lodging of the racism complaint in October 1997.

The tribunal reported that a series of incidents over several years had led Ms O'Garro to believe that Ms Jones was bullying her and that this was racially motivated. She eventually resigned her post and left Villiers high school, in Ealing, London, in the summer of 1998.

The tribunal did not back the race discrimination claim but it found that Ms O'Garro had been cut off from discussion of curriculum matters, professional support and development.

"We conclude that the applicant was treated less favourablythan any other teacher. In our view, the sole cause ... was that the applicant had brought tribunal proceedings in which she alleged Ms Jones had contravened the Race Relations Act 1976."

Ealing council, her former employers, argued that the victimisation was minor and compensation should be limited to a few hundred pounds. The tribunal rejected this, saying Ms O'Garro had been left isolated by her department head's withdrawal of co-operation, and awarded her pound;11,600. It dismissed a claim for loss of earnings following her decision to quit teaching.

Ms O'Garro represented herself at the tribunal hearings and is now studying employment law at Middlesex University.

Speaking after the tribunal verdict, she said: "I would do this again and again. There comes a point where you do have to say, I'm not going to stand for this anymore, I do have rights.

"It needn't have come to this if Ealing had stuck to their equal opportunities policy. They had mechanisms for dealing with complaints like mine."

The council is now considering appealing against the verdict.

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